Category: Core thought

Inward thoughts.

Reflections on being gentle to yourself.

There are three reasons why I wrote this post. A post that runs across today and tomorrow.

Firstly, this post is inspired by love! The supreme love that I receive from my darling Jeannie and the love that I sense practically twenty-four hours a day that flows from the beautiful dogs that we have here. But also from the wonders of the rural world in which I live. From sights like the one below to being visited by wild deer every single morning when I go out to feed the horses.

The view from our bedroom window any cloudless morning. (This photo taken October 18th, 2015.)

The second reason for writing this post is a direct result of the love that flows in from so, so many of you precious readers. You are like one big online family that I live in. And, as one hopes to do within a family, from time to time you want to open up your inner feelings.

The third and final reason for this post is wanting to explore how one might find some peace from the chaos that seems to be spread so far and wide across this planet that we all call home.

It’s a very personal journey and I suggest that if this is not your ‘cup of tea’ that you call back another day!

OK! Now that’s off my chest, here we go!

Life’s beauty is inseparable from it’s fragility.

Pause awhile and just let those words float around your mind.

It is a quotation taken from a TED Talk that Jean and I watched a few days ago.

The speaker is Susan David and is described on that TED Talk page as follows:

Psychologist Susan David shares how the way we deal with our emotions shapes everything that matters: our actions, careers, relationships, health and happiness. In this deeply moving, humorous and potentially life-changing talk, she challenges a culture that prizes positivity over emotional truth and discusses the powerful strategies of emotional agility. A talk to share.
This talk was presented at an official TED conference, and was featured by our editors on the home page.

If you want to watch the talk it is a little over 16 minutes long and may be viewed on the TED Talk site here.

Let me return to that quotation. For there is no question that life, at whatever scale, from the personal to the global, is fragile. Fragile with a capital “F“!

Whether it’s the madness of our politics and governments, or nature presenting us with extreme hurricanes, volcanoes, earthquakes and floods, or the frustrations of life itself, especially when one is the wrong side of 65, or numerous other aspects of being human it’s terribly easy to become frustrated, or worse, with oneself.  I speak from a very personal perspective as my short-term recall is now pathetic!

STOP! (You see, I wrote the word “pathetic” without thinking. Demonstrating how  quickly I come down on myself. Without automatically and unconsciously being gentle on myself and being very grateful that this old Brit, born in 1944, is still able to string a few words together!)

One of the great, possibly the greatest, things that we can learn from our dogs is to be gentle on ourselves. So very often our dogs take time out to relax, to be happy and to spread their joy around the home. Look at the following photograph!

Oliver demonstrating the art of being very gentle on himself and on Pedi. (Picture taken November, 2015.)

Being gentle on yourself!

But for us humans that seems a great deal more easier to say than to practice!

Yet the argument for being gentle to yourself is compelling. And the first step in that personal journey towards being kinder to yourself is to be better aware of oneself when it comes to our emotions.

I shall be continuing this inward journey tomorrow but today, holding on to that idea of how we manage our emotions, I want to close with another TED Talk. Just 18 minutes long but invaluable to watch.

The talk is given by Professor Lisa Feldman Barrett, PhD who is Distinguished Professor of Psychology at Northeastern University,and has positions in psychiatry and radiology at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School.

As I was reading the draft of this post it did cross my mind that you do know I write from a purely personal perspective. I hold no qualifications whatsoever in the fields of psychiatry, psychology or any related disciplines. If you have found yourself to be affected to the point where you think you need proper counselling then, please, do seek help.

Part Two coming along tomorrow!

The Great Backyard Bird Count

Wherever you are in the world, are you able to participate in this?

As first seen on the EarthSky site.

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Great Backyard Bird Count February 16–19

By Deanna Conners in EARTH | HUMAN WORLD February 9, 2018

Scientists need your help counting birds for the 21st annual Great Backyard Bird Count. It is free and easy to participate. Find out how here.

Bird watching in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. Image via National Park Service.

The annual Great Backyard Bird Count, now in its 21st year, is set to take place February 16 to 19, 2018. During this popular citizen science event, people from all over the world head outdoors to count birds and the data are used by scientists to track the health of bird populations.

