It takes so little good news to uplift one’s heart!
For reasons I can’t readily put my finger on it’s been feeling like a bit of a struggle recently. But that’s enough of that! For our gorgeous dogs have yet another lesson for me: How little it takes for a dog to wag it’s tail!
I so frequently share stuff that I read over on the Care 2 site and why not because as the home page declares:
40,107,687 members: the world’s largest community for good
Just three days ago there was a wonderful article shared on the Care 2 site about some dogs being rescued from a so-called backyard breeder. Better than that, it highlighted the wonderful consequence of a donation from George and Amal Clooney.
Here’s the story.
9 Dogs Successfully Rescued From Backyard Breeder Thanks to George and Amal Clooney
Nine lucky dogs have just had their world turned upside down in the best way possible.
Camp Cocker Rescue, based in California, just took in the “Mojave 9″ who were being kept by a backyard breeder. They’ll be getting all the love and veterinary care they desperately need thanks to a generous donation made by George and Amal Clooney.
The nine dogs have had little human contact, and are all in need of extensive veterinary treatment for health issues ranging from mammary tumors and dental disease to skin and ear infections to ingrown toenails. The organization relies on donations, and expenses for this rescue operation were quickly rising.
“We literally didn’t know how we were even going to begin to start paying for all of these new dogs that we took in on the same day,” Camp Cocker’s founder Cathy Stanley told PEOPLE.
Now, the organization is celebrating a generous and unexpected donation of $10,000 made by George and Amal Clooney, who are parents to two adopted cocker spaniels from Camp Cocker — Einstein and Louie.
Their donation is going to help cover the cost of care for these dogs, who have never been to a vet. The Clooney’s will also be matching donations up to $10,000 for the rest of May.
“After we all did happy dances and cried with happiness for this unbelievable matching donation offer – we then asked the donors if (and only if they gave us their permission) . . . if we could reveal their names to our supporters in order to help us reach our big goal this month. They were so very gracious to give us permission to reveal their names,” Camp Cocker wrote in an update.
While this was a huge boost for them, Camp Cocker is quick to point out that no donation is too small to help.
“We have a philosophy where we want to be very inclusive of all of our supporters and it’s important to us that no matter how small of a donation, every person feels like their donation is meaningful and that we appreciate them,” Stanley added.
Hopefully news about the Mojave 9 and the attention it’s getting will help raise awareness about rescue and inspire more people to get involved … and will help find each of these precious dogs their perfect forever home.
For more on how to help, and info on how to adopt one of these dogs, check out Camp Cocker Rescue and follow updates on Facebook.
I was doing KenKen, a math puzzle, on a plane recently when a fellow passenger asked why I bothered. I said I did it for the beauty.
O.K., I’ll admit it’s a silly game: You have to make the numbers within the grid obey certain mathematical constraints, and when they do, all the pieces fit nicely together and you get this rush of harmony and order.
Still, it makes me wonder what it is about mathematical thinking that is so elegant and aesthetically appealing. Is it the internal logic? The unique mix of simplicity and explanatory power? Or perhaps just its pure intellectual beauty?
I’ve loved math since I was a kid because it felt like a big game and because it seemed like the laziest thing you could do mentally. After all, how many facts do you need to remember to do math?
Later in college, I got excited by physics, which I guess you could say is just a grand exercise in applying math to understand the universe. My roommate, a brainy math major, used to bait me, saying that I never really understood the math I was using. I would counter that he never understood what on Earth the math he studied was good for.
We were both right, but he’d be happy to know that I’ve come around to his side: Math is beautiful on a purely abstract level, quite apart from its ability to explain the world.
We all know that art, music and nature are beautiful. They command the senses and incite emotion. Their impact is swift and visceral. How can a mathematical idea inspire the same feelings?
Well, for one thing, there is something very appealing about the notion of universal truth — especially at a time when people entertain the absurd idea of alternative facts. The Pythagorean theorem still holds, and pi is a transcendental number that will describe all perfect circles for all time.
But our brains also appear to respond to mathematical beauty as they do to other beautiful experiences.
In a 2014 study, Semir Zeki, a neuroscientist at University College London, and other researchers used fM.R.I. scanners to observe the brains of 15 mathematicians while they were thinking about various equations. The subjects were shown 60 mathematical formulas two weeks before they were scanned and during and after the scan. They were also asked to rate their level of understanding of each equation and their subjective emotional response to it, from ugly to beautiful.
The researchers found a strong correlation between finding an equation beautiful and activation of the medial orbitofrontal cortex, a region of the prefrontal cortex just behind the eyes. This is the same area that has been shown to light up when people find music or art beautiful, so it seems to be a common neural signature of aesthetic experience.
