A post that involves dogs but not what I had in mind!
Last Saturday I published a post The burning of our forests! that included a photograph of the nearby Klondike fire.
Then last Sunday I was speaking to Maija, my daughter back in England, and she was asking how the fires were and I distinctly recall saying: “Sweetheart, I think we are over the worst!”
That same Sunday evening, around 9:45pm, in other words two evenings ago, one of our neighbours, Margo, who lives on 60 acres adjacent to the west of us, called with real alarm in her voice:
Paul, have you seen the fire that is burning just to the North-East of us?
I replied that I had not but immediately went to our deck that runs the whole Eastern length of our house. Mount Sexton is just a few miles to the North-East of us.
This is what I saw!
Apparently, a short while previously the wind had blown down a tree that had fallen across some high-voltage power lines causing sparking that had, in turn, ignited the extremely dry grassland.
The fire was between Oxyoke Road and Three Pines Road and roughly 2 miles from us line of sight.
That explained why some thirty minutes before, in the last of the light of the setting sun, there had been a number of helicopter flights come across us en route to dropping fire retardant close by. It hadn’t occurred to me that it was an incident so close to us.
Many of us living nearby then called each other to spread the word.
Jeannie and I, in turn, drew up an evacuation checklist and started getting things ready. More importantly, getting ourselves psychologically prepared to have to vacate the property at very short notice: Jeannie and me: six dogs; two horses; two parakeets; three cats; two chickens!
Thankfully an order to evacuate did not come during the night.
So yesterday morning I grabbed my bike and rode to Oxyoke Road. On the way I stopped to photograph the smoke in the air.
Once at Oxyoke Road I chatted to a search and rescue volunteer on duty controlling the traffic.
His report, as of 11:30 on September 3rd, was that the fire was just 15% contained, was “pretty active”, and that they were keeping an eye on the winds that were expected to be rather gusty later on that afternoon. I am writing this at 13:40 on the 3rd and the present winds are 6 mph, gusting 12 mph, from the North-West.
I rode back home to brief Jeannie and found her working her way through an idea for evacuating the dogs!
H’mmm! I am not sure Pedy is getting the message!
But a few words from Sweeny seemed to sort things out.
So there you are my good people, a post about dogs! Sort of!
Fingers crossed we will speak again tomorrow!
Assuming we don’t have a repeat of last night’s spectacular sights!!
In the days when I lived in South Devon in England and had cause to travel, as in drive, to London one of the route options was to take the M5 motorway (Freeway in American speak) up to Bristol and then follow the M4 motorway that ran from Bristol all the way into the outskirts of London.
One of the benefits of this was that half-way, give or take, was at the Swindon exit and a further ten-minute drive took one to the delightful car-park at the White Horse at Uffington. No, it wasn’t a pub despite numerous pubs in England being called The White Horse; it was something much more special.
Against All Odds, England’s Massive Chalk Horse Has Survived 3,000 Years
Cleaning up the Uffington Horse is the neigh-borly thing to do
Emily Cleaver smithsonian.com July 6, 2017
If you stand in the valley near the village of Uffington in Oxfordshire, England, and look up at the high curve of chalk grassland above you, one thing dominates the view. Across the flank of the hill runs an enormous white, abstract stick figure horse cut from the chalk itself. It has a thin, sweeping body, stubby legs, a curiously long tail and a round eye set in a square head.
This is the Uffington White Horse, the oldest of the English hill figures. It’s a 3,000-year-old pictogram the size of a football field and visible from 20 miles away. On this July morning black specks dot the lower slopes as small groups of people trudge slowly upwards. They’re coming to clean the horse.
It’s chalking day, a cleaning ritual that has happened here regularly for three millennia. Hammers, buckets of chalk and kneepads are handed out and everyone is allocated an area. The chalkers kneel and smash the chalk to a paste, whitening the stony pathways in the grass inch by inch. “It’s the world’s largest coloring between the lines,” says George Buce, one of the participants.
Chalking or “scouring” the horse was already an ancient custom when antiquarian Francis Wise wrote about it in 1736. “The ceremony of scouring the Horse, from time immemorial, has been solemnized by a numerous concourse of people from all the villages roundabout,” he wrote.
