In many ways this has been a strange month in a somewhat strange year! No, more than that! We are at last seeing climate change come to the fore in terms of topics. Yves Smith, who produces Naked Capitalism (and it’s a great blog) had an item on climate change recently. Here’s an extract:
Yves here. As many of you know, I am considerably frustrated with Green New Deal advocates, because I see them as selling hopium. They act as if we can preserve modern lifestyles as long as we throw money, some elbow grease, and a lot of new development (using current dirty infrastructure to build it) at it. We’re already nearing the point where very bad outcomes, like widespread famines and mass migrations due to flooding, are baked in. And even that take charitably assumes that a rump of what we consider to be civilization survives.
There were many replies from a variety of people; I loved this one from Tom Stone:
A rational response to this crisis is not politically or societally feasible.
And the crisis is here, now.
The changes are not linear, a concept many of the people I talk to about climate change have difficulty accepting.
Large parts of the SF Bay Area are going to be heavily impacted (It’s my stomping ground, so I’m familiar with it) by salt water intrusion, levee failure, lack of water to to changing precipitation patterns in the Sierra’s…
A lot of Bay Area Housing is built on fill or in low lying areas, those homes will start to be abandoned within a decade if current trends continue.
Add the devastation from the inevitable Earthquake on the Hayward Fault which our local and State Governments are totally incapable of dealing with and it is going to be a godawful mess.
I looked at the Disaster planning for a quake on the Hayward Fault some years ago and all of the assumptions are for a “Best Case” scenario.
The quake won’t come in October during a drought and a high wind event, it won’t come at the wrong time of day, it won’t come in the spring during a high water period when Levee’s are stressed…
The Bay areas disaster response center was built in the 1950’s to withstand a nuclear attack, it is underground and was built smack dab in the middle of the Hayward Fault.
Have I mentioned that 20 years after 9/11 the various emergency responders do not have a commonality in their communications gear?
The more people that read this and other article the better.
Plus I am going to include my reply:
Your piece, Yves, that you published from Rolf was excellent and so was Tom Stone’s comment above. The scale of the issue is immense but at least climate change has now become a mainstream topic, and rightly so. National Geographic magazine published a special edition in May, 2020 to commemorate the anniversary of the fiftieth Earth Day. I think it was 1962 when Rachel Carson published Silent Spring. So we can’t complain that this isn’t a new issue. But whether or not we make it to the one hundred anniversary of that first Earth Day depends on the myriad of actions that we, as in all of us, including especially our leaders and politicians, make NOW! Let me spell it out. NOW means within the next 5 years at the latest. I am 76 and a passionate advocate of a change in mass behaviors. For I have a single grandson, Morten, living with his parents back in England who is 10. I fear for his future and for the future of all of his age.
Anyway, to get back to the article about dogs that I wanted to share with you. It is from Treehugger.
This 13-Year-Old Dog Has a Home Again
It’s heartbreaking when senior pets lose their families.
This weekend, my husband and I were the last step in a transport to get a dog to her new home.
Typically, when we have a new dog in the backseat, it’s a raucous foster puppy (or two) in a crate. There’s usually barking and tumbling and playing until the motion of the car lulls them to sleep.
But this passenger was a much different story.
Magdalen is a 13-year-old border collie. Her owner gave her up temporarily when he was sick, but when he fully recuperated a few months later, he said he didn’t want her back. He had her since she was a puppy but now had no place for her.
The family who had given her a temporary home had children and other dogs and was unable to give her a permanent home. When Speak St. Louis, the rescue I work with, was contacted about the border collie, they offered to take her in.
She went to the groomer for her very matted coat and to the vet for a basic health check.
The spa visit made her look (and no doubt, feel) much better. But the vet didn’t have great news. She had to have surgery for mammary masses and her mouth was swollen with all sorts of dental issues. One surgery later and she had six masses removed. Two teeth fell out during cleaning and 11 more had to be extracted.
Fortunately, the growths were benign and she slowly began to recover.
Stressed and Resigned
On the trip home, the sweet senior looked so resigned in our backseat. The last kind transporter gently lifted her from her car and placed her in ours, where she barely moved as she re-settled herself.
She had just spent several weeks in the care of a wonderful foster parent where she recuperated from her surgery and from being left by her family.
I’m sure at this point she was just shut down and stressed and quietly rolling with whatever happened to her. She took the pieces of kibble we offered but her tail didn’t wag because it was tucked mostly between her legs.
It was heartbreaking to know that not so long ago she was someone’s pet and she was discarded.
It’s understandable that her owner needed some temporary help when he was sick and overwhelmed. But I can’t imagine why he wouldn’t have wanted her back now. I think of my own dog and dogs we’ve lost to old age in the past. They’re family and they stay that way forever.
Senior pets often end up in shelters and with rescues when their owners die and no one in the family is able to take them in.
Or some people give them up when they become harder to care for. Seniors can have more health problems and often people can’t afford the costs. They also aren’t as fun as their younger counterparts, and sometimes get cranky or snippy around children.
For rescues and shelters, it’s much easier to get a cute, bouncy puppy adopted than a less active senior that might come with health baggage and who might only be with the family for a few years.
A survey by PetFinder found that “less adoptable” pets like seniors or special needs animals spend nearly four times as long on the adoption site before they find a home.1
But older dogs have lots of benefits. Unlike puppies, they usually arrive housebroken. Sure, there are the occasional accidents as they figure things out, but they mostly know they are supposed to potty outside.
Senior dogs won’t chew your furniture or your fingers. They don’t bounce off the walls and wake you up in the middle of the night to go outside. They don’t need as much exercise as younger dogs but will revel in all the attention you want to give them.
As for Magdalen, she is coming out of her shell in her new home. She was adopted by a good friend of mine who is a dog trainer. She has a soft heart for seniors and a passion for brainy border collies.
Because the pup is very driven by food, her new mom is going to try nosework with her. That’s an activity where she can sniff out treats in all sorts of hidden places. That will give her a job and a hobby—and lots of food!