Geeks, take heart: While you can’t see or hear mathematical ideas, they too are capable of arousing a sense of beauty.
No doubt you’d like to know which equation won the beauty contest. It was the so-called Euler’s identity, which is a deceptively spare but profound equation that links five fundamental mathematical constants: a mix of real and imaginary numbers that combine to make zero. And the ugliest? Ramanujan’s infinite series for the reciprocal of pi — a clunky equation, even to this non-mathematician.
While mathematicians were more likely to find formulas beautiful if they understood them well, the correlation was not perfect, so the researchers were able to show that the observed brain activation was a result of the experience of beauty apart from meaning. This makes sense, in that there were equations that subjects understood completely yet found ugly.
Now, the medial orbitofrontal cortex is also active when we find something pleasurable or rewarding, which isn’t surprising either, since you’d expect beautiful experiences to be both.
My love of math originated in the physical world. My father, an insatiably curious guy and electrical engineer, used to build things with me — crystal radios, electric generators, all kinds of exciting contraptions.
One summer evening I found him tinkering with a mysterious metal box in the garage. It was a prototype of a ruby laser. When he flicked the switch, a brilliant thin red light shot out of the laser and up into the night sky.
“How far does it go?” I asked. “To infinity,” he said and added, smiling, “or further.”
I was awe-struck. I still am.
Richard A. Friedman is a professor of clinical psychiatry and the director of the psychopharmacology clinic at the Weill Cornell Medical College, and a contributing opinion writer.
While my understanding of mathematics is average, to say the best, I did identify with the idea spelt out a few paragraphs above. This one:
….. so the researchers were able to show that the observed brain activation was a result of the experience of beauty apart from meaning.
Because it took me back to looking up at the night sky out at sea well away from land.
Did I understand the meaning of what I was looking up at? Of course not! Did I experience beauty? Beyond what I could put into words!
Recently Jean was sent a link to an item on Mother Nature Network by Trish, a close friend living down in Tucson, AZ. It shows the strength of character of one particular dog but easily serves as a reminder of the power of love, commitment, endurance and loyalty that thousands of dogs exhibit so many times. Qualities that we humans may so easily overlook because our dogs fit so comfortably into the relationship with us.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated since it was originally published in November 2014.
The article is also presented with the enclosed video at the end of the text. But when Jean and I watched the video last night we were so taken by it that I am making an ‘executive’ decision to present the article slightly differently.
In that I think that watching this beautiful, incredible, video first is better.
The Adventure Racing World Series might be the most fraught and challenging sports event in the world. It usually involves teams of four navigating through a vast wilderness terrain while utilizing adventure skills from a range of disciplines including trekking, adventure running, mountain biking, paddling and climbing.
During the 2014 competition, for the first time ever, an exception was made so that one team could finish the race with five members instead of four. That fifth member? A stray dog, named Arthur by his adopted companions, who decided to follow one team for 430 harrowing miles through the Amazon jungle, according to the Daily Mail. If this story doesn’t warm your heart, you don’t have one.
Team Peak Performance, hailing from Sweden, happened upon Arthur while sharing a meal in advance of a 20-mile race stage through rough terrain in Ecuador. Mikael Lindnord, one of the team’s members, felt sorry for the scruffy, lonely stray, and decided to share a meatball with him. It was an innocent gesture — Lindnord had no intention but to lift the poor pooch’s spirits — but it was a gesture that would earn him a friend for life.
As the team got up to continue their race, Arthur tagged along. The team suspected he would eventually turn back around, but Arthur kept following them. He trailed them through muddy jungle, across vast distances of the Amazon river, all the way to the finish line.
The sport of adventure racing is not for the faint of heart — no more for dogs than for humans. During the most harrowing stages of the race, the team tried to shrug off their canine companion over concerns for his safety, but Arthur would have none of it. He was determined to stick with his adopted companions.
For instance, one crucial stage of the race requires the team to kayak along the coast for 36 miles. Understandably, the team was required to leave Arthur behind on the shore. But as they paddled away, Arthur broke free and leaped into the water and began swimming after the team. Realizing that the dog was willing to drown in order to stay with his friends, the team lifted Arthur onto the kayak so the dog could complete the race with them, to sounds of ovation from bystanders watching from the shore.
Arthur’s loyalty paid off in the end; Lindnord was able to adopt him and bring him back to his home in Sweden, where the dog is currently living, healthy and happy.
“I almost cried in front of the computer, when receiving the decision from Jordbruksverket (Board of Agriculture) in Sweden!” reported Lindnord when he first heard that his request to adopt Arthur was granted. “I came to Ecuador to win the World Championship. Instead, I got a new friend.”
For all my life this has felt like a very special month.
And, dear friends, at the risk of repeating myself to many of you, this is why the month of May is special for me.
