Category: Culture

Picture parade one hundred and forty-six

The third and final set of simply stunning photographs of the Grand Canyon.

These are from the website of Humbert & Shirley Fernandez and the first set was two weeks ago. The second set was last week.

Hermits Rest


Colorado River
Colorado River


Muddy Water Rafting
Muddy Water Rafting


Marble Canyon
Marble Canyon




Sky Walk
Sky Walk


Havasu Falls
Havasu Falls


F5e Fighter Planes over the G. Canyon.
F5e Fighter Planes over the G. Canyon.


See what we can find for you for a week’s time.

You all take care out there!

All is takes is love!

Too easy to be very disheartened about us humans so this makes a wonderful contrast.

As seen on Mother Nature Network and republished to offer you all a ‘Saturday smile’.

Dolphin returns to the ocean with a helping hand from humans | MNN - Mother Nature Network
Dolphin returns to the ocean with a helping hand from humans | MNN – Mother Nature Network


Dolphin returns to the ocean with a helping hand from humans

Noel Kirkpatrick May 4, 2016.

With a swish of his flipper, a dolphin named Octavius became the first to be rescued, rehabilitated and released back into the wild off Louisiana’s coast. The rescued dolphin returned to the Gulf of Mexico on April 29 after five months of rehabilitation and medical monitoring in Louisiana.

The process from rescue to release was spearheaded by the Audubon Nature Institute and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) with assistance from the NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service and Chicago Zoological Society’s Sarasota Dolphin Research Program.

After receiving a call from a private citizen regarding a washed up dolphin on Grand Isle Beach, biologists from the LDWF headed for the scene in October 2015 to see if the dolphin could be saved.

“We had a short window to diagnose whether the animal could be released or brought back to Freeport-McMoRan Audubon Species Survival Center (FMASSC) in New Orleans for treatment,” said Audubon’s Stranding and Rescue Coordinator Gabriella Vazquez. “He was lethargic and had short, shallow breaths. We attempted a soft release in the surf, but he showed no initiative to swim back into the Gulf.”

The dolphin was transported to FMASSC where the process to get him ready for reintroduction to the ocean began.

Determining if the dolphin — named Octavius in honor of the veterinarian working most with him — was ready for release was a multi-step process. Octavius was monitored for behavioral challenges, ranging from swimming and breathing to becoming reliant on and desensitized to humans. Octavius demonstrated no such issues.

“Dolphins are very intelligent animals. Over time, they can learn to associate humans and boats as a source for food, which is why it is illegal to feed them in the wild,” explained Mandy Tumlin, the Louisiana state stranding coordinator for marine mammals and sea turtles.

The next two steps Octavius had to clear dealt with his overall health. He demonstrated no signs of hearing impairment, a key component for dolphins’ survival. In addition to hearing, veterinarians checked Octavius’s blood for congenital defects or other medical problems that could make surviving in the wild more difficult.

Octavius passed all three of the steps related to release, but vets weren’t through just yet. Because of his potential age — vets estimated Octavius to be between 1 and 7 years old — Octavius was affixed with a tag to the dorsal fin by Dr. Randy Wells, director of the Chicago Zoological Society’s Sarasota Dolphin Research Program.

“The tag allows for satellite tracking as well as radio tracking. Since he could be a younger animal, this type of monitoring is necessary to ensure he is thriving back in the wild,” said Tumlin.

After all of this, Octavius was transported to Barataria Bay where he was released and swam back into the ocean of his own volition.


Enjoy this video.

Published on May 2, 2016

A young dolphin has been released back into the waters off Louisiana’s coast after being found stranded on a beach a year ago. The Audubon Nature Institute believes that high waters and rough sears from Hurricane Patricia likely caused him to get stuck there. He was lethargic and short of breath. They named him Octavius and brought him back to their facility for rehabilitation. Before he could be released he had to reach milestones that include behavior and medical tests.

Foreign lands.

These seem like times where very little makes sense.

Blogger Patrice Ayme posted an item on Wednesday under the title of Doomed Dems. It was, inevitably, a commentary on the recent news regarding Donald Trump. Here’s how Patrice’s post opens:

So Donald Trump will be the Republican committee (😉 ) for the presidency. And Trump will, probably, be elected US president. Why? Because people want change, and they did not get it. Instead they got more of the drift down, after the reign of the teleprompter reading president. Average family income is DOWN $4,000 since (“Bill”) Clinton’s last year as president. According to a FOX News poll, 64% of Americans blame Wall Street. Meanwhile in a vast report in the New York Times, Obama celebrates, in May 2016, the alliance he said he made with Wall Street in 2008.