In the past, thousands of people would come for the scouring, holding a fair in the circle of a prehistoric fort nearby. These days it’s a quieter event. The only sounds are the wind, distant birdsong and the thumping of hammers on the chalk that can be felt through the feet.
Conservation organization the National Trust oversees the chalking, making sure the original shape of the horse is maintained. But the work is done by anyone who wants to come along. Lynda Miller is working on the eye, a circle the size of a car wheel. “The horse has always been part of our lives,” she says. “We’re really excited that we’re cleaning the eye today. When I was a little girl and I came here with my mother and father, the eye was a special spot. We used to make a wish on it.”
National Trust ranger Andy Foley hands out hammers. “It must have happened in this way since it was put on the hillside,” he says. “If people didn’t look after it the horse would be gone within 20 to 30 years; overgrown and eroded. We’re following in the footsteps of the ancients, doing exactly what they did 3,000 years ago.”
“There is something very special about this landscape that attracts people,” says archaeologist David Miles. In the 1990s, he led an excavation of the site that established the prehistoric date for the horse. Before the excavation, it was thought that the design was only scratched into the chalk surface, and therefore un-datable, but Miles’ team discovered the figure was actually cut into the hill up to a meter deep. That meant it was possible to use a technique called optical stimulated luminescence to date layers of quartz in the trench.
Up on the hill it’s not possible to view the whole horse at once; the curve of the slope gets in the way, the sheer scale of it confuses the eye. It is only from the valley below that the whole picture can be taken in. From this long distance, the horse is a tiny white figure prancing timelessly across the brow of the hill. But to the people who live near and tend the horse, it’s a monumental reminder of Britain’s ancient past.
“It was older than I’d been expecting,” Miles remembers. “We already knew it must be ancient, because it’s mentioned in the 12th-century manuscript The Wonders of Britain, so it was obviously old then. And the abstract shape of the horse is very similar to horses on ancient British coins just over 2,000 years old. But our dating showed it was even older than that. It came out as the beginning of the Iron Age, perhaps even the end of the Bronze Age, nearly 3,000 years ago.”
The trenches would have been dug out using antler picks and wooden spades: tough, labor-intensive work. How the builders planned and executed such a large figure when the full effect can only be taken in from several miles away is still a mystery.
Nobody knows for certain why the horse was made. “It’s a beautiful shape, very elegant,” says Miles. “It looks like it’s bounding across the hillside. If you look at it from below, the sun rises from behind it and crosses over it. In Celtic art, horses are often shown pulling the chariot of the sun, so that may be what they were thinking of here.”
From the start the horse would have required regular upkeep to stay visible. It might seem strange that the horse’s creators chose such an unstable form for their monument, but archaeologists believe this could have been intentional. A chalk hill figure requires a social group to maintain it, and it could be that today’s cleaning is an echo of an early ritual gathering that was part of the horse’s original function.
The Berkshire Downs where the horse lies are scattered with prehistoric remains. The Ridgeway, Britain’s oldest road, runs nearby. This is the heart of rural England and the horse is one of the country’s most recognizable landmarks, an identity badge stamped into the landscape. During World War II, it was covered over with turf and hedge trimmings so Luftwaffe bombers couldn’t use it for navigation. (Oxford is about a 30-minute drive and London about an hour-and-a-half.)
For locals, it’s part of the backdrop of daily life. Residents in the village reportedly arrange their rooms so that they sit facing the horse. Offerings, flowers, coins and candles are left on the site.
The people who come to the chalking have a variety of motivations. Martha Buckley is chalking the horse’s neck. ” I’m a neo-Pagan and I feel it connects me to the land. It’s of great spiritual significance,” she says. Lucy Bartholomew has brought her children. “It’s good to be able to explain to them why it’s here.” For Geoff Weaver, it’s the imperative to preserve history. “If we don’t do it, it would disappear, and the world would be a sorrier place,” he says.
