Category: Food

Pure, unconditional love!

Highlighting a very interesting post from Mother Nature Network

Last March 31st Mother Nature Network published an article that, to me and Jeannie, was the essence of what having a dog in one’s life means: unconditional bonding.

In common with thousands and thousands of other dog owners every day all of our dogs, in their own individual ways, show us that our patterns of behaviour are well known and they totally accept them

For example, Jeannie every day uses an exercise bike that’s in the bedroom. We were discussing this yesterday and she mentioned that three or four of our dogs come into the room whenever Jeannie is ‘pedaling’ away and just lie down and watch her.

Oliver comes up to me in the living room frequently and climbs onto the settee next to me, gives my right ear a quick lick and then lays down usually with his head on my knee so I can cuddle him and stroke his tummy. There are numerous other examples every day across all six of our dogs.

I could go on!

However, I should get to the point of this post and that is to republish the following article.

It is most interesting.

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6 ways to improve your bond with your dog

It begins with how connected the two of you are.

Jaymi Heimbuch Jaymi Heimbuch,   March 31, 2020

There are easy ways to build a stronger bond with your dog, including small changes in your daily routine. (Photo: Jaromir Chalabala/Shutterstock)

As the saying goes, dogs are our best friends. But maybe it doesn’t feel quite so buddy-buddy between you and your dog these days. Perhaps you’re constantly frustrated because your dog ignores your commands or is always getting in your way when you’re doing chores around the house, or doesn’t cuddle like you wish he would.

What these and other issues often comes down to is how bonded you are as a team. This bond isn’t something that automatically happens as soon as you bring a dog home. It also isn’t static. It’s something that takes work to build and can grow over time. If you want to have a dog that is more attentive to you, here’s how to start.

Study up on dog body language

Your dog is communicating. Are you listening? (Photo: Sudowoodo/Shutterstock)

Have you ever had a great friendship where one of you does all the talking? Likely not. A real friendship requires talking and listening by both parties, a two-way communication that allows each to know what the other is thinking and feeling. As two highly social species, both dogs and humans have intricate ways of communicating with others. However, we humans tend to dominate the conversation with our dogs. We have an expectation for them to understand everything we’re asking of them, yet we don’t always put equal work into finding out what they’re asking of us. But we can.

Dogs tell us vast amounts of information through body language. From the more obvious cues like how high or low a tail is held, how quickly it is wagging and in what direction, or how they’re holding their ears, to the more subtle language held in the shape of their eyes, the angle at which they’re holding their body to something, or the tenseness of the corners of their mouths, are all words written on a billboard for us to read.

If you want to build a better bond with your dog, the first place to start is to study how dogs communicate with their bodies. You can then better understand what your dog is trying to tell you, and when you start listening, the two of you will get along much more easily.

Get to know your dog’s likes and dislikes — and respect them

Some dogs like hugs, but many don’t. (Photo: Halfpoint/Shutterstock)

Just like humans, individual dogs have their personal likes and dislikes. Some dogs enjoy cuddling while others prefer to have space. Some adore a game of fetch while others would rather play tug. Some love to learn new tricks and some would rather just go on a walk. Some dogs enjoy affection of all kinds, including hugs, but many dogs barely tolerate, or even flat out dislike being hugged. There are many things we humans assume dogs enjoy when really, they are just tolerating it.

Knowing your dog’s individual likes and dislikes, and then respecting them, is the key to connecting with your dog. If you pay close attention, you may find that your dog doesn’t like the hugs you give her. But she really loves being scratched behind her ears. By realizing this, you can swap out the hugs for ear scratches and your dog will recognize that you’re someone far more enjoyable to be around because she won’t have to suffer through the things she dislikes and will readily receive the things she does want.

But this goes beyond the right kinds of affection. By recognizing that your dog loves playing a certain game, or a certain type of toy, you can use these preferences to your advantage in training. Maybe your dog is more food-motivated than toy-motivated, or prefers a game of chase above all other things.

The best reward is the one your dog wants the most and will work the hardest to receive. So figuring out what your dog likes and dislikes is also part of getting the most out of your training sessions.

Train your dog every day

Dogs like to learn, so make training sessions a part of each day. (Photo: Jne Valokuvaus/Shutterstock)

One of the best ways you can improve your connection with your canine companion is to work on training every day using positive reinforcement. Exercising your dog’s brain to learn something new and providing rewards for successes is a great way to increase trust and joyful experiences between you and your dog.

Training happens every day whether you’re aware of it or not — every walk, every interaction with other dogs or people, every interaction with you is essentially a form of training, of shaping your dog’s perception of the world and behaviors, good or bad. So make a conscious effort to get the most out of these moments. You can work on a new trick or even practice old behaviors to freshen up on them. When you go on walks together, make them interactive, asking your dog to sit at every corner, to change direction with you randomly, to change the side he walks on, to change his pace to match yours as you slow down and speed up.

However you choose to work on it, be sure that some form of active training with positive reinforcement happens each day. You’ll notice a distinct difference in how much attention your dog pays you, and how much more fluidly you interact.

Set up your dog for success.

Success comes down to trust. (Photo: Aleksey Boyko/Shutterstock)

Having effective training sessions and a dog that trusts you lies in large part in setting your dog up to be successful when you ask him to do something. For example, asking your dog to do a difficult trick and withholding rewards until he gets it right only increases the amount of frustration you both feel and decreases the amount of fun your dog has in trying to do what you ask. Instead, break a trick down into small, accomplishable pieces that your dog can build on, and reward your dog for each successfully completed step.