Later on in that same post, Patrice goes on to write about the horrific fire in Alberta, Canada, and the damage to trees in Yosemite National Park in California. At first sight those two events would appear disconnected. But not according to Patrice:

Meanwhile a friend of mine went to Yosemite ten days ago. She told me she could not believe the devastation of the forest. Most of it is fiery red. It is devastated by the Pine Bark Beetle. To kill the Beetle, one needs twenty days well below freezing. However, this hard freeze is now a memory. So the Beetle invades, and kills forest. Treating tree by tree is hopelessly expensive, and futile. Yes, the forests will burn soon, adding to CO2 in the atmosphere. And it is all the way like that to Alaska.

Fort McMurray, Alberta may not have seen the worst of a devastating wildfire.

Massive walls of flames prompted authorities to order the evacuation of all the city’s more than 80,000 residents last night. The blaze has been caused by un-naturally high temperatures. Such giant fires are our immediate future. Nobody said the Greenhouse crisis was going to be nice. More evacuations coming.

Anything to do with dogs? Well, yes!

For this coming Saturday I am giving a talk about my book, Learning from Dogs, to our local Rogue Valley Humanist and Freethinkers (both Jean and I are members) and it struck me that what Patrice wrote about and what we see all around us are part of the same big picture. That we need to be reminded of a few fundamentals. As I will be saying in my talk:

Dogs are creatures of integrity! Wow! Now you might see where this is leading to!

But more than that, much more than that, they offer us humans a model for a range of behavioural qualities that we ignore at our peril:

I then list the qualities that we see in our dogs, and continue:

Hold those values close to you for just a few moments. Imagine what would flow out across the world if those were the characteristics, the behavioural values, of us humans!

Finally, towards the end of that talk on Saturday I will be saying:

Nature will always have the last word regarding her natural world, to which we humans are so intricately linked. Standing alongside and respecting nature as the future comes to us will be so much wiser than pushing back against nature, and ultimately failing, trying to “convert” nature to some form of materialistic human resource. Because that route will only return those of us who survive to a life of hunting and gathering. Which, so many thousands of years previously, is where early dogs started humankind on the long journey leading to now.
Dogs have been the making of humans and a viable future for humankind on this beautiful planet depends on us never forgetting this oldest relationship of all, the one between dog and human.

Because if we, as a global society, don’t understand that when it comes to power all the plutocrats and all of their money come to naught in contrast to the power of nature then these present lands are going to become very strange indeed!

And nature is rapidly encroaching on these lands that we are now traversing.

So who is Brandy?

Looking into the history of the Great Pyrenees dog.

This coming Saturday will be one month since Brandy entered our lives and to say he has been a gorgeous addition to our family is an understatement!

I was looking at him yesterday afternoon at feeding time (usually 3pm) and just saw his size in comparison to the window ledge and the chair next to him: he is a large dog!

Two things raced through my mind, the first being to grab a camera and take the following shot,

P1160098and the second to research the history of this breed. (But I should immediately say that Brandy is not purebred Pyrenean and has a little Bull Mastiff within him.)

That second item was but a quick web search away for top of the list of returns was an article on the website of the Great Pyrenees Club of America. The article was appropriately headed: History of the Great Pyrenees. It is fully linked to the source website so, fingers crossed, it is OK to republish here. I hope you find it as interesting as we did.


History of the Great Pyrenees

Dog of the Mountains

These dogs take their name from the mountain range in southwestern Europe, where they long bwdomhave been used as guardians of the flocks. In the United States they are called Great Pyrenees. In the United Kingdom and on the continent of Europe, they are known as the Pyrenean Mountain Dog. In their native France, they are Le Chien de Montagne des Pyrenees or Le Chien des Pyrenees. Whatever the name, it is a beautiful, primarily white dog with a “certain elegance” which for centuries has been the working associate of peasant shepherds high on the mountain slopes.

The breed likely evolved from a group of principally white mountain flock guard dogs that originated ten or eleven thousand years ago in Asia Minor. It is very plausible that these large white dogs arrived in the Pyrenees Mountains with their shepherds and domestic sheep about 3000 BC. There they encountered the indigenous people of the area, one of which were the Basques, descendants of Cro-Magnon Man. In the isolation of the Pyrenees Mountains over these millenniums, the breed developed the characteristics that make it unique to the group of flock guardian dogs in general and the primarily white members of that group.

The Great Pyrenees is a lupomolossoid as opposed to a molossoid. While there has surely been some cross-breeding over the many centuries, the Great Pyrenees is not a mastiff nor are its lupomolossoid ancestors principally from the mastiff family. There are other dogs of the region, such as the Pyrenean Mastiff, and the Spanish Mastiff that fill that description. It is no coincidence that the Great Pyrenees is approximately the same size as the European Grey Wolf.

A Peasant’s Dog

The Great Pyrenees is a mountain shepherd’s dog. Over this long period of time the Great Pyrenees developed a special relationship with the shepherd, its family, and the flock.