Magdalen doesn’t have her tail between her legs anymore and the resident dogs are figuring out that she’s here to stay. But the key is for her to understand that this is now her forever home and no one will ever leave her again.
Of the six dogs we have here at home three are old. But they still remain happy and carefree which is a little different to yours truly who, as much as he tries very hard not to do so, worries about the big things in life and, frankly, the biggest of them all is climate change.
Let me make myself absolutely clear about this book, indeed I can do no better than to publish part of an email that I sent to the authors last Saturday:
To say that I was inspired by what you wrote is an understatement. More accurately it has changed my whole understanding of this planet, of the natural order of things, of the politics of the Western world, of vast numbers of us humans, and how precarious is our world just now. It has opened my eyes radically, and I thought before that I was fairly in touch with things.
Resilience is a simple idea but in its application has proved to be anything such. On page 2 the authors set out as they saw it The Drivers of Unsustainable Development. Here’s how that section develops:
Our world is facing a broad range of serious and growing resource issues. Human-induced soil degradation has been getting worse since the 1950s. About 85 percent of agriculture land contains areas degraded by erosion, rising salt, soil compaction, and various other factors. It has been estimated (Wood et al. 2000) that soil degradation has already reduced global agricultural productivity by around 15 percent in the last fifty years. In the last three hundred years, topsoil has been lost at a rate of 200 million tons per year; in the last fifty years it has more than doubled to 760 million tons per year.
As we move deeper into the twenty-first century we cannot afford to lose more of our resource base. The global population is now expanding by about 75 million people each year. Population growth rates are declining, but the world’s population will still be expanding by almost 60 million per year in 2030. The United Nations projections put the global population at nearly 8 billion in 2025. In addition, if current water consumption patterns continue unabated, half the world’s population will live in water-stressed river basins by 2025.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) 2004 Annual Hunger Report estimates that over 850 million people suffer from chronic hunger. Hunger kills 5 million children every year.
It goes on ….!
Now I want to quote from the end of the book, from their section on Resilience Thinking.
In our opening chapter we observed that there were many pathways into resilience thinking and suggested readers not worry too much if the finer details of a resilience framework are a bit obscure. We emphasized that what is of much more importance is an appreciation of the broader themes that underpin such a framework. Those broader themes revolve around humans existing within linked social and ecological systems. These are complex adaptive systems, and attempts to control or optimize parts of such systems without consideration of the responses that this creates in the broader system are fraught with risk. Much of this book has been spent on attempting to explore the consequences of such an approach.
In the broadest sense, optimizing and controlling components of a system in isolation of the broader system results in a decline in resilience, a reduction in options, and the shrinkage of the space in which we can safely operate. Resilience thinking moves us the other way.
It is our hope that readers who are persuaded of this basic premise will be encouraged to explore the inevitable consequences of such thinking. Even if you are not completely clear on the basins of attractions, thresholds, and adaptive cycles, if the concepts of ecological resilience and dynamic social-ecological systems have any resonance then you are in a better position to appreciate what is happening to the world around you.
The phrase complex adaptive system was new to me but intuitively I got what the authors meant. As they state on page 35: The three requirements for a complex adaptive system are:
That it has components that are independent and interacting,
There is some selection process at work on those components (and on the results of local interactions),
Variation and novelty are constantly being added to the system (through components changing over time or new ones coming in),
This was my eye-opener. It was now obvious that many processes, especially in nature, that I had hitherto regarded as constant were changing albeit usually on a timescale of many decades sometimes centuries.
And the other conclusion that was inescapable was that we humans were largely responsible for those changes because we couldn’t see the longterm consequences of what we were doing.
David writes that firstly carbon dioxide is not like other pollutants, for example like air particulants. Then later goes on to say:
The second difference is that climate change is irreversible.
As Joe Romm notes in a recent post, New York Times columnist Joe Nocera slipped up in his latest column and referred to technology that would “help reverse climate change.” I don’t know whether that reflects Nocera’s ignorance or just a slip of the pen, but I do think it captures the way many people subconsciously think about climate change. If we heat the planet up too much, we’ll just fix it! We’ll turn the temperature back down. We’ll get around to it once the market has delivered economically ideal solutions.
This paper shows that the climate change that takes place due to increases in carbon dioxide concentration is largely irreversible for 1,000 years after emissions stop. Following cessation of emissions, removal of atmospheric carbon dioxide decreases radiative forcing, but is largely compensated by slower loss of heat to the ocean, so that atmospheric temperatures do not drop significantly for at least 1,000 years. [my emphasis]
My last piece in this review is to republish a graph that is shown on the NASA Global Climate Changewebsite:
For all our sakes, dogs and humans and many other species, let us all please change our behaviours! Soon!
Back to the book: It is a remarkable book!
I will close with quoting one of the praises shown on the back cover. This one by Thomas Homer-Dixon, professor of political science, University of Toronto, and director of the Trudeau Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies.
Resilience Thinking is an essential guidebook to a powerful new way of understanding our world – and of living resiliently with it – developed in recent decades by an international team of ecologists. With five clear and compelling case studies drawn from regions as diverse as Florida, Sweden, and Australia, this book shows how all highly adaptive systems – from ecologies to economics – go through regular cycles of growth, reorganization, and renewal and how our failures to understand the basic principles of resilience have often led to disaster. Resilience Thinking gives us the conceptual tools to help us cope with the bewildering surprises and challenges of our new century.
Personally, I think these should be banned in all countries!
Yes, I know that sub-heading is me being away with the fairies, but one can always hope.
The reason behind the heading and the topic is that on the 21st June this year Dexter sent me a guest post for including in this blog. Nothing gives me greater pleasure, so on with the show!
Well well, Fancy that.
This blog is on a subject that I have wanted to tackle but haven’t had the chance or insight to do so. Until now.
Puppy mills are an abhorrent method of producing large sums of money at the detriment to the dogs involved. I discovered that Fancy, who is one of the Wirral & Cheshire Beagles was used in a puppy mill. As I wanted to write something on this subject, I asked for the kind assistance of her mum, auntie Karen, who has been wonderful and extremely helpful in helping me write this blog. I cannot say “enjoy it” as I hope that you find it predominantly thought provoking and enlightening as to these terrible practices.
