Category: Innovation

Starting your own pet business.

Another guest post from Penny Martin.

Well I am preparing this post on Saturday, the 14th. The operation for the hernia on the 10th went smoothly enough but I did not reckon on the discomfort that would follow. Indeed, I was talking to a good friend on Thursday and he said that the pain would more or less last for two weeks. My son gave me the good advice to take regular doses of an over-the-shelf painkiller rather than the stronger tablets the hospital gave me because those prohibited driving! I returned to a small amount of driving last Friday.

Now on with the show!

Penny Martin first wrote a guest post for me in February, Fostering or adopting a dog, and I am delighted to present her second post. Over to her!

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Why Now Is a Great Time for a Pet Business and How to Start Your Own

By Penny Martin.

If you are an animal lover who wants to spend your days scrolling through cute dog pictures and surrounded by furry clients, now is a great time to consider starting your own pet business. Here, you can learn more about which relevant business areas experiencing growth and tips to get started on the right foot. 

Reasons Why It’s a Great Time for Pet Businesses

A growing number of families include animals. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association data, more than half of American households have a pet. That number appears to be growing, too, representing an increased need for care services. 

Pets are not just more abundant; they are also becoming full-fledged family members. As a result, spending on them is also increasing. Despite rapid growth in many care service areas, there are not enough providers to meet this increased demand. 

Animal-Related Businesses That Are Thriving

If you are curious about what type of business to start, look no further than pet care providers. There are several types of jobs you can get involved in:

  • Training and behavioral services: Training isn’t just for puppies. Dogs of all ages can benefit from learning household rules and appropriate behaviors when they are out and about. 
  • Dog walking and pet sitting: This is usually based out of the client’s home, where you pick them up for a walk or provide companionship for short periods.
  • Boarding: This is an excellent option for individuals who would rather welcome dogs and cats to their own home or care facility. Many boarding companies also provide daycare services. 
  • Grooming: You will need to learn how to groom different types of pets to master the skills for a successful grooming career. However, if you enjoy helping dogs look their best, this is an excellent high-demand field. 

Business Strategies to Help You Succeed

Economic conditions are excellent for small pet-focused companies to thrive. However, as an entrepreneur, you need to follow some basic business principles to succeed.

Start by choosing an appropriate legal structure. Research the most popular setup for businesses like yours to find one that fits your needs. Then, file with the appropriate offices to make it official. Next, take time to develop a comprehensive business plan. This document will do more than get you up and running; it will also serve as a reference as you continue to grow. Be sure to conduct market research to identify your target customers.  

Implement a structured invoicing process to set clear payment terms for clients and ensure you get paid on time, especially if you send invoices immediately after performing a service. Accepting several forms of payment is also helpful for clients. Use an invoice maker, free online usually, to streamline the process. Simply add your logo and business information, and you are ready to go. 

Use bookkeeping software to track your income and expenses and gain insight into your cash flow. This is a great way to organize and store receipts, ensuring compliance with regulatory agencies. It also makes tax filing easier at the end of the year and helps you find the most deductions.

A growing number of households with pets and increased spending make now a great time to start an animal-related business. Care and service providers are excellent fields to consider, with high demand for groomers, trainers, and dog walkers. However, no matter what type of company you start, sound business strategies can keep it running smoothly.

Image via Pixels

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Excellent!

As an ex-entrepreneur, who fundamentally was a salesman, I can also add the following to that post.

It starts and ends with the customer. A business plan is vital and so too is market research. But unless you have a clear vision of how you are to sell your services and what’s the difference that makes the difference you must not proceed. Selling is all about: Need; Feature; Benefit.

  • Open-ended questions to establish the need. (Those are questions that cannot be answered with a yes or a no.)
  • Keep on asking, and establishing a relationship, until you and the potential customer are clear that there is a need.
  • Then speak about the features of what you are selling that matches the need/s. Do not progress until the prospective customer understands and agrees.
  • For every agreed feature be clear what the benefit is for the customer; of that particular feature.
  • Try closing the deal. If there is hesitation then understand why. Resolve it. Try closing the deal again.

The very best of luck to those that want to run with this.

Dogs’ Brains

Many surprises and, probably, more to come!

Among the many dog-related blogs that I read is Treehugger. It covers a wide range of sustainable actions and habits and not infrequently writes about dogs. That is the main reason I follow the blog.