In 1407, French writings tell of the usefulness of these “Great Dogs of the Mountains” as guardians of the Chateau of Lourdes. In 1675, they were adopted as the Royal Dog of France by the Dauphin in the court of King Louis XIV, and subsequently became much sought after by nobility. Having a precocious sense of smell and exceptionally keen eyesight, each dog was counted equal to two men, be it as guard of the chateaux, or as invaluable companion of shepherds. While their royal adoption is interesting, the dogs main fame was from their ageless devotion to their mountain flocks, shepherds, and shepherds’ family. When not working the flocks, you would find “Patou,” as he is lovingly called, laying on the mat in the front doorway of the shepherds’ humble dwellings.

Across the Ocean

In 1662, dogs were carried to Newfoundland by Basque fishermen as companions and guardians of the new Settlement. Here it was they became mated with the black curly coated retriever, favorite of the English settlers. This cross resulted in the formation of the Landseer (black and white) Newfoundland. In 1824, General Lafayette introduced the first pair to America by bringing over two males to his friend, J.S. Skinner, author of “The Dog and the Sportsman”.

In 1850, Britain’s Queen Victoria owned a Pyrenean Mountain Dog, and in 1885-86, the first Pyrenean Mountain Dogs were registered with the Kennel Club in London and shown at the Crystal Palace.

In 1870, Pyrenean blood was used with that of other large breeds to help bring back the St. Bernard after that noble dog’s numbers had been so greatly depleted by avalanches and distemper at the hospice in Switzerland. It was not until 1909 that the first Pyrenean Mountain Dogs were introduced into England for breeding purposes by Lady Sybil Grant, daughter of Lord Roseberry. It was twenty-six years later (1935) that Pyreneans were again bred in a kennel in England. At that time, Mme. Jeanne Harper Trois Fontaines started her de Fontenay Kennel at Hyde Heath, Amersham, later becoming well known the world over and accounting for many exports to distant lands.


By the late 1800’s and early 1900’s the state of the breed had deteriorated due to the vanishing of the natural predator foes in the mountains and the practices of many unscrupulous breeders selling to naive tourists through the region.

In 1907 Monsieur Dretzen from Paris, along with Count de Bylandt of Holland and Monsieur Byasson of Argeles Gazost, formed the Club du Chien des Pyrenées (CCP) a.k.a. Argeles Club in Argeles Gazost. They combed the mountains for a group of “faultlessly typical” specimens. Monsieur Dretzen took these dogs back to his kennel in Paris. Also in 1907, the Pastoure Club at Lourdes, Hautes Pyrenées, France, was organized to perpetuate interest in the breed. Each club wrote a breed standard.

After the decimating effects of World War I, the breed’s numbers and quality had been severely compromised. A few dedicated breeders, headed by Monsieur Senac Lagrange, worked to restore the breed to its former glory. They joined together the remnants of the two former clubs and formed the Reunion des Amateurs de Chiens Pyreneans which still exists today. It was this club that was responsible for the breed standard being published in 1927. This standard has served as a basis for all current standards for the breed. After World War II, it was again Monsieur Senac-Lagrange who took the lead in getting the breed back on its feet from the devastating effects of the German occupation.

First Kennel in the U.S.A.

In 1931, Mr. and Mrs. Francis V. Crane imported several specimens to seriously launch the breed in North America with the founding of the Basquaerie Kennels at Needham, Massachusetts. Their lifelong efforts on behalf of the breed provided the breed with an atmosphere in which it could thrive and prosper. They imported important breeding stock out of Europe just before the Continent was closed by World War II. The American Kennel Club accorded the Great Pyrenees official recognition in February, 1933, and beginning April, 1933, separate classification began for the breed at licensed shows.

Today the Great Pyrenees is a working dog as well as a companion and family dog. Most of our dogs never see a show ring, but they are trusted and beloved members in homes and may function as livestock guardian dogs on farms and ranches. The Great Pyrenees is proving itself very versatile, gaining fame as therapy dogs, rescue dogs, and many activities with its human companions. They are very social dogs in the family and get along extremely well with other animals that belong to the shepherd, farmer, or family. They are wary of strangers in the work environment (this includes the home). They adapt easily to other situations such as dog shows, and make extraordinary ambassadors for the breed in many settings such as hospitals, old age homes, with children, etc. They have a special ability to identify and distinguish predators or unwelcome intruders. They are nurturing of small, young, or sick animals.

A publication of the Great Pyrenees Club of America, Inc. revised 1991, 2005


I must repeat a couple of sentences from that last paragraph (my highlighting):

The Great Pyrenees is proving itself very versatile, gaining fame as therapy dogs, rescue dogs, and many activities with its human companions. They are very social dogs in the family and get along extremely well with other animals that belong to the shepherd, farmer, or family.

Frankly, I don’t know how we would have coped with what Hazel has been suffering with if Jean and I hadn’t had the bountiful, unconditional love from Brandy.

Oh, and speaking of Hazel …..


…. here she is tucking into her second meal of the day alongside Mr. Big!

Fingers tightly crossed dear, sweet Hazel may be beating the infection! (You see, I did say all your loving wishes were making a difference!)

Picture parade one hundred and forty-five

The second set of simply stunning photographs of the Grand Canyon.

