Category: Culture

Searching for the Truth

Resolving the falsehoods may not be so straightforward as one thinks.

I’m going straight into this last post of my mini-series looking at the state of things. Namely a recent essay published by Professor Ronald Pies:

Professor of Psychiatry, Lecturer on Bioethics & Humanities at SUNY Upstate Medical University; and Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Tufts University School of Medicine, Tufts University

I am a psychiatrist and ethicist affiliated with SUNY Upstate Medical University, Syracuse, NY; and Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston. I write on a variety of cross-disciplinary topics, ranging from mental health to philosophy of mind to spirituality. Most recently, I have authored the novella, “The Late Life Bloom of Rose Rabinowitz;” and the poetry chapbook, “The Myeloma Year.”

Here is that post, republished within the terms of The Conversation.


‘Alternative facts’: A psychiatrist’s guide to twisted relationships to truth

March 1, 2017

The phrase “alternative facts” has recently made the news in a political context, but psychiatrists like me are already intimately acquainted with the concept – indeed, we hear various forms of alternate reality expressed almost every day.

All of us need to parse perceived from actual reality every day, in nearly every aspect of our lives. So how can we sort out claims and beliefs that strike most people as odd, unfounded, fantastical or just plain delusional?

Untruths aren’t always lies

First, we need to make a distinction often emphasized by ethicists and philosophers: that between a lie and a falsehood. Thus, someone who deliberately misrepresents what he or she knows to be true is lying – typically, to secure some personal advantage. In contrast, someone who voices a mistaken claim without any intent to deceive is not lying. That person may simply be unaware of the facts, or may refuse to believe the best available evidence. Rather than lying, he’s stating a falsehood.

Some people who voice falsehoods appear incapable of distinguishing real from unreal, or truth from fiction, yet are sincerely convinced their worldview is absolutely correct. And this is our entree into the psychiatric literature.

In clinical psychiatry, we see patients with a broad spectrum of ideas that many people would find eccentric, exaggerated or blatantly at odds with reality. The clinician’s job is, first, to listen empathically and try to understand these beliefs from the patient’s point of view, carefully taking into account the person’s cultural, ethnic and religious background.

Sometimes, clinicians can be wildly mistaken in their first impressions. A colleague of mine once described a severely agitated patient who was hospitalized because he insisted he was being stalked and harassed by the FBI. A few days into his hospitalization, FBI agents showed up on the unit to arrest the patient. As the old joke goes, just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you!

As strongly as she believes, it doesn’t make it true. Talking image via

When what you believe is wrong

We can think of distortions of reality as falling along a continuum, ranging from mild to severe, based on how rigidly the belief is held and how impervious it is to factual information. On the milder end, we have what psychiatrists call over-valued ideas. These are very strongly held convictions that are at odds with what most people in the person’s culture believe, but which are not bizarre, incomprehensible or patently impossible. A passionately held belief that vaccinations cause autism might qualify as an over-valued idea: it’s not scientifically correct, but it’s not utterly beyond the realm of possibility.

On the severe end of the continuum are delusions. These are strongly held, completely inflexible beliefs that are not altered at all by factual information, and which are clearly false or impossible. Importantly, delusions are not explained by the person’s culture, religious beliefs or ethnicity. A patient who inflexibly believes that Vladimir Putin has personally implanted an electrode in his brain in order to control his thoughts would qualify as delusional. When the patient expresses this belief, he or she is not lying or trying to deceive the listener. It is a sincerely held belief, but still a falsehood.

Falsehoods of various kinds can be voiced by people with various neuropsychiatric disorders, but also by those who are perfectly “normal.” Within the range of normal falsehood are so-called false memories, which many of us experience quite often. For example, you are absolutely certain you sent that check to the power company, but in fact, you never did.

As social scientist Julia Shaw observes, false memories “have the same properties as any other memories, and are indistinguishable from memories of events that actually happened.” So when you insist to your spouse, “Of course I paid that electric bill!” you’re not lying – you are merely deceived by your own brain.

A much more serious type of false memory involves a process called confabulation: the spontaneous production of false memories, often of a very detailed nature. Some confabulated memories are mundane; others, quite bizarre. For example, the person may insist – and sincerely believe – that he had eggs Benedict at the Ritz for breakfast, even though this clearly wasn’t the case. Or, the person may insist she was abducted by terrorists and present a fairly elaborate account of the (fictional) ordeal. Confabulation is usually seen in the context of severe brain damage, such as may follow a stroke or the rupture of a blood vessel in the brain.

Lying as a default

Finally, there is falsification that many people would call pathological lying, and which goes by the extravagant scientific name of pseudologia fantastica (PF). Writing in the Psychiatric Annals, Drs. Rama Rao Gogeneni and Thomas Newmark list the following features of PF:

  • A marked tendency to lie, often as a defensive attempt to avoid consequences. The person may experience a “high” from this imaginative story-telling.
  • The lies are quite dazzling or fantastical, though they may contain truthful elements. Often, the lies may capture considerable public attention.
  • The lies tend to present the person in a positive light, and may be an expression of an underlying character trait, such as pathological narcissism. However, the lies in PF usually go beyond the more “believable” stories of persons with narcissistic traits.

