Category: People

Stupendous!

From the sublime to the amazing!

First, the sublime.

As in this stunning picture from the latest Cloud Appreciation Society newsletter.

A cap cloud at sunrise over Mount Rainier, spotted from Seattle, Washington, US, by Elaine Thompson (Member 41974).
A cap cloud at sunrise over Mount Rainier, spotted from Seattle, Washington, US, by Elaine Thompson (Member 41974).

“Though outwardly a gloomy shroud,
The inner half of every cloud
Is bright and shining:
I therefore turn my clouds about,
And always wear them inside out
To show the lining.”

[From ‘The Wisdom of Folly’ by Ellen Thorneycroft Fowler in Verses, Wise or Otherwise (1895)]

Then to the amazing!

It’s hard to comprehend the sheer size of objects in space, but take 2 minutes and give it a try!

This video is from the European Southern Observatory (ESO) comparing the sizes of Earth, our sun and stars.

Having a head for heights!

Sorry, folks but still a few days away from being back to normal service.

We awoke yesterday morning with Casey sufficiently unwell that Jim Goodbrod recommended taking him to Southern Oregon Veterinary Services (SOVC) down in Medford. There SOVC said that it does look as though Casey has a failure in one of the spinal discs in his neck. First, we have been advised to up the pain medicine before embarking on an MRI and then, possibly, surgery.

In the middle of all this the tube from my catheter into my drainage bag became blocked, evidenced by pee running down my leg!!

SOVC offered me their very comfortable bathroom where I then unblocked the tube using a syringe and sterile water; luckily all brought with me.

Then it was up to Grants Pass to find a solution to my ‘leaking’ catheter only to find that Southern Oregon Medical Equipment, who we thought were in Grants Pass, had moved a year ago from Grants Pass to …… guess?? ……. yes: Medford!

Plus it was raining for most of the day!

Yes, it was one of those days!!

One of those days where one needs a head for the heights that life can throw at one.

No better demonstrated by the following video sent to me by my loving son: Alex!

So will just close by saying that until my catheter is taken out next Tuesday (fingers crossed) I may be ‘distracted’ from Learning from Dogs at times!

This is a bloody nuisance!

May be out of commission for a few days?

Last December 21st I underwent an outpatient operation for the removal of growth around my prostate. A fairly normal operation for a gent of my age (72).

l was told that it would take about 8 weeks for everything to heal.

Anyway, this morning I noticed a significant amount of blood in my urine and Jean and I went to our local Three Rivers hospital in Grants Pass. I was admitted to ER.

I was sorted out and nothing serious immediately found although the cause of the bleeding was not identified. However a blood test did not find any infection or anything scary. I was recommended to go home.

The blood in urine is called Hematuria and the doctor inserted a Foley catheter to drain the blood & urine from my bladder.

The catheter and the drainage bag will remain attached to me until I have an appointment with the Urologist early next week. I have to keep pretty still until then plus sitting on a normal chair is painful at the moment. I’m laying back on the bed using my tablet to write this.

Sorry, dear people, but that’s how it is just now.

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Update as at 10:30 PST Sunday, 12th

Around 10:30PM last night I awoke with quite a severe pain in my bladder. My body was telling me to hot-foot it back to the Emergency Ward at Three Rivers in Grants Pass. This was where we had gone earlier in the day.

Jean doesn’t drive at night but it was a straightforward journey and I was seen very quickly by the ER staff (Micha, Ann and Trevor: you were all brilliant!) I was told that my decision to drive into ER was spot on. (Trevor at a later point said that listening to our body is so important and that they saw far too many individuals who had let whatever the problem was run on far too long before seeking medical help.)

Micha quickly determined that a blood clot had blocked the catheter hence my inability to pass urine/blood and the rapid build up of pain. Gently syringing the catheter with a saline solution released a huge number of clots; to my obvious relief.

Apparently, the urologist on call was telephoned and he recommended the removal of the existing catheter to then be replaced with a larger catheter (ouch!)  that would handle blood clots more efficiently.

Then for approximately an hour I was irrigated so as to completely flush out the remaining clots.

It was 50:50 as to whether I was to be admitted to a ward but again the advice of the on-call urologist was that so long as my body continued to drain blood/urine into the catheter drainage bag then it was OK for me to return home.

I arrived home at 4:30am!

So here we are approximately six hours later and I am still bleeding but, touch wood, no sign of clots and the draining into the bag is still running.