Her instructor and caregiver, animal psychologist Francine “Penny” Patterson, reports that Koko is able to understand more than 1,000 signs of what Patterson calls “Gorilla Sign Language” (GSL). In contrast to other experiments attempting to teach sign language to non-human primates, Patterson simultaneously exposed Koko to spoken English from an early age. Reports state that Koko understands approximately 2,000 words of spoken English, in addition to the signs. Koko’s life and learning process has been described by Patterson and some of her collaborators in a number of books, peer reviewed articles, and on a website.
Koko got her birthday wish this July 4th — not only did one kitten come to visit, but a whole litter. Koko fell in love with one, and the other fell in love with her. Koko has adopted these two kittens into her family, and it has energized her world.
Not only have Koko’s maternal and play instincts kicked in, but she is signing more to her caregivers and generating new content everyday that can be used by The Gorilla Foundation to create empathy for great apes. This can have significant benefits to both endangered free-living great apes and those in captive environments, by encouraging the development of 2-way communication with their caregivers (which Koko has had since she was a baby).
The Gorilla Foundation is now working on a multimedia sequel to the classic book, “Koko’s Kitten,” which has already reached millions of children worldwide, and has the power to motivate millions more to learn how to make the world a better place for all of its conscious inhabitants.
You can support The Gorilla Foundation mission of Conservation through Communication by visiting http://www.koko.org
Will close with this photograph seen ‘on the web’.
Or, more specifically, do we believe we have free will?
One of the endless benefits of this wired-up, digital world is how easy it is to have one’s mind opened and stretched a little.
Take this, for instance, as an intriguing start to a new day.
Do we have free will?
This isn’t a question I can answer, but what I am interested in is “what happens if we do (or do not) believe in free will?” In other words, does believing in free will matter in your daily life?
Just let one’s mind float around that idea, not only as it applies to us humans but also to the animals that share our human intuition, such as dogs and horses.
So what’s got me bubbling along today? Nothing less than an article that appeared on The Conversation blog-site back last September.
I found it fascinating and hope you do as well. It is republished within the terms of The Conversation site.
Believing in free will makes you feel more like your true self
September 1, 2016
By Elizabeth Seto, Ph.D. Candidate in Social and Personality Psychology, Texas A&M University .
Do we have free will? This is a question that scholars have debated for centuries and will probably continue to debate for centuries to come.
This isn’t a question I can answer, but what I am interested in is “what happens if we do (or do not) believe in free will?” In other words, does believing in free will matter in your daily life?
My colleagues and I at the Existential Psychology Lab at Texas A&M University study the psychological outcomes of belief in free will. While contemplating my next research project, I realized at some point in our lives, we all want to understand who we are – it’s human nature. So, we decided to explore how believing in free will influences our sense of self and identity.
What is free will?
Free will is generally understood as the ability to freely choose our own actions and determine our own outcomes. For example, when you wake up in the morning, do you hit snooze? Do you put on your workout gear and go for a run? Do you grab a hot cup of coffee? While those are simple examples, if you believe in free will, you believe there are a limitless number of actions you can engage in when you wake up in the morning, and they are all within your control.
Believing in free will helps people exert control over their actions. This is particularly important in helping people make better decisions and behave more virtuously.
So, not only is there a value to believing in free will, but those beliefs have profound effects on our thoughts and behaviors. It stands to reason that believing in free will influences how we perceive ourselves.
You might be thinking, “Of course believing in free will influences how I feel about myself.” Even though this seems obvious, surprisingly little research has examined this question. So, I conducted two studies to suss out more about how believing in free will makes us feel.
What believing in free will makes us feel about ourselves
In the first study, I recruited 304 participants from Amazon Mechanical Turk and randomly assigned them to write about either personal experiences reflecting a high belief in free will, like changing career paths or resisting drugs or alcohol, or experiences reflecting a low belief in free will, such as growing up in poverty or working under an authoritative boss. Then, they were all asked to evaluate their sense of self.
Participants who wrote about experiences reflecting low belief in free will reported feeling less “in touch” with their true selves. In other words, they felt like they did not know themselves as well as the participants who wrote about experiences reflecting high belief in free will.
