Category: Core thought

At last some hope!

Bill McKibben steps forward.

I heard yesterday from Erik Hoffner who is responsible for the Mongabay website that Bill McKibben is stepping up to the mark in wanting to take action regarding climate change.

I very quickly signed up and received the following email:

Dear Friend,

Many thanks for signing up to be a part—and we hope a big part—of Third Act.

My name is Bill McKibben, and I’m one of the volunteers helping to launch this effort for Americans 60 and older who want to build a fairer and more sustainable nation and planet.

We’re very much in the early days of this, and we need your help—especially if you’re good at the behind-the-scenes tasks like administration, development, and project management. If you’ve got some time to donate right now, write to us at info@thirdact.org.

And we will be back in touch as autumn rolls on, with some early campaigns focused on climate action and on ending voter suppression. As you can tell, we’re making this up as we go along. So it should be interesting, and also a little bumpy!

If you can assemble a sizable group of people, I’ll do my best to join you for a virtual talk to explain more about this idea. (And when the pandemic ends, we’ll try to do it in person!).

And if you can donate some small sum of money to help with the launch, here’s the place.

Thank you. This is our time to make some powerful change—we’ve got the skills, the resources, and the desire. So let’s try.

Thanks, Bill McKibben for Third Act

The website is here.

WELCOME TO YOUR THIRD ACT

We’re over 60—the Baby Boomers and the Silent Generation. We have skills, we have resources, we have time—and many of us have kids and grandkids. We also have a history. In our early years we saw remarkable shifts in politics and society; now, in our latter years, we want to see those changes made real and lasting.

We were there for the first Earth Day, and we’ve been glad to see cleaner air and water—but now we know that the climate crisis presents an unparalleled threat. The heat is on and we must act quickly to turn it down.

We watched or participated in the civil rights movement—and now we know that its gains were not enough, and that gaps in wealth have only widened in our lifetimes. We’ve got to repair divisions instead of making them worse.
We saw democracy expand—and now we’re seeing it contract, as voter suppression and gerrymandering threaten the core of the American experiment. We know that real change can only come if we all get to participate.

You are the key to this work. Maybe you’ve asked yourself: how can I give back on a scale that matters? The answer is, by working with others to build movements strong enough to matter. That’s why we hope you’ll join us.

Clearly I have signed up and I hope an enormous number of other people will do as well.

Because the time left is not very long and even me at the age of 76 fear for the near future if nothing is done urgently.

Please, please consider joining Third Act.

As the headline says: THIRD ACT — EXPERIENCED PEOPLE WORKING FOR A FAIR AND STABLE PLANET.

Larry the guide dog!

Serendipity at work!

Yesterday morning while sitting up in bed I was browsing the internet on my iPad. I looked up TED Talks and fancied watching the story of Mark Pollock and Simone George. It turned out to be 19 minutes of incredible viewing and it is reproduced below as a YouTube video.

Towards the end Mark refers to his guide dog Larry. More of that later.

First watch the video.

It is a most amazing talk.

Next I wanted to research some more.

First I found Mark’s website that is here.

Then I came across a comprehensive entry on WikiPedia. From which the following is taken:

Pollock enrolled in a course to help come to terms with his disability. He left for Dublin with his guide dog Larry and began putting himself forward for job interviews. Prospective employers were uncertain as to how to approach him. Eventually the father of one of his college friends assigned him to organising corporate entertainment. He returned to rowing and won bronze and silver medals for Northern Ireland in the 2002 Commonwealth Rowing Championships. He engaged in other athletic pursuits, including running six marathons in seven days with a sighted partner across the Gobi Desert, China in 2003 when he raised tens of thousands of euro for the charity Sightsavers International. On 10 April 2004, he competed in the North Pole Marathon on the sixth anniversary of his blindness.

Then I discovered that Larry had died: “My great mate Larry The Guide Dog died on Sunday night. An amazing Guide Dog and amazing friend.”.

He died on the 2nd May, 2010 just a couple of months before Mark’s terrible accident.

Finally a photograph of Mark and Larry!

Who do you rely on most? When I was just blind, it was my guide dog Larry who empowered me to live life independently.”

The words of Mark Pollock.

What an inspiration he must be to so many!

Time marches on!

So we are now at the last day of July!

In many ways this has been a strange month in a somewhat strange year! No, more than that! We are at last seeing climate change come to the fore in terms of topics. Yves Smith, who produces Naked Capitalism (and it’s a great blog) had an item on climate change recently. Here’s an extract:

Yves here. As many of you know, I am considerably frustrated with Green New Deal advocates, because I see them as selling hopium. They act as if we can preserve modern lifestyles as long as we throw money, some elbow grease, and a lot of new development (using current dirty infrastructure to build it) at it. We’re already nearing the point where very bad outcomes, like widespread famines and mass migrations due to flooding, are baked in. And even that take charitably assumes that a rump of what we consider to be civilization survives.

There were many replies from a variety of people; I loved this one from Tom Stone:

A rational response to this crisis is not politically or societally feasible.

And the crisis is here, now.

The changes are not linear, a concept many of the people I talk to about climate change have difficulty accepting.

Large parts of the SF Bay Area are going to be heavily impacted (It’s my stomping ground, so I’m familiar with it) by salt water intrusion, levee failure, lack of water to to changing precipitation patterns in the Sierra’s…

A lot of Bay Area Housing is built on fill or in low lying areas, those homes will start to be abandoned within a decade if current trends continue.

Add the devastation from the inevitable Earthquake on the Hayward Fault which our local and State Governments are totally incapable of dealing with and it is going to be a godawful mess.

I looked at the Disaster planning for a quake on the Hayward Fault some years ago and all of the assumptions are for a “Best Case” scenario.