P.S. I have offered these details just in case someone else finds them helpful!

UPDATE 14:15 Tuesday, 14th.

On the afternoon of the 11th I took an afternoon nap having had practically no sleep the previous night.

Around 2pm I awoke with a pain that told me I probably had another blood clot and again said to Jean that I was going to take myself back into the ER department.

Once admitted to ER they made the decision that my bleeding was such that I should be admitted to the General Ward in the hospital. I ended up on Floor E, room 361.

I was then hooked up to a saline drip and stayed that way until 4am this morning, Tuesday 14th! For it took that long for the blood clots to finally stop surfacing and my urine to start looking a normal yellow colour.

From 4am I was then just draining via the Foley catheter and, thank goodness, I continued draining reliably, with no further bleeding or clotting, right through to 11:30 when Dr. Newcomb, the duty doctor, announced that I was fit to return home!

I will write more as soon as I catch up with stuff.

Dogs bring out so much love in us!

One can never have too many examples of love in a life!

These are interesting times. If we took even a small percentage of what we read about or see in the news media to heart we would think that life is hardly worth living for. So stuff the bad news out of sight!

Now read this that was recently published on the Care2 website.

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Schoolchildren Raise Over $7,200 to Help Dog Hit by Car

3200486-largeBy: Laura Goldman, February 9, 2017
About Laura

 

Over 80 percent of the students who attend Los Amigos Elementary School in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., are from socioeconomically disadvantaged families, but that didn’t stop them from doing everything they could to raise money to save an animal in need.

It began in early December, when a school employee found an injured black Lab mix hiding in bushes near the parking lot.

“There’s this really hurt dog,” Vice Principal Sharon Linville heard over a walkie-talkie, according to the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin. “I’m sure this dog is going to die, he’s in so much pain.” She and other employees brought the dog blankets and water, and contacted the Rancho Cucamonga Animal Care and Adoption Center.

The center’s staff veterinarian, Cynthia Servantez, visited the school a few days later to give the students a not-so-good update on the dog they’d named “Black Bart.” He’d been hit by a car and would probably survive, but he needed surgery that would cost about $3,000.

An X-ray had revealed that both of Bart’s hips were dislocated. As Dr. Servantez told the students, Bart’s “puzzle pieces had come undone.”

The schoolchildren immediately took action to help put those pieces back together. The school launched a “Pennies for Paws” campaign to collect spare change for Bart’s surgery.

Every single student made a donation. “They looked through sofa cushions, they gave up their allowance, some of them gave us IOUs,” Linville told KABC. “We have a bunch of Chuck E. Cheese coins that we got.”

One week later, the school gave the animal care center a check in the amount of $471.37.

Servantez told the Daily Bulletin it was the first time ever that anyone had offered to pay for the medical care of an injured stray dog.

The Los Amigos students continued their Pennies for Paws campaign and the momentum continued to build. Yvonne and Art Alvarez, owners of Doggie Couture in Rancho Cucamonga, were so impressed by the students’ efforts that they matched the funds that had been raised.

“We wanted them to know if they do something nice, it can make other people do it and then it becomes something big,” Yvonne Alvarez told the Daily Bulletin.

Several weeks after he’d been discovered at the school, “Who Let the Dogs Out” played over the speakers as Bart returned for a special guest appearance at a Jan. 23 rally in his honor.

Linville announced that the Los Amigos students had surpassed their $3,000 goal – by over $4,200. The extra money would be donated to the animal shelter to help other pets in need.

Veterinarian Victoria Impett, who accompanied Bart, told the schoolchildren to give themselves a pat on the back. Most of them complied. “It might not have seemed like big deal to go home and dig in the couch for a few pennies, but each and every one of you made a huge difference in someone’s life,” she told them.

Bart had no ID tag or microchip, and no one has come forward to claim him. He still needs surgery on his right hip. Once he recovers, he’ll be ready for adoption. “He’s starting to kind of blossom into a fabulous dog,” Impett said.

As Linville told the students, “This has been an incredible journey, and it’s really cool to be kind.”

Photo credit: YouTube

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I easily found this short video on YouTube.

Enjoy!

Mathematics Postscript

A postscript to The Conscious, Mathematical Brain

Many enjoyed my republication on the 30th January of Patrice Ayme’s essay that I entitled: The Conscious, Mathematical Brain.

I was talking about how our brains are mathematical organs at our last Freethinkers meeting in Grants Pass and Marcia from our local group emailed me the following:

fullsizerenderYou all have a wonderful weekend.