Then, I conducted a follow-up study testing one’s sense of authenticity, the feeling that one is behaving according to their own beliefs, desires and values.
I recruited another group of participants from Amazon Mechnical Turk, and like the first experiment, randomly assigned them to write about personal experiences demonstrating high belief in free will or low belief in free will. Then, they all completed a decision-making task where they had to make a series of choices about whether to donate money to charity or to keep the money for themselves.
Afterwards, participants were asked how authentic they felt while making their decisions. Participants in the low free will group reported feeling less authentic than participants in the high free will group.
So, what does this all mean?
Ultimately, when people feel they have little control over their actions and outcomes in life, they feel more distant from their true, authentic selves. They are less in touch with who they are and do not believe their actions reflect their core beliefs and values.
We believe this is because belief in free will is linked to feelings of agency, the sense that we are the authors of our actions and are actively engaged with the world. As you can imagine, this sense of agency is an important part of a person’s identity.
The importance of feeling like you are in charge of your life applies to significant actions like moving or getting a new job or pondering the big questions in life. But it also applies to the minor decisions we make throughout the day.
Here’s one simple, though relatable, decision I am faced with every morning. When I wake up in the morning and decide to put on my workout gear and go for a run instead of hitting snooze, I might feel like I am the primary decision-maker for this morning routine. Additionally, I am most likely acting on the part of me that values physical health.
But what if I wake up, and I feel like I can’t exercise because I have to go to work or some other external factor is making it difficult to go? I might feel as if someone or something else is controlling my behavior, and perhaps, less like my true self.
So, do you have free will? Do any of us? Remember, the question isn’t whether it exists or not, but whether you believe it does.
Now thinking of dogs having their own free will might seem a little bizarre, but I do not intend it to be seen as such. Many of you will have dogs (and horses) that have ‘minds of their own’.
For our family here at home, if there’s one of our dogs that exhibits free will it is our Brandy.
Without warning or any other indication, he will suddenly decide it is time to go ‘walk-about’. Mainly during the day but sometimes at night, whatever the weather, he will disappear. He will always return but can be wandering around our thirteen acres for up to an hour.
Of there being a day where no animal lives out of sight of love.
Of course, when I speak of animals I have in mind those animals that end up in rescue shelters of one form or another: cats; horses; dogs; ponies; birds; and other species.
But on the broader topic of offering love to animals I must share something with you before going on to the main subject of today’s post.
That is that for the last few years we have been feeding the wild deer.
Slowly a number of them have grown to trust Jean and me to the point where one particular young female became such a regular that we named her: Doris. It is Doris that is in the picture above eating the cob that we put out twice a day.
Doris doesn’t warm to strangers plus she doesn’t come every day. When she does it is clear that she is familiar with us and perceives no threat from this ‘neck of the woods’, as the next photograph supports:
In fact, I can now gently stroke her neck when she is feeding and will share those pictures with you all in a future Picture Parade post.
I call the closeness of me and Doris love. I love how this animal trusts me and, in turn, the care and responsibility that is called for from me.
My dream is that the love, care and responsibility offered by people will one day be so widespread and extensive that there comes no call for animal rescue shelters.
A couple of days ago Cori Meloney signed up to follow Learning from Dogs. Cori is the author of the blog Three Irish Cats. As is my usual way I went across to her blog to leave a ‘thank you’ note for her decision to follow my scriblings. I immediately saw her latest post and knew without doubt that it should be republished here. Cori very promptly gave me permission to so do.
Every Day Should Be Clear the Shelters Day
July 25, 2016
I volunteer with a small (but mighty!) rescue group here in Southern Maryland called Rescue Angels of Southern Maryland. We mostly deal with cats, though we’ve recently begun to rescue dogs as well.
Most of the cats we find homes for come from owner surrenders, friendly cats and kittens from our feral colonies, and at-risk animals from our local municipal shelter, Tri-County Animal Shelter.
Saturday, Rescue Angels was one of the groups that participated in Tri-County’s annual Clear the Shelters Day celebration. Seventy-seven animals found forever homes that day. Watching the parade of happy animals and their new owners as they left the building was totally worth sweltering in the 95-degree heat.