Setting your dog up for success goes well beyond training and into every day life. Think about how your dog might view or react to a situation, and if it will be positive or negative. Take steps to reduce the possibility of negative consequences. For instance, don’t leave the food bin unattended with the lid off and expect your dog not to dive in face first the second you leave the room. Or on a social level, don’t push your dog to interact with another dog or person who he’s clearly uncomfortable with, which could lead to a fight or a bite and a loss of trust in you to protect them. (And along those lines, read up on the 15 things humans do wrong at dog parks, which is all about trust.)

Know your dog’s preferences and limits well enough to determine what situations he can and can’t handle. Then modify the situation the dog is in to be one that he’ll handle with flying colors. Making the effort to help your dog have successful interactions with you and others will increase your dog’s confidence as well as his trust in you as a strong and safe leader.

Be the source of all life’s necessities and goodies

The one time you know you have your dogs’ attention is when you have their favorite treat in hand. (Photo: Cryptographer/Shutterstock)

If you want your dog to hang on your every word, then you want to be the sole source of all life’s wonderful things, including food and toys. If you are free-feeding your dog, put away the food bowl. If toys are scattered around the floor or in a place a dog can get to easily, hide them in the closet. These things are rewards that are earned, and your dog is going to be much more attentive if you are a walking goodies dispenser.

When it comes to food, have your dog work for snacks and meals just as he works for treats. For meal times, prepare your dog’s food but have him wait a few minutes, or ask him to do a few tricks before giving the OK for him to dive in. This creates a connection in your dog’s mind that working with you earns access to that delicious food. For play time, pull out toys for special play sessions, reserving tug-o-war, fetch, hide-and-seek and other games for when the two of you play together, or as a reward during or after training sessions.

When you are the provider of all life’s good things, your dog will look to you — and listen to you — much more readily. This will help so much with getting and keeping your dog’s attention when you need it.

Spend one-on-one time every day

Your dog wants her own special time with you every day. (Photo: Holly Michele/Shutterstock)

Speaking of special play sessions, make sure you spend time focused on just your dog every day. This doesn’t include walks when you’re distracted on your phone, or in the yard when you’re gardening and your dog is wandering around smelling things. One-on-one time is 30 minutes or more of time spent playing brain games, grooming, going on an interactive walk, even talking with your dog.

This is a great time to practice reading your dog’s body language, to gauge his energy level to see if he needs extra exercise, and to build on all you’ve done to help grow and solidify the connection and trust you have with your dog. Plus, it’s simply quiet, stress-free time for you to enjoy with the company of your four-legged friend.

Dogs are a social species just like humans, and time spent focused on each other will increase the connection you share, which benefits both of you.

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This is a really great article. As it says about Jaymi: “Jaymi Heimbuch ( @jaymiheimbuch ) focuses on wildlife conservation and animal news from her home base in San Francisco.

The content is fabulous and everyone, including us, should read it carefully. That last sentence says it all: “Dogs are a social species just like humans, and time spent focused on each other will increase the connection you share, which benefits both of you.

Please, if you come across dogs being treated in a less than loving manner, report the human!

Another dog (and cat) food recall!

This is one that affects both cats and dogs!

Please make a note and share the details if you can.

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Icelandic Plus Dog and Cat Treats Recall

March 23, 2020 — IcelandicPlus LLC of Ft. Washington, PA, is recalling its Capelin Dog and Cat Treats because some of the fish have exceeded FDA guidelines for fish larger than 5 inches… which has the potential to cause botulism poisoning.

What’s Recalled?

The affected products are sold in a clear plastic package or tube… and marked Icelandic+ Capelin WHOLE FISH, PURE FISH TREATS FOR DOGS, or PURE FISH TREATS FOR CATS.

UPC codes include 8 5485400775 9; 8 5485400711 7; and 8 5485400757 5.

Related products are packaged in a 2.5 ounce tube or a 1.5 or 2.5 ounce bag (lot numbers 02/2020 to 02/2022).

What Caused the Recall?

The FDA has determined that salt-cured, dried, or fermented un-eviscerated fish larger than 5 inches have been linked to outbreaks of botulism poisoning in humans between 1981 and 1987 and again in 1991.

Since some IcelandicPlus Capelins are larger than 5 inches there is a possible health risk.

To date, no illnesses of dogs, cats, or persons are reported in connection with the treats. Nor have there been any positive test results for Clostridium botulinum from any IcelandicPlus Capelin.

However, because of the potential risk, the company has decided to announce this product recall.

About Botulism Poisoning

Clostridium botulinum toxin can cause severe clinical signs including death in both animals consuming the pet treat and humans handling the pet treat or coming in contact with contact areas that have been exposed to the product.

Common symptoms may include dizziness, blurred or double vision, trouble with speaking or swallowing, difficulty breathing, muscle weakness, abdominal distension, and constipation.

Consider that several of the listed symptoms, such as double vision, cannot be easily assessed in animals or conveyed by an animal.
Pets or persons experiencing these symptoms should seek immediate medical attention.

Where Was the Product Sold?

The affected product was shipped to distributors for sale to consumers by independent pet specialty stores throughout all U.S. states.

Message from the Company

IcelandicPlus is family owned and run by pet parents who take the safety and wellbeing of its consumers and clients with the utmost importance, as such we are conducting this voluntarily recall to further protect our customers.
Additionally, we are changing our Capelin supplier to ensure that the fish in our product are consistently less than 5 inches, or if larger, they will be completely eviscerated.