Thank you for allowing me to ask some questions about Fancy. When we spoke you told me that she was a puppy mill dog. Can you let me know a little more about her position before she came to live with you?
She had been in a puppy farm, kept in a concrete pig pen and had 3-4 litters in just over 3 years. Many of her pups died of Parvo either there or within 24 hours of being picked up for their new homes.
That sounds awful. Do you know how old she was when you met her?
They told us she was about 5 but she turned out to be 3.6 years. She was 4 on Valentine’s Day.
So, by my calculations, she was about one year old when she would have been forced to have her first litter. This makes me feel very sad.
How did you find out that Fancy was up for rescue and rehoming?
We saw Fancy on a “Beagles missing, found and in need ” site on FaceBook and we fell in love with her immediately. She had such sad, dark eyes and it occurred to us that she had never known a day’s happiness or been loved. There were so many people applied for her we didn’t think we stood a chance. However we were contacted by Many Tears twice that week and, because I’d previously had a home check and had 2 kind caring beagles, we were chosen.
We drove over 10 hours that day to Llanelli, Camarthenshire and met her in an area used for meet and greets. She was petrified of us but not my beagles, Eddie & George. She just ignored them. There was no eye contact with us, nothing. She just paced up and down and cowered in a corner. When it was time to take her home she had to be cornered and caught to get a slip lead on her. She just wet herself. It was heartbreaking. My husband Alan carried her to the car where she laid down in the travel crate. She didn’t sleep but just kept very quiet all the way home. She came from a real lowlife puppy farmer. He’s a multi millionaire who posts “his” beagles or pups running free on fields. In actual fact they’ve never seen a blade of grass. The BBC did an undercover investigation on him.
In any case, when she arrived it was a lovely Sunday evening last July 2020. So we sat outside and watched her exploring and sniffing around the garden. She kept hiding in a corner if we looked at her so we stopped. It took 8 long days before I touched her and that was only because there was a wall behind her. She went to the toilet in the house but thanks to Eddie & George she soon got the hang of going outside. They were fabulous with her and soon realised she wasn’t a boarder but a new sister. I certainly couldn’t have done this without them and the beagle field.
What sort of condition was Fancy in when she arrived? I am going to assume she wasn’t in the greatest shape, given her life up to her time coming home with you?
She was in a bad condition when we got her. She had a dull dry coat and was very underweight with her ribs showing and tail between her legs. It took a few days for her to eat and she’d only do that if we weren’t around. When I first took her to the beagle field she spent the whole time pinned up against the fence. Nothing the beagles did bothered her, only the actions of the humans. I think it took about a month for her to trust one person and let them touch her. Eleven months later and she is still very wary of people she doesn’t know and she will cower away.
That sounds awful, and so sad. Looking at the pictures she seems to have come some way on her path to rehabilitation.
Yes,it doesn’t take much to win her round. A belly tickle, something tasty and she’s your best friend.
How long did it take for Fancy to stop going toilet in the house? Was she called Fancy when you met her at the meet & Greet?
She did her toilets in the house for about 4 days. Maybe twice a day then just first thing in the morning. It tailed off after that as she went out every time with her brothers. Yes she already had the name Fancy I rescued a kitten on the A55 motorway many years ago and she was called Fancy.
You said that Eddie & George immediately knew Fancy was in need of some help. Did they act as if they were guardians to her, showing her the ropes if you like, and making sure that she felt at least some comfort with them.
Definitely. They gave her space from day one when she needed it. Even at the busy beagle field the others knew as well. She never got the initial newbie rough welcome. They all love her very much. Beagles know these things.
Erm, when did you start to see a real breakthrough in her feeling more at home and less scared of all sorts of situations? What was the thing that made you think “you know, Fancy is feeling a bit happier”.
I lay that lead next to her for about a week. I started to show it to her and make a big fuss like it was a toy. She was petrified as she’d only been put in a “rape harness”. She’s still wary of it but can’t get out of it thank dogness.
If you could give people a simple message regarding getting pups from a mill what would it be? Apart from “dont do it” that is.
I’ve given many messages of support to people thinking of puppy farm rescues. Don’t ever give up on them because of their fear. Beagles are so loving and trusting of us the good times far outweigh the bad and no mistake. I have a friend who 12 days ago adopted one with identical problems and the difference in her each day is amazing. Day 12 today and she was dying to jump into his arms when he got home but held back and did an excited dance. We all love his daily updates.
I wish I knew the answer to the puppy mills question I really do. They’re clever people who advertise their pups as living in loving happy homes with caring owners. When in reality they use dirty filthy concrete pig pens where they receive no vet care whatsoever. People see the advertisement and pay a large deposit, when the time comes most travel hours and they won’t leave their puppy their a minute longer so will take them home and face the consequences. Many die over 24 hours and some will be saved by a good vet. One of Fancys pups and owner I know so I know how she was fooled. She knows others.
May I ask about Wirral & Cheshire Beagles generally. Are you a registered charity and, if so, with whom do you work and co-operate?
Yes the beagle group is a charity. We give £1000’s away to beagle charities each year. Mainly Unite to Care where we got ex laboratory George from and Many Tears who are absolutely fabulous and rescue so many ex breeding beagles.
To sum up I am so happy that Fancy is now safe and loved. It is wonderful that she will never again suffer the privations of puppy mill life. It is sad and wholly awful that she had to suffer in the first place. If people didn’t buy from puppy mills, then there might be a chance that they are prevented of their ability to operate. Please please think before making a decision to adopt a dog. Puppy mills are awful and make our lives a misery.
Thank you to Fancy’s mum for her wonderful help on what is a very difficult subject. Without her help, I couldn’t have written this.
Rescue dogs sometimes have a bad reputation. Cross breed rescue dogs sometimes seem to have a worse reputation. I wasn’t dangerous or bad. I was unlucky. Now I am enjoying life in my forever home and I am sharing my contentment with whoever will read my tails.
This is the essence of what having a dog in one’s life means.