Memories of Diego

Another reminder of what our dogs mean to us.

Or, more specifically, what Diego meant for Laura Bruzzese. (This will be the second in the series We Shall Not Forget Them.)

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Dog Love In August

collarAugust is the start of the dying season. Garden things begin their slow shrink into the earth, the days grow shorter and cooler, lazy ocean- or mint-scented summer days snap into rigid schedules of work and school.

August is also the month that I lost Diego, my first dog. You can get acquainted with Diego here, a post I wrote a few days before he died. But I would like to share a little more now, on the second anniversary of his departure.

Diego was a poser, in a very literal sense of the word. He loved having his picture taken; in fact, he insisted on it whenever he saw me holding the camera. This picture, for example: it was taken the day I brought my daughter home from the hospital, the day after 21 hours of hard labor produced an eight-and-a-half-pound baby who actually stopped halfway out of my body, looked around, and scowled before resuming her reluctant journey onto the planet. (She was 12, twelve days overdue, FYI all you mothers out there who can surely feel my pain.)

There is something screaming in the bed. Please make it stop before it explodes.
There is something screaming in the bed. Please make it stop before it explodes.

I laid baby Isabella down, stepped back with the camera, looked up, and there he was: Diego, staring. Fifty-eight pounds of solid, unmoving dog. Insisting that I photograph him, too, with this creature that he wasn’t sure if he should guard against or lick. This child who personified the singular emotion of furious for the first nine weeks of her life (if she was not sleeping or eating, she was screaming).

Oh, hi Aunt Rosie. I know you’ve passed on, but I’ll bet you can still hear that screaming baby wherever you are.
Oh, hi Aunt Rosie. I know you’ve passed on, but I’ll bet you can still hear that screaming baby wherever you are.

When my doula told me that the colic or distemper or petite innards or whatever it was making Isabella so unhappy would resolve itself in about nine weeks, I said oh, that’s nice. But I won’t be alive for nine weeks of this. I’ll be in an asylum acquainting myself with a selection of opiates, or at the bottom of the mighty Rio Grande; so behold, an orphan.

But somehow, I survived. And Diego was part of it.

You see, from the very beginning, it was just us — the two of us, the three of us.  I was abandoned by my husband before Isabella was born, a painful time that I don’t often write about.

Within a matter of weeks, the married-and-expecting life I’d known was gone, and I was left to fumble around with the pieces, a wreckage sitting on a pile of broken glass in the dark. The small hours of it were the worst, waking up alone and panicked in the middle of the night wondering how (or if) I would live through the next weeks and years. And Diego was always there, a silent and comforting presence curled at the foot of the bed or coming up to lick my tears if I was crying, which was basically all the time. He was always there.

dog-and-babyI have a teenager now and those days seem ancient. While I rebuilt my life, Isabella grew up and Diego grew old. And finally, in his sixteenth year, he began to deteriorate to the point of pain. I knew he wouldn’t be with me much longer and I had already called the vet to ask her how it worked — when do you know it’s time? Do I take him to the office, or do you come to the house? Will he feel anything? I planned to schedule an appointment soon; I hadn’t had to make this decision before and it was a very painful.

On the morning of August 9 before I left for work, I told Diego that we would have to say good-bye soon because his body wasn’t working right anymore. I told him that I loved him and it was okay for him to go. Over and over I told him I loved him.

Less than two hours later, he drowned in the pond.

I think it was his way of avoiding the vet (he hated the clinic), and maybe sparing me that particular pain. I’m not going to say that I wasn’t devastated. But rather than remembering the urgent phone call at work from Isabella, or the vision of him when I got home, or my step-father struggling to carry the terrible weight of him away, I like to imagine Diego simply being received by the fish and toads. Delivered from his pain by warm water, wrapped in a blanket of lilies.

lilyAnyone who has cared for pets perhaps knows that there is one, a special one, who will always occupy the largest piece of real estate in your heart, though others may follow. That was Diego for me.

But now we’re lucky enough to share our lives with another dog, the rascally, neurotic, road trip-loving Velma. I’ll end this post with a short video of her that reminds me of exactly what I love about dogs: their absolute and abundant connection with life, free of judgement, agenda, or desire to be anything other than what they are. That’s what I think of every time I see Velma in her Writhe of Exquisite Happiness. Perfect contentment of being.