What to Do?

Distributors, retailers and consumers who have purchased IcelandicPlus Capelin can return it to the location where it was purchased for a refund.

Consumers with questions may contact the company at 857-246-9559, Monday through Friday, 8 am to 5 pm ET.

U.S. citizens can report complaints about FDA-regulated pet food products by calling the consumer complaint coordinator in your area.

Or go to the FDA’s “Report a Pet Food Complaint” page.

Canadians can report any health or safety incidents related to the use of this product by filling out the Consumer Product Incident Report Form.

Get Lifesaving Recall Alerts by Email

Get free dog and cat food recall alerts sent to you by email. Subscribe to The Dog Food Advisor’s emergency recall notification system.

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This is the page from where I republished this recall.

Hopefully, tomorrow I can return to Tom and Chica’s fabulous walk!

Stay safe wherever you are!

Day Nineteen of Tom and Chica’s walk.

These photographs are just amazing!

Gilliwolfe has changed very slightly the appearance of the post. But it’s just as good!

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Day 19: Riogrande to Alfarnatejo 16k

By Tom and Chica, 16th February, 2020

Written by Tom’s wife

This morning’s doze was interrupted at 6:30 by a digger starting up and then at 7:15 by lights of a 4 X 4 as fella turns up for work. Hey-ho! So up and into town for double rations of bacon bocadillos with coffee and on the road at 11am. Passing out of town,  two ground workers and the digger driver wanted to know if it was cold in the tent so I put them right; good sleeping bag and doggie hot water bottle. After a bit more building site banter (to make me feel at home, but without the rain) I stopped at the fuentes on the outskirts of the town, had a quick wash and filled the water bottles.

A hard uphill slog followed and this pack isn’t getting any lighter, I’m going to have to be more ruthless in selecting items next time! But it was a great day’s hiking and I was delighted to find Restaurante Gerado by the Rio Sabar where I scoffed an early supper of ham, egg and chips with two beers for €8. Bargain! Sated we trotted off into the hills for 45 mins and found a lovely camping place in the olive terraces  – pictures tomorrow.

Leaving Riogrande
Hmmm, nice pad!
Cooling off!
Essential water purifier.
Good walking surface!
Easy to miss but welcome confirmation that we’re on the right track!
Looking back the pointy peak in the distance marks where we started this stretch. Satisfying!
Restaurante Gerado – highly recommended!

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It’s an amazing walk and that doesn’t really give full justice to what Tom and his two dogs are doing.

It’s a very real pleasure to be given the permission to republish these episodes.

Another three next week!

Dogs and grass!

Most, if not all, dogs eat grass – this explains why!

Of the many Mother Nature Network articles there are many that concern dogs. Such as this one.

Dogs love to eat grass especially when the grass is green and fresh. Quite often some of the dogs throw up not long after.

Here’s a post on Mother Nature Network that explores the topic.

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Why do dogs eat grass?

By Morieka Johnson    August 15, 2019.

Some dogs just like the taste of grass. (Photo: Tanja Esser/Shutterstock)

No walk around the neighborhood is complete without my dog Lulu eating grass. Even on a full stomach, she likes to hunt for the perfect blades and chew away. Left unattended, I’m sure she could mow down a small lawn. Since lawns today have any number of herbicides and pesticides, many pet parents wonder if it’s OK to let their dogs eat grass.

Here’s what the experts say about these grass-eating habits.
It’s yummy: It’s normal for dogs to chew on the green stuff because they like the taste of grass, says Dr. Jennifer Monroe of Eagles Landing Veterinary Hospital in Georgia. Some pooches even develop preferences that range from fresh leaves to drier weeds or even a particular species of grass. What they cannot discern is whether grass has been chemically treated. Use caution when walking on a neighbor’s lawn and stick with greener products in your own yard. Monroe recommends nontoxic treatment options.

“You do have to be careful if you have a dog that is a chronic grass eater,” she says. “We do have a lot of clients who bring pets in for vomiting and wonder if it’s from something the yard was treated with.”

Nutritional deficiency: Most commercial dog foods offer a balanced diet, so many experts say its unlikely that your dog isn’t getting the nutrition he needs from his dinner. Instead, dogs with certain intestinal diseases don’t necessarily digest food properly and have trouble absorbing minerals, which can lead to grazing, says Monroe. Anemia and bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract also cause dogs to eat dirt.

Some dogs eat grass because they need to throw up. (Photo: smerikal [CC by-SA 2.0]/Flickr)
They are trying to induce vomiting: When dogs are eating something that doesn’t agree with them, they often have an upset stomach and eat grass to induce vomiting. If eating grass causes your dog to vomit twice a week or more, call your veterinarian because there could be another underlying health issue. She also recommends a visit if there is any doubt that your dog may be ill; better safe than sorry.

Some dogs nibble the lawn and are fine, while others are always eating grass and vomiting. It may just be the grass tickling their throat and stomach lining that causes them to vomit, says PetMD, or it could be something more serious. That’s why it’s key for dog owners to make sure their pets aren’t sick. Keep track of how often your dog vomits and let your vet know.

Instinct: One theory is that this unusual dog behavior is just instinct. Dogs in the wild are natural omnivores who eat meat and plants, so domesticated dogs naturally gravitate towards plant material too, says Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine. Another theory is that wild dogs would eat plant material in the stomach of their prey, so they developed a taste for it.