I can’t voice Jean’s and my disgust at puppy mills. It is beyond terrible. All you and I can do is to never entertain buying a puppy where the commercial legitimacy is uncertain.
I am writing another book; my third. It is about the changing planet.
But first I want to tell you a story.
I know Scott Draper. He is the founder and CEO of the Club Northwest. It is the club that Jean goes for her Rock Steady class, and she has been going there for some time.
Indeed Scott and I have struck up a friendship and we now meet up at Scott’s home.
At our first meeting at Scott’s home he lent me the National Geographic’s Earth Day, 50th Anniversary Special Issue printed in April, 2020. It is a magazine that may be flipped and read from either end. On one side there is “A Pessimist’s Guide to Life on Earth in 2070”. On the flip side there is “An Optimist’s Guide to Life on Earth in 2070”. It was a very powerful read.
For on one hand the pessimist’s opinion was speaking of now, of current trends, of the fact that if we don’t change, and change relatively soon, say within the next five years, “our reckless consumption and abuse of resources have made the world a deadlier place for us and for the rest of life on Earth”. It conveys despair!
On the other hand the optimist’s opinion is that life will be different in 2070 and also warmer, “but we will find ways to limit carbon emissions, embrace nature, and thrive”. It conveys hope!
I asked Scott which opinion he supported. Scott told me the following:
There is a legend of two people; a grandfather and his grandson. The grandfather explains to his grandson that there are two wolves fighting inside of him, that they will always be there as he grows up and becomes an adult.
“I have a fight going on in me, even at the age I am,” the wise old man says. “It is taking place between these two wolves. One is evil; he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”
The grandfather paused and looked at his grandson, and then continued; “The other wolf embodies the best of our emotions. He is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. Both wolves are fighting to the death. It is a fight that is going on inside you and indeed every other person, too.”
The grandson thought for some time about what his grandfather had just said. Then he looked up at his grandfather and quietly asked, “Which wolf will win?”
The grandfather gave his reply: “The one we feed”
Now this is an image that serves as a metaphor for our inner sense of conflict. This parable is a powerful reminder of the fight that every human being must face. Regardless of the type of person you are or what kind of life you lead, you will find yourself battling two conflicting emotions at many points in your life. Whether the fight is between anger and peace or resentment and compassion, it is important to recognise the conflicting feelings inside you and to feed the values and choices that matter most to you.
Now I am of an age where I won’t be alive in 2070.
But I am interested in the opinions of others who will be.
I want to ask the following questions:
First Name: Surname: DOB:
Do You Support An Optimist’s Guide to Life on Earth in 2070: Yes / No (please circle one)
Do You Support A Pessimist’s Guide to Life on Earth in 2070: Yes / No (please circle one)
How Many Years Before It Is Too Late To Demand Change: (Please tick your answer.)
Less than 5 years
Between 6 and 10 years
Between 11 and 20 years
Between 21 and 50 years
More than 50 years
How concerned are you? (5 is highest, as in very) 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 (Please circle one.)
Please leave a message if you want to:
Please will you consider helping me.
I am not going to present another post this week. In other words, I will leave this up until the end of Saturday, 26th June.
If you are happy to help me then send me your email address (to paulhandover ‘at’ gmail ‘dot’ com) and I will send out the above survey on the 28th June, 2021. All the recipients will be a bcc.
The survey feedback will be required by a week later; July 5th, 2021.
I will publish the results just as soon as they have been collated.
To be honest this is more about the Spitfire! The Spitfire SX336.
Raymond was working on the design of his dog tags and to nail stuff about the way to make them, the material thickness, how to work with it (2MM thick brass) and how to stop them failing, when he turned to a contact he had who is a Spitfire Engineer. At that point Ian, the contact, was up the road from Hertfordshire at The Shuttleworth Collection, getting AR501 back in the air.
However, mid-2019 he moved across the airfield to Kennet Aviation. That’s the home of Spitfire XVII.
At that point Raymond was still pestering for help with a fair few aspects of the manufacturing, from working with the five-ton fly-press that was recommended (from a closed aircraft factory south of Birmingham) to using high-speed polishing tools, but – above all – the position of the hole in relation to the edge of the tag, which is the same distance rivets are from the edge of the wing in a Spitfire.
In return, Raymond offered to build a few websites, one for Kennet Engineering and one for Kennet Aviation. Both the same company really, the Engineering one to try and get more work for a few huge and expensive CNC machines they’ve recently acquired to make spitfire parts they couldn’t get hold of.
Anyway, it was when researching regarding the Spitfire that he, Raymond, came across my Spitfire content and obviously noticed the title of the website he was looking at: LearningFromDogs.com, saw I had a tremendous-looking book and thought ‘hang on a minute!’ this is all too much of a coincidence, he must say hello AND introduce me (Paul) to the SX336.
So Raymond finally said ‘hello’ and let me know there is indeed another Spitfire still flying somewhere in the world.
At approximately 3pm on Tuesday 25 April 2017 The Shuttleworth Collection’s Spitfire under restoration fired into life for the first time in 12 years.
A first stage engine run took place on the airfield with volunteers who have been working on the project watching with fingers crossed. The Spitfire has recently been fitted with new propeller and spinner, with testing on all systems from hydraulics, electrical, coolant and air being undertaken in the engineer workshop where visitors have been able to follow the project’s progress.
Project engineer Ian Laraman expressed his relief that all had gone to plan, saying, “With any engine being tested for the first time you always hope it will run smoothly, and happily today the Spitfire’s first engine run couldn’t have gone any better. Higher power runs will now follow, which will give us a better indication of how close we are to flight testing, but for now hearing this aircraft powered up again after all the work that’s gone into it has just been fantastic!”
The coolant systems will now be flushed out, and checks carried out on the oil filters in advance of further testing of the Spitfire’s 1,440hp Rolls Royce Merlin V12 engine in the next fortnight. To follow the progress of AR501 as it moves toward the end of its restoration come along to see the aircraft in the engineering hangar or follow The Collection’s Facebook and Twitter pages!
As can happen from time to time, I was contacted by Ray Dunthorne in England. He very kindly said that he had been following Learning from Dogs for a while and also was aware of my previous interest in flying.