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Laura wrote and published this back in August, 2012. But her words, emotions and feelings are those that never age. Indeed, I would add her courageous words.

The conscious, mathematical brain!

A new week!

As I have frequently mentioned, I so enjoy having guest posts being sent to me.

They give you, dear reader, a break from yours truly and so very often they offer a new and interesting perspective on dogs, on us, and on the world.

This week there are three guest posts, in various guises, lined up and, who knows, there may be a couple more heading in.

But to the first of those guest posts.

Well, technically, more of a reposting today than a pure guest post. That reposting is of a most fascinating post published by Patrice Ayme on the 25th. January. It was called WE ARE MATHEMATICS. But there were parts of Patrice’s post that I struggled with so I am offering it to you with a rather long introduction.

I hope you enjoy it.

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Smack!

The sound of  an object falling to the floor of the shower, suddenly and without warning, nearly caused me to jump out of my skin.

I was washing my hair and had my eyelids tightly closed lest the shampoo suds got into my eyes. Inadvertently, I had felt my right elbow dislodge something from the top of the small corner shelf that held the bar of soap and the bottle of hair shampoo.

I let the flowing warm shower water rinse the suds from my face, opened my eyes and looked down. The object that had made such a sudden, loud noise was a plastic brush maybe three or four inches long. It had fallen to the wet shower floor some five feet below the corner shelf where the brush normally lived.

As I stared down at the brush, the warm water cascading comfortably down my body, I reflected that in the space of a fraction of a second my mind had computed the distance that the unknown object had fallen and offered me a sense of the speed it must have been traveling when it hit the floor.

Now don’t get me wrong! I didn’t come up with a precise answer to that question of how fast the brush was going but in that moment of thought I sensed both the distance the brush had fallen, five feet; plus or minus, and the effect of gravity in accelerating that brush even over such a small distance. (Later I calculated the brush hit the shower base going at around 10 fps.)

Now it would have never occurred to me that my brain was capable of almost instantaneous calculations, as in mathematical calculations, if I hadn’t read in the previous twenty-four hours a recent essay from Patrice Ayme. An essay that convinced me completely that, in Patrice’s words:

The world is not as astonishingly understandable, as Einstein would have it. Neuronal grid cell studies show that we are the world. Understanding the world is understanding ourselves.

The world is not just written in mathematical language, as Galileo found out. We are made mathematically. We think mathematically, because we are made of math. We are mathematics.

Patrice had opened my eyes, more accurately opened my mind, to something that was then immediately clear to me and will be to you, dear reader: Our brains have an intuitive and instinctive sense of space. Not space in some abstract sense of the term but space in the sense of spatial awareness.

Think how easily, how quickly, you understand distance. Whether it is a measure of distance in your own home or assessing how far away that bird is flying towards and setting down on a high branch of a tall pine tree.

Think how even with our eyes closed we can navigate around a familiar part of our lives. Think how the sailors of ancient times (and trust me not so ancient times) used ‘Dead Reckoning’ (DR) to navigate safely and securely across vast oceans.

Our brains could only do this if they were computing these spatial assessments mathematically.

OK, that’s enough from me. Here’s that essay from Patrice.

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WE ARE MATHEMATICS

Mathematically Built Brain: The Example of Grid Cells, Incarnating Algebraic Geometry.

Understanding how the cognitive functions of the brain arise from its basic physiological components has been the final frontier in logic and rational science for thousands of years. (As I tried to explain yesterday, the superstitious religious fanatics tried their best to bury all of science, and the scientific mindset, the essence of humanity; they nearly succeeded!)

The 2014 Nobel was given to John O’Keefe (a “half”!), the rest jointly to May-Britt Moser and Edvard I. Moser “for their discoveries of cells that constitute a positioning system in the brain.” I will develop here the philosophical viewpoint, which is broader (O’Keefe’s career was steered by the influence of Hebb, the famous psychologist, who got the idea of the outside patterns imprinting the neurocircuitry of the brain).

Here is Hebb: “Let us assume that the persistence or repetition of a reverberatory activity (or “trace”) tends to induce lasting cellular changes that add to its stability.[…] When an axon of cell A is near enough to excite a cell B and repeatedly or persistently takes part in firing it, some growth process or metabolic change takes place in one or both cells such that A’s efficiency, as one of the cells firing B, is increased.”

Well it turns out that evolution has had even more imagination than that. I will even propose Patrice’s Neural Theory, a vast generalization.