Behavioral issues: Dogs can develop obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) regarding the grass. (I suspect that my Lulu falls into this category. She’s pretty determined during those lawn-gobbling excursions.) In the majority of cases, Monroe says this is no reason for concern. To correct the behavior, she recommends reducing your dog’s grazing time.

Basket muzzles restrict grass guzzling, too. In severe cases, she recommends consulting a certified veterinary behaviorist for advice. Otherwise, let them stop to smell — and chomp — the greenery.

“If not they are not vomiting and not destructive, I say let them enjoy it,” Monroe says.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with new information since it was first published in October 2013.

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All very straightforward it seems.

But I suspect there may be just a few who found this post revealing.

Day Eight, again, of Tom and Chica’s walk.

Yours truly can’t count!

For my previous post was entitled Day Eight etc. and this one is also called Day Eight.

Ah well, it’s the content that counts!

Which is to say that the next three days are, again, devoted to Tom’s walk along GR7.

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Day 8: Cerra de la Fantasia to Benacoaz 16k

By Tom and Chica, 27th January, 2020.

Written by Tom’s wife.

Authors note: Because we have had such a long weather delay, I have decided to number only the days that Tom and Chica actually walk otherwise it is going to give a very unrealistic idea of how long it takes. That is why today is Day 8 and the last walking day was originally Day 10 (but is now Day 7). I have updated all the blog references to correspond.

We were up with the lark this morning. Earlier in fact, as it was still dark but we were keen after such a long rain delay. We left the village in fog and went in and out of the sun and mist all the way up to the start point miles into the forest. It was still murky there too and we didn’t hang around as there was a gathering of hunters. Their dogs were in trailers, barking with excitement as this is probably the only time they ever get let out of their cages. But what happens to them after the end of the season next week? I can’t bear to think about it. But that’s why we’re doing this – so onwards and upwards my faithful duo!

After coming out of the forest onto the road, the trees gave way to scrub and the track roughly followed the same route as the road. The mist made it hard to get a feel for the surrounding landscape at first but then as the mist became patchy there were glimpses of the majestic valley and surrounding mountains – a truly spectacular view but impossible to capture on a phone camera.

The track crossed the road and descended to the river – Rio de Ubrique – which heads towards the town of the same name. After a bit of a clamber up a steep, wet, rocky and rather unsavoury path between agricultural outbuildings, we popped out right next to the town sign.

It was a pleasant stroll through the comparatively large and bustling town centre. The sun was now properly out and so Tom stopped in a plaza outside the Town Hall and had a coffee while Chica scrounged titbits by breathing in and contriving to look half starved! Carrying on up through the narrow streets, they arrived at the Convento de Capuchinos where a sign to Benacoaz pointed up a cobbled road: the Calzada Romana (Roman Road).

This proved quite tough on the feet as the cobbles were uneven and scattered but after 3.5k it emerged into the village of Bonacoaz, perched on the side of the mountain with vast panoramic views south –  stunning end to today’s beautiful walk.

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I know I have said it before, and undoubtedly I will say it again, but this account of Tom’s walk with his two dogs is astounding! They have been walking for over a week and they are experiencing countryside and more that must be unique to Spain.

Keep it coming!

(And thank you, Gilliwolfe, for penning it.)

Day Eight of Tom and Chica’s walk

Now it gets very interesting!

This is a longer post and with great interest.

For it covers the Park at Los Alcornacales as well as the Spanish cork industry.

As always, the post is a republication of the original and is gratefully offered to my readers.

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Los Alcornacales – cork and pork and much, much more.

By Tom and Chica, 24th January, 2020

Written by Tom’s wife.

So far, during this part of the walk, Tom and Chica have been travelling through the unique habitat of Los Alcornacales. We fell in love with this beautiful area the first time we visited back in 2013. As we are rained off at the moment, I thought I’d take the opportunity to research more about the area, especially the amazing cork oaks which comprise large areas of the forest.

 Granted natural park status in 1989, Natural Park Los Alcornacales occupies a protected area of 170,025 hectares in Andalusia. Soil, moisture and traditional uses have been the main factors in the conservation of the largest productive area of cork trees anywhere on the Iberian Peninsula. Located in the province of Cadiz and part of Malaga (mainly in the municipality of Jimena de la Frontera, where we have just been walking), it runs from the mountains down to the recently created Estrecho Nature Park on the coast and is home to a variety of landscapes, flora, fauna, history and folklore.

This rich diversity is mainly due to the many rivers, streams and reservoirs but also the moisture that comes from the coast. This latter accumulates to form banks of mist in the deep, narrow gorges known as ‘canutos’. In these conditions, the ancient laurel forest flora has flourished. Characterised by smooth, bright leaves, it can make the most of the moisture and limited light that penetrates the alders growing on the edge of the gorges. So, amidst the scent of laurel and the beauty of flowering rhododendrons, you can walk through this dense forest accompanied by the sound of dippers, kingfishers, blackcaps and finches.

Egyptian mongoose
Griffon vulture

In the more clay-rich areas lower down you can see the wild olive tree, cleared from time immemorial to make way for pasture for the region’s most typical livestock, the brown Retinta cow. On the valley sides, the Mediterranean scrub of rockrose, heather, lavender, daphne and hawthorn is perfect for Andalusian deer, as well as buck, roe deer and carnivores such as genets, badgers and also the Egyptian mongoose – the largest population anywhere on the Iberian Peninsula.