On January 12th, 2022 the blog site carried an article about the ways that dogs hear speech. It was called Dogs Brains Can Distinguish Between Different Human Languages.

I republish it below:

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Dog Brains Can Distinguish Between Different Human Languages

They also can tell the difference between real speech and scrambled speech.

By Mary Jo DiLonardo

Kun-kun the border collie listens to language in an MRI machine. Enikő Kubinyi

You talk to your dog, and of course, you’re convinced your pup understands you. But what if a dog is plopped down in a place where suddenly everyone is speaking a different language?

In a new study, researchers have used brain imaging techniques to find that dogs can differentiate between familiar and unfamiliar languages. Researchers say the findings, from the Department of Ethology at Eötvös Loránd University in Hungary, are the first evidence that shows a non-human brain can distinguish between languages.1

A few years ago, first author Laura V. Cuaya moved from Mexico to Hungary for her postdoctoral research. Before the move, Cuaya’s border collie Kun-kun had only heard Spanish. She was curious whether he would notice that people in Budapest spoke a different language, Hungarian.2

“Like many dogs, Kun-kun tends to pay attention to humans, trying to predict their social environment,” Cuaya tells Treehugger.

“When we moved to Hungary, it was a whole new world for everyone. In Budapest, people are very friendly with dogs. When people talked to Kun-kun, I wondered if he picked up the language difference. And happily, this question fitted with the goals of the Neuroethology of Communication Lab.”

For their study, researchers recruited Kun-kun and 17 other dogs, who had been previously trained to lie still in a brain scanner for functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).1

The dogs were played speech excerpts from “The Little Prince” in Spanish and Hungarian. Each of the dogs had heard only one of the two languages: Hungarian was the familiar language of 16 dogs, Spanish of the other two dogs. That allowed them to compare a very familiar language with a completely unfamiliar one.1

Researchers also played scrambled versions of the excerpts to the dogs. These were nonsensical and completely unnatural. This was to test whether they could tell the difference between speech and nonspeech.1

They compared the brain responses to the two different languages and to speech and nonspeech.

“We found distinct cerebral regions for both processes: for speech detection (speech vs. non-speech), the primary auditory cortex, and for language recognition (familiar language vs. unfamiliar language), the secondary auditory cortex,” Cuaya says.

“Our results may suggest a hierarchy processing in the dog’s brain to process speech. In the first stage, their brain would detect whether a sound is speech or not. Then, in the second stage, their brain would identify whether the speech is a familiar language or not.”

The results were published in the journal NeuroImage.

Exposure and Age 

Researchers found that no matter which language the dogs were listening to, the primary auditory cortex of the dogs’ brains could distinguish between speech and scrambled, nonspeech.1

“Dog brains, like human brains, can distinguish between speech and nonspeech. But the mechanism underlying this speech detection ability may be different from speech sensitivity in humans: whereas human brains are specially tuned to speech, dog brains may simply detect the naturalness of the sound,” says Raúl Hernández-Pérez, coauthor of the study.

They also determined that dog brains could differentiate between Spanish and Hungarian. Those patterns were found in a different region of the brain called the secondary auditory cortex.1

Researchers found that the older the dog was, the better their brain was able to tell the difference between a familiar and unfamiliar language. That suggests that the longer dogs live with their people and are exposed to a language, the more they understand how their language sounds.1

“As we could not control the amount of exposure to language in our study, we used the dog age as an indirect measure of the time dogs have been exposed to a given language,” Cuaya says. “I hypothesize that dogs with a closer relationship with humans will better distinguish languages. It could be great if future studies test puppies to control the exposure to a language better.”

Dogs as Models 

Researchers are curious whether this language differentiation is unique to dogs or whether other non-human animals may also be able to distinguish between languages.2

“A variety of auditory regularities characterizes each language. For example, sometimes, we cannot identify what language we are listening to. However, we can likely recognize its general origin (e.g., an Asian or Romance language) because of its auditory regularities,” Cuaya explains.

“Detecting regularities is something that brains do very well, not only humans or dogs’ brains. It is highly likely that other species can be trained to differentiate between languages successfully.”

But Cuaya points out that in their study, dogs weren’t “trained.”

“Their brains detected the difference spontaneously, perhaps due to the domestication process,” she says. “While it is likely that other species can differentiate between complex sounds, it is possible that just a few species are interested in the human language.”