Gary Langham, Chief Scientist at the National Audubon Society, commented on the Great Backyard Bird Count on Audubon’s website. He said:

This count is so fun because anyone can take part—we all learn and watch birds together—whether you are an expert, novice, or feeder watcher. I like to invite new birders to join me and share the experience. Get involved, invite your friends, and see how your favorite spot stacks up.

The 2017 count was a huge success. Over 200,000 people participated from around the world, and they submitted a record number of checklists. A total of 6,259 bird species were spotted during the event, which was the highest number ever recorded over the 20-year history of the count. This number represents more than half of all known bird species on Earth!

Siberian stonechat photographed in Zhemgang, Bhutan, during the 2017 Great Backyard Bird Count. Image via Sancha Rai.

Participating in the 2018 Great Backyard Bird Count involves three easy steps.

First, register with your name on the event’s website at the link here. Registration is free. This website has a ton of useful information about birds and the upcoming bird count.

Second, spend some time counting birds on the weekend of the event at the location of your choice, such as your backyard or a local park. The minimum amount of time required is 15 minutes, but you can count for longer if you wish. During your count, simply record the start and end time, location, and number and types of birds that you see. You can perform counts in multiple locations too. Just be sure to submit separate checklists for each location.

Not to worry if you can’t identify the birds you see at first. Just take good notes about their prominent features, for example, size, shape, color, and unusual markings, or you can try to snap a close-up picture. Then, you can use a bird guide to look them up later. All About Birds and What Bird are two good online bird identification guides that are free and easy to use. Additionally, the free Merlin Bird ID App can be downloaded to your smartphone and used offline. Merlin will ask you five simple questions about the bird you are trying to identify and suggest matches for you—you can even upload a picture to Merlin and let the app try to identify it.

The third and last step involves uploading your data to the event’s website. This step usually only takes a few minutes to complete. While you’re visiting the website, check out the live map that displays dots in the various locations where people have uploaded a checklist. It’s fun to watch the data pour in from all over the world.

As an added bonus, there is a photo contest for those who want to submit pictures of the birds that they see during the event. You can even submit photos of yourself watching the birds. Hence, don’t forget your binoculars. If you do shoot some good photos, please share them with EarthSky too. We love birding photos!

Bluejay photographed in Sioux Lookout, Ontario, Canada, during the 2017 Great Backyard Bird Count. Image via Rose Pogoda.

Use the hashtag #GBBC to follow Great Backyard Bird Count conversations on Twitter and Facebook.
The first annual Great Backyard Bird Count was held in 1998, and the event has continued to grow year after year. Hopefully, 2018 will be another record breaker.
The Great Backyard Bird Count is a collaborative project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, National Audubon Society, and Bird Studies Canada.
Bottom line: The annual Great Backyard Bird Count runs from February 16 to 19, 2018. This popular citizen science project helps scientists keep track of the health of bird populations. Participating is free and easy, so why not give it a try?

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So, once again, the Bird Count starts on this coming Friday, the 16th, and runs through to the end of next Monday, the 19th.

Do please join Jean and me and many thousands of others in this very important survey.

One paw in front of the other

A just delightful guest post!

Came from an online exchange.

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So today was the day for me. And I done it with the help of my wonderful dog.

I had been dreaming all night of running and depression and failing miserably.
I was woken at 6:30am by the sound of my dad coming back in after he had been for his normal morning walk around the village with our dog Riley. I was also disturbed by my boyfriend coughing and spluttering up god knows what, and I laid and tossed and turned as I thought oh my god today I’m going to go for a run, followed by don’t be so stupid of course your not you can’t even run down the stairs.

As the early morning light started to come in through the sides of my blinds, I pulled out my eye patches and fell back to a disturbed sleep until…. midday. I couldn’t believe it.

You lazy shit I thought, so much for your run, what a joke you are. Jumping out of bed at the thought of what my mother might say, I went downstairs and put the kettle on, I turned to my dog who had followed me down and said: “I’m going to take you out don’t worry.”

I couldn’t have put it off for any longer if I tried! I hoovered, steam cleaned, made tea, ate beans on toast, tidied my bedroom, anything but get ready to go for a run. Truth is I was terrified!