Simply that I was born in London during the closing months of the Second World War. Inevitably, I was unaware of the number of German bombs that were falling on London during those last few months. But there were thousands.
On May 8th. 1945, the day that WWII ended and six months to the day from when I was born, my mother looked down at me and said aloud to me: “You are going to live”. Despite the fact that I don’t recall my mother saying that, it was verified many times later when I was growing up.
Now here we are approaching May 8th. 2017 and in a very real sense it seems that we are in another war.
A war of consequence.
A war that we have been engaged in for many, many years.
A war where we are inadvertently fighting on a global battlefield.
A war where 99.99% of us don’t consciously identify the weapons we are using. Weapons that are incredibly effective. So much so that we are in sight of winning the last battle; winning the war.
Yet a war where winning is no win at all. Indeed, where winning this war, this global war, spells the end. The end of life for 99.99% of us humans (and much else besides).
Now what on earth has got me so fired up?
Two things have:
The first is that I am living in my 73rd year of life. I have no idea of when my life comes to an end. But that death is a guarantee. Indeed, if one takes note of the average life expectancy of a male today in the USA (75.6 years) , it may not be that far away.
The second thing is that before my death I truly want to know that humankind has laid down its weapons of war against our planet and that there really is an unstoppable mission, a united wave of passion, to live in peace on this planet. Perhaps better put to live in peace with this planet.
Or in the words of an organization that I now want to introduce:
A mission which will require the hard work and dedication of each and every one of us as we do everything in our power as individuals, but also as we galvanize businesses, entrepreneurs, innovators, city planners, communities, people and politicians—all those who share our purpose.
OK! Thank you if you are still reading this! (Someone give Fred in that soft arm-chair over there a nudge; I can hear his snores from here!)
In the last Smithsonian electronic newsletter that I was reading yesterday morning there was a reference to an organization that I hadn’t previously come across. Here is the link to that item on The Smithsonian website. I am republishing it in full in this place. As you read it you will understand why I am republishing it.
Using a New Roadmap to Democratize Climate Change
A new tool aims to bypass governments and put the power of climate action in the people’s hands
Olafur Grimsson, who was president of Iceland from 1996 to 2016 and saw his country through the worst economic crisis in its history, making headlines all over the world as banks collapsed and the country fell into a depression, is the very picture of an urbane statesman. Collected and poised, with a striking full head of white hair, as comfortable in English as in his native Icelandic, he seems an unlikely revolutionary, not the sort of person you’d look at and immediately find yourself thinking: “Power to the People.”
But Grimsson is one of the primary architects of a quietly radical new idea whose aim is to facilitate action on climate change without any of the usual suspects—governments, countries, international bodies, negotiating parties.
He and several other veterans of the historic 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change were in Washington, D.C., last year, just before COP22, the climate meeting held in Marrakesh in 2016. They were pondering next steps when the conversation took a new and interesting turn, Grimsson says, addressing the question: “Was it possible to have the success of Paris without governments necessarily being in the leading role?”
The group included movers and shakers such as Peter Seligmann, the chairman of Conservation International; Laurene Powell Jobs, president of the philanthropic organization the Emerson Collective; and Andy Karsner, an assistant energy secretary during the administration of George W. Bush. Galvanized by their own query, they decided to try to answer it—to set about creating a new tool to aid in achieving the goals of the Paris accord.
At the Smithsonian’s Earth Optimism Summit, a gathering this past weekend of conservation-minded citizens, scientists and activists, Grimsson explained: “You get governments that are opposed or even hostile to climate action. We decided to bring together in Marrakesh a gathering of thinkers and scientists and innovators and policymakers from different countries in order to discuss a new model of securing the success of the future of the climate movement.”
Grimsson’s group felt that due to changes in information technology and social transformations, the large organizations and structures that used to be necessary to effect change were now not needed. And thus was born Roadmap, a new crowdsourcing tool for anyone and everyone interested in climate action. Still in its very early stages, Roadmap’s founders envision it as a platform for those working on climate issues—from scientist and policymaker to farmer and fisherman—to facilitate the sharing of knowledge and ideas, methods and techniques.
“A new political model is possible—where everyone can be a doer, where you no longer need big government or big enterprises to bring about success,” Grimsson says.
This new model for social change that skips the usual cumbersome channels and processes has been seen everywhere from public health, where the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has redefined the sector, to the hospitality industry, which is working to combat the human trafficking that plagues its businesses, to perhaps most famously the Arab Spring, where the role of social media in bringing about political change is still being debated today.