Researchers believe the findings are important because by studying dogs, they can have a broader picture of the evolution of speech perception.2

“Dogs are an excellent model because they have been living—and cooperating—with humans for thousands of years. When we wonder if another species cares about what humans do, it is inevitable to think of dogs. In the case of language perception, we can learn, for example, that different brains—with different evolutive paths—can carry out a similar process,” Cuaya says.

“Also, as someone with dogs in my family, it is lovely to know that dogs are picking up subtle cues of their social environment all the time.”

Article Sources

  1. Cuaya, Laura V., et al. “Speech Naturalness Detection and Language Representation in the Dog Brain.” Neuroimage, 2021, p. 118811., doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2021.118811

2. first author Laura V. Cuaya from the Department of Ethology at Eötvös Loránd University in Hungary

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Time after time I learn new things about dogs. This is another example of the mystery of a dog’s brain. Thank goodness there is scientific study into our lovely animals.

The world of fungi.

A stark contrast to where I was a week ago.

A good friend of mine, Peter McCarthy, back in the UK, said that he had recently gone on to a supplement called Lion’s Mane. It is a supplement for keeping the cognition working and maintaining good brain function. Peter also mentioned a film called Fantastic Fungi that was available on Netflix.

At home we have Netflix and we watched the film. It was incredible, almost beyond words.

If you want to watch the official trailer then here it is:

The film is about the power of Mycelium. Here is an extract from Fungi Perfecti:

The activities of mycelium help heal and steer ecosystems on their evolutionary path, acting as a recycling mechanism to nourish other members of the ecological communities. By cycling nutrients through the food chain, mycelial networks benefit the soil and allow surrounding networks of plants and animals to survive and thrive. 

Increasingly known as the “wood wide web”, mycelium can be found underfoot with nearly every footstep on a lawn, field, or forest floor. It has been concluded that as much as 90% of land plants are in a mutually beneficial relationship with mycelial networks. Without fungi – without mycelium – all ecosystems would fail.

Mycelium and mycological applications have enormous potential to benefit the health of both people and planet. We are committed to continuing our research efforts to find new and innovative ways to build bridges between mycological applications to both human and planetary health.

We can think of it in a way of finding the mother tree.

The film speaks of protecting the old-growth forest trees. So if you have old-growth trees nearby, do everything in your power to protect them.

Here is a report including a video on Suzanne Simard’s New Book.

Forest researcher and university professor Dr. Suzanne Simard has spent years studying trees. Her research led to the discovery that the forest’s plants and trees have an underground communication system, with trees and fungi cooperating. Her Ted talk brought her work to a larger audience, while her 200 articles in peer-reviewed journals shared her research findings with the larger science community. Now, she is releasing her first book Finding the Mother Tree, published by Penguin Random House.

This is not a book about how we can save the trees. This is a book about how the trees might save us’.

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST)

A beautiful example of humans in the supreme invention and deployment of JWST.

(A reminder that Tuesday is a ‘non-doggie’ day.)

JWST is astounding. It will look back to the beginnings of the universe, just 200 million light-years after the Big Bang, or possibly further back in time. Because of the way that the universe stretches out and causes light to go red, as it were, JWST will be searching for images from the cosmos in the infrared.

I recently listened to a 30-minute programme on BBC Sounds. It was a BBC Discovery episode about the JWST. Recorded before the launch it was, nonetheless, a deeply fascinating programme about what JWST will be looking for.

Now the link is here:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/w3ct1m8t

Please listen to it!

Then there is the NASA website that has many videos about the progress of JWST. I selected this one.

Finally, YouTube also have many videos and I selected this one to share with you.

I feel very grateful to be alive when this is happening.

How do you celebrate your dog’s birthday?

Some advice from The Dodo.

There are many things we just take for granted including, if I may say, celebrating a birthday for our dog. Now I’ve no way to check with readers if what I just said is correct; it is an assumption.

Earlier in the year, July to be exact, The Dodo published ideas that might be useful for you. Here they are:

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7 Ways To Celebrate Your Dog’s Birthday

For the absolute best birthday (or adoption day) ever 🥳

By Lauren Taylor

Published on the 28th July, 2021

Target

There are lots of ways to celebrate your dog’s birthday. But different dogs might like to celebrate in different ways depending on their personality — some dogs are more social, and others might just want to spend the day lounging around.

With all the different ways to celebrate and all the different dogs out there, it might be hard for you to decide what to do to give your dog the best birthday.

To help you decide, The Dodo made a list of seven fun ideas for ways to celebrate your dog’s birthday.