After not physically being able to tidy much more, I got ready, and put on my new Nike running shoes I had bought in the New Years sales. Riley stretched his tail wagging as he sensed that it was time.

The next twenty or so minutes were the most emotional, and longest, twenty minutes of my life I have ever experienced. I put my new running band on with my phone and beats headphones, and a Spotify playlist that played the most god awful dubstep but I didn’t care. I downloaded the couch to 5k app as I have not really ran in years and pressed start and off me and Riley headed around the village.

The walking was fine, then the lady popped up in her American accent start to run, and so I did.  I started to develop a stitch in my stomach, pain in my chest and the most overwhelming urge to cry. I battled constant thoughts in my head that I could do it … blah! blah! blah!, but Riley was with me. We done it together.

Slow down and start to walk” the voice spoke. I was glad someone knew what I was doing as I didn’t have a clue. I suddenly became awfully aware of the cars going past and thoughts of people looking at me and what they might think: she doesn’t look great; she looks like she is struggling; she must be mad. So with my fave down unable to break a smile or lift my frown I carried on with lead in hand and my faithful dog by my side. I spoke to him, praised him at how well he was doing but I can’t bring to praise myself not yet.

The dubstep tracks blasting in my ears the lyrics started on this train with no destination. And I thought this is how depression and anxiety have made me feel, I have been on a slow and steady train down to rock bottom and I can’t seem to get back up, but I feel today was a start. A little positive I suppose that I can add to my negative.

As it started to snow I thought wow I really am mad, I can’t even run these twenty mins , let a lone a 5k, 10k or yet alone this bloody great north run.

Freezing cold and following my dog in front I made it home and put the kettle straight on and slumped down waiting to make my cup of tea.
For the first time in a long time, I think I see a little light, a little tiny speck of light at the end of my long dark tunnel!

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I asked Catherine for permission to republish this because I was very moved when I read it over at her place. It seemed to say to me that this very honest and open account of what Catherine was experiencing might resonate somewhere out there with you dear readers.

Thank you, Catherine!

More importantly, thank you, Riley. Dogs do so much for us. Even saving our souls!

Our internet safety!

Completely overwhelmed by all you wonderful followers.

Yesterday, around mid-morning time, the number of good persons who are following this blog reached 3,000!

That is both wonderful and hugely generous of each and every one of you that ‘subscribes’ to this place.

I was going to publish another guest post but will delay that for twenty-four hours.

For as a mark of respect for all of you online people who have signed up to follow Learning from Dogs I want to republish a recent item that appeared on The Conversation site.

Here it is. Republished within the terms of The Conversation.

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Improve your internet safety: 4 essential reads

by    Science + Technology Editor, The Conversation US

On Feb. 6, technology companies, educators and others mark Safer Internet Day and urge people to improve their online safety. Many scholars and academic researchers around the U.S. are studying aspects of cybersecurity and have identified ways people can help themselves stay safe online. Here are a few highlights from their work.

1. Passwords are a weakness

With all the advice to make passwords long, complex and unique – and not reused from site to site – remembering passwords becomes a problem, but there’s help, writes Elon University computer scientist Megan Squire:

“The average internet user has 19 different passwords. … Software can help! The job of password management software is to take care of generating and remembering unique, hard-to-crack passwords for each website and application.”

That’s a good start.

2. Use a physical key

To add another layer of protection, keep your most important accounts locked with an actual physical key, writes Penn State-Altoona information sciences and technology professor Jungwoo Ryoo:

“A new, even more secure method is gaining popularity, and it’s a lot like an old-fashioned metal key. It’s a computer chip in a small portable physical form that makes it easy to carry around. The chip itself contains a method of authenticating itself.”

Just don’t leave your keys on the table at home.

3. Protect your data in the cloud

Many people store documents, photos and even sensitive private information in cloud services like Google Drive, Dropbox and iCloud. That’s not always the safest practice because of where the data’s encryption keys are stored, explains computer scientist Haibin Zhang at University of Maryland, Baltimore County:

“Just like regular keys, if someone else has them, they might be stolen or misused without the data owner knowing. And some services might have flaws in their security practices that leave users’ data vulnerable.”