The quake won’t come in October during a drought and a high wind event, it won’t come at the wrong time of day, it won’t come in the spring during a high water period when Levee’s are stressed…

The Bay areas disaster response center was built in the 1950’s to withstand a nuclear attack, it is underground and was built smack dab in the middle of the Hayward Fault.

Have I mentioned that 20 years after 9/11 the various emergency responders do not have a commonality in their communications gear?

The more people that read this and other article the better.

Plus I am going to include my reply:

Your piece, Yves, that you published from Rolf was excellent and so was Tom Stone’s comment above. The scale of the issue is immense but at least climate change has now become a mainstream topic, and rightly so. National Geographic magazine published a special edition in May, 2020 to commemorate the anniversary of the fiftieth Earth Day. I think it was 1962 when Rachel Carson published Silent Spring. So we can’t complain that this isn’t a new issue. But whether or not we make it to the one hundred anniversary of that first Earth Day depends on the myriad of actions that we, as in all of us, including especially our leaders and politicians, make NOW! Let me spell it out. NOW means within the next 5 years at the latest. I am 76 and a passionate advocate of a change in mass behaviors. For I have a single grandson, Morten, living with his parents back in England who is 10. I fear for his future and for the future of all of his age.

Anyway, to get back to the article about dogs that I wanted to share with you. It is from Treehugger.

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This 13-Year-Old Dog Has a Home Again

It’s heartbreaking when senior pets lose their families.

By Mary Jo DiLonardo

Mary Jo DiLonardo

Published July 29th, 2021

Magdalen in her new yard. Mary Jo DiLonardo

This weekend, my husband and I were the last step in a transport to get a dog to her new home. 

Typically, when we have a new dog in the backseat, it’s a raucous foster puppy (or two) in a crate. There’s usually barking and tumbling and playing until the motion of the car lulls them to sleep.

But this passenger was a much different story.

Magdalen is a 13-year-old border collie. Her owner gave her up temporarily when he was sick, but when he fully recuperated a few months later, he said he didn’t want her back. He had her since she was a puppy but now had no place for her.

The family who had given her a temporary home had children and other dogs and was unable to give her a permanent home. When Speak St. Louis, the rescue I work with, was contacted about the border collie, they offered to take her in. 

She went to the groomer for her very matted coat and to the vet for a basic health check.

The spa visit made her look (and no doubt, feel) much better. But the vet didn’t have great news. She had to have surgery for mammary masses and her mouth was swollen with all sorts of dental issues. One surgery later and she had six masses removed. Two teeth fell out during cleaning and 11 more had to be extracted.

Fortunately, the growths were benign and she slowly began to recover. 

Stressed and Resigned

Magdalen barely moved on the ride to her new home. Mary Jo DiLonardo

On the trip home, the sweet senior looked so resigned in our backseat. The last kind transporter gently lifted her from her car and placed her in ours, where she barely moved as she re-settled herself.

She had just spent several weeks in the care of a wonderful foster parent where she recuperated from her surgery and from being left by her family. 

I’m sure at this point she was just shut down and stressed and quietly rolling with whatever happened to her. She took the pieces of kibble we offered but her tail didn’t wag because it was tucked mostly between her legs.

It was heartbreaking to know that not so long ago she was someone’s pet and she was discarded.

It’s understandable that her owner needed some temporary help when he was sick and overwhelmed. But I can’t imagine why he wouldn’t have wanted her back now. I think of my own dog and dogs we’ve lost to old age in the past. They’re family and they stay that way forever.

Dogs aren’t disposable.

Why People Give Up Senior Pets 

Senior pets often end up in shelters and with rescues when their owners die and no one in the family is able to take them in. 

Or some people give them up when they become harder to care for. Seniors can have more health problems and often people can’t afford the costs. They also aren’t as fun as their younger counterparts, and sometimes get cranky or snippy around children.

For rescues and shelters, it’s much easier to get a cute, bouncy puppy adopted than a less active senior that might come with health baggage and who might only be with the family for a few years.

A survey by PetFinder found that “less adoptable” pets like seniors or special needs animals spend nearly four times as long on the adoption site before they find a home.1

But older dogs have lots of benefits. Unlike puppies, they usually arrive housebroken. Sure, there are the occasional accidents as they figure things out, but they mostly know they are supposed to potty outside.

Senior dogs won’t chew your furniture or your fingers. They don’t bounce off the walls and wake you up in the middle of the night to go outside. They don’t need as much exercise as younger dogs but will revel in all the attention you want to give them.

Mary Jo DiLonardo

As for Magdalen, she is coming out of her shell in her new home. She was adopted by a good friend of mine who is a dog trainer. She has a soft heart for seniors and a passion for brainy border collies.

Because the pup is very driven by food, her new mom is going to try nosework with her. That’s an activity where she can sniff out treats in all sorts of hidden places. That will give her a job and a hobby—and lots of food!

Magdalen doesn’t have her tail between her legs anymore and the resident dogs are figuring out that she’s here to stay. But the key is for her to understand that this is now her forever home and no one will ever leave her again.

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Of the six dogs we have here at home three are old. But they still remain happy and carefree which is a little different to yours truly who, as much as he tries very hard not to do so, worries about the big things in life and, frankly, the biggest of them all is climate change.

Dogs and tummy rubs!

I have discovered a useful website!

I was browsing the internet yesterday and came across, quite by chance, the website PetMD. It looks like a great resource and I want to publish some of their introductory text:

About PetMD

PetMD is the online authority for all things pet health. Our goal is to provide the most accurate, reliable, up-to-date pet health information to help you navigate the everyday ups and downs of pet parenting. As a pet parent, you deserve to have access to the tools, tips, and insights you need to keep your pets healthy. With PetMD, you’ll find answers you can trust from qualified veterinarians. By working closely with veterinarians since 2008, PetMD has become the go-to resource for pet health and care.