Cork production

Los Alcornacales and the surrounding areas are home to the Iberian cork industry. As well as its most well-recognised use as bottle-stoppers, cork is also found in many products from car construction to aeroplane insulation.

The cork oak, quercus suber, is a native of both the northern and southern shores of the Mediterranean. Its age is unknown, but quercus suber or its ancestors have been around for at least 147 million years. It is a prophyte, ie a species adapted to survive fire. While other species rely on seed propagation to survive fires, the cork layer protects the stem of the tree so it only has to regenerate branches. This makes it very well adapted to the fire-prone forest of southern Spain.

Archaeologists have found evidence of tribes actively working with cork oak in northern Africa before 6,000 BC. Early man would have used the various species of oak for fire wood, tools, weapons; and for building as the hunter-gatherers began to settle. Similar evidence has been found in Andalucía and other parts of southern Spain dating back 4,000 years BC or more.

However, it would take a few thousands more years before the special sealant qualities of cork would be utilised. This property is due solely to the presence of one particular constituent: suberin. Suberin is a fatty substance found in the cells of the denser forms of cork which stops the passage of air or liquid.

Cork was probably first used as a sealant in containers by the Greeks and Phoenicians, for wines and other liquids in pottery containers but it would take the invention of the glass bottle, a fairly recent innovation in historical terms, for cork to finally meet glass. Legend claims that Friar Perignon, a French monk, discovered this use for cork on a slender glass bottle neck in the seventeenth century. As news of its efficacy spread, so a new industry appeared.

Cutting the cork is a highly skilled task and requires two years training. It is unusual for a tree to survive ring barking (the bark being removed around the complete circumference) and it needs to be done with care and at the right time. The cutters’ experience tells them how far to cut up the tree to avoid harming it.  Cutting is only legally permitted between 15 June and 15 August which is when gangs roam the oak forests, each of the usually five members having a specific role, from chief cutter to lowly carrier.

These gangs traverse the forest in a nine-year cycle, allowing the trees they cut to regenerate the cork in the intervening period. Their mules roam free in the forest except for the two month harvest period when they trek back and forth between harvest site and cork factory. So expert is their knowledge of the routes that, once loaded, a tap on the back will send them off unaccompanied. The town of Cortes de la Frontera actually holds burro-loading contests at its annual summer feria, with a prize for the most ingenious loading of a burro.

What we see lying curled on the ground is still many stages away from fitting into the neck of a bottle. At the factory the cork is boiled in a vast, deep pool of water, which renders it malleable for flattening and then processing by machine. The cork then goes through several levels of compression, depending on its destination. It emerges as very thin sheets of varying sizes, perhaps thinner than a child’s little finger. It is then checked for quality – the oak trade has five levels, from excellent to poor – and the oak is assigned to an appropriate use.

Most interestingly, however, is how it does reach the bottles we uncork. Bottle corks are stamped out by machines at different widths for wine, champagne and cognac (Spanish cork is treasured by French brandy producers). When they pile up in the dumpers beneath the pressing machines, they look like big wooden pennies. These are graded by quality, and then carefully fed into further compressing machines. Cork makers reckon that it would be a waste of good cork to use it throughout a wine or champagne cork, so lower quality cork is placed in the middle, highest quality at either end, where the cork meets both wine and outside air. These layers are then compressed so tightly we do not even notice that a cork we pull is not one single unit but a compression of up to eight layers crushed together. The finished corks are then dispatched to bottling plants across Europe and beyond.

There have, of course, been concerns about the rise of the plastic cork. Its proponents say that it prevents a bottle being ‘corked’, ie, spoiled, by air penetrating the old-fashioned cork. Its detractors argue that, beyond the aesthetics of levering a wad of white plastic out of your favourite wine, it doesn’t allow the alcohol to breathe naturally. (French brandies breathe so profusely that the distilleries are wreathed in fumes which promote fungi on the roofs and keep nearby cattle happily sozzled year-round.) Yet with even the British supermarket buyer seemingly moving upmarket in their choice of corked drinks, and the Spanish and French keeping their noses in the air over plastic stoppers, it seems the Iberian peninsula can hold on to its two billion euro cork industry yet.

Other uses for cork include flooring. We have some of this in our bathroom at home. A long way from the basic dull cork tiles of old, now it comes in stunning patterns and looks beautiful. It is also sustainable, provides excellent insulation and is lovely and warm to walk on. If I could, I’d floor the whole house with this.

Iberian pigs

The Iberian pig is a traditional breed of the domestic pig (Sus scrofa domesticus) that is native to the Iberian Peninsula and is currently found in herds clustered in the central and southern part of Portugal and Spain. Its origins can probably be traced back to the Neolithic, when animal domestication started.

The most commonly accepted theory is that the first pigs were brought to here by the Phoenicians from the Eastern Mediterranean coast, probably along the old droving tracks one of which our route, the GR7, roughly follows. They interbred with wild boar and this cross gave rise to the ancestors of what are today’s Iberian pigs.

Prized Iberico ham

The production of Iberian pork is deeply rooted to the Mediterranean ecosystem. It is a rare example in world pig farming where the pig contributes so decisively to the preservation of the ecosystem. The Iberian breed is currently one of the few examples of a domesticated breed which has adapted to a pastoral setting where the land is particularly rich in natural resources, in this case acorns from the holm oak, gall oak and cork oak.