Although the precise cause or causes of PF are not known, some data suggest abnormalities in the white matter of the brain – bundles of nerve fibers surrounded by an insulating sheath called myelin. On the other hand, the psychoanalyst Helene Deutsch argued that PF stems from psychological factors, such as the need to enhance one’s self-esteem, secure the admiration of others or to portray oneself as either a hero or a victim.

Who cares about facts anyway?

Of course, all of this presumes something like a consensus on what constitutes “reality” and “facts” and that most people have an interest in establishing the truth. But this presumption is looking increasingly doubtful, in the midst of what has come to be known as the “post-truth era.” Charles Lewis, the founder of the Center for Public Integrity, described ours as a period in which “up is down and down is up and everything is in question and nothing is real.”

Are lies becoming our rose-colored glasses? Christian Bucad, CC BY-NC-ND

Even more worrisome, the general public seems to have an appetite for falsehood. As writer Adam Kirsch recently argued, “more and more, people seem to want to be lied to.” The lie, Kirsch argues, is seductive: “It allows the liar and his audience to cooperate in changing the nature of reality itself, in a way that can appear almost magical.”

And when this magical transformation of reality occurs, whether in a political or scientific context, it becomes very difficult to reverse. As the writer Jonathan Swift put it, “Falsehood flies, and the Truth comes limping after it.”

Psychiatrists are not in a position to comment on the mental health of public figures they have not personally evaluated or on the nature of falsehoods sometimes voiced by our political leaders. Indeed, the “Goldwater Rule” prohibits us from doing so. Nevertheless, psychiatrists are keenly aware of the all-too-human need to avoid or distort unpleasant truths. Many would likely nod in agreement with an observation often attributed to the psychoanalyst Carl Jung: “People cannot stand too much reality.”


With Carl Jung’s words echoing in one’s mind the reaction that does come to me and, undoubtedly, to many others, is that the time for limiting what degree of reality we can take on board is rapidly coming to a close.

Or so much more elegantly conveyed by Maya Angelou.

Back to more gentle and soft ideas tomorrow – and that’s the Truth!

Smoke and Mirrors

Let me start with a quotation:

I’m not a pessimist, even though I do think awful things are going to happen.

James Lovelock

The author of that quote is fellow Englishman, albeit a tad older than yours truly, Mr. James Lovelock. WikiPedia describes him, thus (in part):

James Ephraim Lovelock CHCBEFRS[2] (born 26 July 1919) is an independent scientist, environmentalist and futurist who lives in Devon, England. He is best known for proposing the Gaia hypothesis, which postulates that the Earth functions as a self-regulating system.[5]

Moving on.

These times in this fine country, The United States of America, are troubling as Rebecca Gordon set out so compellingly in yesterday’s post.

But what is so terrible about these times is the failure to put integrity at the heart of every pronouncement that comes from a Government. And it would be grossly unfair to pick on the present US Government as the only example of this failure.

Because just a few mouse clicks can inform millions of us as to the real issues. Such as the effect that Climate Change is having on our health, as this recent Grist article so aptly put it in the opening paragraphs:

Here are 4 ways climate change is messing with our brains — for the worse.

We might think of climate change as purely physical: wildfires blazing through forests, rising seas lapping at the doors of coastal homes.

But those brutal conditions also affect our mental health, changing how we think and act. Mental health professionals are paying attention to the link between climate change and emotional health — and health insurance companies are, too.

Or take the issue of the state of America’s water. Recently the subject of an important essay just presented by Naked Capitalism:

America’s Hidden Water Affordability Crisis

Yves here. Grist has been doing an admirable job of keeping on top of this important yet oddly still-under-the-radar story. In the US, the big driver of rising water costs is the need to invest in aging, neglected water works. But water is going to become an issue in many places for differing reasons. As we have been saying for years, the natural resource that is projected to come under pressure first is potable water. And please don’t push desalination as a magic bullet. That costs money (both the plants and new transportation infrastructure, uses energy, plus has the not-trivial problem of how to dispose of the salt residues.

By Ciara O’Rourke, a freelance writer and 2015-16 Ted Scripps Fellow in Environmental Journalism at the University of Colorado Boulder. Originally published by Fusion and reproduced at Grist as part of the Climate Desk collaboration

When Elizabeth Mack wondered about a future in which Americans wouldn’t be able to pay for water, a couple of colleagues waved her off. “Don’t be ridiculous,” they said. But the idea niggled at Mack, an assistant professor at the Department of Geography, Environment, and Spatial Sciences at Michigan State University. And in January, in an article published in the science journal PLOS ONE, she asked a new question: Is there a burgeoning water affordability crisis in the United States?

Mack, along with research assistant Sarah Wrase, determined that if water rates increase at projected amounts over the next five years, the percentage of households that can’t pay their water bills could triple from 11.9 percent to more than a third. Nearly 14 million households nationwide already struggle to afford water services. An additional 27.18 million — or 8.5 percent of the country’s population — could soon face the same challenges.

Yes, integrity in politics is more, so much more, than a nice idea from this silly old Brit now living in Oregon. Here’s a post I published some four years ago that says it as clearly as it needs to be said.


Reflections on Integrity.

Going back to basics.

Many will know the origins of this blog; a chance comment by Jon Lavin back in England in early 2007 that dogs were integrous, (a score of 210 as defined by Dr David Hawkins).