Vet Team

PetMD collaborates with pet experts that know the most about pet health and care—veterinarians. Our network of credible veterinarians is essential in our mission to bring you the most detailed and current information. Meet some of the trusted veterinarians that we partner with to bring you the most up-to-date information. 

What I was looking for is a reason why dogs love having their tummy’s rubbed.

This was a great article and I am pretty sure that republishing it is within the rules of PetMD.

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Why Do Dogs Like Belly Rubs?

PetMD Editorial

Updated: June 28, 2017, Published: April 07, 2017

By Chris Illuminati

Some dogs love belly rubs almost as much as playing fetch or chewing on a really good bone, yet others could go without the show of human affection. So why do dogs like belly rubs? And is it weird if some dogs don’t?

“Belly rubbing is a comforting action,” explains Dr. Peter Brown, chief medical officer of Wagly, a veterinary-based pet service provider with campuses in California and Washington. “It’s an opportunity for bonding and part of our relationship with our dogs.”  

Christine Case, an anthrozoology instructor at Beacon College in Leesburg, Florida, offers another idea about the origin of belly rubs for dogs. Case, a member of the Association of Professional Humane Educators and the International Society for Anthrozoology, feels that humans have modified canine behavior over the last thousand years due to domestication.

“Rolling on their backs is a submissive behavior that dogs exhibit toward humans.” Case explains. “I think it would be difficult to determine whether dogs truly like this activity or if they have been trained to do so. The context of the situation should be evaluated.”

Michael Schaier, a certified professional dog trainer and author of “Wag That Tail: A Trainer’s Guide To A Happy Dog,” concurs with Case’s assessment, but adds that affection is one of the greatest training tools a human can use on a canine.

“A dog rolling on his back is a submissive action and puts the canine in a vulnerable position,” says Schaier, “but dogs have been bred for 10,000 years to be social animals and coexist with humans.”

Studying Back Rolling Behavior in Dogs

A dog rolling over on his back doesn’t always mean the animal is being playful, submissive, or looking for a belly rub, especially in instances when other dogs are close by. In 2015, two teams of researchers from the University of Lethbridge in Alberta and the University of South Africa set out to investigate the meaning and function of dogs rolling over during play with other dogs. The researchers wanted to know if a dog rolling over onto the back is really an act of submission that serves to stop aggression or a tactic executed for combat purposes.

The researchers examined videos showing dogs playing together and staged play sessions with a medium-sized female dog paired with 33 dogs of different breeds and sizes. Then, they sat back and observed.

The researchers concluded that while dogs may roll when playing, the move might also be used to gain an advantage in fighting. Of rollovers observed, none of the dogs rolled over in a submissive response to aggressive behavior by another dog. Researchers noted that dogs rolling on their backs in front of other dogs used their position to block playful bites and launch attacks on the aggressor.

Should You Rub Your Dog’s Belly?

If pets are comfortable with belly rubs, pet owners should feel free to pet away. But Brown warns that a dog who suddenly doesn’t enjoy a good tummy scratching might be conveying a different message. “If your dog normally likes belly rubs, and then stops, that can be a sign of a sore belly or possibly an issue where their back is causing pain.”

There are, however, some dogs who can survive without the constant stomach rubbing.

“Past experience could affect the dog’s like or dislike for the activity,” Case remarks. “If a dog does not like to have its belly rubbed, it does not mean there is anything wrong—perhaps it’s just [the dog’s] preference. It’s up to the individual animal”

But most experts agree that when dogs ask for belly rubs or petting of any kind, it shows how comfortable they feel as part of the family.

“The greatest reward you can give your dog,” adds Schaier, “is the touch of your hand.” 

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Those last two paragraphs say it all and it comes down to touch. Even a brief touch of the hand on the head of your dog is bliss. For both the human and the dog but especially for the dog.

Capturing the moment of my daughter hugging her best friend, Oreo, in the woods. Photo from Unsplash.

Case made!

Resilience Thinking – a review

A book to make one think anew.

Let me make myself absolutely clear about this book, indeed I can do no better than to publish part of an email that I sent to the authors last Saturday:

To say that I was inspired by what you wrote is an understatement. More accurately it has changed my whole understanding of this planet, of the natural order of things, of the politics of the Western world, of vast numbers of us humans, and how precarious is our world just now. It has opened my eyes radically, and I thought before that I was fairly in touch with things.

Resilience is a simple idea but in its application has proved to be anything such. On page 2 the authors set out as they saw it The Drivers of Unsustainable Development. Here’s how that section develops:

Our world is facing a broad range of serious and growing resource issues. Human-induced soil degradation has been getting worse since the 1950s. About 85 percent of agriculture land contains areas degraded by erosion, rising salt, soil compaction, and various other factors. It has been estimated (Wood et al. 2000) that soil degradation has already reduced global agricultural productivity by around 15 percent in the last fifty years. In the last three hundred years, topsoil has been lost at a rate of 200 million tons per year; in the last fifty years it has more than doubled to 760 million tons per year.

As we move deeper into the twenty-first century we cannot afford to lose more of our resource base. The global population is now expanding by about 75 million people each year. Population growth rates are declining, but the world’s population will still be expanding by almost 60 million per year in 2030. The United Nations projections put the global population at nearly 8 billion in 2025. In addition, if current water consumption patterns continue unabated, half the world’s population will live in water-stressed river basins by 2025.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) 2004 Annual Hunger Report estimates that over 850 million people suffer from chronic hunger. Hunger kills 5 million children every year.

It goes on ….!

Now I want to quote from the end of the book, from their section on Resilience Thinking.

