Category: People

Brexit – now what happens?

Here’s what is going to happen.

In the run-up to the EU referendum by the UK this Brit was tempted several times to offer an opinion on what I thought was the best decision. But I resisted. (I was qualified to vote as an overseas voter and had voted for Remain.)

My resistance was because it seemed inappropriate to pass any form of opinion before the die had been cast, so to speak. I hadn’t been living in the country for over eight years and, inevitably, was out of touch with feelings.

The Conversation blogsite yesterday had a series of articles on the aftermath of the Brexit decision but the one that seemed most useful to share with you all was an article by Gavin Barrett,  a Professor of European Constitutional and Economic Law at University College in Dublin. For many readers, including me, both within and without the UK this seemed a valuable primer.


Britain votes to leave the EU, Cameron quits – here’s what happens next

June 23, 2016 11.41pm EDT

Leave ahead. Anthony Devlin / PA Wire


Providing much-needed comfort

Our most favourite furry comforter!

Those of you that read my republication of Deborah’s article yesterday, Six ways dogs help us heal, would undoubtedly have picked up that one of those six ways was Dogs give us physical comforting. They snuggle and lie in our laps.

If we ever needed proof of that quality of comforting then an article from the Care2 site offers such evidence in spades.


Comfort Dogs Provide Furry Solace to People in Orlando

3180697.largeBy: Laura Goldman June 14, 2016
About Laura    Follow Laura at @lauragoldman

They were deployed to Newtown. They were deployed to Boston. And now comfort dogs have made their way from around the U.S. to Orlando, Fla., to comfort those affected by yet another terror attack — the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history that occurred on June 12 at the Pulse, an LGBT nightclub.

The dogs are available for anyone who needs a hug or a furry neck to absorb their tears. They wear vests with the irresistible invitation, “I’m Friendly. Please pet me.”

“We are reaching out to anyone that has been affected by this directly or indirectly,” Tim Hetzner, president of Lutheran Church Charities (LCC) K-9 Comfort Dogs, told WLS.

About a dozen dogs and 20 handlers from the nonprofit are currently in Orlando.

“Your blood pressure goes down when you pet a dog, you feel more comfortable and people end up talking,” Hetzner said. “They’re good listeners, they’re non-judgmental, they’re confidential.”

The dogs will be in Orlando for at least a week, providing comfort to survivors, first responders and Pulse employees. They’ve visited hospitals (many are trained to climb into hospital beds and calmly lie there) and counseling centers, and joined more than 10,000 people at a June 13 candlelight vigil for the victims.

LCC K-9 Comfort Dogs, based in Northbrook, Ill., deploys trained therapy dogs from around the country to areas where tragedies and disasters have occurred, as well as to local churches, hospitals and nursing homes. The nonprofit was created in 2008 after five students were killed at Northern Illinois University. To help ease students’ stress, handlers brought their therapy dogs to the campus, and the effort proved to be very successful.

When it started out, the nonprofit had four comfort dogs. Eight years later, it has more than 100 dogs in 23 states. The dogs are all golden retrievers — Hetzner told the Huffington Post this is because they’re a lovable breed by nature. “Also, because of their fur, they leave a little of themselves with everyone they meet,” he said.

Starting when they’re 8 months old, the comfort dogs-to-be and their handlers go through 12 to 14 months of intensive training before being deployed to areas that need them. Their travel expenses are covered by donations.

“Our dogs have to be able to relate with all age groups and stay calm in all circumstances,” Hetzner told the Huffington Post.

One of the LCC K-9 Comfort Dogs who was flown to Orlando is 5-year-old Gracie of Davenport, Iowa. She’s a comfort-providing veteran, having previously consoled people after the Sandy Hook massacre and in the aftermath of devastating tornadoes in Illinois and Oklahoma.

Gracie is known as one of the sweetest of all the LCC comfort dogs, Jane Marsh-Johnson, one of her handlers, told BuzzFeed News. “She’s always got a big smile.”

Therapy dogs are also helping people in Orlando cope. Zoey and her owner, Marc Gelbke, have been in town since Monday, comforting visitors to the GLBT Community Center of Central Florida. Zoey will also visit a church and hospital, and is available by request, free of charge, through the Loving Paws of Clermont to anyone in the Orlando area who needs a hug.

“We encourage those [in Orlando] who are grieving to sit down on the floor and pet dogs like Gracie,” Marsh-Johnson said.

“The dogs do more for those suffering than human beings can do.”

Care2 stands in solidarity with the LGBTQ community in Orlando, and against all forms of violence and discrimination.

Tell the FDA to fully lift the ban on gay men donating blood, and tell Congress to ban assault weapons immediately. Follow related coverage on the Orlando shooting here.


Over on YouTube there are many videos of these wonderful dogs in action. I selected a CBC News segment to share with you.

“Furry rugs with heartbeats.” Perfect!

Four-legged healing marvels.

Day Two of the healing power of our wonderful dogs.

In yesterday’s post I wrote:

I was reminded of the incredible healing power of our dogs in a recent article published by author Deborah Taylor-French.

Before going on to that article let me say a little more about Deborah. Most easily done by offering what is detailed in her bio:

Deborah Taylor-French, M.A.

Deborah writes mysteries full of dogs,  positive dog leadership and animal rescue. Deborah was awarded and served as a guest artist for California’s Artists in the Schools.  As an arts educator, Deborah has led over a hundred residences and teacher workshops. 

 An active member of Redwood Writers, Deborah continues to serve as Author Support Facilitator.  Redwood Writers is the largest branch of the California Writers ClubThe true story of Sydney’s adoption, “Punk Rocker With A Poodle Brain” is published in “Vintage Voices Four Part Harmony.” Her fiction and memoir published in eight volumes of the  Redwood Writers Anthology

Deborah was also very supportive over my book and wrote an endorsement:

In “Learning From Dogs” author Paul Handover returns us to our origins where we find how early humans and dogs mutual survival and social relations. Visit the rich evidence of man and dog’s co-evolution. Dive into this man and species adventure. Reading this changes out perspective on dogs, wolves and humankind. Most importantly, “Learning From Dogs” values life on planet earth while offering ideas on peaceful co-evolution. Handover holds out a hand to readers, a hand called hope. A gem of a book.

So, all in all, it is a delight to be able to republish a recent article that Deborah published over on her place that you will all love reading.


Six ways dogs help us heal

  1. Dogs show empathy.
  2. Dogs give us affection.
  3. Dogs give us their complete attention.
  4. Dogs give us physical comforting. They snuggle and lie in our laps.
  5. Dogs live in the moment, sharing enthusiasm and joy.
  6. Dogs possess sensory abilities  beyond our sensory capacity.