So I emailed Ray saying that I would love to publish his account as a guest post and lo and behold in came the following story.
The Story of Lulu
Ah hello again, I’ll try ever so hard not to give you my full life story, but just stuff you might find interesting and relevant, but can’t promise to get the balance right!
Willows Activity Farm St Albans
My adult dog journey began with Lulu, 15 years ago, but the seed was sown some 5 years earlier at a city farm. We’d gone with the then middle-born five-year-old for his birthday party. The shepherd who did herding demonstrations was over from New Zealand and had two dogs who’d just had a litter of puppies, which we were shown. We’d never heard of the New Zealand Huntaway, it was described as a combination of German Shepherd, Border Collie and Labrador, with a few other breeds thrown in for good measure.
They’d been consistently bred in, yes, you guessed it, New Zealand for over 100 years, specifically to help move large herds of sheep or cattle over long distances. The agile New Zealand Huntaway became known for its ability to move across packed, penned herds by leaping from the back of one sheep to another. Its loud LOUD bark was also required, as if not busy barking to get cattle or sheep moving, the Huntaway would be sent after a sheep or lamb that had strayed out of sight, hold it down (I don’t know how) and BARK so the shepherd could locate the unruly pair.
Little thought was given to the New Zealand Huntaway for a few years, when – on the other side of divorce – my then ex-wife and I decided to get a dog to raise collaboratively, to keep the disparate family united in some way. Divorce-wise, it wasn’t so amicable initially, as these things usually aren’t, but soon settled down with the three growing boys being the priority.
Lime End Farm, Sussex
Of course we couldn’t agree on the type of dog. I’d always wanted a German Shepherd, madame a Border Collie and a Labrador was a popular choice with Stanley, Arthur and Sidney (the aforementioned three boys). I bet you can tell where this is going. Yes, I remembered the New Zealand Huntaway. In 2006, it was a lot harder to find a litter in the UK than it is now, but I did. Down on a farm in Sussex. Lulu’s mum and dad were also over from New Zealand with a shepherd, this one herding cattle at Lime End Dairy Farm.
Lime End is in Herstmonceux, East Sussex, which is as Olde English countryside as it sounds, with a castle and an annual Medieval festival to complete the picture.
As soon as we arrived in the classic farm yard, all the puppies bumbled out to say hello, emerging three at a time from under an old caravan where they’d been sheltering from the sun. Their dad, Lord Toro was tied to a nearby barn, doing some general barking ‘he’s frightened of the puppies’ the lady told us. The nine puppies all toppled about us for a few minutes, then all rushed off to find dinner. All except one.
Eight week old Lulu came back with me, Sidney and Helen, my new girlfriend at the time, who I’d charmingly had to borrow the £300 needed to secure Lulu from. It was a four or five hour round trip for the three of us, four including Lulu. A bonding opportunity all round.
I always remember that – to add to the idyllic Sussex farm scene, as if it wasn’t enough like a scene from a film Hugh Grant drives a Mini in – just as we were leaving, an old barn door got pushed open from the inside and a litter of Border Collie puppies and their mum and dad ran out, to say hello to the remaining Huntaways and good bye to us.
Best Laid Plans
The wisdom of bringing that hard-working herding dog into two separate St Albans houses didn’t cross my mind. It probably should have, especially as my ‘house’ was a rented Maisonette, no dogs aloud. The theory was Lulu would be at the children’s house in the week, mine along with the children at the weekends. It didn’t turn out like that.
After a few months both me and my ex-wife got short contracts that meant heading off to work in an office for the day. Far from ideal, but no money at that point meant no choice. At least it was only temporary. Lulu would have been about six months old by then and absolutely should not have been left alone FOR A SECOND.
The office was just 15 minutes away (PC World, Maylands, Hemel Hempstead). I did manage to pop back at lunchtime most days and a child would pop round a few hours later after school. New Zealand Huntaways are like any puppy only more so. They need a lot of exercise and mental stimulation, or else you will pay.
A novice dog guardian then, I learned everything the hard way. Before her first birthday, Lulu had removed the floor covering in the kitchen and the lounge. She’d moved a large old cathode ray TV across the room, knocked bookshelves over and generally done over £1,000 of damage. I know it was that much because I got a bill from the landlord. I paid.
What dogs do
I will cut to the end here. That was in the first year of Lulu’s life.
The contract I mentioned was my first proper BIG company for the digital stuff I was doing, without it I wouldn’t have been able to have the career I’ve had, which started late as I accidentally tried to be a musician for ten years. Not too successfully. That doesn’t matter though.
The 14 years has gone by and even Sidney, who was about five years old when he came with us to East Sussex to meet Lulu, has gone off to university, the older two long-since moved away, to Nottingham and London respectively, leaving me, Lulu and my Helen, that new girlfriend who’d come to Sussex with us on that early date, who moved in a year or so later and is still here.
What Lulu did was tie us all together. Yes, she was a nightmare initially. Yes, she would run away, out of sight chasing imaginary deer, for 30 or 40 minutes at a time. Yes, she’d bark at everything, constantly herding the children when they were small, stopping them from fighting among each other as they got bigger, becoming more and more generally in control and charming with each year. Almost without us noticing. All of a sudden, she was one of us. Not a pet, not a ‘furry friend’, not even a dog really.
She could sense when someone was ill or in distress and would attend accordingly. She loved small children and even when in a fierce mood, if a small child the same size as her approached, she would sit down and raise her head waiting for a pair of tiny arms to be thrown around her. It had all just got normal for us. Pretty much every time when we were out with her, she’d do something that would further add to our respect for her understanding of what’s going on. She WAS one of us.
Now it’s all gone
It’s only when Lulu was finally gone I noticed everything else that’s passed too. All that time, pretty much my entire career, moving from acrimoniously divorced to getting along just fine and concentrating on giving the three boys as good a start as we could manage. The three boys no longer the children they were when Lulu was working out her role in the family, now all long-since scarpered and working harder than I ever have.