In our opening chapter we observed that there were many pathways into resilience thinking and suggested readers not worry too much if the finer details of a resilience framework are a bit obscure. We emphasized that what is of much more importance is an appreciation of the broader themes that underpin such a framework. Those broader themes revolve around humans existing within linked social and ecological systems. These are complex adaptive systems, and attempts to control or optimize parts of such systems without consideration of the responses that this creates in the broader system are fraught with risk. Much of this book has been spent on attempting to explore the consequences of such an approach.

In the broadest sense, optimizing and controlling components of a system in isolation of the broader system results in a decline in resilience, a reduction in options, and the shrinkage of the space in which we can safely operate. Resilience thinking moves us the other way.

It is our hope that readers who are persuaded of this basic premise will be encouraged to explore the inevitable consequences of such thinking. Even if you are not completely clear on the basins of attractions, thresholds, and adaptive cycles, if the concepts of ecological resilience and dynamic social-ecological systems have any resonance then you are in a better position to appreciate what is happening to the world around you.

The phrase complex adaptive system was new to me but intuitively I got what the authors meant. As they state on page 35: The three requirements for a complex adaptive system are:

  • That it has components that are independent and interacting,
  • There is some selection process at work on those components (and on the results of local interactions),
  • Variation and novelty are constantly being added to the system (through components changing over time or new ones coming in),

This was my eye-opener. It was now obvious that many processes, especially in nature, that I had hitherto regarded as constant were changing albeit usually on a timescale of many decades sometimes centuries.

And the other conclusion that was inescapable was that we humans were largely responsible for those changes because we couldn’t see the longterm consequences of what we were doing.

As I remarked in a previous post :

David writes that firstly carbon dioxide is not like other pollutants, for example like air particulants.  Then later goes on to say:

The second difference is that climate change is irreversible.

As Joe Romm notes in a recent post, New York Times columnist Joe Nocera slipped up in his latest column and referred to technology that would “help reverse climate change.” I don’t know whether that reflects Nocera’s ignorance or just a slip of the pen, but I do think it captures the way many people subconsciously think about climate change. If we heat the planet up too much, we’ll just fix it! We’ll turn the temperature back down. We’ll get around to it once the market has delivered economically ideal solutions.

But as this 2009 paper in Nature (among many others) makes clear, it doesn’t work that way:

This paper shows that the climate change that takes place due to increases in carbon dioxide concentration is largely irreversible for 1,000 years after emissions stop. Following cessation of emissions, removal of atmospheric carbon dioxide decreases radiative forcing, but is largely compensated by slower loss of heat to the ocean, so that atmospheric temperatures do not drop significantly for at least 1,000 years. [my emphasis]

My last piece in this review is to republish a graph that is shown on the NASA Global Climate Change website:

For all our sakes, dogs and humans and many other species, let us all please change our behaviours! Soon!

Back to the book: It is a remarkable book!

I will close with quoting one of the praises shown on the back cover. This one by Thomas Homer-Dixon, professor of political science, University of Toronto, and director of the Trudeau Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies.

Resilience Thinking is an essential guidebook to a powerful new way of understanding our world – and of living resiliently with it – developed in recent decades by an international team of ecologists. With five clear and compelling case studies drawn from regions as diverse as Florida, Sweden, and Australia, this book shows how all highly adaptive systems – from ecologies to economics – go through regular cycles of growth, reorganization, and renewal and how our failures to understand the basic principles of resilience have often led to disaster. Resilience Thinking gives us the conceptual tools to help us cope with the bewildering surprises and challenges of our new century.

Please, if you can, think about reading it.

Dogs are not disposable!

It’s even a difficult title to write for today’s story.

There are some despicable people for whom having a dog is not a loving companion nor a humane business interest. I can’t define them and, frankly, they are not even worth the mental effort required to think of a term.

That makes it all the more important to share this article with you.

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Dogs Are Not Disposable

Some people dump pets that are too old, not ‘perfect,’ or to go on vacation.

By Mary Jo DiLonardo

Mary Jo DiLonardo

Published June 11th, 2021.

Blind puppy Gertie weighs just over 2 pounds. Mary Jo DiLonardo

This may seem like a no-brainer, but with all the news from overwhelmed shelters and rescues this summer, it’s probably worth saying out loud.

Dogs are not disposable.

Disreputable breeders toss out puppies that aren’t “perfect.” Some people give up the family pet when they go on vacation so they don’t have to pay for boarding. Others give up an older puppy whose cute behaviors are now obnoxious or a senior dog who may have other health issues.

That little mouse you see at the top of the page is one of two special needs puppies I’m fostering right now. She’s actually a 2.1-pound puppy that we were told is an Aussiedoodle. I still think she might be an exotic guinea pig.

Gertie was dropped off by a breeder at a vet’s office to be euthanized because she was blind. The vet contacted a rescue instead.

I also have a deaf puppy that was given up by a breeder. Many other fosters are also doubling up because the need is so great right now. Probably the biggest reason is that it’s the summer and people are traveling for the first time again in more than a year. That means it’s hard to find adopters and it’s hard to find fosters. Everyone wants out of the house.

I’ve seen messages and social media posts from rescuer and shelter workers who say they feel helpless because the requests for help right now are so crushing.

“My rescue cannot keep up trying to save them,” one wrote.

“I’m sickened at the number of rescue and surrender requests we are getting and I am completely heartbroken,” wrote another.

“We need a lifeline,” said another rescuer.

There are some news stories that claim many pandemic puppies are being returned, but the numbers don’t back that up. Instead, it’s just a crush of other reasons, many involving summer travel.

I think the hardest thing for most loving pet owners to fathom is the idea that some people would drop off their dog at a shelter on their way out of town. There’s just anecdotal evidence and no statistics about how often it happens, but it’s cited very often from disheartened rescuers and shelter workers. 