They hear into the distance beyond our hearing range. Dogs alert us to the approach of other people and animals. With their gift of night vision, dogs often guide us, just go camping with your dog or walk a dog at night.

Examples: Therapy dogs of every kind help the blind, the mobility challenged plus visit the sick and in-firmed. Dogs sniff out cancerous tumors, this field is now being explored by science with the goal of creating a laboratory replica of how dogs detect cancer. Many dog lovers witness their dogs seeking out members coping with illness. The world over has many truth stories of dogs comforting the sick or dying.

Dogs sensing seizeures before they happen so they can maneuver their person to a safe position, such as sitting or lying down.

img_4463Give back to dogs

Want to help homeless dogs and cats but can’t adopt?

Click here and visit The Animal Rescue Site. Through this site you can download an app, which gives money to feed needy shelterless pets. This app is called Pet to Give. Just like its title, every pet gives a selected shelterless funds to feed dogs and cats.

Check out the Greater Good. I like it because they respect my time. When I signed up for email updates, I learned that I could put in vacation holds on email updates. This is the only site informational source that I have never unsubscribed from.

Please share to spread the ways dogs heal us. In this terrible time following the mass murder in Orlando, Florida, I hope we all will spread loving kindness and healing.

Don’t have a dog right now?

No problem. Make dog friends.

If you do not have a dog, take some fresh sugar snap peas (cut or break them up for small dogs) sit in a park. As dog walkers if their dog is friendly with new people. Once the dog’s person says it’s okay to greet the dog, LET THE DOG COME TO YOU. A friendly dog will wag his or her tail and slink up to sniff your hand. After you have a relaxed connection, ask the dog’s person if you can give him or her a treat. Show them the snap peas. Hold one in the palm of your hand and let the dog eat off your hand like a dinner plate. There you go. You’ve made a good friend. Now go make another.

For eight years we lived in an apartment and could not have any pets. I missed having a dog so much. Most dog lovers know that pain and will be sympathetic. Dogs always have enough love for everyone.


Hope you loved this as much as Jean and I did.

Please come back tomorrow where we continue the theme of the ways in which our dogs comfort us.

Of dogs and play.

Part Two of Professor Bekoff’s essay.

I sitting in front of my PC writing this in what will be, by the time you read this, yesterday afternoon. One way and another it was quite an emotional day sharing the sad news of Hazel’s death with so many both in this blogging place and where we live here in Merlin, North-West of Grants Pass, Oregon.

So not going to say any more about Hazel until I have collected my thoughts about our vet’s response to Hazel’s death and what may flow from that. I should be able to post that update tomorrow.

For today, let me offer you Part Two of Marc Bekoff’s essay. Part One was yesterday.


Butts and Noses: Secrets and Lessons from Dog Parks (Concluding Part)

Dog parks are gold mines of information about the behavior of dogs and humans

Post published by Marc Bekoff Ph.D. on May 16, 2015 in Animal Emotions

Are dogs really our best friends and are we really their best friends?

I’m asked these questions a lot and I always say it’s simply not so that dogs are “unconditional lovers.” They discriminate among humans just like we discriminate among dogs. And, while dogs might love “too much,” they’re very careful about to whom they open up. So, sometimes — perhaps very often — dogs are our best friends and we are their best friends but we all know of picky dogs and the horrific abuse to which dogs are subjected.

Are dogs really free at a dog park?

I often hear something like, “Oh I love coming to the dog park because my dog is so free” – and then she’s/he’s called back constantly when he plays too roughly or strays too far. People surely differ in how much control they exert, but some just don’t give their dog the opportunity to play, sniff, and hump. Control freaks often abound and they don’t realize it. Patrick Jackson, in the essay to which I referred above, writes about how “caretakers become ‘control managers’ who must negotiate problems related to a variety of dog behaviors, especially mounting, aggression, and waste management.” He’s right on the mark, but there are also those who get upset when play gets a bit rough, even when the dogs obviously are enjoying themselves.

Do dogs display dominance?

Yes, they do, just like many other animals. There is major confusion and mistakes among many “dog people” about what dominance really means, and dogs, like numerous other animals, do indeed use various forms of dominance in their social interactions. However, this does not mean that dominance is equated with overt aggression and physical harm nor that we need to dominate them in order to live in harmony with them (for more on this topic and the fact that dominance is not a myth please see this essay and and and references therein).

Why do dogs mount and hump?

Here are some of the statements I hear about dog mounting and humping: “Oh my God, my dog was fixed to stop this stuff.” “Oh, that’s easy, it’s always to dominate the other dog.” “Domination.” “Dogs are hyper-sexual because of domestication.” There are many reasons why dogs hump and there’s not a single answer (please see this essay and references therein).

Do Dogs feel shame and guilt?

While I hear numerous stories about shame and guilt, the simple and most correct answer is that we really don’t know. While we’re not all that good at reading guilt this does not mean that they do not feel guilt (please see this essay and references therein).

Do dogs get jealous?

Yes they do and a study published in 2014 showed this to be the case (please see this essay and references therein). I often hear very compelling stories about jealousy in dogs.

Do dogs get bored?

Yes, of course they do, just as do many other mammals, especially those living in various conditions of captivity. It’s clear that researchers and zoo administrators, for example, recognize that animals get bored, hence the numerous enrichment programs that are designed to relieve the animals’ boredom. The detailed research of Francois Wemelsfelder is a wonderful place to begin to learn about boredom in animals (see also the essays listed here).

Do dogs suffer from PTSD and other psychological disorders?

Yes they do as do many other animals.

Do dogs mind being used as service dogs or in animal assisted therapy?

Because dogs are such a variable lot, it’s impossible to say something like, “Of course they do.” The correct answer is that because dogs vary in personality and temperament there are some who would mind it and some who won’t. I’ve met many in each camp and I’m sure many readers have as well.

Are there Attention Deficit Dogs (ADD’s)?

I often hear people say that their dogs don’t hear them or that they ignore them most of the time. While there are many reasons why this might be so, it’s entirely possible that there are dogs who get so excited they simply don’t respond to their human’s requests. But, it’s also possible that some dogs do suffer from attention deficit disorder and hyperactivity.

How often does social play escalate into serious aggressive encounters?