My career is pretty much done too. I’m finding it harder to get new contracts or jobs in digital. ‘What are you doing working in digital? I thought that was a young man’s game’ one marketing director interviewing me for a dull digital role I didn’t want tactfully said, almost ten years ago too. I won’t say where, for reasons of professional discretion (David Lloyd Leisure, Hatfield, Monday 4th March 2013)
Lulu’s Legacy is Ten Year Tags
Phew, we’re getting up to date at last. Lulu lost dog name tags like it was something she was born to do. Sometimes in a few months, sometimes in a few days. We got through dozens. I’m a bit slow on the uptake, it took me a while to work out the dog name tags on the market just might not be up to the job.
It took about a year of fact-finding, market assessment and trying to work out how to make a better dog name tag before I was ready to start planning the equipment we needed. Having wasted months liaising with companies in China to get the tags made in volume, I gave up on that idea to both keep our carbon footprint down AND have more control over any supply chain and not have to worry about any one critical supplier.
With over 9 million dogs in the UK alone, there’s a good sized market. Research quickly revealed this ubiquitous, low price point product has largely been ignored, especially digitally. Consequently many competitors are getting away with minimal product quality and poor customer experience (I’ll come back to this). This surprised me, as not many products pretty much anyone can manufacture are actuallyrequired by law in the UK courtesy of a stupidly out of date Dog Tag Law.
I pretty much, at least subliminally, thank Lulu for every tag I press out and when it’s a busy day that started at 6 am and is only drawing to a close with a 6pm trip to the sorting office with a sack of 50 or more orders, I’m ever so grateful to Lulu, as without her showing us the flaws in all those substandard products over the years, patiently waiting until Raymond here got the hint, we probably wouldn’t be coping at all right now. Lulu is still looking after us.
Thank you, Ray.
This is such a delightful story. So much so that I am going to post another story for Saturday. Namely, a short article, broadly written by Ray, and featuring the Spitfire.
I was sorting through some papers over the weekend and I came across something that I wrote on the 14th September, 2007.
Let me explain.
2007 was a very important year for me. I had barely got over the fact that my ex-wife had walked out on me the previous December 20th but had been given the revelation that my fear of rejection had been brought into my conscious state after having been unconscious for 50 years. This was a fantastic outcome from just one visit to a local psychotherapist.
I had been out to California in the summer to see Dan. His sister, Suzanne, had called by and invited me to come to Mexico for Christmas. I was unaware that this trip to Mexico was to change my life for the better in every imaginable way!
Anyway, back to my writings.
I am your dog and have something I would love to whisper in your ear. I know that you humans lead very busy lives. Some have to work, some have children to raise, some have to do this alone. It always seems like you are running here and there, often too fast, never noticing the truly grand things in life.
Look down at me now. While you sit at your computer. See the way my dark, brown eyes look at yours.
You smile at me. I see love in your eyes. What do you see in mine? Do you see a spirit? A soul inside who loves you as no other could in the world? A spirit that would forgive all trespasses of prior wrong doing for just a single moment of moment of your time. That is al I ask. To slow down, if even for a few minutes, to be with me.
So many times you are saddened by others of my kind passing on.
Sometimes we die young and oh so quickly, so suddenly that it wrenches your heart out of your throat. Sometimes, we age slowly before your eyes that you may not even seem to know until the very end, when we look at you with grizzled muzzles and cataract-clouded eyes. Still the love is always there even we must take that last, long sleep dreaming of running free in a distant, open land.
I may not be here tomorrow. I may not be here next week. Someday you will shed the water from your eyes, that humans have when the grief fills their souls, and you will mourn the loss of just ‘one more day’ with me. Because I love you so, this future sorrow even now touches my spirit and grieves me. I read you in so many ways that you cannot even start to contemplate.
We have now together. So come and sit next to me here on the floor and look deep into my eyes. What do you see? Do you see how if you look deeply at me we can talk, you and I, heart to heart. Come not to me as my owner but as a fellow living soul. Stroke my fur and let us look deep into the other’s eyes and talk with our hearts.
I may tell you something about the fun of working the scents in the woods where you and I go. Or I may tell you something profound about myself or how we dogs see life in general. I know you decided to have me in your life because you wanted a soul to share things with. I know how much you have cared for me and always stood up for me even when others have been against me. That gift from you has been very precious to me. I know too that you have been through troubled times and I have been there to guard you, to protect you and to be there always for you. I am very different to you but here I am. I am your dog but just as alive as you.
I feel emotion. I feel physical senses. I can revel in the differences of our spirits and our souls. I do not think of you as a dog on two feet; I know what you are. You are human, in all your quirkiness, and I love you still.
So, come and sit with me. Enter my world and let time slow down if only for a few minutes. Look deep into my eyes and whisper in my ears. Speak with your heart and I will know your true self. We may not have tomorrow but we do have now.
The anniversary of Pharaoh’s death in 2017 in this Friday, June 19th. He is still missed badly.
A report from BBC Future suggests there is a hidden reason
With six dogs feeding them is quite an exercise. I don’t really take much notice of what Jeannie does although I do know that we feed them kibbles, canned food and Jean cooks up beef for the dogs as well.
Recently BBC Future had a report saying that there is a hidden reason that processed foods are addictive. I am going to share that article with you.
The hidden reason processed pet foods are so addictive
From potently smelly additives to offal concentrates, pet food companies turn to some surprising ingredients in the quest to make kibble delicious.
The cue might be a hand in a pocket, the opening of a cupboard door, or even a word said carelessly aloud – “dinner”. Before you know it, you’re tripping over a pet excitedly awaiting a portion of… dull-brown dried pellets. What’s in these mysterious morsels, that makes them as delectable as roasted chicken, wild salmon, or bundles of fresh herbs?
Take my flatmate, a small black rabbit. For a large part of every day, he can be found sitting attentively with his paws on his empty food bowl, awaiting his next portion of kibble – even though it looks like his droppings and smells equally unappetising. He used to have an automatic dispenser with a timer, but he learnt to throw it across the room to access its contents prematurely. No matter what delicacies I place before him – home-grown parsley, soft-cut hay, fresh carrot-tops, organic kale – he would always rather eat processed pet food.