The people who surrender their pets say they don’t want to pay for boarding and they’ll just get a new one when they return. Shelter workers say it’s heart-wrenching to hold a dog while they watch their person drive away. Some will stare out the door for hours, thinking for sure their family will return.

“Unfortunately, it doesn’t surprise us anymore which is really sad,” says Jen Schwarz, one of the directors of Speak! St. Louis, the special needs rescue I foster for. The rescuers hear the story often from shelter and humane society workers.

“They don’t want to pay for boarding or can’t find anybody to take their dog,” says Schwarz. “It’s basically being selfish.”

And people might think they’re doing their dog a favor by taking it to a shelter, hoping they’ll get adopted by someone else. But typically, if shelters have to euthanize for space, they’ll turn to owner-surrendered pets before strays because they know no one is looking for them.

“That’s the sad reality,” Schwarz says.

The other thing that happens often is people asking to have the family pet put to sleep because they’re too much hassle.

“That happens a lot. The kids are gone, they want to travel, the dog’s too much, and they have it euthanized,” Schwarz says. “That’s worse than dumping it at the shelter.”

Rescuers are saving as many as they can and that’s why I have one puppy sleeping behind me in my office and one napping in a playpen in the living room. Soon everyone will head outside for a game of tag where I’ll make sure everyone gets a chance to win.

And the only thing disposable here is an awful lot of very tiny puppy poo.

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When Jen Schwarz says: “That happens a lot. The kids are gone, they want to travel, the dog’s too much, and they have it euthanized,” I wonder what a lot is numerically. Anyone know?

The stories from the shelter workers breaks hearts here as well. Dogs are so intuitive; so smart. It is no surprise that they will stare for hours trying to work out what has happened.

Diet and Exercise

And of the two exercise is the most important.

Now of course the majority of people reading the title to today’s post would think of us humans. And what I am about to republish is for us. But dogs require exercise just as much as we humans. The question is whether dog’s brains are better protected with exercise?

Anyone know the answer?

Here is the post republished courtesy of The Conversation.

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The exercise pill: How exercise keeps your brain healthy and protects it against depression and anxiety.

By Arash Javanbakht, Associate Professor of Psychiatry, Wayne State University, February 25th, 2021

As with many other physicians, recommending physical activity to patients was just a doctor chore for me – until a few years ago. That was because I myself was not very active. Over the years, as I picked up boxing and became more active, I got firsthand experience of positive impacts on my mind. I also started researching the effects of dance and movement therapies on trauma and anxiety in refugee children, and I learned a lot more about the neurobiology of exercise. 

I am a psychiatrist and neuroscientist researching the neurobiology of anxiety and how our interventions change the brain. I have begun to think of prescribing exercise as telling patients to take their “exercise pills.” Now knowing the importance of exercising, almost all my patients commit to some level of exercise, and I have seen how it benefits several areas of their life and livelihood. 

We all have heard details on how exercise improves musculoskeletal, cardiovascular, metabolic and other aspects of health. What you may not know is how this happens within the brain.

Brain biology and growth

Working out regularly really does change the brain biology, and it is not just “go walk and you will just feel better.” Regular exercise, especially cardio, does change the brain. Contrary to what some may think, the brain is a very plastic organ. Not only are new neuronal connections formed every day, but also new cells are generated in important areas of the brain. One key area is the hippocampus, which is involved in learning and memory and regulating negative emotions.

A molecule called brain-derived neurotrophic factor helps the brain produce neurons, or brain cells. A variety of aerobic and high-intensity interval training exercises significantly increase BDNF levels. There is evidence from animal research that these changes are at epigenetic level, which means these behaviors affect how genes are expressed, leading to changes in the neuronal connections and function.

Moderate exercise also seems to have anti-inflammatory effects, regulating the immune system and excessive inflammation. This is important, given the new insight neuroscience is gaining into the potential role of inflammation in anxiety and depression

Finally, there is evidence for the positive effects of exercise on the neurotransmitters – brain chemicals that send signals between neurons – dopamine and endorphins. Both of these are involved in positive mood and motivation.

Exercise improves clinical symptoms of anxiety and depression

Researchers also have examined the effects of exercise on measurable brain function and symptoms of depression and anxiety. Exercise improves memory function, cognitive performance and academic achievement. Studies also suggest regular exercise has a moderate effect on depressive symptoms even comparable to psychotherapy. For anxiety disorders, this effect is mild to moderate in reducing anxiety symptoms. In a study that I conducted with others among refugee children, we found a reduction in symptoms of anxiety and PTSD among children who attended eight to 12 weeks of dance and movement therapies.

Exercise could even potentially desensitize people to physical symptoms of anxiety. That is because of the similarity between bodily effects of exercise, specifically high-intensity exercise, and those of anxiety, including shortness of breath, heart palpitation and chest tightness. Also, by reducing baseline heart rate, exercise might lead to signaling of a calmer internal physical environment to the brain. 

It is important to note that the majority of studies examined the effects of exercise in isolation and not in combination with other effective treatments of clinical anxiety and depression, such as psychotherapy and medication. For the same reason, I am not suggesting exercise as a replacement for necessary mental health care of depression or anxiety, but as part of it, and for prevention.

Two men using exercise bars outdoors.
Many people have created outdoor gyms during the pandemic. Richard Baker/In Pictures via Getty ImagesCC BY-SA

There are other perks besides the neurobiological impacts of exercise. When going out for a walk, one gets more exposure to sunlight, fresh air and nature. One of my patients befriended a neighbor during her regular walks, leading to regular taco Tuesdays with that new friend. I have made some great friends at my boxing gym, who are not only my motivators, but also a great supporting social network. One might pick a dog as their running mate, and another might meet a new date, or enjoy the high energy at the gym. Exercise can also function as a mindfulness practice and a respite from common daily stressors, and from our electronic devices and TV. 