We all know that play behavior predominates at dog parks and that dogs have fun when they play (see also) and that play is very contagious. Dogs play socially with one another, often involving objects, and they also play alone with objects or just go berserk on their own because it feels good. Dogs can play very roughly and still be in control and there are distinct “rules of social play” that help to keep even a vigorous interaction well within bounds so that there’s really little or no worry that play will escalate into aggression. Nonetheless, I hear this statement a lot: “Oh whenever dogs play it turns into aggression.” It doesn’t. My own observations suggest that it seems escalation happens more in large groups in which dogs can’t read one another’s subtle signals that “this still is play,” but it is very rare. Dogs can be rather fair. I want to say a bit more on this topic because it seems to be major reason why dogs are called back to their human or that humans break up rough-and-tumble play.

Although my students and I haven’t kept detailed records on this aspect of play for dogs, we all agree that play didn’t turn into serious fighting in more than around 2% of the 1000s of play bouts we’ve observed. Current observations at dog parks around Boulder, Colorado support our conclusion. And, for the approximately 1000 play bouts that my students and I observed in wild coyotes, mainly youngsters, on only about five occasions did we see play fighting escalate into serious fighting. Along these lines, Shyan, Fortune, and King (2003) discovered that fewer than 0.5% of play fights in dogs developed into conflict, and only half of these were clearly aggressive encounters. In this case our intuitions were right on the mark. Of course, there may be dogs who simply bite too hard or slam too hard into their play partners when they get highly aroused and lost in play, and this results in an aggressive encounter of varying intensity. But that is the exception rather than the rule, for play fighting only very rarely escalates into real fighting. Because play is a foundation of fairness there is a good deal of cooperation among the players as they negotiate the ongoing interaction so that it remains playful. I think one can make a good case for their having a theory of mind. Nonetheless, we still need more data on this aspect of play as well.

Do older dogs play less than younger dogs?

While this is true of wild animals who have to work harder to survive and to thrive, older dogs play a lot when they can and we really need more data on this question.

Do dogs have a theory of mind?

We don’t know. While some studies suggest they don’t, we need more “naturalistic” research especially when dogs are socially interacting. Because play is a foundation of fairness and there is a good deal of cooperation among the players as they negotiate the ongoing interaction so that it remains playful. Perhaps dogs even know what their playmates are thinking and feeling. Do they have a theory of mind? While I think so, we still need more data on this aspect of play as well.

Why do dogs roll and writhe on their back?

It could be to impart an odor. A wild canid known as the raccoon dog who lives in South America has a scent gland on its back. Dogs might also roll on their back to mask their own odor. And, of course, it might feel really good so why not do it? I love watching dogs writhe on their back and they look like they’re in doggie heaven.

Do dogs have a sense of time? The “two minute warning”

We really don’t know much at all about the dog’s sense of time. Yet, people often use what I call the “two minute warning” and ask their dog if it’s okay if they leave in 2 minutes, or people tell their dog something like, “You have 5 minutes more to play with your friends before we go to the store.” They also ask their dog, “What the hell took you so long, I’ve been calling you for minutes?” or “Where were you when I called you?” I can well imagine the dog thinking something like, “Huh?”

Why do dogs snort?

While there are physical reasons why dogs snort, recent research shows that dogs sort odors in their nose, forcing out those that aren’t relevant or salient, hence the snort and often a good deal of snot (for more on the fascinating dog’s nose please see this essay and this.

Why do dogs try to pee and nothing comes out?

This is called “dry marking” and we know that lifting a leg as if the dog is peeing serves as a visual signal to tell others he is. Often a dog will “dry mark” and then pee a few seconds later, so it’s clear their bladder isn’t empty. A study I did years ago with some students showed that dogs do this more often when there are other dogs around who can see them and then pee a bucket.

Why do dogs scratch the ground after they pee or poop?

They do this for a number of possible reasons and there isn’t a simple answer to this question.

Poop central: Why do people talk so much about dog poop at dog parks?

People also talk about poop a lot as if they’re freer to do so with their dog. Matthew Gilbert notes, “poop was more of a thing at the park than I had expected.” (p. 66) He also talks about a “stray bowel movement” as a “voluminous and frozen still life” (p, 67). Dog poop is a ripe area for future research.

Why do dogs stick their noses into butts, groins, and ears?

It’s a way of greeting and social investigation, but there haven’t been any studies of which I’m aware that provide any details about why they do this, even to their dog friends or humans. It’s been suggested that some animals might pick up information on the food others have eaten.

Are there breed specific odors?

Many people report that on their first encounter with other dogs, members of the same breed prefer one another and treat breed members differently from individuals of different breeds. There’s been some discussion that there may be a common odor to members of the same breed. However, my reading of available information is that we really know little about this question right now.

Do dogs know what they look like?

While dogs know what they smell like, they don’t know what they look like, or might they? Research done on birds in the 1960s suggests that they might learn their own color from reflections in water. So, I suppose dogs might know what they look like if they’ve seen their own reflection, but we need much more research about this question.

Why do dogs circle before lying down?

Dogs do not always circle before lying down, as some authors claim. They likely do it to flatten or soften the ground, and may also be looking around to see who’s around before they relax. In a study some of my students did years ago they reported that the dogs they watched circled around 65% of the time, but more detailed studies are needed.

Why does the hair on a dog’s back stand up?

This is called piloerection (sort of like goose bumps) and indicates that a dog is highly aroused but not necessarily aggressive. Many other species, including birds, show the same (sympathetic nervous system) response.

Dogs and humans: Why do people open up at dog parks?

Dogs can easily serve as icebreakers and social catalysts. People often open up at dog parks and talk to friends about things they likely don’t talk about in other arenas. They seem to feel safe among kinfolks. Some people began talking to me about pretty personal stuff within a minute of meeting them such as a woman who decided that she didn’t like her BFF because of how she treated a dog she just rescued, and a woman who, after meeting someone for around 10 seconds, decided that the woman wasn’t a good dog owner because she was suffering from bipolar disorder but didn’t know it! Some people – men and women, alike – have told me that dogs are social magnets and make it easy to meet other people who also are out with their canine BFF. These discussions often have very interesting “conclusions.” Enough on that for now …

Why do dogs eat grass?

There are many reasons and Stanley Coren has written a good myth-debunking essay on this. He notes that dogs do not eat grass to cause vomiting to relieve stomach distress. While it’s possible that some dogs do, we need a lot more research on this question.