These are from the website of Humbert & Shirley Fernandez and the first set was a week ago.

Rafting, but not on the Rapids!
Rafting, but not on the Rapids!




Lover's Leap!
Lover’s Leap!


Beaver Falls
Beaver Falls


View from Commanche Point.
View from Commanche Point.


Ribbon Falls
Ribbon Falls


The final set in a week’s time.

See you all then!

Don’t stop hugging your dog.

Two views on a recent science news item.

Last Wednesday, dear friend Dan Gomez sent me an email that was headed Going to be controversial. It simply contained a link to a recent ScienceAlert item: You need to stop hugging your dog, study finds. I have to admit that my response was a rather rude one! Here’s how that article opened:

With their sweet faces, soft fur, and huge dumb grins, dogs were basically born to be hugged. As a species, they evolved over thousands of years with one clear path – to garner our attention and affection, and profit from all the benefits awarded to ‘Man’s best friend’. But along the way, they’ve had to make some serious trade-offs.

A family dog will never be the leader of the pack. It will be closed in, told when and where to pee, and now, preliminary data from a new study suggests that in return for room and board, our dogs suffer through our hugs.

I know, I know, it’s tough to hear, but bear with us, because it’s not all terrible news. Maybe your dog is cool with hugs. Maybe it finds your hugs annoying, but affection is affection, so it’ll take what it can get. Or maybe it freaking hates hugs and you’re stressing the crap out of it. All dogs are different, you just need to know how to read them.

Anyway, I was delighted to see the Care2 blogsite put out a slightly different assessment. I have great pleasure in republishing that Care2 article in full.


No, We Don’t Really Need to Stop Hugging Our Dogs

3175758.largeBy: Laura Goldman, April 28, 2016

About Laura

On the feel-good scale of one to 10, tenderly wrapping your arms around your dog and giving your pooch a gentle squeeze rates a solid 10, am I right?

But for dogs, the feeling apparently isn’t mutual, at least according to research by dog-training expert Dr. Stanley Coren, a psychology professor at the University of British Columbia.

Coren examined 250 images on Google and Flickr of people hugging dogs. In his blog “The Data Says ‘Don’t Hug the Dog!’” on Psychology Today, he noted that 81.6 percent of the dogs showed some symptoms of stress, anxiety or discomfort.

“I can summarize the data quite simply by saying that the results indicated that the Internet contains many pictures of happy people hugging what appear to be unhappy dogs,” Coren wrote.

The reason dogs dislike hugs, Coren explained, is because when they are threatened or otherwise under stress, their natural instinct is to run away, so being wrapped in our arms prevents them from doing what comes naturally. This can raise their stress levels.

“Save your hugs for your two-footed family members and lovers,” Coren wrote. “It is clearly better from the dog’s point of view if you express your fondness for your pet with a pat, a kind word and maybe a treat.”

I think it’s important to note that Coren’s study was not peer reviewed (i.e., it has not been approved by other scientists as being legit), nor was it published in any scientific journal, but only on “This is a set of casual observations,” Coren told the Washington Post in regard to all the recent media attention to his findings.

With this in mind, I decided to conduct my own non-peer-reviewed study for (I’ve been writing professionally about dogs for years and have had them as pets for most of my life, so that makes me kinda-sorta an expert, in my humble opinion.)

For my research, instead of passively Googling photos, I actively hugged two very willing study participants: my dogs, Leroy and Ella.

Leroy (that’s him getting hugged in my profile picture) seemed to enjoy the hug; he wagged his tail and the corners of his mouth curled up in what could be interpreted as a smile. Although Ella, who is a nervous dog, tensed her body at first, she relaxed after a few seconds and calmly rested her chin on my shoulder.

My conclusion: Dogs don’t hate hugs. While I wouldn’t recommend walking up to a strange dog and giving him a big ol’ bear hug, I don’t think there’s any need to stop hugging our own dogs based on Coren’s casual observations.

Neither does Corey Cohen, a companion animal behavior therapist. He told the New York Times the dogs in the photos Coren studied may have appeared anxious because they didn’t like having their pictures taken, or perhaps they were being forced to pose.

“My dogs love being hugged,” Cohen said, probably speaking on behalf of many of us dog owners. “I can definitely tell. Their facial expression changes: ‘Oh, give me more!’”

How to Tell if Your Dog Enjoys Hugs

If you’re not quite sure whether your dog likes to be hugged, here are some of the signs that he’s not into it, according to Coren and Erica Lieberman, a New York City dog trainer and behavior consultant.

  • Your dog turns his head away as you hug him.
  • He closes or half-closes his eyes. “Alternatively, dogs will often show what is commonly called a ‘half-moon eye’ or ‘whale eye,’ which is where you can see the white portion of the eyes at the corner or the rim,” Coren wrote.
  • He lowers his ears.
  • He licks his lips.
  • He yawns.
  • Lieberman told the New York Times that people should look for what she called “cutoff signals” when hugging their dogs. If dogs “shake off” after the hug, just as they shake off water after a bath, it means they didn’t enjoy it.