So check with your provider, and consider where to best store your most important data.

4. Don’t forget about the rest of the world

Sadly, in the digital age, nowhere is truly safe. Jeremy Straub from North Dakota State University explains how physical objects can be used to hijack your smartphone:

“Attackers may find it very attractive to embed malicious software in the physical world, just waiting for unsuspecting people to scan it with a smartphone or a more specialized device. Hidden in plain sight, the malicious software becomes a sort of ‘sleeper agent’ that can avoid detection until it reaches its target.”

It’s a reminder that using the internet more safely isn’t just a one-day effort.

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So be safe all of you! It’s a very different world to that of twenty or more years ago!

Back to clean air!

Or more specifically the cleansing power of indoor plants.

Back in 2012, I published a post called Clean, clean air. I am going to republish it tomorrow because Kelli sent me an email setting out that over on her blog site she has a much more comprehensive list of plants that purify the air.

Her blog site is Groom & Style and the long list of air-purifying plants that Kelli wrote about may be  see here: 12 Air Purifying Plants That Will Clean Your Air. Here is how Kelli’s post opens:

12 Air Purifying Plants That Will Clean Your Air

We need fresh air to live a healthy and full life, but it’s fast becoming a luxury. Residents of many major cities around the world are plagued with smog and poisonous gases from motor vehicles, fossil fuel based power plants, and factories.

The good news is there is a simple solution you can use at home to make your air much cleaner. While air purifiers might help, air purifying plants are a great and natural way to clean your home’s air supply. In this article, you’ll learn more about air pollution, its dangers, and how to choose the best air purifying plants for your home.

Anyway, if you wish to read more then go here and, as I mentioned above, my post of August, 2012 will be republished tomorrow.

Food for Thought! A Fascinating Documentary!

Looking again into diet and nutrition.

While this post doesn’t specifically look at what we feed our dogs, there’s no question in my mind that good nutrition is just as important for our dogs as it is for ourselves.

Moving on!

You will know that quite a few of my recent posts have been on the back of me being made aware of how a strict diet plus taking many vitamins and supplements had had the effect of putting Colin Potter’s Parkinson’s Disease (PD) into remission.  All of which was summarised in an post last week called Food Truly Does Matter.

But then a good friend who lives locally, and has a solid medical background, spoke to me and said what you are writing can’t possibly be correct because if diet and supplements really did put PD patients into remission then “everyone would be doing it“. It was difficult to argue that.

So I thought the best people to call would be the American Parkinson Disease Association. I was put through to the director of the North-West Chapter of the APDA, located in Seattle, WA., and she agreed that there was no magic bullet in terms of diet and PD remission.

But the director went on to say that diet and lifestyle were nonetheless incredibly important and that there was no question that the correct decisions in terms of lifestyle were vital for anyone with PD; whatever the stage of the disease .

Dr. Laurie Mischley

The director also went on to say that without a doubt we should make contact with Seattle Integrative Medicine also, as the title suggests, in Seattle.

In particular, make contact with Dr. Laurie Mischley for the director said that Dr. Mischley’s clinical speciality is Parkinson’s Disease.

Plus we were advised to watch a talk that Dr. Mischley gave in British Columbia towards the end of 2016.

The talk is 49 minutes long and should be watched by everyone!

Reason?

Because in the talk there is much evidence, as in factual evidence, that shows the link between our lifestyle choices and what helps or hinders those with PD.

But even more critical to my way of thinking is that the evidence presented in the talk offers solid reasons why all of us as we approach middle-age and beyond should be careful about what we eat.

Food for Thought: Diet & Nutrition in PD – Dr. Laurie Mischley, ND, PhD, MPH from Parkinson Society BC on Vimeo.

This is a recorded presentation from Parkinson Society British Columbia’s Victoria Regional Conference featuring Laurie Mischley. Dr. Mischley studied naturopathic medicine (ND) at Bastyr University and epidemiology (MPH) and nutritional sciences (PhD) at the University of Washington. Her work is focused on identifying the nutritional requirements unique to individuals with neurodegenerative diseases. She has published articles on coenzyme Q10, lithium and glutathione deficiency in Parkinson’s disease (PD). Dr. Mischley maintains a small clinical practice at Seattle Integrative Medicine focused on nutrition and neurological health.