By increasing energy and fitness level, exercise can also improve self-image and self-esteem .

Practical ways for a busy life

So how can you find time to exercise, especially with all the additional time demands of the pandemic, and the limitations imposed by the pandemic such as limited access to the gyms?

  • Pick something you can love. Not all of us have to run on a treadmill (I actually hate it). What works for one person might not work for another. Try a diverse group of activities and see which one you will like more: running, walking, dancing, biking, kayaking, boxing, weights, swimming. You can even rotate between some or make seasonal changes to avoid boredom. It does not even have to be called an exercise. Whatever ups your heartbeat, even dancing with the TV ads or playing with the kids.
  • Use positive peer pressure to your advantage. I have created a group messaging for the boxing gym because at 5:30 p.m., after a busy day at the clinic, I might have trouble finding the motivation to go to the gym or do an online workout. It is easier when friends send a message they are going and motivate you. And even if you do not feel comfortable going to a gym during the pandemic, you can join an online workout together. 
  • Do not see it as all or none. It does not have to be a one-hour drive to and from the gym or biking trail for a one-hour workout vs. staying on the couch. I always say to my patients: “One more step is better than none, and three squats are better than no squats.” When less motivated, or in the beginning, just be nice to yourself. Do as much as possible. Three minutes of dancing with your favorite music still counts.
  • Merge it with other activities: 15 minutes of walking while on the phone with a friend, even around the house, is still being active.
  • When hesitant or low on motivation, ask yourself: “When was the last time I regretted doing it?”
  • Although it can help, exercise is not the ultimate weight loss strategy; diet is. One large brownie might be more calories than one hour of running. Don’t give up on exercise if you are not losing weight. It is still providing all the benefits we discussed.

Even if you do not feel anxious or depressed, still take the exercise pills. Use them for protecting your brain.

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This is a very good post. Arash Javanbakht is a scientist of the first order and we all should do as she advises. I’m going to close today’s post by republish the first two paragraphs of his bio that is also published by The Conversation:

Associate Professor of Psychiatry, Wayne State University Arash Javanbakht, M.D., is the director of the Stress, Trauma, and Anxiety Research Clinic (STARC; https://www.starclab.org) at Wayne State University. Dr Javanbakht and her work have been featured on the National Geographic, The Atlantic, CNN, Aljazeera, NPR, Washington Post, Smithsonian, PBS, American Psychiatric Association, Anxiety and Depression Association of America, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and tens of other media.

Her clinical and research work is mainly focused on anxiety and trauma related disorders, and PTSD. She often helps civilians and first responders with PTSD. Her clinic utilizes pharmacotherapy (medication), psychotherapy, exercise, and lifestyle modification to help patients achieve their full capacity for a fulfilling life.

Having a dog in an apartment.

Lots of people who don’t have a yard still want a dog!

We are incredibly lucky in that we have many acres for our dogs, and our horses, to play in. Mind you, it is at times like the present where our acres are not such a brilliant idea. Times in the Summer that bring drought and the ever-present risk of a fire storm.

But taken in the round we are grateful that we ended up living in this property.

Not all people are as lucky as us but for them a dog or two is just as important. So what is the truth of having a dog in an apartment.

That is why I am so pleased to share this recent article from The Dodo with you.

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How To Make Your Dog Happy Living In An Apartment

No yard, no problem!

By SAM HOWELL

Published on the 1st March, 2021.

So you’re dying to have a dog, but you’re worried he won’t be happy in your apartment.

Do you really need a giant house with a big yard to give your dog the best life?

The Dodo spoke with Mikayla Park, director of adoptions and education at Wags & Walks, to bust that myth wide open.

Is living in an apartment worse for your dog?

Great news! The idea that a dog can’t be happy in an apartment is totally a myth.

“There is no one perfect environment in which to introduce a new dog,” Park told The Dodo. “Everyone has the ability to give a dog a happy and fulfilling life regardless of the size of their home, and the presence of an outdoor yard space.”

If you’re waiting to adopt a dog until you have your own yard due to personal preference, that’s totally understandable.

But the only real requirement for having a pup of your own is a willingness to love and take care of him — even if that means getting creative about outdoor time.

“Adopting a dog is about making a commitment to give that dog everything they need for the rest of their life,” Park said. “It might be a bit more work if you don’t have the ability to open a door and let your pup go outside, but it is by no means impossible, nor does it make your home any lesser a home in which to have a dog.”

Getting your dog outside when you live in an apartment

Going out to do his business, soak up the sun or just run around and smell all the smells is super important for your dog.

But just because you don’t have a backyard or live in an apartment, that doesn’t mean your pup can’t get that quality outside time.

“Outdoor time is a vital part of this daily routine, but it’s more about the way you spend that outdoor time than the mere presence of it,” Park explained. “Dogs thrive on having jobs, on pleasing their humans, on working their brains! Challenge them to work while they are outside with you.”

So instead of just idly letting your dog get his zoomies out when you pop outside, you can actually use this time to engage his brain — such as by slipping some training time in on your daily walks.

“Don’t just let them wander at the end of a leash,” Park said. “Practice your commands, work on eye contact [and] run them through sits and stays and recall. Buy a treat pouch and take it with you when you go, so that you can reward for good behavior and mark victories!”

This will help tire him out so he’s not bursting with energy when you return to your apartment. And with enough active walks or dog park trips, any pup can be happy (regardless of where he lives).

Things that’ll make your dog happy inside an apartment

While your dog definitely needs outdoor enrichment, there are plenty of things that will help keep him entertained while he’s inside your apartment.

“There are lots of wonderful products out there to help you in maintaining a happy and balanced dog without a yard,” Park said. “Brain games like treat puzzles and Kongs are fabulous ways to create some mentally stimulating entertainment.”