If your dog shows none of these warning signals, I say go ahead – hug it out.

Photo credit: Stephen Depolo


 I shall be hoping that Dan Gomez gets to read today’s post!

The most beautiful bond of all.

I am referring to the one between human and animal.

The millions of people who love their pets probably never stop to think about how far that love would extend. As I observe Jean’s patience in coaxing Hazel to take food, time and time again each day, it never crosses my mind that there would be a limit to that devotion from her.

When I think about our animals and the special relationships we have with them all, dogs, horses and cats, never for a moment do I weigh up the pros and cons, despite there being many limitations when one stops and ponders the fact. Like the fact that Jean and I have not been away for a honeymoon or any other vacation together since we were married in 2010.

All it takes is for a dog to rub its head against my leg, or a cat to curl up on my lap, or a horse to give in to a hug around its head, something that happens many times each day, and I am content.

However, the following article that appeared on the Care2 blogsite really underlined how much people will give for their animals.


7 Times Humans Went the Distance for Animals

3175047.largeBy: Lindsay Patton, April 24, 2016

A story recently went viral about a Colombian man who risked his life to save a dog that was hanging from a balcony. The dog, who belongs to the man’s upstairs neighbors, was caught in the railing and was close to falling to the ground. The neighbor, whose name is Diego Andrés Dávila Jimenez, made a dangerous climb from his balcony up to his neighbors’ in order to save the dog.

For animal lovers, there wouldn’t be a second thought about doing the same, whether it was their own pet, someone else’s or an animal in the wild. People go great lengths for animals every day. Here are just a few inspirational examples of them.

Ric O’Barry Does Jail Time for Dolphins

In 1970, Ric O’Barry founded The Dolphin Project and since then, he has dedicated his life to saving dolphins. His life’s work hasn’t been easy, though. O’Barry – who was featured in the 2009 documentary The Cove –  has been detained, fined and threatened for his dolphin activism. In January, he was detained at a Japanese airport on his way to monitor the annual dolphin hunt in Taiji. By now, being detained is nothing new to O’Barry, as it happens nearly every time he visits Japan for the hunt. In August, O’Barry was arrested in Japan for not carrying his passport. Still, he carries on with his mission to rescue dolphins.

Adam Warwick saved a black bear from drowning

When a bear is roaming around a neighborhood, sedating it is one of the only safe options. That’s what Florida wildlife officers did when they got a call about a black bear wandering around an Alligator Point neighborhood. The officers shot the bear with a tranquillizer dart, but the bear ran away and headed straight into water, where he would eventually fall asleep and drown. Biologist Adam Warwick came to the bear’s rescue and pulled the 400-pound bear back on land. The bear was then safely transported back to its home in a national forest.

Motorist fights traffic to save injured dog

A Mexican woman was driving down a busy highway when she saw a dog get hit by a car and lay injured on the side of a crash barrier. Nobody stopped or slowed down as they drove by, leaving her to try to dodge traffic to get to the dog. The timid dog tried to limp away, but she eventually gained its trust and took it to an area vet to have its injuries treated.

Man saves a stranger’s dog that was blown off a pier

An Australian woman was walking her Shih Tzu-Maltese Bibi on a pier when a strong gust of wind picked the dog up and carried him into the water. Raden Soemawinata was at the pier scattering his grandmother’s ashes when he saw the Bibi in the water and immediately jumped in to save him. Soemawinata humbly told media that “it wasn’t such a great feat.” We think otherwise.

Two Norwegian men save lamb from drowning

Three friends were out taking pictures when they noticed a lamb struggling in choppy waters. Two of the young men worked together to rescue the lamb, while the other used the camera to take incredible pictures of the rescue. They pulled the lamb to safety and reunited it with its flock.

Randy Jordan removes hooks from sharks

Most people try to avoid sharks. Randy Jordan has made a mission to help them. The diver frequently noticed fishing hooks caught in sharks’ mouths, so he made it his mission to remove the hooks from the sharks he encountered. He worked with scientists in order to find the safest way – for himself and the sharks – to have the hooks removed. Jordan has gone on to free multiple sharks from the painful hooks.

Men save baby giraffe in crocodile-infested waters

For four hours, a baby giraffe tried to keep its head above the Uaso Nyiro river’s harsh waters. The Kenyan river is not only fast moving, but is home to many crocodiles. A group of men ignored the river’s danger and waded through the water to pull the giraffe back onto land.

Photo Credit: AmazonCARES


With so many reminders, especially in the media, of the greed and selfishness of people it really does one good to read these seven examples of how wonderful is the bond between humans and animals.


Chew on this!

Why it’s impossible to actually be a vegetarian!

Jean and I are both vegetarians. Indeed, Jean has been a ‘veggie’ for decades and I swung inline with her when we started being together in 2008.