The numbers of the Iberian breed had been drastically reduced since 1960 due to several factors such as the outbreak of African swine fever and the lowered popularity of animal fats. In the past few years, however, the production of pigs of the Iberian type has increased to satisfy a renewed demand for top-quality meat and cured products. Now, though, there is controversy over the providence of the highly prized Iberico ham as breeders cash in on the market and produce a similar but much less sustainable product more cheaply, thus threatening this ancient livelihood.

The Iberian pig can be either red or black or in between. In traditional management, animals ranged freely in sparse oak forest (dehesa in Spain, montado in Portugal).  They are constantly on the move and therefore burn more calories than confined pigs. This, in turn, produces the fine bones typical of this kind of jamón ibérico. At least a hectare of healthy dehesa is needed to raise a single pig. True dehesa is a richly diverse habitat with four different types of oak that are crucial in the production of prime-quality ham. The bulk of the acorn harvest comes from the holm oak (Quercus ilex) but also the Pyrenean oak (Quercus pyrenaica) and Portuguese or gall oak (Quercus lusitanica) and the late cork oak season, which extends the acorn-production period from September almost to April.

Some recent research from Cordoba university concluded {the translation isn’t perfect but you get the idea}:

‘The couple Iberian pig and dehesa has proved to be very effective; so much [so] the Iberian pig is called the dehesa jewel, but the first needs this agro-ecosystem to reach its highest quality properties (organoleptic and nutritional ones); and the second needs a clear commercial differentiation for Iberian pork and cured products in order to receive a high price to maintain and conserve the dehesa. Spanish authorities should be responsible for protecting this traditional system from fraud and unfair competition. In this way, farmers economy could be enough to conserve this unique ecosystem and its values for the whole society.’*

Whether you eat pork or not you may still believe as I do, that this traditional and sustainable way of producing it is better for the ecosystem and the pigs than intensive farming on a huge scale. And we love seeing the black pigs snuffling through the forest. I hope it can be protected along with the rest of this remarkable and stunningly beautiful area.

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Well I must say that this is a tremendous post and a privilege to be able to republish it.

Gilliwolfe did an incredible job in composing the post and inserting all the photographs. Well done!

Well done!

 

A further word about natural supplements

Stick to the major brands and you should be alright!

Following my republication of the article in The Conversation two days ago, I have now come to a conclusion. That is that if one sticks to major brands or supplements made in the USA then one should be perfectly safe.

Margaret of Tasmania made a recommendation to use ConsumerLab.com and it appears a brilliant suggestion.

What to make of natural supplements

Yet another dog-free post!

I read this a few days ago and vowed to republish it in this place. Because I had assumed that supplements were safe to take. This copy of a recent article in The Conversation suggests otherwise.

Read it and then let me know your thoughts.

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Natural supplements can be dangerously contaminated, or not even have the specified ingredients

February 14, 2020 5.23pm EST. Updated February 17, 2020 5.43pm EST
By Professor Michael White, Professor and Head of the Department of Pharmacy Practice, University of Connecticut

Some supplement products contain substances that are harmful. Getty Images / David Malan

More than two-thirds of Americans take dietary supplements. The vast majority of consumers – 84% – are confident the products are safe and effective.

They should not be so trusting.

I’m a professor of pharmacy practice at the University of Connecticut. As described in my new article in the Annals of Pharmacotherapy, consumers take real risks if they use diet supplements not independently verified by reputable outside labs.

What are the risks?

Heavy metals, which are known to cause cancer, dementia and brittle bones, contaminate many diet supplements. One study of 121 products revealed 5% of them surpassed the safe daily consumption limit for arsenic. Two percent had excess lead, cadmium and aluminum; and 1% had too much mercury. In June 2019, the Food and Drug Administration seized 300,000 dietary supplement bottles because their pills contained excessive lead levels.

Bacterial and fungal contamination in dietary supplements is not uncommon. In one assessment, researchers found bacteria in all 138 products they investigated. Toxic fungi were also in many of the supplements, and counts for numerous products exceeded the acceptable limits set by the United States Pharmacopeia. Fungal contamination of diet supplements has been linked to serious liver, intestinal and appendix damage.

From 2017-18, dozens were hospitalized with salmonella poisoning after ingesting kratom, a highly addictive natural opioid. Thirty-seven of the kratom products studied were contaminated.

There are ways consumers can verify the quality and safety of supplements. Getty Images / Tanya Constantine

Some dietary supplements contain drugs, yet the manufacturers don’t disclose that information to consumers. Frequently, the concealed drugs are experimental and, in some cases, removed from the market because they’re dangerous. Hundreds of weight-loss, sexual-dysfunction and muscle-building products are adulterated with inferior or harmful substances.

Sometimes, the herb you think you’re buying contains little to no active ingredient. Occasionally, another herb is substituted.

The consequences for consumers are considerable. When manufacturers replaced the herb Stephania tetrandra with the herb Aristolochia fangchi in 2000, more than 100 patients developed severe kidney damage; 18 more got kidney or bladder cancer. Although the herb is now banned by the U.S., a 2014 investigation found Aristolochia fangchi in 20% of the Chinese herbal products sold on the internet.

In an assessment of CBD products, only 12.5% of vaporization liquids, 25% of tinctures and 45% of oils contained the promised amount of CBD. In most cases they held far less. A few CBD products had enough THC to put the user in legal jeopardy of marijuana possession.

Embarrassed by a New York Attorney General’s Office investigation suggesting widespread and fraudulent under-dosing of active ingredients in dietary supplements, CVS pharmacies analyzed 1,400 products that it previously sold in its stores. Seven percent, or about 100 products, failed, resulting in updates to the supplement facts panel or removal of the product from shelves.