Plus, believe it or not, your dog’s bed can even help with that indoor enrichment.

“Buy a raised-place bed and practice having your dog stay there while you cook dinner,” Park explained, noting that this can actually be a fun mental game for some pups. “If they get up, lead them right back onto the bed. They cannot move until you give them the signal to do so. Sound boring? You would be surprised how hard it is for some dogs to make their bodies sit still for 20 minutes.”

So, there are plenty of ways you can give your dog a happy life with lots of enrichment while living in an apartment.

“Not having a backyard is certainly a bit of a challenge, but one that any adopter is capable of rising to meet, with dedication and time,” Park said.

We independently pick all the products we recommend because we love them and think you will too. If you buy a product from a link on our site, we may earn a commission.

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As was said earlier on in the article: “But the only real requirement for having a pup of your own is a willingness to love and take care of him.

My experience is that huge numbers of people are really committed to loving their dogs. Simply because a dog offers in return unconditional love. It’s a short statement of just two words. But it is a profound quality of our dogs and one that at frequent times has Jeannie and me, and tons of other people, lost for words!

The terrible scourge of puppy mills.

Personally, I think these should be banned in all countries!

Yes, I know that sub-heading is me being away with the fairies, but one can always hope.

The reason behind the heading and the topic is that on the 21st June this year Dexter sent me a guest post for including in this blog. Nothing gives me greater pleasure, so on with the show!

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Well well, Fancy that.

By Dexter.

This blog is on a subject that I have wanted to tackle but haven’t had the chance or insight to do so. Until now.

Puppy mills are an abhorrent method of producing large sums of money at the detriment to the dogs involved. I discovered that Fancy, who is one of the Wirral & Cheshire Beagles was used in a puppy mill. As I wanted to write something on this subject, I asked for the kind assistance of her mum, auntie Karen, who has been wonderful and extremely helpful in helping me write this blog. I cannot say “enjoy it” as I hope that you find it predominantly thought provoking and enlightening as to these terrible practices.

Thank you for allowing me to ask some questions about Fancy. When we spoke you told me that she was a puppy mill dog. Can you let me know a little more about her position before she came to live with you?

She had been in a puppy farm, kept in a concrete pig pen and had 3-4 litters in just over 3 years. Many of her pups died of Parvo either there or within 24 hours of being picked up for their new homes.

That sounds awful. Do you know how old she was when you met her?

They told us she was about 5 but she turned out to be 3.6 years. She was 4 on Valentine’s Day.

So, by my calculations, she was about one year old when she would have been forced to have her first litter. This makes me feel very sad.

How did you find out that Fancy was up for rescue and rehoming?

We saw Fancy on a “Beagles missing, found and in need ” site on FaceBook and we fell in love with her immediately. She had such sad, dark eyes and it occurred to us that she had never known a day’s happiness or been loved. There were so many people applied for her we didn’t think we stood a chance. However we were contacted by Many Tears twice that week and, because I’d previously had a home check and had 2 kind caring beagles, we were chosen.

Please help me, please!

We drove over 10 hours that day to Llanelli, Camarthenshire and met her in an area used for meet and greets. She was petrified of us but not my beagles, Eddie & George. She just ignored them. There was no eye contact with us, nothing. She just paced up and down and cowered in a corner. When it was time to take her home she had to be cornered and caught to get a slip lead on her. She just wet herself. It was heartbreaking. My husband Alan carried her to the car where she laid down in the travel crate. She didn’t sleep but just kept very quiet all the way home. She came from a real lowlife puppy farmer. He’s a multi millionaire who posts “his” beagles or pups running free on fields. In actual fact they’ve never seen a blade of grass. The BBC did an undercover investigation on him.

In any case, when she arrived it was a lovely Sunday evening last July 2020. So we sat outside and watched her exploring and sniffing around the garden. She kept hiding in a corner if we looked at her so we stopped. It took 8 long days before I touched her and that was only because there was a wall behind her. She went to the toilet in the house but thanks to Eddie & George she soon got the hang of going outside. They were fabulous with her and soon realised she wasn’t a boarder but a new sister. I certainly couldn’t have done this without them and the beagle field.

Is this OK? Is this what I am allowed to do?

What sort of condition was Fancy in when she arrived? I am going to assume she wasn’t in the greatest shape, given her life up to her time coming home with you?

She was in a bad condition when we got her. She had a dull dry coat and was very underweight with her ribs showing and tail between her legs. It took a few days for her to eat and she’d only do that if we weren’t around. When I first took her to the beagle field she spent the whole time pinned up against the fence. Nothing the beagles did bothered her, only the actions of the humans. I think it took about a month for her to trust one person and let them touch her. Eleven months later and she is still very wary of people she doesn’t know and she will cower away.

That sounds awful, and so sad. Looking at the pictures she seems to have come some way on her path to rehabilitation.

Yes,it doesn’t take much to win her round. A belly tickle, something tasty and she’s your best friend.

Give us a cuddle, says Jay.

How long did it take for Fancy to stop going toilet in the house? Was she called Fancy when you met her at the meet & Greet? 

She did her toilets in the house for about 4 days. Maybe twice a day then just first thing in the morning. It tailed off after that as she went out every time with her brothers. Yes she already had the name Fancy I rescued a kitten on the A55 motorway many years ago and she was called Fancy.

You’re safe now, Fancy!

You said that Eddie & George immediately knew Fancy was in need of some help. Did they act as if they were guardians to her, showing her the ropes if you like, and making sure that she felt at least some comfort with them.

Definitely. They gave her space from day one when she needed it. Even at the busy beagle field the others knew as well. She never got the initial newbie rough welcome. They all love her very much. Beagles know these things.

Welcome to the clan, Fancy.