So it was natural (pun unintended!) for my eyes to notice a recent item that was published over on The Conversation.

Not only is it an interesting article but it also saved my bacon (pun intended!) when I was running out of time and wondering what to post for today.

The article is republished here within the generous terms of The Conversation.


Why it’s impossible to actually be a vegetarian

April 26, 2016

In a sense, aren’t they one and the same? 'Heads' via
In a sense, aren’t they one and the same? ‘Heads’ via

In case you’ve forgotten the section on the food web from high school biology, here’s a quick refresher.

Plants make up the base of every food chain of the food web (also called the food cycle). Plants use available sunlight to convert water from the soil and carbon dioxide from the air into glucose, which gives them the energy they need to live. Unlike plants, animals can’t synthesize their own food. They survive by eating plants or other animals.

Clearly, animals eat plants. What’s not so clear from this picture is that plants also eat animals. They thrive on them, in fact (just Google “fish emulsion”). In my new book, “A Critique of the Moral Defense of Vegetarianism,” I call it the transitivity of eating. And I argue that this means one can’t be a vegetarian.

Chew on this

I’ll pause to let the collective yowls of both biologists and (erstwhile) vegetarians subside.

A transitive property says that if one element in a sequence relates in a certain way to a second element, and the second element relates in the same way to a third, then the first and third elements relate in the same way as well.

Take the well-worn trope “you are what you eat.” Let’s say instead that we are “who” we eat. This makes the claim more personal and also implies that the beings who we make our food aren’t just things.

How our food lives and dies matters. If we are who we eat, our food is who our food eats, too. This means that we are who our food eats in equal measure.

Plants acquire nutrients from the soil, which is composed, among other things, of decayed plant and animal remains. So even those who assume they subsist solely on a plant-based diet actually eat animal remains as well.

This is why it’s impossible to be a vegetarian.

For the record, I’ve been a “vegetarian” for about 20 years and nearly “vegan” for six. I’m not opposed to these eating practices. That isn’t my point. But I do think that many “vegetarians” and “vegans” could stand to pay closer attention to the experiences of the beings who we make our food.

For example, many vegetarians cite the sentience of animals as a reason to abstain from eating them. But there’s good reason to believe that plants are sentient, too. In other words, they’re acutely aware of and responsive to their surroundings, and they respond, in kind, to both pleasant and unpleasant experiences.

Check out the work of plant scientists Anthony Trewavas, Stefano Mancuso, Daniel Chamowitz and František Baluška if you don’t believe me. They’ve shown that plants share our five senses – and have something like 20 more. They have a hormonal information-processing system that’s homologous to animals’ neural network. They exhibit clear signs of self-awareness and intentionality. And they can even learn and teach.

It’s also important to be aware that “vegetarianism” and “veganism” aren’t always eco-friendly. Look no further than the carbon footprint of your morning coffee, or how much water is required to produce the almonds you enjoy as an afternoon snack.

A word for the skeptics

I suspect how some biologists may respond: first, plants don’t actually eat since eating involves the ingestion – via chewing and swallowing – of other life forms. Second, while it’s true that plants absorb nutrients from the soil and that these nutrients could have come from animals, they’re strictly inorganic: nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus and trace amounts of other elements. They’re the constituents of recycled minerals, devoid of any vestiges of animality.

As for the first concern, maybe it would help if I said that both plants and animals take in, consume or make use of, rather than using the word “eat.” I guess I’m just not picky about how I conceptualize what eating entails. The point is that plants ingest carbon dioxide, sunlight, water and minerals that are then used to build and sustain their bodies. Plants consume inasmuch as they produce, and they aren’t the least bit particular about the origins of the minerals they acquire.

With respect to the second concern, why should it matter that the nutrients drawn by plants from animals are inorganic? The point is that they once played in essential role in facilitating animals’ lives. Are we who we eat only if we take in organic matter from the beings who become our food? I confess that I don’t understand why this should be. Privileging organic matter strikes me as a biologist’s bias.

Then there’s the argument that mineral recycling cleanses the nutrients of their animality. This is a contentious claim, and I don’t think this is a fact of the matter. It goes to the core of the way we view our relationship with our food. You could say that there are spiritual issues at stake here, not just matters of biochemistry.

Changing how we view our food

Let’s view our relationship with our food in a different way: by taking into account the fact that we’re part of a community of living beings – plant and animal – who inhabit the place that we make our home.

We’re eaters, yes, and we’re also eaten. That’s right, we’re part of the food web, too! And the well-being of each is dependent on the well-being of all.

From this perspective, what the self-proclaimed “farmosopher” Glenn Albrecht calls sumbiotarianism (from the Greek word sumbioun, to live together) has clear advantages.

Sumbioculture is a form of permaculture, or sustainable agriculture. It’s an organic and biodynamic way of farming that’s consistent with the health of entire ecosystems.

Sumbiotarians eat in harmony with their ecosystem. So they embody, literally, the idea that the well-being of our food – hence, our own well-being – is a function of the health of the land.