Way back in 2009, I wrote this:

“There is nothing to fear except the persistent refusal to find out the truth, the persistent refusal to analyse the causes of happenings.” Dorothy Thompson.

When I started Learning from Dogs I was initially rather vague but knew that the Blog should reflect the growing need for greater integrity and mindfulness in our planetary civilisation. Here are some early musings,

Show that integrity delivers better results … integrity doesn’t require force … networking power of a group … demonstrate the power of intention … cut through the power of propaganda and media distortion …

Promulgate the idea that integrity is the glue that holds a just society together … urgent need as society under huge pressures …. want a decent world for my grandchildren … for all our grandchildren …. feels like the 11th hour….

But as the initial, rather hesitant, start to the Blog settled into a reliable, daily posting, and as the minuscule number of readers steadily grew to the present level of many hundreds each day, the clarity of the purpose of Learning from Dogs also improved.

Because, while it may sound a tad grandiose and pompous, if society doesn’t eschew the games, half-truths and selfish attitudes of the last, say, 30 years or more, then civilisation, as we know it, could be under threat.

Or, possibly, it’s more accurate to say that our civilisation is under threat and the time left to change our ways, to embrace those qualities of integrity, truth and consciousness for the very planet we all live on, is running out.

Time left to change our ways is running out.

So what’s rattled my cage, so to speak, that prompted today’s reflection? I’ll tell you! (You knew I was going to anyway, didn’t you!)

I’m drafting these thoughts around noon Pacific Standard Time on Sunday, 17th. At the same time, tens of thousands of ordinary good folk (40,000 plus at the latest estimate) are gathering by the Washington Monument ready to march past the White House demanding that President Obama block the Keystone XL pipeline and move forward toward climate action.

Do I trust the US Government to take this action? On balance, no! That hurts me terribly to write that. I really want to trust and believe what the President of my new home country says.

State of the Union speech 2013. AP photo.
State of the Union speech 2013. AP photo.

Here’s a snippet of what the President did say in his State of the Union speech on February 12th.

Now, it’s true that no single event makes a trend. But the fact is, the 12 hottest years on record have all come in the last 15. Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, floods, all are now more frequent and more intense.

We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence. Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science and act before it’s too late.

A frank admission that the climate is changing in dramatic ways; the overwhelming judgment of science – fantastic!

The evidence that burning carbon-based fuels (coal, oil, gas) is the primary cause of today’s high CO2 levels is overwhelming. As a recent BBC radio programme reveals (being featured tomorrow) huge climate changes going back millions of years are a natural part of Earth’s history. However, as one of the scientists explains at the end of that radio programme, the present CO2 level, 395.55 ppm as of January, is now way above the safe, stable limit for the majority of life species on the planet.

But say you are reading this and are not yet convinced?

Let me borrow an old pilot’s saying from the world of aviation: If there’s any doubt, there’s no doubt!

That embracing, cautious attitude is part of the reason why commercial air transport is among the most safest forms of transport. If you had the slightest doubt about the safety of a flight, you wouldn’t board the aircraft.

If you had the slightest doubt about the future for civilisation on this planet likewise you would do something! Remember, that dry word civilisation means family, children, grandchildren, friends and loved ones. The last thing you would do is to carry on as before!

Which is where my lack of trust of leaders comes from!

Back to that State of the Union speech. Just 210 words after the spoken words “act before it’s too late” (I counted them!) Pres. Obama says, “That’s why my administration will keep cutting red tape and speeding up new oil and gas permits.

Here’s the relevant section:

I will direct my cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy.

Now, four years ago, other countries dominated the clean-energy market and the jobs that came with it. And we’ve begun to change that. Last year, wind energy added nearly half of all new power capacity in America. So let’s generate even more. Solar energy gets cheaper by the year. Let’s drive down costs even further. As long as countries like China keep going all-in on clean energy, so must we.

Now, in the meantime, the natural gas boom has led to cleaner power and greater energy independence. We need to encourage that. That’s why my administration will keep cutting red tape and speeding up new oil and gas permits.

We don’t require any more oil to be used. We are already using a staggering amount of it. Let me refer you to an essay on Nature Bats Last called Math. The scary kind, not the fuzzy kind. Prof. McPherson wrote:

I performed a little rudimentary math last week. A little because even a little pushes my limit for math, these days. And rudimentary for the same reason. The outcome was staggering: We’re using oil at the rate of 5,500 cubic feet per second (cfs).

5,500 cubic feet per second” Don’t know about you but I have some trouble in visualising that flow rate. Try this from later in the essay:

Here’s another shot of perspective: We burn a cubic mile of crude oil every year. The Empire State Building, the world’s ninth-tallest building, towers above New York at 1,250 feet. The world’s tallest building, Taipei 101, is 1,667 feet from ground to tip.

Put those buildings together, end to end, and you have one side of a cube. Do it again, and you have the second side. Once more, but this time straight up, and you have one big cube. Filling that cube with oil takes nearly 200 billion gallons … which is about one-sixth the size of the cube of oil we’re burning every year.

Burning a cubic mile every year! Yes, Mr. President, more oil permits is a wonderful way of taking action before it’s too late!

cubic mile
Image taken from

So let’s see what transpires? Let’s see if integrity is given the highest political focus. As in “adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.” Because if there’s ever been a time when all of us, from every spectrum of society need honesty about what we are doing to the planet, it’s now!