Dog birthday party ideas

Throw a dog party

Invite all your dog’s friends to his birthday party! To make sure everyone’s included, send out invites like this one. You can personalize the template and add whatever you want to say to the front!

You’ll need some decorations for the party, too, so get this banner of your dog’s face! Just send in a pic of your dog, and you’ll get this banner to hang your pup’s face all over your house.

Give your dog’s guests some party favors before they go. Fill up these paw print party bags with little treats or toys to say thanks for coming. They come in a set of 20, so you’ll have plenty to go around.

Have a pool party

If your dog’s birthday is in the summer, let him cool off by taking a dip in the pool! This doggie poolcomes in multiple sizes and doesn’t need to be inflated, so it’s super easy to set up. 

Make sure you get a life jacket and doggy sunscreen to keep your pup safe in the water while having fun!

Dress up your dog

Obviously your dog will need a cool outfit for his party. Get him this Birthday Boy (or Birthday Girl) shirt that comes in multiple sizes and keeps your dog warm enough to wear on outdoor walks.

Get this birthday crown to complete the look. It’s sparkly gold with pom poms on top and has a chin strap, so it will stay put all day long (or as long as your dog will keep it on). 

Have a photo booth

Set up a photo booth with props! These birthday-themed props will let you take lots of Instagram-worthy pictures with your dog. There are glasses, balloons, cake and hats, so you’ll have a lot of options. 

Make pupcakes

Make homemade pupcakes for your pup with this dog cake mix. The recipe is all-natural and peanut butter flavored, comes with an icing mix and can be made in either the oven or microwave for easy baking. 

Spend time with your dog

Spend quality time with your dog and give him some exercise by taking him on a long walk. You can still dress your pup up for his birthday walk with a fun harness and leash combo like this mix-and-match one that earned The Dodo’s Paw of Approval. The harness is adjustable, and there are tons of different colors. It also comes with a cute poop bag carrier to make cleaning up after your pup a little more fun.

Take time out of your day just to play with your dog. Whether it’s throwing a ball or playing with a squeaky toy or tug-of-war, your dog will love it. Get him some new toys that he can play with on his birthday too.

Let your dog pick out a gift

Take your pup to a pet store and let him pick out his own gift! You’ll probably be getting him tons of presents, but it’ll be fun for him to pick one out for himself too. Plus, dogs go crazy for all the sights, smells and sounds in pet stores, so it’ll be an adventure.

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You should be aware that if you choose to purchase an item from The Dodo website then their statement is applicable:

We independently pick all the products we recommend because we love them and think you will too. If you buy a product from a link on our site, we may earn a commission.

I think there are some brilliant ideas and, upon reading this article, maybe many fewer people will take it for granted when their dogs have a birthday!

A Tilt of the Head

Head-tilting in dogs.

There have been two recent articles on head-tilting in dogs. One was published by Springer Link and was a scientific report; the Abstract as follows:

Little is known about head-tilts in dogs. Based on previous investigations on the head turning and the lateralised brain pattern of human speech processing in dogs, we hypothesised that head-tilts may be related to increased attention and could be explained by lateralised mental functions. We observed 40 dogs during object-label knowledge tests and analysed head-tilts occurring while listening to humans requesting verbally to fetch a familiar toy. Our results indicate that only dogs that had learned the name of the objects tilted their heads frequently. Besides, the side of the tilt was stable across several months and tests. Thus, we suggest a relationship between head-tilting and processing relevant, meaningful stimuli.

The other report was a more easy read, so to speak, and is from Treehugger and that is the one that I shall share with you.

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Why Brilliant Dogs Tilt Their Heads.

They’re processing relevant information.

By Mary Jo DiLonardo

Mary Jo DiLonardo

Published November 12, 2021

Tetra Images – Jessica Peterson / Getty Images

Ask your dog a question, and there’s a good chance he’ll tilt his head as he ponders his response.

The head tilt is a cute canine maneuver that gives the impression your pup is paying attention to you. But there’s been little scientific research analyzing the behavior.

In a new study of “gifted” dogs, researchers found that dogs that can easily learn the names of their toys tilt their heads when their owners ask them to fetch a specific toy. And they typically tilt their heads consistently to the same side.1

Data was collected during the Genius Dog Challenge, a series of experiments that were broadcast on social media, showing dogs retrieving their toys by name. The information was also collected during an earlier study that researched how some dogs are able to learn the names of many of their toys.2

These dogs were dubbed “gifted word learners” by researchers.