It can be difficult for the FDA to adequately oversee supplements. Associated Press / Andrew Harnik

What should consumers do?

The Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 allows manufacturers to sell dietary supplements without providing proof of their quality to the FDA. Instead, it’s up to the FDA to prove a product is unsafe and take it off the market. That’s an incredibly tall order, and woefully inadequate. But it’s unlikely to change.

In the meantime, I recommend that consumers should not purchase supplements without verification from one of three highly regarded independent laboratories: the aforementioned United States Pharmacopeia, NSF International and ConsumerLabs.com. The United States Pharmacopeia is an organization that sets reference and quality standards for prescription medication and food in the U.S.; the NSF International is an independent group that assesses safety and risk for food, water and consumer products; and ConsumerLabs.com is a company started to verify product quality for consumers that are paying members. These laboratories conduct an initial analysis and then perform periodic unannounced assessments of the products; those with the appropriate amount of active ingredient, and without contamination or adulteration, can put the United States Pharmacopeia, NSF and ConsumerLabs.com seals on their bottles. CVS announced that all products sold at its stores going forward will need to provide the company proof of quality. Other major retailers should follow suit.

Some manufacturers conduct quality testing and post certificates of analysis on their websites. But the autonomy of the laboratory, and its standards, are often not known. Sometimes, labs may select an inappropriate testing method, intentionally or unintentionally. Sometimes they perform the test incorrectly, or simply make up results.

Because the FDA can’t fully protect you from quality issues in dietary supplements – at least not right now – you must protect yourself. Even if a celebrity or “health guru” recommends a product, that doesn’t mean it’s high-quality. Before you put any supplement into your body, demand proof.

[Deep knowledge, daily. Sign up for The Conversation’s newsletter.]

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I was about to close it there and then I saw another report, in the same vein, come up on the Harvard Health Blog.  Now I can’t republish it in full but essentially it is a reprint of the above. But here’s a taster:

Harmful effects of supplements can send you to the emergency department

Susan Farrell, MD

Contributing Editor

For many people, a healthy lifestyle means more than eating a good diet and getting enough exercise — vitamins, supplements, and complementary nutritional products are also part of the plan. But though there is much publicity about their potential benefits, there is less awareness of their possible harmful effects.

In fact, using these products can land you in the emergency department.

A study published today in The New England Journal of Medicine found that adverse effects of supplements were responsible for an average of about 23,000 emergency department (ED) visits per year. That’s a lot for something that is supposed to be good for you.

Now we too take a fair handful of supplements.

I’ve stopped all of them while I do more research.

I shall be happy to share our findings.

Lili!

This is a beautiful story.

Yesterday, as per usual, I was browsing my way through the latest posts on Ugly Hedgehog.

Then I really sat up. For Val had posted the following:

OMG. You won’t believe this story.

I took Lili (my faithful photo dog buddy) for her usual evening walk up in the back of my house by the golf course. Fortunately, that is where the eagles hang out.
They have been pretty boring, albeit, beautiful.

Tonight they had a very large bass that they were sharing.

I took a bunch of pictures and we went for our walk.
They don’t pay much attention to Lili and I any more which is cool. On our way back to the car, we had to pass under the tree they were now in.
I took a few more pictures, and as we passed under the tree, they dropped the fish and it landed about 3ft from our feet.
Lili is off leash.

I told her to stay and lie down, she did and we both stood still.
The big female flew down and walked over to get it. Looked at us, and took it back up into the tree and continued eating. It was soooooo exciting!!!

Val included some photographs.

I sent Val a private message asking if I could republish her story. Val said ‘Yes’. But even better than that Val included a short video and some additional news. In that Lili was found by a dumpster four years ago. Then Lili was just 5 weeks old. Since then “I have been taking her everywhere with me since.”

Val went on to say:

As soon as it gets dusky, I keep Lili on a leash too for the same reasons.
She is pretty big, 80# but I don’t trust the eagles.
Who knows what they would/can do?
Here are those photographs.
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And one of Lili!

And there’s a short video but I don’t have time today to turn it into a YouTube.

It’s a beautiful story.

 

Dogs observations of us humans

A widely-reported study shows the depth to which dogs understand us.

I have seen this reported both in The Smithsonian and Mother Nature News.

I have included both!

I’ll comment at the end of the articles.

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Stray Dogs May Understand Human Signals, Too

By Brigit Katz

Researchers in India studied whether 160 stray dogs would react to commands like gesturing toward a bowl. This image, taken in 2012, shows street dogs surrounding an Indian tea vendor in Allahabad. (AP Photo / Rajesh Kumar Singh)

Dogs are famously good at interpreting human signals, whether communicated verbally or through gestures. But much of what we know about our furry friends’ comprehension of social cues focuses on pet dogs, which share close relationships with their owners and are trained to follow commands. Now, a study published in Frontiers in Psychology, suggests that stray dogs can also understand human gestures, indicating that this ability might be innate.
The new research took place on the streets of several regions in India, which is home to some 30 million stray dogs. Coexistence between canines and humans there is not always peaceful; people have been known to attack street dogs, and vice versa. Around 36 percent of the world’s annual rabies deaths occur in India, most of them children who came into contact with infected dogs.