As the tag on the home page of this blog says, “Dogs are integrous animals. We have much to learn from them.


Going to close with two more quotations from Mr. Lovelock.

The first:

You never know with politicians what they are really saying. And I don’t say that in a negative way-they have an appalling job.

And the second one to close today’s post:

If you start any large theory, such as quantum mechanics, plate tectonics, evolution, it takes about 40 years for mainstream science to come around. Gaia has been going for only 30 years or so.

The State of the World!

Reality warning dear people!

As you all know, my world is dominated by love. My love for my Jeannie and all the wonderful creatures that inhabit this home and these few acres here in Southern Oregon. Time and time again I share with you stories and articles that I come across that underpin that loving umbrella. Time and time again I am deeply moved by your interest in my scribbles. As I said, my world is dominated by love, and your friendship across this blogging world added to Jean’s love for and attachment to me, has created a little paradise for me.

But! (And you may have sensed there was a ‘But’ coming up.)

But that doesn’t mean that I am immune to being deeply affected by other, more worldly issues, that are as far away from love as one could imagine; more accurately, as far away from love for this wonderful planet as one could imagine.

So for today and the next two days I am going to share with you the pain and angst that I do feel, and feel all too easily, at what we, as in the collective global ‘we’, are up to. Madness doesn’t even seem to touch it!

Today, I am going to republish a recent TomDispatch essay, with Tom’s very kind permission. Tomorrow, I am going to contrast what fellow Brit James Lovelock has been predicting for years with where we really are heading in terms of the future of Planet Earth. Then on Friday, I will finish up with an essay by Professor Ronald Pies regarding the “twisted relationships to truth”.

So don’t say you haven’t been warned!


 Tomgram: Rebecca Gordon, War Without End

Sarajevo Saviours!

Must be something in their water!

Back last December, I published a post under the title of Maybe we all need saving!

It centered around Caki Bravo from Sarajevo and his passion for saving dogs.

The 6′ 2″ tall taxi driver is a gentle giant whose passion leads to the rescue of at least a dozen street dogs each month.

Care2 recently published an item written by another Bosnian but about the same person: Caki Bravo.

It is shared with you all.


Drivers Stop Their Car to Rescue Dog Who Leads Them to a Surprise

By: Laura S.   March 4, 2017

About Laura

Editor’s note: This post is a Care2 favorite, back by popular demand. It was originally published on September 29, 2015. Enjoy!

Written by Edina Pasic in Sarajevo, Bosnia

In the middle of the busy highway we saw a female dog running totally confused between cars and trucks. The cars were passing very fast, so I screamed. My teammate Caki stopped the car and tried to get over to her slowly. She was so scared that she started to run away from him. Luckily he managed to chase her over to a widening, so I called on her while Caki went back to get the car. We had left it in the middle of the highway.

After a while, I didn’t even know what I was talking to her about anymore. I begged her to stay there with me. She looked at me obediently. Her eyes were sad and looked bad. She was full of scars. I cried with her. Her breasts were hanging to the floor.

Luckily we had some food in the car. When we gave her some food she ate very fast. It was hard to believe, she ate big cans of food. She was so puffed that we didn’t know if she was with puppies or if she had already had them. We also gave her some doggy crackers. She ate two, took the third in her mouth and started to walk away from us, back towards the highway. It was warm. The cracker (she was planning to give to her puppies) melted in her mouth. She swallowed it and continued going towards the road.

We realized that she had puppies waiting for her, since she was going back. I followed her on foot and Caki with the car. She didn’t run from me anymore. We walked on the edge of the highway together. My heart stopped every time a big truck or a car rushed by. I’ll never forget that. Even now, while I’m writing this, I start to cry.

We walked for about 1.5 kilometers. Just imagine how far she has walked to find food. Imagine how hungry she must have been. She kept turning around to see if I was still following her, like she was taking me to see her babies. We came to a hill and she started going up. There was only one house there, only one. We went to the house and she led me to a shed. I heard the puppies cry for their mother. I couldn’t see how many there were because the shed was filled with clutter.

I decided to knock on the front door of the house and ask them about this little family. An older man opened the door and immediately got mad when I asked about them. I was already upset about this poor dog, so this was the last thing I needed. He told me he was planning to take them somewhere far away when his son came over with the car. He had already planned this for a very long time, but sadly for him and luckily for them, he didn’t have a car. I asked him to help me gather them up and I would take them with me. He was shocked. I asked him how many babies there were. He told me that she had originally given birth to five puppies, but three had died and only two survived. Poor Mimosa was wagging her tail when the owner of the house came towards her. Even though he didn’t love her, she still loved him.

His wife, being more humane than him, started to cry and told me she had been feeding them in secret from her husband. These poor lives. We first placed the puppies in a box, then the mother. She didn’t protest, she trusted me. I started to cry again. Thinking back, I think it was more from the shock.

She Gave Me Kisses the Whole Way

The mommy gave me kisses the whole way. She’s now in a pension with her son and daughter, waiting for their forever homes. She’s great with people. When she’s outside with her babies at the pension, she growls at the other dogs that get too close to her babies, looking out for them. She is very kind. We are now struggling to keep them safe here until they get new homes. I rescue hundreds of animals like these all year long.