Galileo famously said the language of nature was written in mathematics. It turns out that it is much more than that. Our brain is mathematically organized. What Descartes consciously discovered, a coordinate frame in which to set-up calculus, is automatically generated in the brain. This is the meaning of grid cells.

Grid cells are neurons that fire when an animal moving of its own free will traverses a set of small regions (firing fields) which are roughly equal in size and arranged in a periodic triangular array that covers all of the available environment. They were discovered in 2005 by a couple (literally) of Norwegian researchers, the Mosers, and rewarded by the Nobel Prize in 2014 (shared with O’Keefe, from London, who invented the basic experimental technique, and discovered “place cells)

Once set, navigation can be done in the dark, blinded. Scientists’ discovery that rodents, bats and nonhuman primates have a system in the brain for so-called “dead reckoning navigation”… “Dead reckoning” refers to the ability to navigate without external cues. The term comes from ship navigation. A crew will “take a sighting” via cues such as the stars or landmarks to determine where the ship is on a map. Then, when the ship moves, ‘dead reckons’ to update location on the map paying attention to speed and direction. The Greco-Romans already had such systems, with little paddled wheels counting the distance covered over the sea. It turns out that ‘dead reckoning’ is enabled by the grid cell system, inside the brain.

Recording Of Grid Cells Activity Inside Rat Brain (Jeffery Lab and others.)
Recording Of Grid Cells Activity Inside Rat Brain (Jeffery Lab and others.)

Kate Jeffery, a professor of behavioural neuroscience at University College London puts it this way:

“The importance of grid cells lies in the apparently minor detail that the patches of firing (called ‘firing fields’) produced by the cells are evenly spaced. That this makes a pretty pattern is nice, but not so important in itself – what is startling is that the cell somehow ‘knows’ how far (say) 30 cm is – it must do, or it wouldn’t be able to fire in correctly spaced places. This even spacing of firing fields is something that couldn’t possibly have arisen from building up a web of stimulus associations over the life of the animal, because 30 cm (or whatever) isn’t an intrinsic property of most environments, and therefore can’t come through the senses – it must come from inside the rat, through some distance-measuring capability such as counting footsteps, or measuring the speed with which the world flows past the senses. In other words, metric information is inherent in the brain, wired into the grid cells as it were, regardless of its prior experience. This was a surprising and dramatic discovery. Studies of other animals, including humans, have revealed place, head direction and grid cells in these species too, so this seems to be a general (and thus important) phenomenon and not just a strange quirk of the lab rat.”

We should have looked for Plato’s cave. It turned out that this cave has been built, is being built inside our heads all along! This cave is built-in two ways: automatically (grid cells) and as a response to the environment, by.us, from the outside, from the environment, in.

(So it matters what our brain experienced before to mold afterwards what comes in anew from the outside! No experience is a neutral experience!)

That cave is both a topology (what’s near and what’s not, the logic of place), and a basic geometry (the grid and its grid cells). To have a grid built automatically is the equivalent of having a reference frame in mathematics. It makes sense if one wants to make mathematics!

And not just mathematics, but even Infinitesimal Calculus! It is indeed clear that animals such as dogs have a mastery of calculus: experiences have shown this, and anybody with a dog throwing a stick sideways in water will see the dog running along the shore a bit, and then jump in the water, so as to minimize the time to reach the stick, a typical calculus problem. Dogs can do calculus, because they can make algebraic geometry in their brains, having a reference frame made of these grid cells! (If they had no grid cells, they would not be able to do calculus.)

Thus Descartes rediscovered, consciously, something which had been found, evolved and calculated by evolution half a billion years ago (or more!). The reference frame, also known now as the neuronal grid cell system, is basic to all of mechanics, even Poincare’-Lorentz Relativity.  (An open question: Quantum Physics uses even more general reference systems, Hilbert spaces; I will therefore predict that the brain has also that sort of organization!)

The world is not as astonishingly understandable, as Einstein would have it. Neuronal grid cell studies show that we are the world. Understanding the world is understanding ourselves.

The world is not just written in mathematical language, as Galileo found out. We are made mathematically. We think mathematically, because we are made of math. We are mathematics.

We are not just looking at shadows in a cave, as Plato would have it. And the cave was not given to us by the gods, as Socrates had it. We are the cave, we, and our personal history, built it.