More questions for a future essay

The list of questions can go on and on, and some questions I’ll consider in the future include: Why do dogs chase their tail? Why do dogs bark and what sort of barks are there? Why do dogs bark and howl at sirens? Why does my dog hoard tennis balls? Are dogs territorial as are wolves? Why do dogs pee/scent mark so much? Why do dogs sniff pee so much even when it’s their friends’ pee? Why do males sometimes squat when they pee and why do females sometimes lift their leg? Do dogs have a sense of self? Studies of “yellow snow” suggest they do. Are they conscious? (Of course they are, and scientists agree.) Why do dogs sniff and eat frozen turds? Why do dogs eat gooey feces? Why do dogs dig holes and then lie in them? Why do dogs scrape their butt on the ground? Why do people openly disparage their dog and then tell them they love them? (I often hear something like, “Oh, he’s really retarded, but I love him” or “You are so fat!” or “My goodness, your breath stinks!). Do dogs pick up on these mixed signals?“ Do dogs have a “little dog” complex? Do dogs make and use tools? (They do.) Why do dogs drink filthy water? How do dogs pick their mates? Do dogs dream? Do dogs get heartburn? Do dogs sweat? Do dogs understand baby talk? (People are well known to talk to dogs as if they’re infant humans.) What does “feral” mean? How did wolves become dogs? (Please see essays by Mark Derr.) What’s the difference between a socialized animal and a domesticated animal? (A wolf who likes humans is a socialized wolf. A domesticated wolf is a dog.) Do dogs really live in the moment? (No, their past clearly influences their behavior — just ask anyone who’s rescued an abused dog — and they think about the future — just watch a dog waiting for a frisbee or a ball to be thrown and watch them track the trajectory, although tracking might not be conscious, even in humans.)

Where to from here? There are many holes in the database and dog parks are gold mines of information.

It’s important to stress that there here are many holes in the database, and people find this very surprising because of many popular dog books that purport to “tell it like it is,” as if there are facts about this or that question. Dog parks are wonderful places for studies in dog-dog ethology and anthrozoology, the study of human-animal interactions, and I hope this essay will stimulate people to conduct formal studies and encourage citizen scientists to share their stories that can be used to generate further more systematic studies.

Studies in dog parks, that some may call “too uncontrolled,” may also shed light on questions that are being debated among different groups of researchers, for example, whether dogs follow human gazing or pointing and how well they perform these activities, or if dogs have a theory of mind. And, let’s face it, some laboratory studies also are rather uncontrolled, mainly because dogs are such a mixed bag of participants as might be the researchers themselves. Watching animals in their “natural habitats,” and dog parks might qualify as such, has shed much light on various aspects of behavior that are difficult to study in captivity or in other more controlled environs. Although many lab studies of dogs are likely more controlled than those conducted on free-running dogs, many people have seen behavior patterns that warrant reinvestigation in more ecologically relevant situations.

I continue to learn a lot about dog and human behavior when I visit dog parks. People often feel free to offer advice even when they knew who I am and what I do for a living. But, on a number of occasions, I chose to keep some distance to determine if their comments and explanations to other people (and often to the dogs) differ from when they know I’m around. For the most part, they did not. For example, I’ve been told that “familiar dogs definitely play differently from unfamiliar dogs,” that “humping is always about dominance,” that “dogs know what other dogs are thinking and feeling and they also know the same about people,” and that “know-it-all researchers ought to get off their butts and out of the ivory tower and watch dogs in the field.” On a few occasions some people made it clear that I had a lot to learn about dogs and they could teach me some valuable lessons. When I agreed, they were very surprised, and over the years I’ve had many interesting discussions that have made me re-evaluate what we know and don’t know about dog behavior and dog-human interactions. Concerning two of the areas above, we actually don’t know if familiar dogs play differently from unfamiliar dogs (I’ve got a student studying this) and, as I mentioned above, there’s not just one explanation for humping. Anyway …

There are numerous research projects just waiting to be done as we watch dogs romp here and there and have fun, meet old friends and strangers, and negotiate social relationships with other dogs and humans. I’m aware that I may have missed some studies so I hope readers will send me the details and share them in the comments section for this essay.

Dog behavior, in all of its kaleidoscopic forms, is an incredibly exciting field of research

Dogs openly share with us a lot about what they know and what they’re thinking and feeling, and we just have to be keen enough and patient enough to figure it all out. Dogs also are wonderful social catalysts and social magnets and they can help us learn a lot about ourselves. The arena of inquiry about dog-dog behavior and dogs and their humans truly is deep and boundless and there are numerous opportunities for studies at dog parks, where dogs frolic and sometimes cower and have to learn to deal with a wide variety of social situations with other dogs and humans, and at other places where dogs and humans congregate. And, as I mentioned before, talking about “the dog” can often be misleading and perilous.

Dog behavior, in all of its kaleidoscopic forms, is an incredibly exciting field of research, and I really look forward to seeing further studies of the above and other questions. When people tell me they’re having trouble coming up with a research project I humbly ask them if they’ve thought about dogs, and then the conversation gets going and going and going ….

Marc Bekoff’s latest books are Jasper’s story: Saving moon bears (with Jill Robinson), Ignoring nature no more: The case for compassionate conservation, Why dogs hump and bees get depressed, and Rewilding our hearts: Building pathways of compassion and coexistence. The Jane effect: Celebrating Jane Goodall (edited with Dale Peterson) has recently been published. (; @MarcBekoff)


Take care all you good people and all your lovely animals.

This day a year ago.

What was posted exactly one year ago?

I was working outside all day yesterday and only sat down to think about today’s post after 5pm. Plus our evening meal was going to be served at 6pm.

So as I have previously done in these situations I decided to repost what was published here on Learning from Dogs one year ago to the day.


Part One of a stunningly interesting essay from Professor Marc Bekoff.

As a newbie yet-to-be published author I am technically at the stage of having a completed draft that Jeannie and a close friend are proof-reading. Then after corrections, it is going to be released to some ‘beta’ readers who will give me some early feedback. (Too scary to even think of just now!)

OK, with that admission out of the way, let me move on to my ‘draft’ chapter on play; in Part Four of the book. In researching what is known about the way that dogs play and what lessons there are for us humans, I came across an essay by Marc Bekoff, Ph.D. Marc is Professor Emeritus of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder. His essay had been published in May on the website of Psychology Today. It was incredibly interesting and full of material for the book!

Within a few minutes of me sending Professor Bekoff an email requesting permission to include quotations in my ‘draft’ chapter, he had responded in the affirmative. I had also sought his permission to publish the essay here on Learning from Dogs. Again, a very quick, positive reply.

Thus with Marc Bekoff’s generous permission, here is his essay in full. (I’ve taken the decision to split this long essay into two parts.)

Finally, Professor Bekoff includes numerous ‘html’ links within his essay to other materials. I’ve cheated by saving quite some time adding those links but have underlined the linked phrase in question, apart from the very early chapters that do have ‘html’ links. Please go to the site of the original essay to explore further those links.

Marc Bekoff and friend.
Marc Bekoff and friend.