Photo Credit: Edina Pasic


Learn more about the effort to support Edina and Caki’s animal rescue work in Bosnia.

There can never be too many people like this in the world!

Spring Snow

Snow may stop play later on today.

I’m writing this post at 10am PST yesterday. It’s earlier than I would usually choose but already our local weather forecast is looking a tad optimistic.

Snow showers before 10am, then rain and snow showers likely. High near 40. South wind 5 to 10 mph becoming west southwest in the afternoon. Chance of precipitation is 80%. Total daytime snow accumulation of less than one inch possible.

For we have already received an inch.

Photo taken at 09:45 PST Sunday, 5th March.

But before sharing with you a lovely video that appeared recently on the Care2 site, let me add a postscript to yesterday’s Picture Parade on the theme of Everyone Needs a Friend. A picture taken on Saturday evening of Pedy sleeping back-to-back with one of our ex-rescue cats from Mexico.

p1160925Now on to today’s share.


Daily Cute: Irish Wolfhound Wags World’s Longest Dog Tail

Keon the Irish wolfhound has claimed the world record for longest dog tail at 2 feet 6.2 inches!


Hopefully we will still be on and connected by the time you read this. Either way, here’s a closing picture.


Saturday cat’s day!

The perfect follow-on to yesterday’s post.

As many of you will know yesterday I published a post that was a republication of a recent item on the Care2 site about a Fire Department coming to the aid of a dog.

3201628-largeAny fire chief will tell you that a fire department’s role is not just fighting fires, but sometimes helping community members out of a tight spot. And for the McDowell County Rescue Squad in North Carolina, that form of service required a delicate touch last week when they were called upon to free a dog named Sadie from the grips of a truck tire rim.

Just to illustrate that caring runs across other departments and other animals, read this recent Mother Nature Network story.


Meet the abandoned kitten who is now the top cop at NYPD’s 60th Precinct

Jenn Savedge   March 2, 2017, 3:34 p.m.

Martin is all purrs for the officers of Coney Island’s 60th Precinct. (Photo: New York City Alerts/Twitter)

When the officers at a New York police station found an abandoned kitten on their doorstep, they could have taken him to their local animal shelter. Instead, they took him in as one of their own. And now Martin is the official precinct mascot (and unofficial morale booster) of the New York Police Department’s 60th Precinct.

Today, the 6-month-old kitty is living the high life, with treats, toys and snuggles in abundance. But his future was not that certain just a few months ago. The tabby cat was abandoned on the doorstep of the NYPD’s Coney Island office. Fortunately, the officers instantly fell in love, and rather than turn him over to a shelter, they petitioned their boss to adopt him as a pet for the whole precinct.

Officer Martin D. Costanza, who became the cat’s namesake, led the charge to adopt the kitten. Costanza and his fellow officers put the request in with Deputy Inspector William Taylor, the New York Post reports. Taylor, a self-described animal lover, agreed under one condition: Someone else needed to be in charge of the litter box.

Taylor even agreed to pay for Martin’s food and treats and the officers pooled their funds to pay for their new kitty’s shots, neutering and microchipping. Throughout the station, Martin has baskets for napping, multiple food stations and plenty of toys. He also has a large, admiring fan club of officers and visitors who can’t wait to give him a pet or a snuggle.

Since word of his adoption has been made public, the precinct has been inundated with offers for donations and requests to help. But the officers want Martin’s fans to know that all of his needs are being met and that donations should be sent to the local animal shelter.

According to Taylor, Martin shows up at roll call every morning to “inspect” the officers and spread a little joy. “He has the run of the precinct.” Taylor told the New York Post. “He took control of the place right away.”

In my absence "Martin" is called upon to make the heavy decisions.
In my absence “Martin” is called upon to make the heavy decisions.


You all take care of yourselves out there!

No shortage of love and caring.

For that most treasured pet companion: The Dog

What with one thing and another this has been a bit of a week.

So when recently I came across a wonderful story on the Care2 site of how a Fire Department put so much energy into saving a dog’s life it seemed an automatic action to share it with all you good people out there.


How Rescuers Freed This Dog From a Tire Truck Rim

3201628-largeBy: Laura S.   March 1, 2017

About Laura

Any fire chief will tell you that a fire department’s role is not just fighting fires, but sometimes helping community members out of a tight spot. And for the McDowell County Rescue Squad in North Carolina, that form of service required a delicate touch last week when they were called upon to free a dog named Sadie from the grips of a truck tire rim.

Sadie’s family told rescuers that they believe she may have been chasing another animal when she got wedged inside the Ford F-350 tire rim.

Credit: Kristi Sisk/ Facebook
Credit: Kristi Sisk/ Facebook

Sadie was taken to the Animal Hospital of Marion where she showed everyone her new necklace with her characteristic charm. But for her own safety, Sadie would have to be sedated.

credit: Kristi Sisk/ Facebook
Credit: Kristi Sisk/ Facebook

“The tire rim probably weighed 20 or 30 pounds so she couldn’t even lift her head up when she came in,” hospital staffer Kristi Sisk said.