As the only public animal shelter to serve the three Southern Maryland counties, Tri-County is a busy place. It frequently gets full, and organizations like Rescue Angels and others in the area step in when we can to remove animals from the shelter. This is not a no-kill shelter, so a full shelter means animals will die. New animals come in every day.
Three things struck me when I was at Tri-County last weekend.
The first is that I wish Tri-County could be this busy every Saturday. Granted, adoption fees on Clear the Shelters Day were eliminated or reduced and there was a lot of publicity for this event, but there are always wonderful animals at the shelter that want to go home with a family. Many animals end up there because the owner surrendered them; the reason often given is “did not want.”
The second is that I am increasingly amazed by the dedication of the shelter staff. They have a difficult job, and it often goes without thanks. It’s not easy to be civil to an owner who is dropping off their pet because they don’t want it anymore. It’s not easy to put down perfectly healthy animals because humans have acted irresponsibly. I can only imagine that the staff constantly feels like it is in crisis mode; they may have nearly cleared the shelter on Saturday, but come midweek, those cages and pens will be filled again with animals in need.
The third thought is that we, the community, created this shelter, and we need to fix it. Tri-County has a terrible reputation here in Southern Maryland. The kill rate for cats is more than 50 percent. The facility is small and needs renovation and expansion. It is nearly always full to overflowing. Members of the community sometimes say terrible things about the staff.
But Tri-County is constantly full because the Southern Maryland has let its companion animals down. Cats are not spayed or neutered, and they’re treated as disposable. Need to move? Drop your cat at the shelter, or worse, just leave it behind. Dog getting too big? Don’t feel like dealing with behavior or health issues? Drop the animal at the shelter.
I’ll be honest: My opinion of Tri-County and its staff has not always been positive. What makes it worse is that I had those opinions without actually visiting the shelter. I am ashamed of that fact. Since I started volunteering with Rescue Angels, I have visited the shelter many times to take cats that our rescue was putting into foster care. I have met some of the staff members, and they are always happy to talk with me about their animals. They’re ecstatic when an animal leaves the building. The shelter has a rescue coordinator whose job is to work with local rescue groups to remove animals from the shelter when they are at risk of being killed or when shelter life is impacting their well-being. These folks are animal lovers forced into a terrible situation by a community that treats its animals as disposable and Tri-County as its dumping ground.
All three Southern Maryland counties are working on plans to build their own shelter facilities. In the meantime, Tri-County Animal Shelter is our public shelter. It’s our job as the community to support the staff, help care for the animals, and reduce the number of animals killed there.
I hope to see you there, leash in hand.
By: Cori S. Meloney
So if any reader is within reach of Southern Maryland and wants to offer an animal love, care and responsibility then please make your way across to Rescue Angels of Southern Maryland.
How to draw today’s post to a close?
In searching for inspiration about all animals living in the sight of love I realised that what I was dreaming of was more about compassion than love; albeit the two states of mind being very close to one another.
Compassion and the world
In conclusion, I would like briefly to expand my thoughts beyond the topic of this short piece and make a wider point: individual happiness can contribute in a profound and effective way to the overall improvement of our entire human community.
Because we all share an identical need for love, it is possible to feel that anybody we meet, in whatever circumstances, is a brother or sister. No matter how new the face or how different the dress and behavior, there is no significant division between us and other people. It is foolish to dwell on external differences, because our basic natures are the same.
Ultimately, humanity is one and this small planet is our only home. If we are to protect this home of ours, each of us needs to experience a vivid sense of universal altruism. It is only this feeling that can remove the self-centered motives that cause people to deceive and misuse one another.
If you have a sincere and open heart, you naturally feel self- worth and confidence, and there is no need to be fearful of others.
I believe that at every level of society – familial, tribal, national and international – the key to a happier and more successful world is the growth of compassion. We do not need to become religious, nor do we need to believe in an ideology. All that is necessary is for each of us to develop our good human qualities.
I try to treat whoever I meet as an old friend. This gives me a genuine feeling of happiness. It is the practice of compassion.
Loving animals is very much part of protecting this home of ours.