Butts and Noses: Secrets and Lessons from Dog Parks (Part One)

Dog parks are gold mines of information about the behavior of dogs and humans

Post published by Marc Bekoff Ph.D. on May 16, 2015 in Animal Emotions

I love going to dog parks. So, too, do dogs and their people. Dog parks are a fascinating recent and growing cultural phenomenon. Indeed, I go rather often to what I call my field sites, for that’s what they are, to study play behavior and other aspects of dog behavior including urination and marking patterns, greeting patterns, social interactions including how and why dogs enter, become part of, and leave short-term and long-term groups, and social relationships. I also study human-dog interactions and when I study how humans and dogs interact I also learn a lot about the humans. For example, I often hear how happy people are that their dogs are free to run here and there or free to be dogs when they’re at the dog park. Often, they say this while they’re constantly calling them back to them even when the dog is simply sniffing here or there or looking for a friend. They also call them to break up play when they think it’s gotten out of hand. You call this free?

Two works to which I often go when thinking about social dynamics at dog parks are Matthew Gilbert’s book titled Off the Leash: A Year at the Dog Park and Sonoma State University’s Patrick Jackson‘s essay called “Situated Activities in a Dog Park: Identity and Conflict in Human-Animal Space.” Linda Case writes about Dr. Jackson’s study and she is not a fan of dog parks because she feels they’re not safe and because “Dog park people frequently behave badly by not being responsible dog owners and by being inconsiderate and uncaring towards other people and their dogs.” We really need empirical studies on the safety issue. After having spent countless hours at dog parks I’ve never entertained drawing this conclusion, but there aren’t any detailed data on this topic of which I’m aware. However, on occasion, but hardly regularly, I’ve marveled at just how inconsiderate a very few people can be. But, as part of the gossip network among the other people, I often hear that a given person behaves like this even in non-dog park situations. On a few ocassions I’ve had a rather inconsiderate person ask me why their dog has bad manners and rather than get involved I call attention to some interesting dog-dog interactions.

Most people realize that “dogs are in” and countless scientific and popular essays (see also New Directions in Canine Behavior, Julie Hecht’s “Dog Spies,” and essays written for Psychology Today by writers including Mark Derr, Stanley Coren, Jessica Pierce, and yours truly) and books have been published in the past decade or so about these fascinating mammals. The bottom line is that a plethora of detailed data — and the database is rapidly increasing — clearly show that dogs are thinking, clever, and feeling sentient beings, and viewing them as sort of robotic machines is incredibly misleading and academically corrupt (please see this essay). This does not mean that they are “doggy Einsteins,” however, ample data from numerous different research groups around the world clearly show that dogs are rather complex and incredibly interesting mammals who deserve a good deal of further study. Perhaps even René Descartes would consider changing his views on nonhuman animals (animals) as unfeeling machines given the enormous amount of empirical evidence on sentience in animals.

Why do dogs do this and that? Canine confidential

“Why do dogs do this and that?” The purpose of this short essay, that can be conceived as a field guide to the extremely interesting and largely unknown world of the fascinating dogs with whom we share our lives, is to provide some lessons in dog behavior from observations and questions arising from visits to various dog parks, especially around Boulder, Colorado where I live. I see myself as “a naturalist in a dog park” and aim to show here, via a series of questions, what we know and don’t know about many different aspects of dog behavior. Dogs are often called social catalysts – icebreakers or lubricants — for social interactions with other dogs and they often open the door for pretty frank and wide-ranging conversations among familiar and unfamiliar humans. It always amazes me how dogs free up humans to talk about things they might be more reluctant to share in other venues including what they really think about their human “BFF’s — best friends forever” — and the infamous “3 p’s,” namely, pee, poop, and puke. Often when I get home and look at my notes I view them as “canine confidential.” So, what follows is a sampler of many “why” questions, including why dogs hump, why they sniff butts, genitals, and ears, why they play, and why they organize themselves the ways they do. There are also many “what” questions such as “What do they know?”, “What are they thinking?”, and “What are they feeling?” in different contexts. The list of questions is endless and I’m sure those that follow can easily mutate in many, many more.

People who are lucky enough to share their world with a dog often think they know it all. And, while they do know a good deal about what their canine buddy is thinking and feeling and what they want and need, there really are large gaps in the scientific database. As I mentioned above, there are numerous anecdotes about why dogs do this or that, and, taken together, they form their own pool of data. However, while the claim that “the plural of anecdote is data” applies in some cases, many mysteries still loom in what we actually know about the world of dogs.

Furthermore, often there is no single “right” answer to a question — even some of the most commonly asked queries — and that’s just fine. Dogs compose a highly variable group of mammals — I often say “the dog” doesn’t really exist — so it’s not surprising that just when we think we have a solid handle on what they’re thinking and feeling and why they do what they’re doing an exception or three arises. Surely, the early experience of individual dogs influences their later behavior. So, while we know a lot, people are often amazed by how little we know and that hard and fast answers can’t be given to some common questions.

Visiting dog parks can be wonderful educational experiences. Visits, some lasting hours on end each and every day, can be myth breakers and icebreakers, and also provide information about why dogs are doing this or that. People are always asking questions about why their dog is doing something and really want to know what we know. They also freely offer advice to other people about why their dog is doing something and how they can treat various problems such as shyness, aggressiveness, and why dogs ignore what their human is asking them to do. And, as I wrote above, dogs also are icebreakers – “social catalysts” the academics call them — and get people to talk with one another and to talk about things.

The questions below range from interests about basic dog behavior such as why do dogs stick their noses where they do, and why they play, bark, pee, eat turds, and roll on their back, to more lofty questions about whether dogs have a theory of mind and whether they know what they look like and if they know who they are. A good number of questions deal with dogs’ butts and noses, hence the title of this brief essay (motivated, of course, by the famous rock group, Guns N’ Roses). Butts and noses — including other “private parts” – figure into a number of the questions below. We all know dogs put their noses in places where we couldn’t imagine there would be anything of interest, and also place their active snouts, often on their first introduction, to other dogs and humans, in places that make us rather uneasy. We don’t greet friends or strangers by immediately licking their mouth or with a genital sniff or slurp. There also are many general questions that don’t center on anatomical features that figure largely in the world of the dog. I’ll answer each question briefly with what we know from various types of research, with some stories where they’re available, and note where we really need more information. It’s entirely possible that I have missed a given study (or studies) and I apologize for the oversights and look forward to hearing from readers.