“We used hydraulic cutters as well as a couple of other power tools,”  McDowell County Rescue Squad Captain Jordan Harrell told “It was a lot of trial and error. It was very big, it was a tough metal, and not the text book type extrication.”

Credit: Kristi Sisk/ Facebook
Credit: Kristi Sisk/ Facebook

“Thank you so much McDowell rescue squad and volunteers that showed up, took their time, and put the animals safety first getting this tire rim off!” Sisk said. “Happy to say miss Sadie had a happy ending. Went home tail wagging. I love my job!”

Credit: McDowell County Rescue Squad/ Facebook
Credit: McDowell County Rescue Squad/ Facebook


Time and time again, we see how dogs bring out so much good in us!

Feeding the correct wolf!

A very heart-touching guest post

Yesterday I used as a sub-heading “I will never, ever tire of the wonderful connections made by this blog!

I wrote that before Sydney sent in a guest post which reached out to me, to Jeannie and, undoubtedly, will reach out to many others. Sydney further validated the power of the wonderful connections that blogging brings.

Here’s how it came about.

Not that long ago, there was a new follower to this place. As is so frequently the case that new follower was also a blogger. Their blog is called very beautifully: Recovery For All Of My Heart. As I always try to do, I went across to leave a ‘thank you’ note. I also read the About page that I want to republish here by way of my introduction to Sydney.

Hello, I am in recovery from an eating disorder, depression and anxiety. The way I got to the best place in my mind is by changing my perspective.

In this blog, I use my new open-mindedness to show the world the beauty I see in hopes that others will then see the beauty in themselves. For me, all it took was to see the beauty in myself, but I needed someone to help me see it first. My hope is to be that person for others.

There is a way to see the good in every piece of you. You can get your mindset to see what others love about you. The proof of everyone’s beauty lies in changing your perspective and this blog hopes to put into light the beauty in everyone that ever existed.

So now to Sydney’s post. (And if you want to understand why I chose the title to this post, then please read right down to the end.)


Mindfulness and a dog named Bailey

By Sydney R. February 23rd., 2017


When I was 21 years old, I got a hound boxer puppy named Bailey. Previously, I had a dog my mom and I raised when I was seven; she was named Rachel.

I only speak of Bailey in this post because of a certain situation I want to talk about, but I also wanted to mention how amazing Rachel was too.

Anyway, I raised Bailey to be the sweet almost two-year-old he is today. He is not a normal dog to me. This is because I believe him to be extraordinary (so original for dog owners, I know), and also because I have struggled with my mental health.

I have struggled with depression and he has changed my life for the better. One day last year I was having a very hard time with my depression. I wanted to just lay in bed and quit my job and begin isolating again. I wanted to just sleep and not fight the thoughts and just let them rattle on inside of my mind while I lay there.

I grabbed my dog as he was lying next to me and held onto him ready to remain in my negative thoughts for all eternity. Then something changed: I felt his fur. I felt my cheek against his fur. I heard his sweet little breathing that used to put me to sleep when he laid on my chest when he was a puppy. I was being mindful without even realizing it.

I was aware of everything I was feeling when holding this thing that is so dear to my heart.

Suddenly, all the pain went away. I was reminded of this feeling I can have while holding my dog. I can fight this depression and I can have a wonderful life. If you ever are feeling extremely sad or have any type of negative urges, and this can be about anything, grab your furry little one and just stay in the moment until they pass.

And why is this?

Research has shown that if you look into your dogs eyes, the hormonal response is activated just like the one that is activated when you look at infants. Scientists took blood samples of dogs and their owners before and during time spent petting. The results were that the levels of oxytocin went up in humans during a petting session of a dog and it was at very similar levels of new mothers and their infants.

Even more amazing, dogs had the same levels in their blood as well, showing how happy they are around their owners. During my depression that night, holding onto my dog was not just helping me overcome my sadness, he was having a nice time as well.

Now what I am guessing is that if you are sitting down, petting your dog, but not really paying much attention, your dog will be happy, but your oxytocin levels will not be as high as they could be. When you are mindful and staying in the moment whilst petting your dog, you could be seriously happy, to the point where your oxytocin levels from your dog stops you from ruminating on your negative thoughts.

Don’t just pet your dog when you are upset…make sure you are completely in the moment.

Notice your body and notice what your hands and arms are feeling as you wrap your arms around your dog. Let your hands and all of your arms feel the fur. Use all of your senses. Make sure you hear your dog and do not let your thoughts block out being in the moment. Regular petting of the dog is enjoyable. Mindful petting of a dog could change your life, like it did mine.

Now I will always know that I have something to go to when I feel depressed. This is extremely important because one huge part of depression is hopelessness. This is the feeling that you will always feel depressed.

With a dog, you have hope to get out of those feelings. I know that I have my dog to go to and I will never fear being sad forever again. I always have the mindful petting of Bailey or Rachel that will make the negative thoughts drain away.


Good people, I am genuinely humbled by both Sydney’s desire to share this with you, and by the magic of having a dog in our life.

So let me close like this.

BBC Television in the UK currently have on their iPlayer site a drama series called Death in Paradise: The programme website is here.

Detective drama series set on a Caribbean island.

In a recent episode there was this profoundly wise observation made by the detective, Jack Mooney, played by Ardal O’Hanlon.

Detective Jack Mooney
Detective Jack Mooney

There are always two wolves deep inside us.