Any new experience, idea or emotion, taught or experienced, is another brick in that wall of perception and analysis, we better consider it carefully, before indulging in it. Call that the Principle of Mental Precaution But that Principle extends also to what we chose NOT to experience, which can be just as bad, if not worse.

You are not just what you think. You mentally are what you were submitted to, and what you decided to submit to. Fate is written in mathematical patterns, one theorem made out of neurons, their axons, dendrites and supporting glial cells, at a time.

Such theorems are written with the physics of minds, just as sturdy as the physics of stars. Just as hopeful, just as ominous.

Plato thought mathematics were “forms”, out there, outside of the physical world. This is not what science is finding. There are not “forms” out there, and physics, nature, somewhere else. Our minds are literally made of math.

So here is my theory:

Whatever exists in mathematics exists in the brain. And reciprocally.”

Patrice Ayme’

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I do so hope that this essay from Patrice fires you up as it did me. If it leaves you with questions, then offer them to me as a comment to this post and I will take it upon myself to have Patrice answer them.

Finally, did you pick up on the fact that it isn’t just our human brains that are mathematical organs, it applies to the brains of dogs as well!

Mathematics in action. (Photo courtesy of Pinterest)
Mathematics in action. (Photo courtesy of Pinterest)

Small miracles

It’s not just the rescuing of people that matters.

Last Thursday, the 26th January, the BBC News website published a short video under the heading of: Italian avalanche survivors tell how they stayed alive.

Colleen Barry and Eldar Emric of Associated Press reported in US News:

A couple among the nine survivors of an Italian avalanche that devastated a mountain hotel say they survived nearly 58 hours buried beneath feet of snow by sucking on glass- and mud-filled ice, comforting each other and those nearby, and praying.

Now there’s no way I am belittling that survival; far from it. But 58 hours is a tad under 3 days.

Now read the following that was published on the Care2 site.

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Puppies Rescued 5 Days After Devastating Avalanche in Italy

3199461-largeBy: Laura Goldman    January 26, 2017

After an avalanche buried central Italy’s luxury Hotel Rigopiano and its guests Wednesday, Jan. 18, rescue workers spent days digging in the snow in a desperate attempt to locate any survivors.

About 120,000 tons of snow, 16 feet deep, slammed into the hotel at 60 miles per hour. It took a while for emergency operators to believe the avalanche had occurred. The first man who called to report it was told that everything was fine at the hotel.

When they finally realized a disaster had in fact happened, first responders had to ski to the hotel, which took 12 hours. It took another day until the roads could be cleared with snowplows so emergency vehicles could finally get through.

Despite these circumstances, 11 survivors, including three children, were somehow able to keep themselves alive for over 40 hours by using their cellphones as flashlights to find water. The children, trapped in a game room, ate packets of Nutella and drank bottled water.

By Monday, rescuers were only pulling bodies from the snow and rubble. Discouraged and depressed, they were ready to give up hope.

The rescuers were told there were three puppies at the hotel. They had no idea where they were until they heard a noise in a boiler room inside what remained of the building. It was the three fluffy, white Abruzzo sheepdog puppies, only six weeks old, who had miraculously managed to survive both the avalanche and being stranded for five days.

“They just started barking very softly,” said Sonia Marini, one of the rescuers. “In fact, it was hard to find them right away because they were hidden. Then we heard this very tiny bark and we saw them from a little hole the firefighters had opened in the wall. We expanded the hole and we pulled them out.”

The puppies, born Dec. 4, had survived in an air pocket by eating snow, Walter Milan, the spokesman for Italy’s elite Alpine rescue squad, told the Daily Beast. They are the offspring of Nuvola (Cloud) and Lupo (Wolf), who lived at the hotel and were popular with guests.

Like their lucky litter, Nuvola and Lupo also survived the avalanche, according to a Facebook post by Martina Rossi, who was a bartender at the hotel.

Lupo e Nuvola, i pastori abruzzesi nati e cresciuti all'Hotel Rigopiano, non so come, sono riusciti a raggiungere la mia contrada, una frazione di Farindola (Villa Cupoli) sani e salvi. Questo non può di certo colmare il vuoto e la distruzione che attraversa un paese in ginocchio ancora speranzoso, nell'attesa soltanto di notizie positive, me in prima persona. Ma questi due bellissimi cagnoloni, rivedendoli, di certo sono riusciti a farmi tornare a battere il cuore, almeno per qualche secondo, riportando la speranza.
Lupo e Nuvola, i pastori abruzzesi nati e cresciuti all’Hotel Rigopiano, non so come, sono riusciti a raggiungere la mia contrada, una frazione di Farindola (Villa Cupoli) sani e salvi.
Questo non può di certo colmare il vuoto e la distruzione che attraversa un paese in ginocchio ancora speranzoso, nell’attesa soltanto di notizie positive, me in prima persona.
Ma questi due bellissimi cagnoloni, rivedendoli, di certo sono riusciti a farmi tornare a battere il cuore, almeno per qualche secondo, riportando la speranza.