While we know a lot about dogs, there are holes in the database, so the future is chock full of exciting research. Readers will discover that what we often take to be the gospel about dog behavior frequently isn’t all that well supported by published empirical research or even detailed observations. While good stories are interesting and can serve to stimulate more “controlled” research, in and of themselves they don’t constitute “data” as do detailed and more focused studies (I’ll suggest below that studies in dog parks may be more “ecologically relevant” than studies in laboratories and help to settle on-going debates among different research groups). In some ways, then, this essay is sort of a myth-buster and a fun way not only to learn about dogs but also to stimulate further research about dogs and dogs and humans. So, here we go.

(See the concluding part tomorrow.)


Clearly in this last year the book was published!

For readers who haven’t read Mark Bekoff’s essay before I will repost the concluding part tomorrow.

Treasures Within and Without.

We must never let go of admiring beauty.

It’s Sunday lunchtime and I have come in from outside to check my emails and to put together the post for today. For reasons I can’t exactly put my finger on I’m feeling a little distracted. I sense a yearning for being transported away from the ‘outside world’ and turning inwards: Even giving blogging a rest for a couple of weeks (but I won’t).

So thank goodness for the blogging contacts we make all around the world. Just last Saturday Sue, of Sue Dreamwalker’s blog, published an exquisitely beautiful poem. Sue very promptly gave me permission to republish it in full. Sue’s poem speaks to me just now; speaks to me in this rather introspective place. I hope her wonderful words speak to you as well.

Here it is.


Mother Gaia ~ The Blue Dot.

11 Jun 2016 .

Three Sisters Glen Coe Scotland.

How many times have you gazed at the stars?

To ask the question of whom we are

This Blue Dot in the vastness of space

Have you questioned the existence of the Human Race?


Did we really evolve from Neanderthal Man?

From Ape to Human imagine if you can

Woolly Mammoths along with Sabre Tooth Tigers

Ice Ages and Floods, Volcanoes and Fires


Mountains crashing, rising from ocean floors

Fossils created into stony forms

Petrified wood in glaciers saved

While Crystals grow beneath deep dark cave


How many times have you asked ‘Who am I?’

As you gaze longingly at the starlit sky

So many treasures now upon this Blue Dot

So sad that we’ve evolved, but we also forgot


That we Humans just like the Dinosaur race

Could soon disappear without a trace

As our superior brains seemed to have lost the plot

Of our coexistence within this amazing Blue Dot


As we pollute our Mother who brings such life

While we rage in greed creating more strife

We poison our land modifying crops

Caring less and less until the last Bee drops


Long after we’re gone as the planets realign

A new dawn will break over the memory of mankind

His legacy I’m sure one day will be discovered

As some future traveller his fossils will uncover.


But it’s never too late to alter our future

When we live in harmony and learn to nurture

Holding onto LOVE and Letting go of Hate

We can all help our Blue Planet Regenerate.

Copyright Sue Dreamwalker 2016.

This is just one of the beautiful slides from Sue’s slide show. As she writes, “The above slide show are the photo’s I took that inspired the poem above. They were taken in Scotland where I visited a crystal and mineral centre near Fort William. It was a delightful find holding a wealth of Treasures of The Earth which can be found here. “


 (Please view the full slide show here.)

Sue then completes her beautiful post; as follows:

There is so much more that lays hidden beneath our Earth Mother, as well as within ourselves.

If only we dig deep enough to find the Treasures Within.  

Love and Blessings


I am still digging Deep How about You?

Life is an endless dig to find treasures within.

Beautiful, Sue!

Picture parade one hundred and fifty-one.

The final pictures from the PetSmart Pet Adoption Event.

Back on the 29th May when I published the first set of pictures from this event I wrote in that post:

I wrote about this last Tuesday under the heading of Helping Hands and warned you that today and next Sunday would be picture parades of that event.

At that time I had not cottoned on to the fact that the next Sunday, i.e. a week ago, the picture parade would be devoted to Pharaoh’s birthday.

So here we are with that next set of pictures from the PetSmart Adoption Event. Again, I wrote first about this under the heading of Helping Hands. For those that didn’t read that post here is how it opened:

The PetSmart Pet Adoption Event.

Over the days of the 13th to 15th May, in other words roughly a week-and-a-half ago, a number of pet adoption charities in Northern California and Southern Oregon came together courtesy of PetSmart in Medford, Oregon to find new homes for unadopted dogs and cats.

P1160114I came to hear about this from an email sent to me by Tammy Moore of the organisation Shelter Friends. Tammy also c.c.’d her email to Tana Mason who is Fundraising Coordinator for the charity. Tammy’s email was an invite for me, and Jean, to attend the event on the Saturday as the author of my book.

The first Picture Parade of these photographs was presented here.

Here is that final set of photographs.







P1160137… and closing the set with the evidence that new homes were found for many dogs and cats.

P1160136Well done to one and all!

Into the Future.

These are deeply interesting times.

Among the many impressive qualities of the dog is one that we humans must envy so much at times.

I’m not speaking of a dog’s ability to seek out food or, at the other end of things, the dog’s way of keeping it’s backside clean!😉 No, I’m referring to the way a dog lives in the present. Presumably unworried as to what the future might mean.

We humans, however, as hard as we try to be rooted in the ‘here and now’ also depend on assessing the future and determining the best way to respond to that uncertainty. I’m sure that assessing and managing risk is one of the ways that have made us such a successful species.

In terms of voicing these uncertain times I really was drawn to a comment from ‘John D’ over on Richard Murphy’s Tax Research UK blogsite. I’m going to republish that comment in full before moving on to the central theme of today’s post: Into the Future.

John D says:
June 10 2016 at 4:58 pm
Paul, I share your apprehension. I believe ‘the world’ has entered a cycle of almost unprecedented uncertainty. So many issues. So few solutions being articulated in the mainstream. However, shift happens and Richard is right to say that there is always opportunity for change. Gramsci, an underrated theorist, summed it up in his ‘Prison Notebooks'(1929-35) writing: “The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear.”

The stranglehold Neo-liberalism has exercised on orthodox economics for the past 40 years is difficult to understand but, given that its major protoganists have held all the aces, it’s not really surprising. Under Reagan there was a major ‘re-education’ programme in the Universities where any heterodox economic teaching was eliminated from the ‘Economics 101’ curriculum. Acording to Richard Wolff an entire generation of students graduated from the major universities without ever having studied Marx in any context.

(For anyone interested here’s a succinct history of Neo-liberalism –

The good news is nothing lasts forever. The seeds of change have already been sown and will eventually blossom, possibly in unexpected locations. Sadly, as Ivan says, there has been irretrievable damage to lives and livelihoods in the US, UK and many EU countries. Michael Hudson recently spelled out its negative effects –

Like many, I don’t think radical change will come about until enough people are hurting enough. Maybe a real property crash will be a wake-up call. However, in or out of the EU isn’t going to trigger a change in the economic agenda any time soon. Personally I believe that a vote for Brexit (ominously a possibilty) will set-back any fundamental reforms, especially in the UK. But I don’t want to open up that can of worms again here!