“We started studying this phenomenon after we realised that all of us observed this behaviour very often when we were testing the gifted word learner (GWL) dogs,” lead researcher Andrea Sommese, from the Family Dog Project at the Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, tells Treehugger. 

“It’s such a cute, common behaviour but we didn’t know why our dogs were doing it and most of all, why so often!”

Gifted Learners 

For their work, researchers searched globally for two years, looking for dogs that had the ability to quickly memorize the names of their toys. They also created the Genius Dog Challenge, a research project and social media campaign, to find even more brilliant pups.3

They found six border collies that live in different countries, who all learned toy names just while playing with their owners. For the challenge, these gifted word learners had a week to learn the names of six toys. During the second stage, they had a week to try to learn the names of a dozen toys.4

“In all our experiments we found that the GWL dogs were tilting the head very often. It wasn’t just during the challenge but also when we were testing them every month,” Sommese says.

“We believe that there is a relationship between head tilting and processing relevant, and meaningful stimuli as our GWL dogs only showed this behaviour during the test when their owners were saying the name of a toy.”

In one experiment, researchers observed 40 dogs for three months as they attempted to learn the names of two new toys. The dogs sat or stood in front of their owners when they were asked to fetch one of the toys by pronouncing its name. (For example, “bring rope!”) The dogs would then go to another room and attempt to retrieve the correct toy.1

The researchers found that the gifted word learner dogs tilted their heads 43% of the time versus the typical dogs that only tilted in 2% of trials.1

The results were published in the journal Animal Cognition.

Choosing Sides

Dogs, horses, and other animals—including humans—show asymmetry in the way they perceive the world around them. They prefer one ear, eye, hand (or paw) over the other when interacting with the environment.5

“A typical way to show asymmetry, especially in humans, is handedness. Most of us are right-handed but there are still left-handed people around. The same can happen to animals,” Sommese says.

“Of course, it doesn’t always have to be a ‘hand’ or a paw in their case, it can be an eye or an ear. For instance, in dogs, even the inclination their tails have when they’re wagging is a sign of asymmetrical behaviour.”

In the study, researchers found that the dogs also showed asymmetry, nearly always tilting their heads to the same side.1

What About Typical Dogs?

Researchers say the findings suggest there’s a connection between head tilting and processing relevant and meaningful stimuli.5

But their results are limited because they only studied these brilliant pups who have learned toy names.

“Even if typical dogs are not able to learn the names of many toys as we showed with our previous study, typical dogs still tilt their head,” Sommese says. “It seems that even in them this might be in response to meaningful stimuli—but we don’t know what meaningful means for a typical dog just yet.”

Article Sources

  1. Sommese, Andrea, et al. “An Exploratory Analysis of Head-Tilting in Dogs.” Animal Cognition, 2021, doi:10.1007/s10071-021-01571-8
  2. Talk-To-Tilt: Head Tilting In Dogs.” ELTE Institute of Biology, 2021.
  3. Shany Dror, from the Family Dog Project, Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest
  4. The Challenge.” Genius Dog Challenge.
  5. lead researcher Andrea Sommese, from the Family Dog Project at the Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest

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Now I see The Smithsonian magazine has jumped on the bandwagon. Here is a small piece from their article:

“The next step is asking more questions to get at what the head tilt really means,” says Monique Udell, a human-animal interaction researcher at Oregon State University who wasn’t involved in the work, to Rachel Fritts of Science. “Can we use head tilting to predict word-learning aptitude, or attention, or memory?”

But The Smithsonian has to be thanked for mentioning Monique Udell because one can quickly find her details:

Monique Udell

Dr. Udell is the Director of the Human-Animal Interaction Laboratory and teaches courses on Animal Behavior & Cognition, Applied Animal Behavior, Animal Learning, Behavior Modification and Enrichment within the Department of Animal & Rangeland Sciences at OSU.

Her research interests include:

  • Human-animal interactions & bonding, including animal training and animal assisted intervention programs aimed at improving the lives of humans and animals through mutually beneficial interactions.
  • Lifetime and evolutionary factors influencing the social development and wellbeing of canines (dogs and wolves), domestic cats, and other captive and domesticated species.
  • Evaluating and improving the welfare of animals living as companion, working, or production animals.