So, my dear reader, here is a little plea from Paul.

Whether or not you have PD, watch the talk and have all the people you love and care for watch it as well.

Oh, and give your dog a cuddle from Jean and me!


Please understand that I do not offer advice and nothing on any website, including the blog site Learning from Dogs, email or any other communication is intended to treat, diagnose, prevent or cure any disease. It is not a substitute for consulting your doctor. You should consult a doctor for diagnosis of conditions, before beginning any diet, exercise or supplementation or if you suspect you have any healh issue. You should not stop medication without consulting your doctor.

Picture Parade Two Hundred and Twenty-Seven

Guess what!

More taken from here. Spoiling us all for today there are nine of Tanja’s incredible photographs!

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You do realise good people that at some point I will come to the end of Tanja’s fabulous photographs! But worry about that when it happens!

No room for being wrong!

Getting to the truth of what is or is not good for our dogs.

As many will understand so very often I am acting more as a messenger than an authoritative source in this place. It is very difficult for me, almost impossible indeed, for me to verify the validity of what is posted here.

On January 11th, I published a guest post from Kathreen Miller. Her article was called Is Organic Food Really Good For Your Dog To Eat?

Yesterday, local good friend and neighbour, Jim Goodbrod, sent me an email pointing out a number of weaknesses in Kathreen’s article and giving me permission to republish what he wrote as a post on Learning from Dogs.

Jim is an experienced Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) and has frequently advised us, both professionally and informally, about our own dogs and cats. We trust him fully. Jim attends a couple of local vet clinics including Lincoln Road Veterinary Clinic in Grants Pass to where we take our pets when required.

Dr. Jim seeing a patient at Lincoln Road Vet.

Here is Jim’s update published with his kind permission and unchanged by me apart from some minor formatting amendments including italicising some phrases.

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Hey Paul …

Regarding your post of 1-11-18, a guest post by Kathreen Miller concerning canine diet, I feel the need (justified or not) to clarify a few points. She seems to be a big proponent of “organic diets” and lest your readers be misled, I think we need to define what is meant by “organic”.

The legal definition of “organic” is codified by the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) in 7 CFR 205. Pet foods and pet treats must comply with these regulations or they may not legally use the word “organic” on the label. If you read these regulations, you will find that “organic” refers only to the handling and processing of ingredients and products.

These regulations cover: ingredient sourcing, ingredient handling, manufacturing, and labeling & certification of products wanting to use the word “organic” in their labeling.

However, these rules are not considered by NOP as a means to ensure safer, healthier, or more nutritious foods. In fact, there is no regulatory distinction in the tolerable levels of pesticides, drugs, or other residues allowed in organic vs conventional products (even though lower residues may in fact be a result).

Rather, the “organic” label is viewed as a confirmation of the organic production process, and the purchaser is left to his or her own determination as to whether the costs merit the perceived benefits. The bottom line is that “organic” refers to the processing of a product, and makes no guarantees as to the quality or digestibility of ingredients, safety, nutritional value or health benefits of the product.

A savvy pet owner, in order to ensure her dog’s optimal nutritional health, would be better advised to follow guidelines outlined by WSAVA or AAHA (or other reputable source) rather than to reflexively reach for the dog food that says “organic” on the label. The “organic” label does not necessarily mean a diet is good or bad, but it has nothing to do with the nutritional adequacy of the diet and hence your dog’s health.

Another point: Kathreen seems to buy into the popular myth that plant-based ingredients (like corn) are poorly digested fillers that provide little nutritional value and can cause allergies. Corn provides a good source of carbohydrates, essential amino acids, protein, and essential fatty acids in the diets of dogs and cats. It is highly digestible and is not a common cause of allergies. It is actually a very good nutrient as an ingredient in pet food.

My last point is regarding the product “Pet Bounce” that Kathreen endorses as a treatment for arthritic pain in dogs. This product is labelled as homeopathic and as such is nothing more than a placebo.