The perennial question is ‘what to do?’. And the answer is always the same: ‘do something, anything, to nurture the seeds into saplings’. Every little helps! It’s going to be a rough ride, not without some collateral damage in terms of still more unnecessary deaths. Usually I’m not as optimistic as Richard but because it’s Friday afternoon and the sun is shining I feel the beginning of the end is within our grasp. I so hope so. Back to Gramsci – the immediate worry is what will fill the intervening vacuum. Happy weekend!

The seeds of change have already been sown and will eventually blossom, possibly in unexpected locations.

The perfect introduction to an email that Dan Gomez sent me on Thursday.


Below  is a summary by Udo Gollub of the findings at a recent futurist conference in Germany. This’s  – they predict – is how the world will operate in 10 to 20 years time.

For those of us who are about to amble into the sunset on our Zimmer frames, this is simply interesting. We inhabited a world where people used cosy concepts like pension, nest egg, job security, promotion in the work place and other reassuring socio economic terms.

For those who are in mid career or are only entering the world of (non) work now, this makes for scary/exciting reading – depending on how ready you are to change in mid air  — if it is at all possible.

And for the generation still in their nappies … well, it is a matter of how parents prepare them for an unimaginable world when they enter the world of ‘work’ in 20 years time.

Into the future
By Udo Gollub at Messe Berlin, Germany

I just went to the Singularity University summit. Here are the key points I gathered.

Rise and Fall. In 1998, Kodak had 170,000 employees and sold 85% of all photo paper worldwide. Within just a few years, their business model disappeared and they were bankrupt. What happened to Kodak will happen in a lot of industries in the next 10 years – and most people don’t see it coming. Did you think in 1998 that 3 years later you would never take pictures on paper film again?

Yet digital cameras were invented in 1975. The first ones only had 10,000 pixels, but followed Moore’s law. So as with all exponential technologies, it was a disappointment for a long time, before it became superior and mainstream in only a few short years. This will now happen with Artificial Intelligence, health, self-driving and electric cars, education, 3D printing, agriculture and jobs.
Welcome to the 4th Industrial Revolution.  Welcome to the Exponential Age. Software and operating platforms will disrupt most traditional industries in the next 5-10 years.

Uber is just a software tool. They don’t own any cars, but they are now the biggest taxi company in the world. Airbnb is the biggest hotel company in the world, although they don’t own any properties.

Artificial Intelligence: Computers become exponentially better in understanding the world. This year, a computer beat the best Go player in the world, 10 years earlier than expected. In the US, young lawyers already don’t get jobs. Because of IBM Watson, you can get legal advice, (so far for more or less basic stuff), within seconds. With 90% accuracy, compared with 70% accuracy when done by humans. So if you are studying law, stop immediately. There will be 90% fewer generalist lawyers in the future; only specialists will be needed. ‘Watson’ already helps nurses diagnose cancer, four times more accurately than doctors. Facebook now has pattern recognition software that can recognize faces better than humans. By 2030, computers will have become ‘more intelligent’ than humans.

Cars: In 2018 the first self driving cars will be offered to the public. Around 2020, the complete industry will start to be disrupted. You don’t want to own a car anymore. You will call a car on your phone; it will show up at your location and drive you to your destination. You will not need to park it, you only pay for the driven distance and you can be productive whilst driving. Our kids will never get a driver’s licence and will never own a car. It will change the cities, because we will need 90-95% fewer cars for our future needs. We can transform former parking spaces into parks. At present,1.2 million people die each year in car accidents worldwide. We now have one accident every 100,000 kms. With autonomous driving, that will drop to one accident in 10 million km. That will save a million lives each year.

Electric cars will become mainstream around and after 2020. Cities will be cleaner and much less noisy because all cars will run on electricity, which will become much cheaper.

Most traditional car companies may become bankrupt by tacking the evolutionary approach and just building better cars; while tech companies (Tesla, Apple, Google) will take the revolutionary approach and build a computer on wheels. I spoke to a lot of engineers from Volkswagen and Audi. They are terrified of Tesla.

Insurance companies will have massive trouble, because without accidents, the insurance will become 100 times cheaper. Their car insurance business model will disappear.

Real estate values based on proximities to work-places, schools, etc. will change, because if you can work effectively from anywhere or be productive while you commute, people will move out of cities to live in a more rural surroundings.

Solar energy production has been on an exponential curve for 30 years, but only now is having a big impact. Last year, more solar energy was installed worldwide than fossil. The price for solar will drop so much that almost all coal mining companies will be out of business by 2025.

Water for all: With cheap electricity comes cheap and abundant water. Desalination now only needs 2kWh per cubic meter. We don’t have scarce water in most places; we only have scarce drinking water. Imagine what will be possible if everyone can have as much clean water as they want, for virtually no cost.

Health: The Tricorder X price will be announced this year – a medical device (called the “Tricorder” from Star Trek) that works with your phone, which takes your retina scan, your blood sample and your breath. It then analyses 54 biomarkers that will identify nearly any diseases. It will be cheap, so in a few years, everyone on this planet will have access to world class, low cost, medicine.
3D printing: The price of the cheapest 3D printer came down from 18,000$ to 400$ within 10 years. In the same time, it became 100 times faster. All major shoe companies started printing 3D shoes. Spare airplane parts are already 3D-printed in remote airports. The space station now has a printer that eliminates the need for the large amount of spare parts they used to need in the past.
At the end of this year, new smart phones will have 3D scanning possibilities. You can then 3D scan your feet and print your perfect shoe at home. In China, they have already 3D-printed a complete 6-storey office building. By 2027, 10% of everything that’s being produced will be 3D-printed.

Business opportunities: If you think of a niche you want to enter, ask yourself: “in the future, do you think we will have that?” And if the answer is yes, then work on how you can make that happen sooner. If it doesn’t work via your phone, forget the idea. And any idea that was designed for success in the 20th century is probably doomed to fail in the 21st century.

Work: 70-80% of jobs will disappear in the next 20 years. There will be a lot of new jobs, but it is not clear that there will be enough new jobs in such a short time.

Agriculture: There will be a 100$ agricultural robot in the future. Farmers in 3rd world countries can then become managers of their fields instead of working in them all day. Aeroponics will need much less water. The first veal produced in a petri dish is now available. It will be cheaper than cow-produced veal in 2018. Right now, 30% of all agricultural surfaces are used for rearing cattle. Imagine if we don’t need that space anymore. There are several start-ups which will bring insect protein to the market shortly. It contains more protein than meat. It will be labelled as “alternative protein source” (because most people still reject the idea of eating insects).