More details can be found at the Human-Animal Interaction lab website: TheHumanAnimalBond.com

If anyone wants to contact her then her email address is: monique.udell@oregonstate.edu

I think I will simply because I would like to know more about her work!

Yet another story about a dog!

Keep them coming I say.

We had a break from the rain yesterday and I went for a bike ride in the morning and then in the afternoon it was a case of going to the recycling depot. All pretty humdrum stuff but nevertheless what our life, in the main, is made up of plus the many other things that we have to do, indeed enjoy doing, with our six dogs, two horses and thirteen acres in rural Southern Oregon.

So I got to my iMac pretty late on in the day and found a delightful article about a dog who has a fascination with a commercial laundromat.

Read it for yourself.

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Dog Who Works At Laundromat Can’t Stop Taking Naps On All The Machines

“He figured out a way to climb from the chair to the smaller washers and then to the bigger ones.”

By Lily Feinn, Published on the 11th October, 2021

If you walk into Larkin Street Laundry around closing time, you might get an extra-special greeting.

Every night, an 8-year-old golden retriever named Cody helps his dad close up the laundromat. Cody takes his job very seriously: While his dad cleans and puts everything away, Cody takes a nap on top of the washing machines.

INSTAGRAM/CODYTHERETRIEVER

Luckily, his dad doesn’t mind that Cody isn’t the best worker.

“My dad owns the laundromat and has always taken our dogs there with him when he closes up at the end of the day,” Stephanie, Cody’s sister who asked that her last name not be used, told The Dodo. “Our old dog loved to sit in the chairs to watch customers and people pass by, but Cody is more nimble than him.”

“After we tried to get him to just sit on the chairs, he figured out a way to climb from the chair to the smaller washers and then to the bigger ones,” she added. “He’s a little lazier than our old dog, so he’d rather lay down and wait for pets and treats.”

Instagram/Reichenyoo

Cody has become the main attraction at the laundromat, providing the perfect distraction for customers waiting for their clothes to finish drying.

This arrangement works out for the independent Cody, who loves attention but prefers people come to him. “His motto has always been: ‘I do what I want,’” Stephanie said.

INSTAGRAM/CODYTHERETRIEVER

And from his high-up vantage point, Cody can keep watch on everything going on at the laundromat.

“I think he likes how he can see everyone at eye level when he’s on top of the washers,” Stephanie said. “He’s also kinda snobby for a dog, so I have a theory he likes to feel like a king up there.”

INSTAGRAM/CODYTHERETRIEVER

After years of laundromat service, Cody has become a local celebrity — and even the subject of a few memes. But the good boy doesn’t let fame distract him. After all, he has a job to do, and those washers aren’t going to sit on themselves.

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That Larkin Street Laundromat is at Nob Hill in San Francisco. I looked it up by clicking on the link in the text.

It is just fascinating what dogs will do. They have a will of their own and yet they seem to be happiest when in the company of people.

Wonderful creatures!

Let the train take the strain!

A Turkish dog travels frequently by train!

Time and time again dogs do things which cause me to wonder about the way that dogs think and behave. One would think that with so many dogs here at home my days of wondering would be over but the truth is that the more I stay engaged with dog blogs, such as The Dodo, the more I realise that I am only skimming the surface of dogs.

That is my introduction to this post about a Turkish dog.

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Stray Dog Takes The Train All By Himself Every Day

He knows where to go and has a purpose.

By Lily Feinn, Published on the 8th October, 2021.

Meet Boji — a stray dog who’s bringing joy to commuters every day.

A few months ago, Istanbul’s public transportation department noticed a large, brown dog riding the buses, trams, subways and ferries. The dog, whom they dubbed Boji, seems to know exactly where he’s going any time he steps on or off the train.

INSTAGRAM/BOJI_IST

“Two months ago, we noticed a dog trying to use our trams, metros and our trains and he knows where to go and he knows where to get out,” Aylin Erol, head of customer relations at Metro Istanbul, told CNN. “It was quite interesting and we have started to follow him. And it was really an interesting pattern. It’s something like that he knows where to go and has a purpose.”

In mid-August, public transit officials picked Boji up and brought him to a vet for a health check. Boji also received a microchip which is connected to a mobile application, allowing the Metro Istanbul customer relations department to keep tabs on his whereabouts and wellbeing.

Boji’s frequent travels have made him a celebrity on public transit. When he’s not napping on a tram seat, rushing to catch a train, or enjoying the breeze on the ferry, he’s always happy to pose for selfies with commuters and receive lots of pets and treats.