To better manage the country’s street dogs, it’s essential to gain further knowledge of their behavior, Anindita Bhadra, study co-author and animal behaviorist at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research Kolkata, tells Liz Langley of National Geographic. So she and her colleagues set out to discover whether strays, which have never undergone specific training, are able to understand humans in a similar way to their pet counterparts.

The researchers took to the streets equipped with two bowls; one contained chicken and the other was empty but had been rubbed with raw chicken, transferring the food’s scent. The bowls were covered with pieces of cardboard and handed to an experimenter who did not know which one contained the snack. This researcher would approach a stray dog, place the bowls on the ground and point at one of them, sometimes momentarily, sometimes repeatedly.

In total, the researchers studied 160 adult strays. Around half of them refused to get close to either bowl, perhaps because they had negative interactions with humans in the past, the researchers speculate. But of the dogs that did approach the bowls, approximately 80 percent went to the one to which the experimenter had pointed. Whether the researcher had pointed to the bowl briefly or repeatedly did not seem to matter. This response, according to the study authors, suggests that untrained stray dogs are “capable of following complex pointing cues from humans.”

Dogs share an intertwined evolutionary history with humans, with domesticated pooches emerging at least 10,000 to 15,000 years ago, though some experts have argued for an even earlier date. This close contact has prompted dogs to develop a number of skills that allow them to communicate with people, including interpreting human emotion. Still, Bhadra says, the researchers found it “quite amazing” that stray dogs without a history of close human interaction were able to “follow a gesture as abstract as momentary pointing.”

“This means that they closely observe the human, whom they are meeting for the first time, and they use their understanding of humans to make a decision,” Bhadra adds. “This shows their intelligence and adaptability.”

Because some dogs seemed anxious and were wary of approaching the researchers, it’s not clear how a dog’s personality—and past experiences—might affect its ability to interpret human signals. But this ability does not appear to be entirely dependent on training, the study authors say, which in turn should inform efforts to manage stray dogs.

“They are quite capable of understanding our body language and we need to give them their space,” Bhadra says. “A little empathy and respect for another species can reduce a lot of conflict.”

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Mother Nature News had a second picture in their broadly-similar article. Indeed, I’m going to republish this article as well. For although they are of the same story they offer a slightly different account.

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Even stray dogs understand human cues

A new study shows these feral canines are paying close attention.

By Starre Vartan   January 21, 2020

Even untrained dogs can follow simple communications. (Photo: Abir Bhattacharya/Shutterstock)

Dogs were likely the first animals that human beings domesticated — scientific guesses vary as to whether that was 10,000 years ago in Europe or 30,000 years ago in Asia (or, as one theory goes, humans tamed grey wolves two separate times). Regardless, they have been our companions for much of human history, and all of modern history. We have evolved together.

And that longstanding connection shows up in feral dogs.

Behavioral biologist Dr. Anindita Bhadra of the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research in Kolkata, India, revealed this by studying stray dogs in several Indian cities. In the experiment, Bhadra and her colleagues would find a solo stray dog and put two covered bowls on the ground nearby. They they’d simply point to one of the bowls; some did this just once, others did it a few times.

The researchers, who published their work in Frontiers in Psychology, recorded the dogs’ reactions. Half the dogs seemed nervous, and didn’t look at or come close to either bowl. But the other half — noted as less anxious dogs by the researchers — approached the bowls. Of those friendlier dogs, about 80% went to the bowl the researcher pointed at. As long as the dogs weren’t too scared of the people, they were easily able to interpret what the pointing meant.

“We thought it was quite amazing that the dogs could follow a gesture as abstract as momentary pointing,” Bhadra said in a news release. “This means that they closely observe the human, whom they are meeting for the first time, and they use their understanding of humans to make a decision. This shows their intelligence and adaptability.”

Wolf puppies surprised researchers with their responses. (Photo: Bildagentur Zoonar GmbH/Shutterstock)

In another study, three out of 13 untrained 8-week-old wolf puppies spontaneously retrieved a ball for a person who threw it, as MNN’s Mary Jo DiLonardo explains. It was a small study, and a low percentage of retrieving puppies, but it was an unexpected result as these weren’t domesticated dogs. “It was so unexpected, and I immediately knew that this meant that if variation in human-directed play behavior exists in wolves, this behavior could have been a potential target for early selective pressures exerted during dog domestication,” Christina Hansen Wheat, a biologist at Stockholm University, said.

Her observations show that playing with people may be a very old trait for wolves, that could reflect how our human ancestors first got to know them. This playful behavior may have sparked humans’ interest in domestication. If a dog could fetch a stick or other thrown object, they could be quite useful to hunting humans.

Of course, their adorable, big puppy-dog eyes and floppy ears (both traits that have become accentuated over time as dogs evolved) are among the reason we are still drawn to dogs today. (It also helps that they’re great listeners.)

But long before that happened, dogs served an important purpose — assisting people in locating and retrieving prey, and serving as eyes and ears for an intruder. Simple tasks like showing they can follow directions or fetch an object may have moved prehistoric dogs from outside the fire circle to within it, which is why understanding these behaviors are so important.

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If we go back into the mists of time then prehistoric wolves (or dogs) learnt to bond with early humans because it served both their interests to so do. Humans became much more adept at hunting and wolves obviously became the benefactors of food!

Now dogs are so well bonded to human gestures that even non-domesticated dogs understand the signals that we humans put out. I say ‘non-domesticated’ but in a real sense all dogs are domesticated. It would be more accurate to say that these are dogs who do not have a home with humans.

The oldest human-animal relationship by far!