It seems that this is not unusual. Anecdotes abound about pets whose thoughts are largely preoccupied with kibble, such as the cat that has a daily panic attack when it realises it has eaten all its pellets and the pragmatic German shepherd found carrying a bag of dog food around the streets of Houston after Hurricane Harvey.
As it happens, this addictive quality is carefully engineered. Big Pet Food is a multi-billion-dollar industry which invests heavily in research into “palatants” – ingredients that make our pets want to eat their products. And from potently smelly chemicalsusually found in rotting meat to an additive commonly added to potatoes to stop them discolouring, the quest to make the most scrumptious pet food has led to some surprising insights.
“Big [pet food] companies have huge departments that make palatants,” says Darren Logan, head of research at the Waltham Petcare Science Institute, part of the company Mars Petcare. “Just like we make them for humans, we make them for pets as well.”
The first pet food was invented in 1860 by James Spratt, an enterprising lightning-rod salesman from the US state of Ohio. Legend has it that he had travelled to England for his business, and was looking out over the docks of Liverpool one day when he noticed stray dogs knocking back leftover hardtack biscuits.
This was a revelation for two reasons.
Firstly, hardtack were famously unappealing – loathed by generations of the soldiers and sailors who ate them, these simple slabs of baked flour and water were tougher than wood and sometimes hard enough to break your teeth. Their nicknames included “sheet iron” and “worm castles“, the latter because of the high proportion that were infested with maggots and weevils. The oldest piece of surviving hardtack was baked just nine years before Spratt’s dock visit, and still looks suspiciously well-preserved 170 years later.
Secondly, until that moment it hadn’t occurred to anyone to check what their pets would like to eat – or that this could be monetised. For as long as we had kept domesticated animals, they had been fed more or less the same food as humans, or expected to fend for themselves.
One striking example is the husky. In their native territory of Arctic Greenland, Canada and Alaska, Inuit hunter-gatherers have traditionally fed these dogs on seal meat, which comprises the majority of their own diet. Sled-dogs are so well-adapted to this that when the British Antarctic Survey brought them to Antarctica as a form of transport in 1945, they found that they struggled to digest commercial dog food. In the end, they had to kill a number of local seals each year, just to feed the dogs, before they were largely replaced with skidoos in the 1960s and 70s.
Spratt’s innovation coincided with a cultural revolution in the way people saw their pets
Meanwhile in Victorian London, dogs that were lucky enough to be looked after were either given table scraps or gruel. Even specialist exotic animals were fed everyday human food – the 20,000 or more tortoises imported from Morocco each year were mostly expected to survive on ordinary garden vegetables or bread soaked in water. Cats were considered street animals and rarely fed.
But Spratt had hit upon something entirely new. Over the coming months he developed the “Meat Fibrine Dog Cake”, a biscuit-like concoction of beetroot, vegetables, grains and beef of dubious origins that claimed to meet all the nutritional needs of his customers’ hounds. (While its packaging implied that it was the finest prairie beef, what it was actually made from was a secret he took to his grave.)
Spratt’s innovation coincided with a cultural revolution in the way people saw their pets – dogs and cats went from being viewed as mere utility animals or borderline-vermin to beloved family members to be coddled. Consequently, the Meat Fibrine Dog Cake was marketed as a luxury food for aristocratic pets.
The adverts labelled them “Dog’s Delight” and included gushing testimonials from wealthy customers. Ironically, Spratt’s also promoted the fact that they were chosen to feed the sled dogs on Captain Scott’s 1901 trip to the Antarctic, though we now know they would much rather have eaten seal.
Eventually the company branched out into cat food – “Spratt’s puts pussy into fine form!”, they said – and the rest is history. However, the science of pet food palatants still had some way to go.
Today it’s possible to buy specialised kibble for almost any kind of pet, from frogs to sugar gliders (a small marsupial). Most follow roughly the same formula – they usually contain some kind of base carbohydrate, assorted proteins and fats, sugars, a source of fibre, antioxidants or other preservatives, emulsifiers (which keep the fat in the food and prevent it from separating), vitamins and minerals, and colouring agents
More sophisticated versions may also contain probiotics or digestibility enhancers – such as chicory, which is often added to dog food – as well as enzymes, anti-parasitic compounds and minerals to prevent the build-up of tartar on teeth.
Oddly, there is very little relationship between how healthy a pet food is and its inherent deliciousness
To turn these ingredients into a dry pet food, it’s formed into a paste and “extruded” via a process that involves heating it up and forcing it through a plate with holes in it, to form an aerated product that matches the shape of the holes. It’s the same process that’s used to make puffed snack foods, with flavourings added in the final step – in the case of pet food, they’re either sprayed on or added as a powder.
Oddly, there is very little relationship between how healthy a pet food is and its inherent deliciousness. That’s because in the US, the EU and many other parts of the world, in order to describe one as “complete” – containing everything the body needs to be healthy – it must meet certain nutritional standards. These set out acceptable ranges for most ingredients, so manufacturers can’t just load up on sugar and fat to make it compelling.
“From my standpoint as a nutritionist, all pet foods are the same,” says Marion Nestle, professor emerita of nutrition, food studies, and public health at New York University.
Instead, companies turn to chemistry.
Many animals rely heavily on smell to navigate the world around them, and this is often the main sense that’s targeted. While human noses contain around 50 million olfactory receptors, cats have 67 million, rabbits have 100 million and dogs have around 220 million. On the other hand, their sense of taste is generally less discriminating than ours – our relatively high density of taste receptors is thought to have evolved to help us cope with our diverse omnivorous diets.
The catch is that appealing to animals that find the smell of roadkill, sweaty socks, and vomit utterly enchanting – as carnivorous pets often do – while not making their human companions feel violently ill, is extremly tricky. “There is a slight paradox there, because the smells that cats particularly but also dogs seem to like are often the opposite of what humans like,” says Logan.
Nestle puts it more bluntly – “animals eat faeces”, she says. “They like strong animal odours and pet food manufacturers have a really difficult time, because they have to make it disgusting enough so that the animal will eat it, but not so disgusting that the owners won’t buy it.”