Apps: There is already an app called “moodies” which can tell the mood you are in. By 2020 there will be apps that can tell by your facial expressions if you are lying. Imagine a political debate where we know whether the participants are telling the truth and when not!

Currencies: Many currencies will be abandoned. Bitcoin will become mainstream this year and might even become the future default reserve currency.

Longevity: Right now, the average life span increases by 3 months per year. Four years ago, the life span was 79 years, now it is 80 years. The increase itself is increasing and by 2036, there will be more than a one-year increase per year. So we all might live for a long, long time, probably way beyond 100.

Education: The cheapest smartphones already sell at 10$ in Africa and Asia. By 2020, 70% of all humans will own a smartphone. That means everyone will have much the same access to world class education. Every child can use Khan Academy for everything he needs to learn at schools in First World countries. Further afield, the software has been launched in Indonesia and will be released in Arabic, Swahili and Chinese this summer. The English app will be offered free, so that children in Africa can become fluent in English within half-a-year.


Interesting times, indeed!

You all have a very good weekend!

In praise of wolves

Three stunning photographs of wolves.

In my post yesterday, A Eulogy for OR-4, I republished a passionate and moving account by Rob Klavins of the killing of a magnificent wolf. It included these words:

He escaped kill orders and poachers. He endured at least 4 collarings and he beat the odds. There aren’t many ten year old wolves out there. Today there is one less.

OR4 was shot and killed today. And it hurts. Anyone celebrating his death, the killing of his likely pregnant partner, and two of his pups, must have a hardened heart indeed.

All I am offering for you today is the contents of a recent email that I received from the Endangered Species Coalition.



We are excited to announce the winning entries in our first-ever Wolves in the Wild photo contest! While we received many beautiful photos of gray wolves, the difficult task of choosing winning submissions was carried out with much deliberation by our panel of judges.

The Grand Prize winner is:

Dan Ritzman

Runner ups are:

John Long
John Long
Brenna Burke
Brenna Burke

We are enormously grateful to everyone who participated! Your photos were all amazing and I assure you that choosing a winner was a difficult task for the judges. While the contest was fun, we hope the photos will serve a very serious purpose in helping to show decision makers in the Pacific Northwest that wolves are important not only for their role in a healthy ecosystem, but as a driver of tourism and associated economic benefits.

Thank you for your commitment to disappearing wildlife and wild places.


Danielle Moser
Pacific Northwest Wolf Organizer
Endangered Species Coalition


Let me just repeat that key sentence from Danielle, “While the contest was fun, we hope the photos will serve a very serious purpose in helping to show decision makers in the Pacific Northwest that wolves are important not only for their role in a healthy ecosystem, but as a driver of tourism and associated economic benefits.”


A Eulogy for OR-4

Wolves in the wild.

Humanity has such a strange view of its earliest beginnings.

In the last few weeks there has been much publicity surrounding the science about the earliest domestication of dogs. I’m sure you have seen this but if not then read it over on the Science Mag website; an article that opens:

Asian dogs like this Tibetan mastiff have been separated from European breeds such as Labradors for more than 6000 years. Darko Vrcan/Alamy Stock Photo
Asian dogs like this Tibetan mastiff have been separated from European breeds such as Labradors for more than 6000 years. Darko Vrcan/Alamy Stock Photo

Dogs may have been domesticated more than once

For years, scientists have debated where dogs came from. Did wolves first forge their special relationship with humans in Europe, or in Asia? The answer, according to a new study, is yes. This week in Science, researchers report that genetic analysis of hundreds of canines reveals that dogs may have been domesticated twice, once in Asia and once in Europe or the Near East, although European ancestry has mostly vanished from today’s dogs. The findings could resolve a rift that has roiled the canine origins community—but the case isn’t 
closed yet.

Read the full article here.

David Grimm‘s words in that second sentence points to the fact that, irrespective of where on this Planet, wolves forged a “special relationship with humans”. In my book I offer evidence that this special relationship may have been crucial in our, as in humanity’s, ability to evolve from hunting and gathering to farming and thence the long journey to modern times.

Ergo, across the world we should recognise the wonders of that relationship and the magical qualities of the wolf.

Yesterday, I mentioned that Jean and I are supporters of Oregon Wild and that in the current newsletter author Rob Klavins had written a eulogy for an Oregon wolf and given me permission to republish it.


A Eulogy for OR-4

Rob Klavins Mar 31, 2016

or4We met three times, but I imagine that I barely registered in his life.

To him I was no more than an occasional scent on his trail or the source of a tortured imitation of a howl.

But to me, no nonhuman animal ever has been or likely ever will be as important or consequential in my life as OR4.

He escaped kill orders and poachers. He endured at least 4 collarings and he beat the odds. There aren’t many ten year old wolves out there. Today there is one less.

OR4 was shot and killed today. And it hurts. Anyone celebrating his death, the killing of his likely pregnant partner, and two of his pups, must have a hardened heart indeed.

He became a symbol for those who revere wolves as well as for those who hate them and hate the wild. Even some of the most cynical wolf haters paid him begrudging respect.

He was imperfect. He challenged us. He was loud. But he was tough and he was tenacious. He was resilient, and he was a good father.

OR4 and his partners OR2 and a wolf known as “Limpy” leave behind an unparalleled legacy. His offspring include OR7, the first pups in California in nearly a century, OR3, and wolves both known and unknown quietly living their lives and retaking their rightful place on the Oregon landscape.

He never set paw in Salem or DC, but for better and worse, he had more impact on policy and politics than any animal I know of other than Cecil the Lion.
He also leaves behind questions. Lots of questions. Questions about our future – the future of his offspring…and ours.

Above all, as I heard the helicopter take off near my home this morning, I wondered if our society will leave room for the wild on the landscape…and in our hearts.

Despite his collars and dayglo ear tags, OR4 was wild. alpha2

OR4 is dead, and we killed him.

But we’ll keep fighting for his legacy as imperfectly and tenaciously as he did.

The story of Oregon’s biggest and baddest wolf didn’t end in “happily ever after”. But the story for wolves and those of us who value the wild is still not fully written. It’s a new chapter. I’m no starry-eyed optimist. So I’ll stubbornly cling to hope and tenacity.

The alternative is surrender. OR4 was no quitter. And we shouldn’t be either.

He was loud.

And he was annoying to those who hate the wild. We should be too.


Enough said!