Erm, when did you start to see a real breakthrough in her feeling more at home and less scared of all sorts of situations? What was the thing that made you think “you know, Fancy is feeling a bit happier”.

I lay that lead next to her for about a week. I started to show it to her and make a big fuss like it was a toy. She was petrified as she’d only been put in a “rape harness”. She’s still wary of it but can’t get out of it thank dogness.

A week from A to B

If you could give people a simple message regarding getting pups from a mill what would it be? Apart from “dont do it” that is. 

I’ve given many messages of support to people thinking of puppy farm rescues. Don’t ever give up on them because of their fear. Beagles are so loving and trusting of us the good times far outweigh the bad and no mistake. I have a friend who 12 days ago adopted one with identical problems and the difference in her each day is amazing. Day 12 today and she was dying to jump into his arms when he got home but held back and did an excited dance. We all love his daily updates.

I wish I knew the answer to the puppy mills question I really do. They’re clever people who advertise their pups as living in loving happy homes with caring owners. When in reality they use dirty filthy concrete pig pens where they receive no vet care whatsoever. People see the advertisement and pay a large deposit, when the time comes most travel hours and they won’t leave their puppy their a minute longer so will take them home and face the consequences. Many die over 24 hours and some will be saved by a good vet. One of Fancys pups and owner I know so I know how she was fooled. She knows others.

May I ask about Wirral & Cheshire Beagles generally. Are you a registered charity and, if so, with whom do you work and co-operate?

Yes the beagle group is a charity. We give £1000’s away to beagle charities each year. Mainly Unite to Care where we got ex laboratory George from and Many Tears who are absolutely fabulous and rescue so many ex breeding beagles.

Beautiful!

To sum up I am so happy that Fancy is now safe and loved. It is wonderful that she will never again suffer the privations of puppy mill life. It is sad and wholly awful that she had to suffer in the first place. If people didn’t buy from puppy mills, then there might be a chance that they are prevented of their ability to operate. Please please think before making a decision to adopt a dog. Puppy mills are awful and make our lives a misery.

Thank you to Fancy’s mum for her wonderful help on what is a very difficult subject. Without her help, I couldn’t have written this.

Safe! We will look after you!

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As Dexter says:

Rescue dogs sometimes have a bad reputation. Cross breed rescue dogs sometimes seem to have a worse reputation.  I wasn’t dangerous or bad. I was unlucky. Now I am enjoying life in my forever home and I am sharing my contentment with whoever will read my tails.

This is the essence of what having a dog in one’s life means.

I can’t voice Jean’s and my disgust at puppy mills. It is beyond terrible. All you and I can do is to never entertain buying a puppy where the commercial legitimacy is uncertain.

If in doubt, don’t!

This will make you smile!

A lovely tale from The Dodo.

I was looking through my LfD future posts folder and came across this story about a rescue dog in Kentucky River, in Kentucky, a long way from here ( Merlin, OR).

But that doesn’t diminish in the slightest how beautiful this story is and how generous are the management and staff of Home Depot.

Read it and see what I mean. Thanks to The Dodo for publishing it.

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Dog Is Literally The Cutest Home Depot Employee Ever

“She finds who needs her and gives them that smile” 😍

By Lily Feinn

Published on the 11th June, 2021

When Heaven first went to live with Jackie Rakers, she was scared of everything.

The scruffy rescue puppy from Kentucky River Regional Animal Shelter had had a rough start to life and was nervous around strangers and loud noises.

Luckily, her mom found the perfect place to help her come out of her shell — Home Depot.

JACKIE RAKERS

“The Home Depot runs started as a way to help her with her fears,” Rakers told The Dodo. “She was nervous about new places and new sounds, so we’d go for five minutes and she’d get all the treats. Then we started going longer and longer and exposing her to more and more things within the store.”

The large, dog-friendly store was the perfect place for Heaven to socialize, and the pup was such a good girl on her visits that she earned her own tiny employee apron.

JACKIE RAKERS

Now, Heaven knows that when the apron comes out, she’s about to go to her favorite place.

“I keep it in the car so we are always ready,” Rakers said. “As soon as she can tell we are in the parking lot, she just quivers until I put [the apron] on her and then she takes off towards ‘work.’”

“She walks around like she owns the place,” Rakers added.

JACKIE RAKERS

Heaven has become a bit of a celebrity at her local Home Depot, where all the staff knows her by name, and there’s even a picture of her in the break room.

And while she may not be an official employee, when she’s at her favorite store, she offers excellent customer service.

“She walks around minding her own business and then suddenly insists on meeting someone,” Rakers said. “She just sits and stares. They always end up saying how they needed that pick-me-up. It’s like she has a sense of who needs to be shown they are loved that day — and one of her favorite places to do that is Home Depot!”

JACKIE RAKERS

Heaven loves running errands with her mom, and everywhere they go, she finds someone having a rough day who needs her smile.

“She was scared of everything, but with a lot of training and patience she learned to trust and now it’s like she pays it forward,” Rakers said. “She finds who needs her and gives them that smile and a cuddle.”

JACKIE RAKERS

The only downside of all their Home Depot runs is that every time they visit, Rakers comes up with a new home improvement project. But all the retail therapy is worth it when she sees how happy Heaven is and how far she’s come.

“She’s the perfect example of what happens when you meet someone where they are at and love unconditionally,” Rakers said. “She went from so scared and so sad to the happiest dog.”

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Thank goodness our local Home Depot here in Grants Pass (Oregon) don’t have a Heaven in the store. For if they did Jean and I would be in the store every day of the year. OK, maybe a small exaggeration but only a small one!

Seriously, Home Depot are to be congratulated. It’s good for the store. It’s good for the employees. It’s good for the customers. But it is fantastic for Heaven!

Just love this story!