Pet food manufacturers have a really difficult time, because they have to make it disgusting enough so that the animal will eat it, but not so disgusting that the owners won’t buy it – Darren Logan
Examples include putrescine and cadaverine, colourless chemicals produced naturally by the breakdown of proteins. They’re largely responsible for the revolting smell of rotting flesh – and cats love them. While in human food, their levels are sometimes closely monitored as a way of ensuring the freshness and safety of meat, they’re often actively added to cat and dog food, either as offal extracts or lab-made additives.
In the case of naturally vegan animals, such as rabbits and guinea pigs, irresistible smells such as mint and oregano are sometimes added in the form of concentrates.
Other insights are arguably more surprising. A recent study identified nine volatile compounds in common pet food flavourings that are linked to how delicious they are to dogs, including heptanal, nonanal, and octanal, which all have strong, fruity odours.
However, taste is also important – and here the preferences of carnivorous pets are not so different from ours.
One of the most popular additives in human food is the enigmatic “hydrolysed protein”, which is formed by breaking down the long strands of proteins into their constituent amino acids, usually using enzymes or hydrochloric acid. It imparts a flavour similar to that achieved by meat or vegetable stock, and often comes with MSG, which is produced as a by-product of the same reaction and is responsible for the savoury taste of tomatoes, cheese and Iberico ham.
Though hydrolysed proteins are produced artificially, the process is similar to what happens when you cook food for a long period of time – it’s a kind of pre-digestion, and is thought to contribute to the enticing smell of many brands of kibble.
“The understanding of cat palatability is very similar to Japanese or Asian cuisine, where there’s a lot of focus on umami and another taste modality called kokumi,” says Logan.
Kokumi was discovered in Japan in 1989, and has been proposed as the sixth taste in humans, after sweetness, saltiness, bitterness, sourness and umami. It’s described as a kind of mouth-feel rather than a flavour per se – a texture that imparts richness and “thickness” to foods. Unlike the others, kokumi hasn’t yet been linked to a specific set of compounds, but foods that conjure this sensory experience include scallops, soy sauce, shrimp paste, yeast and beer.
While cats are particularly drawn to Japanese food, which is rich in meat and seafood, you’re unlikely to find them stealing ice-creams or doughnuts
But there are some flavours that you will never find in certain pet foods.
For example, most wild carnivorous animals lack the receptors for tasting sugar or carbohydrates. And unlike dogs, which have been living around humans and feasted off our scraps for up to 40,000 years, domestic cats have only been around for about 4,300. For the majority of that time, they were considered a kind of free pest-control that could fend for themselves.
So, while cats are particularly drawn to Japanese food, which is rich in meat and seafood, you’re unlikely to find them stealing ice-creams or doughnuts – unlike dogs, they simply haven’t been around humans for long enough to have evolved the ability to taste sugar.
On the other hand, because vegan animals eat exclusively vegetable matter, which is often rich in fibre and carbohydrates, they tend to prefer sweeter pet food.
Finally, no list of palatants would be complete without pyrophosphate, described in Popular Science as “cat crack”. This common additive performs a number of roles in human food, such as preventing potato products from going dark after they’re cooked – none of which involve improving its taste. Nevertheless, cats go nuts for it, possibly because it intensifies the flavour of amino acids.
Pet food companies are now so successful at making food delicious that they’re increasingly encountering a dilemma – it’s almost too good. “The danger for cats and dogs today is the same as for people, it’s overconsumption,” says Andrew Knight, a professor of animal welfare and ethics at the University of Winchester.
Pet obesity is a growing problem in the developed world, with one survey of veterinary professionals at a vet show in London suggesting that around 51% of dogs, 44% of cats and 29% of small mammals are now overweight or obese.
Pet foods made from more sustainable ingredients such as insects or soya are generally just as acceptable to carnivorous pets as the real deal
According to Logan, this is not down to the way pet food is formulated, but humans succumbing to their beloved pets’ pleading gazes. “The reason we make pet food palatable is that if they don’t eat all the food that we give them, it won’t meet the nutritional needs that they require,” he says. “The real problem is owners feeding them too much – pets can’t open the packets themselves.”
However, there is an upside. There are mounting concerns about the environmental impact of pet food, too – in 2009, two New Zealand scientists estimated the planetary cost of keeping a dog as roughly twice that of having a medium-sized SUV.
This is where palatants come in. Because most pet foods comprise a fairly tasteless base that is spruced up with delicious flavourings and smells, pet foods made from more sustainable ingredients such as insects or soya are generally just as acceptable to carnivorous pets as the real deal. (Though cats cannot be fed a diet that is meat free.)
“According to this really large-scale study that we’ve just finished, the animals on vegan pet foods seem to be just as happy as animals on meat ones,” says Knight, who is hopeful about their future potential.
“There is a broad recognition that the need to be more sustainable will have a big impact on the pet food business,” says Logan, who explains that the pet food company he works for has just released its own brand of insect-based pet food.
So, why do our pets find pet food so addictive? Well, because it’s been made that way. Just like us, our pets find it hard to say no to the food we have designed to be tasty.
* Zaria Gorvett is a senior journalist for BBC Future and tweets at @ZariaGorvett
That is a really useful article that goes a very long way to explaining how ‘big business’ interferes with the food that our pets eat.
And did you read right at the end of the article: “According to this really large-scale study that we’ve just finished, the animals on vegan pet foods seem to be just as happy as animals on meat ones,” says Knight.
Dan sent me a wonderful photo a couple of days ago!
His covering email also included:
Here was my favourite car of all time. A 1957 Ford hard-top convertible. 312 cu. in. V8 rebuilt with 3/4 race cam and Holly 950 com 4 barrel carb. Reverse traction masters and front lift. Borg-Warner T-10 4 speed with reverse lock out.
Dan went on to add: Tana our wonderful Silver Grey German Shepherd and yes, that’s little bro Chris Gomez at 12 or 13. I was 19 and in Pasadena City College just before going to Switzerland to study French (and ski!) and then into the Navy during the Vietnam War.