INSTAGRAM/BOJI_IST

The good boy has proven himself to be the most polite passenger you’ll ever encounter.

“Boji knows all the rules of travel, gives way to the disembarking passengers, waits, enters the train, and calmly finds a place for himself,” wrote Cumhuriyet. “When he misses the subway, he runs after the subway.”

INSTAGRAM/BOJI_IST

Boji visits at least 29 stations and travels approximately 18 miles a day around the city, saying hi to his adoring fans along the way. While most commuters can’t wait to get off the subway or bus, for Boji, it’s where he’s most comfortable.

“I think it’s very beautiful,” passenger Abdulkadir Yalçın told Cumhuriyet. “It adds joy to the subway. It makes us smile. It’s the first time I’ve encountered such a thing.”

INSTAGRAM/BOJI_IST

Luckily, the good boy doesn’t have to pay a fare to hop on his preferred bus or train. For Boji, it’s just home.

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Isn’t that amazing! I wonder, however, how he stays fit and healthy? But whatever, it is a delightful story.

Darkness!

Chris Impey writes about his specialty in observational cosmology.

This has nothing to do with life, nothing that we are dealing with in our daily affairs, and has nothing to do with our dear dogs. BUT! This is incredibly interesting! Incredibly and beautifully interesting!

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The most powerful space telescope ever built will look back in time to the Dark Ages of the universe

Hubble took pictures of the oldest galaxies it could – seen here – but the James Webb Space Telescope can go back much farther in time. NASA

Chris Impey, University of Arizona

Some have called NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope the “telescope that ate astronomy.” It is the most powerful space telescope ever built and a complex piece of mechanical origami that has pushed the limits of human engineering. On Dec. 18, 2021, after years of delays and billions of dollars in cost overruns, the telescope is scheduled to launch into orbit and usher in the next era of astronomy.

I’m an astronomer with a specialty in observational cosmology – I’ve been studying distant galaxies for 30 years. Some of the biggest unanswered questions about the universe relate to its early years just after the Big Bang. When did the first stars and galaxies form? Which came first, and why? I am incredibly excited that astronomers may soon uncover the story of how galaxies started because James Webb was built specifically to answer these very questions.

A graphic showing the progression of the Universe through time.
The Universe went through a period of time known as the Dark Ages before stars or galaxies emitted any light. Space Telescope Institute

The ‘Dark Ages’ of the universe

Excellent evidence shows that the universe started with an event called the Big Bang 13.8 billion years ago, which left it in an ultra-hot, ultra-dense state. The universe immediately began expanding after the Big Bang, cooling as it did so. One second after the Big Bang, the universe was a hundred trillion miles across with an average temperature of an incredible 18 billion F (10 billion C). Around 400,000 years after the Big Bang, the universe was 10 million light years across and the temperature had cooled to 5,500 F (3,000 C). If anyone had been there to see it at this point, the universe would have been glowing dull red like a giant heat lamp.

Throughout this time, space was filled with a smooth soup of high energy particles, radiation, hydrogen and helium. There was no structure. As the expanding universe became bigger and colder, the soup thinned out and everything faded to black. This was the start of what astronomers call the Dark Ages of the universe.

The soup of the Dark Ages was not perfectly uniform and due to gravity, tiny areas of gas began to clump together and become more dense. The smooth universe became lumpy and these small clumps of denser gas were seeds for the eventual formation of stars, galaxies and everything else in the universe.

Although there was nothing to see, the Dark Ages were an important phase in the evolution of the universe.

A diagram showing different wavelengths of light compared to size of normal objects.
Light from the early universe is in the infrared wavelength – meaning longer than red light – when it reaches Earth. Inductiveload/NASA via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA

Looking for the first light

The Dark Ages ended when gravity formed the first stars and galaxies that eventually began to emit the first light. Although astronomers don’t know when first light happened, the best guess is that it was several hundred million years after the Big Bang. Astronomers also don’t know whether stars or galaxies formed first.

Current theories based on how gravity forms structure in a universe dominated by dark matter suggest that small objects – like stars and star clusters – likely formed first and then later grew into dwarf galaxies and then larger galaxies like the Milky Way. These first stars in the universe were extreme objects compared to stars of today. They were a million times brighter but they lived very short lives. They burned hot and bright and when they died, they left behind black holes up to a hundred times the Sun’s mass, which might have acted as the seeds for galaxy formation.