The three puppies raised the hopes and spirits of the rescuers. “If the puppies survived, humans could as well,” Milan told the Daily Beast. Firefighter Fabio Jerman agreed. “It’s an important sign of life, which gives us hope,” he said.

Sadly, no one else has been found alive. A week after the disaster, 24 bodies have been found and five people are still missing.

In addition to unusually heavy snowfall, the avalanche may have been caused by a series of earthquakes that struck the area the day before.

Last year, devastating quakes killed more than 300 people in Italy. Another fortunate four-legged survivor, a border collie pulled from the rubble two days after an earthquake struck in late October, is being trained to pay it forward as a rescue dog.

Photo credit: YouTube

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Well done the team, as in Walter Milan the spokesman, and the rest of Italy’s elite Alpine rescue squad!

Stories like this put a real smile on my face!

 

So what about chickens!

There’s more to chickens that we realise!

p1160876We have a rather run-down ‘home’ for our chickens close to the house. It was run-down before the snow fell and almost brought down the surrounding wire fence.

p1160875But, hopefully, this coming Thursday sees a new walk-in run being constructed for our birds so they are better protected.

So what has brought this topic to mind?

The answer is a recent item that appeared on the Care2 site about how badly we misunderstand chickens.

I thought you would enjoy reading it.

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6 Surprising Chicken Facts

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Written by Katherine Martinko

It’s time we started paying attention to chickens, one of the most misunderstood and ignored species on Earth.

There was a time when chickens were viewed as exotic, fascinating birds. Descendants of exotic Asian jungle fowl, they were revered for their ferocity and intelligence, and domesticated around 8,000 years ago, more for cockfighting than eating. But then, we humans began eating them in ever-larger quantities, until we reached the point where we are now, with 20 billion (mostly white) chickens living in dirty, crowded barns, awaiting slaughter.

Chickens have been a part of human lives for millennia, and yet they are one of the most misunderstood, if not ignored, species on Earth. Lori Marino, an American neuroscientist and animal intelligence researcher, wants to change this. She is intrigued by the fact that chickens are so rarely recognized for their cognitive abilities and frustrated that studies about birds almost always focus on other, less-domesticated species, like crows and parrots.

“Arguably even the scientific community has been influenced by public perceptions of chickens as cognitively simple… This asymmetry in the literature is likely a reflection of, as well as a contributor to, the disconnect scientists and the public have between chickens as commodities and who they actually are as individuals.”

Chickens deserve more attention, and here are some quirky, interesting facts to get you thinking about chickens less as food and more as fascinating co-inhabitants of our world. These come via Marino’s recent paper, “Thinking Chickens,” published online in Animal Cognition in January 2017.

1. Chickens are a sub-species of the red jungle fowl that hails from southeast Asia.

The red jungle fowl (galls gallus) inhabit the edges of fields, scrubland, and groves. Domestication was well established 8,000 years ago, but some records suggest it could have started as much as 58,000 years ago.

2. Domestic chickens are similar to their wild counterparts.

Despite the intense breeding and genetic manipulation of recent years, chickens have not been cognitively or behaviorally affected by domestication. This stands in contrast to dogs and wolves, for example, which have diverged significantly due to domestication. Nor have chickens become less aggressive toward predators through domestication, which is a common outcome; in fact, some chickens are more aggressive even than red jungle fowl.

3. A chicken’s beak is highly sensitive to touch.

The beak, with numerous nerve endings, is used to explore, detect, drink, preen, and defend. This also means that when a bird is de-beaked, as often happens in industrial farming, it experiences great pain, sometimes for months, which changes its behavior. Marino writes, “At the end of the beak is a specialized cluster of highly sensitive mechanoreceptors, called the bill tip organ, which allows chickens to make fine tactile discriminations.”

4. Chickens have finely tuned senses.

They can see long distance and close-up at the same time in different parts of their vision. They can see a broader range of colors than humans. They can hear at low and high frequencies at a variety of pressure levels. They possess well-developed senses of taste and smell. They can orient to magnetic fields, like many other birds.