In order for our needs to be met, the needs and interests of the land must come first. And in areas where it’s prohibitively difficult to acquire the essential fats that we need from pressed oils alone, this may include forms of animal use – for meat, manure and so forth.

Simply put, living sustainably in such an area – whether it’s New England or the Australian Outback – may well entail relying on animals for food, at least in a limited way.

All life is bound together in a complex web of interdependent relationships among individuals, species and entire ecosystems. Each of us borrows, uses and returns nutrients. This cycle is what permits life to continue. Rich, black soil is so fertile because it’s chock full of the composted remains of the dead along with the waste of the living.

Indeed, it’s not uncommon for indigenous peoples to identify veneration of their ancestors and of their ancestral land with the celebration of the life-giving character of the earth. Consider this from cultural ecologist and Indigenous scholar-activist Melissa Nelson:

The bones of our ancestors have become the soil, the soil grows our food, the food nourishes our bodies, and we become one, literally and metaphorically, with our homelands and territories.

You’re welcome to disagree with me, of course. But it’s worth noting that what I propose has conceptual roots that may be as old as humanity itself. It’s probably worth taking some time to digest this.


In reflecting on how to close this post I couldn’t help thinking that “The bones of our ancestors have become the soil, ” presumably includes the bones of our dogs! Leading me to ponder that maybe our dogs from old are nourishing our bodies; I would like to think that is the case.

You can’t beat a good book!

Advance notice of a book event this coming Saturday.

Oregon Books & Games, our local independent bookstore in Grants Pass, are having a book event this Saturday. In their own words:

tl_imgSaturday, April 30th, 11AM – 2PM
A day to celebrate the independent bookstores that continue to improve communities around the nation, and our day to celebrate YOU, our wonderful customers. In the same strain as last year, we will be inviting dozens of local authors to sign books and meet with their fans, raffling off TONS of prizes, barbecuing, and having a lot of FUN!


I’m sure that the vast majority of you dear readers that read the title to today’s post would have nodded in agreement with the statement: You can’t beat a good book!

But how many of you were equally cogniscent of the importance of buying from an independent book store, such as Oregon Books & Games? I would be the first to put my hand up in admitting that I had no idea of the damage that online booksellers, such as Amazon, were causing these same independent stores.

Here are some eye-opening statements kindly supplied by Oregon Books but that originally came from the organisation IndieBound.

What is IndieBound?
A product of ongoing collaborations between the independent bookstore members of the American Booksellers Association, IndieBound is all about independent bookstores and the power of “local first” shopping. Locally owned independent businesses pump money back into the their communities by way of taxes, payrolls and purchases. That means more money for sound schools, green parks, strong police and fire departments, and smooth roads, all in your neighborhood.

Independent bookstores have always occupied a special place in communities. Through IndieBound—and the Indie Next List flyers and Indie Bestseller Lists—readers find trusted bookseller curated reading options, newly discovered writers, and a real choice for buying.

IndieBound allows indie booksellers to communicate this vital role they play in their local economies and communities. It allows authors to show their dedication to indies nationwide, easily done through linking to thousands of indie bookstores through And it allows consumers to feel that their actions are a part of a larger picture—to know that their choices make a difference and that others are working toward the same goals.

Here’s the effect of buying from your local independent book store.

Here’s What You Just Did

  1. You kept dollars in our economy. For every $100 you spend at one of our local businesses, $52 will stay in the community.
  2. You embraced what makes us unique. You wouldn’t want your house to look like everyone else’s in the U.S. So why would you want your community to look that way?
  3. You created local jobs. Local businesses are better at creating higher-paying jobs for our neighbors.
  4. You helped the environment. Buying from local business conserves energy and resources in the form of less fuel for transportation, less packaging, and products that you know are safe and well made, because we stand behind them.
  5. You nurtured community. We know you, and you know us. Studies have shown that local businesses donate to community causes at more than twice the rate of chains and online retailers.
  6. You conserved your tax dollars. Shopping in a local business district means less infrastructure, less maintenance, and more money available to beautify our community. Also, spending locally instead of online ensures that your sales taxes are reinvested where they belong—right here in your community!
  7. You created more choice. We pick the items we sell based on what we know you like and want. Local businesses carry a wider array of unique products because we buy for our own individual market.
  8. You took advantage of our expertise. You are our friends and neighbors, and we have a vested interest in knowing how to serve you. We’re passionate about what we do. Why not take advantage of it?
  9. You invested in entrepreneurship. Creativity and entrepreneurship are what the American economy is founded upon. Nurturing local business ensures a strong community.
  10. You made us a destination. The more interesting and unique we are as a community, the more we will attract new neighbors, visitors and guests. This benefits everyone!

And turning to Amazon?