Astronomers would love to study this fascinating and important era of the universe, but detecting first light is incredibly challenging. Compared to massive, bright galaxies of today, the first objects were very small and due to the constant expansion of the universe, they’re now tens of billions of light years away from Earth. Also, the earliest stars were surrounded by gas left over from their formation and this gas acted like fog that absorbed most of the light. It took several hundred million years for radiation to blast away the fog. This early light is very faint by the time it gets to Earth.

But this is not the only challenge.

As the universe expands, it continuously stretches the wavelength of light traveling through it. This is called redshift because it shifts light of shorter wavelengths – like blue or white light – to longer wavelengths like red or infrared light. Though not a perfect analogy, it is similar to how when a car drives past you, the pitch of any sounds it is making drops noticeably. Similar to how a pitch of a sound drops if the source is moving away from you, the wavelength of light stretches due to the expansion of the universe.

By the time light emitted by an early star or galaxy 13 billion years ago reaches any telescope on Earth, it has been stretched by a factor of 10 by the expansion of the universe. It arrives as infrared light, meaning it has a wavelength longer than that of red light. To see first light, you have to be looking for infrared light.

Telescope as a time machine

Enter the James Webb Space Telescope.

Telescopes are like time machines. If an object is 10,000 light-years away, that means the light takes 10,000 years to reach Earth. So the further out in space astronomers look, the further back in time we are looking.

A large golden colored disc with a sensor in the middle and scientists standing below.
The James Webb Space Telescope was specifically designed to detect the oldest galaxies in the universe. NASA/JPL-Caltech, CC BY-SA

Engineers optimized James Webb for specifically detecting the faint infrared light of the earliest stars or galaxies. Compared to the Hubble Space Telescope, James Webb has a 15 times wider field of view on its camera, collects six times more light and its sensors are tuned to be most sensitive to infrared light.

The strategy will be to stare deeply at one patch of sky for a long time, collecting as much light and information from the most distant and oldest galaxies as possible. With this data, it may be possible to answer when and how the Dark Ages ended, but there are many other important discoveries to be made. For example, unraveling this story may also help explain the nature of dark matter, the mysterious form of matter that makes up about 80% of the mass of the universe.

James Webb is the most technically difficult mission NASA has ever attempted. But I think the scientific questions it may help answer will be worth every ounce of effort. I and other astronomers are waiting excitedly for the data to start coming back sometime in 2022.

Chris Impey, University Distinguished Professor of Astronomy, University of Arizona

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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The dark ages of the universe that lasted for millions of years until gravity started to form some order out of the ‘soup’.

I don’t know about you but the winter nights, when the sky is clear, have me waiting outside for the dogs to come in looking up at the night sky just lost in the sheer wonder of it all.

The very best of luck to NASA on December 18th!

Canine Behavior.

Canine Behavior Friends from the start

In this month’s Science magazine, on page 1213, there is a short piece under the heading of In Other Journals.

I share it with you.

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Canine Behavior Friends from the start

By Sacha Vignieri.

Dogs, unlike wolves, are highly responsive to human voice, gestures, and eye contact.
CREDIT: ISTOCK.COM/HNIJJAR007

The closest relative to dogs, “man’s best friend,” is the wolf, a wily predator that generally avoids human interaction. For decades, researchers and dog owners have wondered how the leap to domestication occurred.

The main hypothesis invoked very early selection for wolves that “liked”—or least tolerated—humans, and the connection strengthened from there.

However, there is still some debate about whether the degree to which dogs interact and communicate with humans is a learned trait.

Two recent studies appear to close the book on this learning hypothesis. Bray et al. looked at about 400 puppies and found that at this young age and without much human interaction, they were adept at following human gestures and positively responded to high-pitched “puppy talk.” Further, there was variation in these responses with an association between relatedness and social communication skills, which supports a genetic driver.

Salomons et al. compared dog and wolf puppies and found no difference in general cognitive responses, but much greater responsiveness to human gestures and eye contact, in dog puppies. Importantly, this happened even though the dog pups had received less actual human interaction than did the wolf pups.

These studies confirm that dogs’ interest in communication with humans is an evolved trait unique to their lineage.

Curr. Biol.31, 3132, 3137 (2021).

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That is fascinating. Dogs have evolved this trait on their own, so to speak. It further underlines the precious nature of the relationship between dogs and humans.

Brandy et moi! Taken 6th April, 2018.