5. Chickens are surprisingly good at math.

Three-day-old chicks are able to perform basic arithmetic and discriminate quantities, always opting to explore a set of balls with the greater number, even when an object was visibly transferred from one set to another. Five-day-old chicks have been found to track up to five objects.

“When they were presented with two sets of objects of different quantities disappearing behind two screens, they were able to successfully track which screen hid the larger number by apparently performing simple addition and subtraction.”

6. Chickens can exercise self-control.

In an experimental setting, chickens have been given the choice between 2-second delay with 6 seconds of access to food, versus a 6-second delay with 22-seconds of access to food. The hens waited for the longer reward, “demonstrating rational discrimination between different future outcomes while employing self-control to optimize those outcomes.” Self-control usually doesn’t appear in humans until four years of age.

These are just a few of the remarkable discoveries described in Marino’s study, a highly readable, entertaining paper. It’s an important reminder that chickens, arguably the most ubiquitous animals in our world, deserve far more respect than they currently receive. Hopefully this will lead to more people questioning the horrific conditions in which most of them are kept.

Photo Credit: robertsharp/Flickr

ooOOoo

It’s easy to fall into the trap of looking for a humourous way to close today’s post. But a more responsible approach would be to repeat the words from the start of the article to serve as a reminder of trying, wherever possible, to think about the food we eat, especially when animals and birds have to be slaughtered to provide us with that food.

…. we reached the point where we are now, with 20 billion (mostly white) chickens living in dirty, crowded barns, awaiting slaughter.

broilerBut please don’t leave this page until you have watched the following video.

Published on Dec 3, 2014

After 22 years of raising chickens for Perdue, one brave factory farmer Craig Watts was at his breaking point and did something no one has done before. He invited us, as farm animal welfare advocates, to his farm to film and tell his story. Ask your supermarket for Better Chicken at http://better-chicken.org.

Yet another incredible hero!

The wonderful, inspiring story of what Janey Lowes is doing for dogs in need.

Janey Lowes loving a strteet dog in Sri Lanka
Janey Lowes caring for a street dog in Sri Lanka.

More accurately what Janey Lowes and a whole team are doing for the street dogs of Sri Lanka.

Jean and I saw this story featured on the BBC News website.

The English vet saving Sri Lanka’s street dogs

22 January 2017 Last updated at 00:17 GMT

A vet has left behind her home in England to care for Sri Lanka’s street dogs.

Janey Lowes from Barnard Castle, County Durham, has spent the past two years caring for the neglected animals.

There are about three million street dogs on the island – about 60% of puppies born on the street do not survive to adulthood.

The 28-year-old set up charity WECare Worldwide to raise money to buy the equipment needed to treat the animals and to set up her own clinic in Talalla.

I am pleased that the video clip that was included in the BBC News story has found its way to YouTube.

Inevitably the charity WECare Worldwide has its own website: the home page is here. Then you can read on the charity’s ‘About’ page: (Note: CNVR is the acronym standing for catch-neuter-vaccinate-release.)

CNVR

CNVR is carried out as it is the most humane way to reduce roaming dog populations and reduce the number of unwanted puppies that are dumped on the streets at a very young age. It also allows the females that would inevitably spend their whole lives pregnant to only have to worry about number one when thinking about limited food resources and shelter options, which transforms their lives.

Vaccinating the dog population against Rabies is the most effective way to eliminate the disease in the human population. As an island nation, eradication of Rabies in the near future is a very real possibility and will change the future of both animals and humans here, allowing improved relationships between the two.

CNVR is the backbone of everything we are trying to achieve in Sri Lanka.

But that’s only one part of what they do. Again, as the website sets out:

 

We focus on 3 main areas here in Sri Lanka.

  • CNVR (catch-neuter-vaccinate-release)
  • Treatment of sick and injured animals
  • Education and training

 

I shall be making contact with the charity very soon .

Not only to pass on our respect and admiration for what she has accomplished but to see if there are other ways we can help them in what they are doing. I use the word ‘we’ to cover not only Jean and me but also all of you who are close to this blog and who, so frequently, show how much love you have for dogs!

WECare Worldwide will help by providing free veterinary treatment, alongside love, compassion and respectful care of the Ceylon dogs, who make up such a huge part of Sri Lankan heritage and culture, both in the past and the current day.