Here’s What Amazon Just Did

  1. In 2014, Amazon avoided paying $625 million in much-needed local and state tax revenue in 23 states and Washington, D.C., all while selling $44.1 billion worth of retail goods nationwide.
  2. In 2014, Amazon’s retail sales displaced the equivalent of more than 30,000 storefronts and 107 million square feet of commercial space, estimated to be worth $420 million in property taxes for local and state governments.
  3. In 2014, by avoiding sales tax, and quashing the viability of local bricks-and-mortar retail, Amazon deprived thousands of communities of tax revenue necessary for schools, roads, and police and fire safety, as well as of vibrant downtowns and main streets.
  4. In 2014, Amazon operated 65 million square feet of distribution space, employing both full-time workers and part-time and seasonal workers, yet still, Amazon’s dominance produced a net loss of 135,973 retail jobs nationwide.
  5. In 2014, Amazon’s sales and operations accounted for a loss of more than $1 billion in revenue to state and local governments.
  6. Amazon received the benefits of local grants, tax breaks, road improvements, and other government considerations to build its distribution centers, notwithstanding the net loss in jobs, property taxes, and downtown vitality.
  7. Amazon achieved dominance over the book industry equivalent to Standard Oil’s share of the refined oil market just before it was broken up in 1911.*
  8. Amazon has cheapened the value of both printed and electronic publishing, and dampened opportunities for new authors and diverse ideas, by discounting books to lower than wholesale price and bullying publishers and its marketplace sellers.
  9. In our state, Amazon accounts for a sale tax gap of $3.1 million and the displacement 1,200,000 square feet, which is the equivalent of 348 retail storefronts, and 3,029 jobs.
  10. In 2015, Amazon’s total sales and operations revenue increased by 20%, meaning the above 2014 figures are likely to be grossly understated.

So back to the event.
If you are within reach of Grants Pass this coming Saturday then do come along and meet many local authors, including yours truly, and help support the wonderful job that our independents are doing for authors.

Saturday, April 30th, 11AM – 2PM
Oregon Books & Games
150 N.E. E St., Corner of 7th and E St.
Grants Pass, OR  97526

Support local authors!


Hazel is pulling through!

The powerful combination of good medicine and unconditional love.

In the last post on Hazel’s condition, back last Thursday, I passed on Dr. Codd’s observation, “… that by not having Hazel on her meds we were, of course, letting the fungal infection continue its damage.”

Dr. Codd also recommended reducing the dosage of the Fluconazole to lower its side effect of suppressing appetite.

So since then, with outstanding care and patience, Jean has been coaxing Hazel to eat just sufficient food for Hazel to be able to take the Fluconazole, for her fungal infection in her lungs, and Doxycycline, for her tick infection. (Mind you, Hazel is still a long way from eating reliably.)

Yesterday, (Saturday) Hazel was showing clear signs of feeling better but still having to be hand-fed by Jean.

Then this morning (Sunday) she really was perky and readily came out for a walk with the other dogs.

First time in recent days when Hazel has shown an interest in the world around her.
First time in recent days when Hazel has shown an interest in the world around her.


A return of a gesture unique to Hazel that we haven't seen in ages! :-)
A return of a head gesture unique to Hazel that we haven’t seen in ages!:-)

More generally, Dr. Jim was trying to track down supporting details to the observation made by Dr. Russ:

Namely, that there was evidence that fungal infections can lay dormat for quite long periods of time.

Jim sent me the following email:

Paul  …
The following article is the one and only reference I have found so far that refers to the possible dormancy of this fungal infection.  In paragraph 2 (Clinical Disease) I have highlighted it in red.  I have to admit, I was skeptical.

The article was:

Coccidioidomycosis (Zoonotic)
Last updated on 2/4/2011.


San Joaquin Valley Fever
Valley Fever

This is that domancy aspect from that paper that Jim highlighted (in red):

The incubation period in the dog is 1 to 3 weeks.1,2 The organism can remain dormant, with exposure preceding the onset of clinical signs by 3 years or more.1,3 Although people may acquire the disease from the same sources as domestic animals and the mycelial forms are highly infectious, with one exception the disease has not been transmitted from animals to people. One published report exists of transmission to a veterinary assistant via the bite of an infected cat.15

Meanwhile, over in Brandy’s corner, he has very quickly healed after his neutering operation last Thursday. It was fair to say that he was not a happy chappy when he arrived home that day.

Didn't like that!
Didn’t like that!


And I can't even lick my balls!
And I can’t even lick my balls!

But his cone was off by Saturday and he is back to the wonderful, bouncing dog we all love so much. (Can’t believe that last Saturday was only the second week that Brandy had been with us; he has so quickly woven his way into all our hearts.)

Checking out the stables yesterday (Sunday) morning.
Checking out the stables yesterday (Sunday) morning.


Behind that placid expression is the most docile, loving brain and heart one could ever wish for!
Behind that placid expression is the most docile, loving brain and heart one could ever wish for!

Returning to Hazel we are still some way from knowing that she has returned to a fully fit dog but the love and caring sent her way by all of you out there has been precious beyond imagination.

Thank You All!