One is a hateful, angry, selfish wolf that doesn’t hesitate to try and do you harm.

The other wolf is a soft, gentle creature that responds to love and always wants to love you back.

So which wolf is in charge?

The wolf we feed!


This came to my ‘inbox’ a short time ago (as of 09:30 Sunday morning):


Greetings Anne Cooper

I will never, ever tire of the wonderful connections made by this blog!

Connections brought about by the almost universal love for dogs! But not to the exclusion of cats. For we still have three cats, all ex-rescues from our days in Mexico, and it is a cat story that Anne presents for you all today.

It went back to an email that came in to me earlier this February:

Hi Paul,

My name is Annie and I blog at  Since I am a new-ish blogger (well, my cat site is new but I’ve been writing elsewhere for years), I’m hoping to make connections with more established pet bloggers to help get my name out there.

I love your site Learning From Dogs – although I’m obviously more of a cat person, our family has a mini schnauzer back in Canada.  I miss her! Your website vision is very thought-provoking, I hadn’t really considered how much we learn from our pets before.  I was wondering if you’d consider accepting a guest post from me?

I was trying to think of a topic that would bridge our two websites and I had an idea – something about pets and human relationships?  I met my husband through his cat, to be honest!  The fact that he was an animal lover was one of the main reasons I accepted a date with him.  The schnauzer in Canada was a gift to his parents too, so I knew he was a keeper!

I haven’t got a strict post outline in mind but I’m excited to ponder more on the topic of cats, dogs and human relationships.  Since my husband was a pet owner, I could explain the type of personality traits I inferred from that.  We also have the fact that I’m a huuuuge cat person and he is a dog guy so we had to compromise (if having two cats is a compromise LOL)

What do you think?  If this doesn’t suit, I could come up with something else 🙂

Looking forward to hearing from you,

Well, how could one resist such a charming request. Not me!

So it is with great pleasure that I present Anne’s guest post.


Why Pet Owners Make Good Life Partners.

by Anne Cooper, February 22nd., 2017.
loveFirst of all, I want to thank Paul for inviting me to share my thoughts on his wonderful blog. Reading through his past posts got me thinking on the topic of pet ownership and human relationships.  You see, I met my husband through his cat.  It sounds funny I know but let me explain.

Back in 2013, I had just ended a serious long-term relationship.  It ended for many reasons but one thing which made me particularly sad is that the guy didn’t want any pets.  Animals are one of my top three passions in life.  My former partner would get annoyed when I’d bring strays inside for a quick bite to eat and a bowl of water.  It didn’t happen that often but what filled me with joy was just an annoyance for him.

So when I was back on the dating market, settling down with an animal lover was a top priority.  Sure, I could live without pets, but I’d rather not.  They really improve my quality of life, cheer me up when I’m feeling down, and allow me to be part of the lovely pet blogging community online.

Thus, when browsing through dating profiles, one really caught my attention.  Not only did he sound like he had a lot in common with me – he actually owned a cat!  She was a kitten at the time.  A lovely white fluff-ball.  I arranged to meet him immediately.

The rest is history.  We were married in November 2015 and have now expanded our feline family to two.  We’re hoping to add a dog to the mix soon.  What I want to talk about here is why I was so eager to set up that first date, and the qualities I inferred from the fact that my future husband owned a cat.

  • Pet owners are responsible

Unless you own a pet yourself, it’s hard to understand the amount of commitment involved.  You can’t just take a weekend away to visit friends anymore.  You need to arrange a sitter for the cat, and if you can’t, you’re staying put.  You also need to research practical things like pet insurance, safe toys and snacks … the list is almost endless.

  • They have a nurturing instinct

Taking in an animal – especially a helpless kitten – is an act of kindness. Cats don’t always give much affection back to their owners so I knew that my hubby was a generous and giving soul.

Don’t get me wrong, dogs are amazing too, but there are lots of great reasons to own a dog.  They help you get fit by making you walk with them outdoors.  They protect you and shower you with love on a daily basis.  Cats on the other hand are happy to take your affection but some won’t even sit on your lap!  I think it’s safe to say that most cat owners don’t mind giving without receiving.

  • They don’t mind cleaning up a mess

As much as I love our little Saus, she was a nightmare in her first year.  She had a hard time using the litter tray and used to pee all over our house.  Shedding fur is an ongoing issue too. Don’t even get me started on fleas and worms!  Instead of letting it get out of control, my husband armed himself with a super-powered vacuum cleaner and a cupboard full of pet-friendly solutions and sprays to keep everything spotless.  Pet owners aren’t scared of a little mess – I knew I could depend on him to help out around the house.

  • They don’t let other people’s opinions get to them

I don’t know about where you’re from, but in Ireland where my husband and I met, there’s a massive stigma against cat owners.  As a cat lover myself, I was branded with the “crazy cat lady” stereotype.  I was openly jeered in work.  In the early days of dating my hubby, I turned on the car radio to hear a talk show saying that single men who own cats are basically weirdos.  I couldn’t believe it!  It makes me so angry, but sadly it’s the pervasive opinion in my home country.

The fact that my husband owned a cat and proudly shared her photos on social media showed me that he was confident and self-assured.  Owning and loving a pet is nothing to be ashamed of, and anyone who thinks so can take a hike.