It has been proven over and over and over again that homeopathic remedies are nothing but water and perform no better than placebos in numerous clinical trials. Reading the list of ingredients, one can see that it contains:

  • 1) Belladonna 6X
  • 2)Caulphyllum 6C
  • 3) Colchicum autumnale 200C
  • 4) Apis mellifica 30C
  • 5) Rhus toxicodendron 200C
  • 6) Ruta graveolens 6X.

Anyone familiar with homeopathic nomenclature knows that, for example, the Apis mellifica 30C designation means that this particular herb is diluted in water 1 to  or   (that’s 1 followed by 60 zeroes!).

To put it into perspective, that’s equivalent to 1 molecule of this substance in a sphere of water 90 million miles in diameter (approximately the distance of the earth to the sun). That’s a 30C dilution.

At a 200C dilution, the treating substance is diluted more than the total number of atoms in the known universe!

Regardless of any medicinal properties these herbs may have, they are so fantastically diluted that there is not one molecule present in the final solution.

I defy any reasonable person to tell me that this so-called remedy is effective to treat anything and consists of anything more than a water placebo.

My problem with this kind of snake oil is that well-meaning pet owners waste their money (~$50.00 per bottle!) on this useless product, believing all the hype and thinking that they are improving the quality of their dog’s life, meanwhile squandering the opportunity to actually help their dog with an effective and evidence-based treatment.

Kathreen seems to be a nice and well-intentioned woman, but I don’t know what qualifies her as a “pet health expert”, other than her own opinion. According to her profile (from your blog) she lives in Chicago with her daughter and dog “Buddy” and listens to music, watches TV, and travels. That’s it? Nothing more??

Again, your readers, Paul, would be well advised to visit professional veterinary nutrition websites (and there are dozens of them) for their veterinary nutritional information.
Below are a couple good places to start:
http://www.wsava.org/sites/default/files/Nutrition%20on%20the%20Internet%20dogs.pdf

http://www.wsava.org/sites/default/files/Recommendations%20on%20Selecting%20Pet%20Foods.pdf

Regards, Jim

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I know you will join me in thanking Jim for spending the time in writing this update.

The power of good food!

Connections: connections!

In my recent post Diet is so crucial to good health, published on the 11th January I opened it thus:

Sometime over the next few days I will write a post about an amazing connection that Jean made, via Richard in England, with Colin Potter. He is the founder of the site Fight Parkinson’s.

It is mentioned as an introduction to today’s post because Colin stresses the critical importance of the right diet for us humans.

Richard lives with his good lady, Julie, in Minety, a village in North Wiltshire. He and I go back many, many years and we have been close friends from the day that we first met. Richard was diagnosed with early-stage Parkinson’s Disease (PD) the same year and month as my Jeannie: December, 2015.

Last New Year’s Eve Richard and Julie were at a local party and the subject of PD came up. Richard subsequently told me that he was speaking to a fellow party guest who said that he was, in turn, an acquaintance of a Colin Potter. He went to add that Colin had also been diagnosed with PD but had decided not to ‘give in’ to the diagnosis but undertake comprehensive research into the causes and whether it was possible to go into remission. He later launched a website Fight Parkinsons.

This is Colin’s video that appears on the home page of Fight Parkinson’s.

Here’s some more of what Colin writes about on his website.

Parkinson’s RecoveryThis is where you find the answers to the causes of Parkinson’s and the actions you can take which may bring about a recovery.

There are actions that I’ve taken which have required guidance from a doctor (of Functional Medicine) or special practitioner. Other steps, such as changing to a better diet, I have done independently based upon my research.

Nowadays, there are so many ways that we fall foul of nature and the kind of life we are built to lead. Industrialisation and technology expose our bodies to so much stress and toxic substances, it’s no wonder that chronic disease arises. It also means that there are many things to put right.

This has been a journey of learning over several years and, with subsequent knowledge, there are some things I did at the start that I would do differently now. Nevertheless, I did them and can’t turn the clock back.

I share this with you because the chances are that you know someone who knows someone with PD. The information on the Fight Parkinson’s website is too important not to be shared as far and wide as possible.

The subscription price for signing up to all the information is just $5/GBP3.60 per month. Both Jeannie and Richard are subscribers.