  • They’re patient

In her early days, Saus loved using her claws and teeth.  I was her favorite victim!  I don’t think she was being malicious – rather she didn’t know how to play safely.  Instead of getting angry with her, my husband was patient.  We needed to keep her claws short to prevent damage but using the clipper on her was a battle!  We had to wrap her up in a towel to stop her attacking us.


So that’s my take on what makes pet owners so special. What do others think?

Annie Cooper blogs at  She lives in Australia with her husband and two very fluffy felines.  Apart from cats, Anne loves traveling, DIYing and all things cute.


Wasn’t that a great guest post! Sincerely hope we will be hearing more from the “crazy cat lady”.

P.S. The following photograph was taken here at home last night.

Araña, one of our three cats, sleeping next to Pedy. (Araña is the Spanish word for spider.)
Araña, one of our three cats, sleeping next to Pedy. (Araña is the Spanish word for spider.)

Araña is one of the remaining three cats from the original seven ex-Mexican rescue cats that came with us back in 2010 when we moved from San Carlos, Mx. to Payson in Arizona.

Sister Eleanor and Zina

This is a very special guest post from a very special person.

My father died on December 20th., 1956. I had turned twelve some six weeks before this day.

My mother, some eighteen years younger than my father, in due course remarried a professional musician, Richard Mills, and in 1959 my mother gave birth to a girl who was named Eleanor. Those who can do the arithmetic will calculate that I was fifteen years the elder brother to Eleanor. Indeed, almost to the day for I was born on November 8th and Eleanor was born on November 16th.

Thus followed a very special relationship as Eleanor grew up regarding me as her big, protective brother. I am so fortunate in having close relationships with both my sisters: Eleanor, who lives in Johannesburg, and Elizabeth, who lives in Tokyo. (Happy Birthday Elizabeth for today, the 21st February.)

Thus it is with very great pleasure indeed that I offer a guest post from Eleanor.


Zine: The Lover of Many Species

by Eleanor Hamilton, February 21st., 2017

Zina, now well past the puppy days!
Zina, now well past the puppy days!

We bought Zina as a puppy just over 2 years ago. She was the most adventurous of the litter and a “liver nose” Ridgeback, which is a silky type with no black markings on her face.

We knew from the onset that she was a bright dog, but usually for her own benefit.

She quickly learnt that if she was shut out of the house she should run around the house trying every door in case one was unlocked. She did this by stretching up so her front legs acted like arms on the handle. She also managed to prise open our sliding patio doors to get in on one occasion.

We soon realized and made sure that all doors were locked.

Living in South Africa we have some extra security measures you might not be familiar with. Obviously most people are aware of high walls and electric fences, but some houses have internal security gates (often called slam gates). We use one at the bottom of the stairs just as a precaution as we don’t activate any alarms. Sometimes if we want the dogs downstairs (and off the beds!) we lock this security gate.

We were mystified to find that after a few minutes Zina was jumping up and opening our bedroom door after obviously negotiating the security gate! On one occasion we thought we’d hide and look over the stairs to watch. She had learnt that if she put her paws inside the door frame she could shake the metal and gradually work the lock loose. We hoped the burglars weren’t as clever!

Her intelligence also spreads to her understanding of the other animals in our house and the need to look after them and make sure they are happy. She is quite enthusiastic in licking everything to say hello, which doesn’t always go down too well. Her friend, Dylan the Jack Russell, is well used to her large boisterous nature and puts up with these slobbering kisses!

Our cat usually tolerates the first kiss then decides to gently warn her with a little pat of her paw. After that Zina is a very polite dog.

What is most unusual is her attitude to my bearded dragon. I rescued it from an owner who was mistreating it and although I would never choose one as a pet, I couldn’t bear to see it badly neglected.

23cbb964-083c-46b9-b799-1cc849d6205cZina always goes over and gives him the usual kiss, which strangely is accepted by Blizzard (the lizard!)

I usually discourage Zina from going on too long with this greeting as although Blizzard is tolerant he can also get fed up.

9183b689-52fb-43e4-be87-243cd1bfcbccSince developing her newfound maturity and maternal urges, she has become very loving to all our family of pets. It is lovely to see how caring this dog has become and how she definitely puts herself as alpha female and keeps her pack happy and safe.

[Ed: Those feet bottom right look strangely human!]
[Ed: Those feet bottom right look strangely human!]



What a heart-warming account of yet another special, loving dog.

Thank you, Eleanor.

I asked Eleanor if she wanted to offer you dear readers a little of her background. This is what she sent me:

As you may know, I’m Paul’s younger sister. I grew up with cats, as mum never liked dogs. I secretly always wanted a dog and always loved those models of the Labrador which were used to advertise the guide dog association.

After moving to South Africa it was very common to have dogs, frequently 2 or 3, so my first dog was a Labrador, closely followed by a rescue Jack Russell, another rescue Jack Russell then our Ridgeback.

[Ed: I added the following]

Eleanor Hamilton
Studio Music Teacher, Redhill School
The school’s mission is to be a world-class, South African learning community, building leaders for their time.
Redhill School is a Member of the Independent Schools Association of Southern Africa (ISASA).

I’m sure that I voice a hope from me and many others that there will be more animal stories from sister Eleanor.