And this new model is complemented by technological changes. “The innovation in energy technology is such that we no longer have to wait for the big energy breakthrough,” Grimsson says. “We already have the available technologies. Every individual, home, village, community, town and region can execute change. The good news from the climate point of view is that, in addition to the information technology revolution, there has now also taken place an energy revolution. A house can be a power station: If the people who live in that house have extra energy, they can sell their energy through the smart grid. The notion that every house can be a power station is as revolutionary as saying that every mobile phone can be a media company.”
Grimsson admits that it may seem odd for someone in his position to be advocating that ordinary citizens take action apart from the conventional corridors of governmental power.
“For me to say that these traditional political organizations and positions are somewhat outdated is perhaps a strange statement: I was a professor of political science, I’ve been a member of parliament, I’ve been a minister of finance, I was president for 20 years,” he says.
It was during Iceland’s financial meltdown that he first experienced this new kind of social change: “I saw this very strongly through the financial crisis in my own country, which led to a big social economic uprising. All those activities were engineered by unknown people, people who were not part of a big organization, who used Facebook and the information media to bring thousands of people together in one day.”
Right now, Roadmap consists of a website and a lofty manifesto that speaks of raising the value of “moral currency” and creating a “best practices warehouse.” Visitors to the site can fill out a form if they want to become part of its community of “doers.” The practical part of the manifesto speaks of identifying the best methodologies and models; implementing a “real-time system of measurement” and a way to “gauge and understand what is working, what is not, and exactly what is being achieved.” As the platform develops, it will be interesting to see exactly what form these gauges, measurement systems, and warehouses take.
After the Paris Agreement, Grimsson says of himself and his Roadmap co-founders, “We were all optimistic, but we are all also realists.” It is his belief that if you “give people the tools, they can execute the transformation and the change—without governmental leadership.” Perhaps Roadmap will be one of those tools.
Here’s a video that spells it out in ways that I find impossible to ignore. (And, yes, I signed up, as in joining, yesterday afternoon.)
Because in hundreds of years time I want others to look at the following picture of Troutbeck Valley in England and know how precious is this one and only planet we live on.
We are witnessing more storms, more unseasonal weather patterns, and I just hope that we wake up soon to the damage we are doing to our beloved Mother that has held us in her eternal arms for so long..
Enjoy the month of May wherever you are in the world!
Closing by repeating a key pronouncement in that RoadMap video above:
Another delightful travel account from Natalie Derham-Weston.
Albeit perhaps travels of a more inward nature.
Travel Blog: Installment 3: Living on a boat.
I fancied an interlude this week to share a morning I enjoyed over the weekend. It isn’t often that the chance arises to enjoy our local surroundings without time limits, overdue deadlines or inconvenient meetings. However, I had a day off Saturday; a concept becoming more and more valued having since started a new full-time job, which is quite demanding on my time. I have requested this high load of hours but after months of travelling and not having regular work, it is taking a while for me to adjust to the mental and physical demands.
Anyway, without going into the irrelevant details, I have been spending my time living on a boat in a marina in Lymington, a small sea side town in the New Forest on the South Coast of England. This means my commute to work is a 2 minute walk and although I do not know the first notion about sailing, I have quickly fallen for the lifestyle of boats and water. I have found it to be extremely sociable and relaxing and I have all I need around me. This includes a bicycle, a car, swimming facilities, work, grocery shops and a very modest yet comfortable boat.
So last Saturday, I woke up early, as I was already in the routine of being awake from my work shifts and saw the sun streaming in through the port hole windows. This immediately buoyed me and I pulled the curtains and opened the hatch to let in the fresh air. I had a few items on a to do list but I certainly didn’t intend on wasting the valuable time I had.
I did have an appointment I couldn’t shirk but made it as quick as possible and on the way back picked up some lunch items. Back on the boat, I had a quick tidy and clean as I firmly believe an orderly workspace leads to a clearer mind.
I pre-empt this by saying I am usually accompanied by my father on the boat but this specific day was the first time I had been left in solo charge and this gave me somewhat of an independent free feeling. So my next mission was to cook some eggs which I did on our very small gas camping stove. I took some cushions out on deck and had my lunch in the warm April sunshine. Our pontoon seems to be quite an active mooring site and there were people constantly wandering along it all day, carrying tools, bags and equipment back and forth. So although I was alone, I did not feel isolated.
I then left everything behind on the boat, including my phone and took my bicycle around the headland on a trail I had never been on before. The channel was extremely clear and I had a wonderful view over to the Isle of Wight and watched the bustle of boats going to and fro. I passed lots of families, dogs, bird watchers and couples but kept going at a steady pace along the gravel track headed towards Keyhaven, the next fishing village along.
There is no specific reason why I enjoyed this so much, just the whole atmosphere and surroundings made for a very encompassing uplifting day. I continued along the path, and had no care as to where I was or where I was going. I was confident enough that I knew I’d always find my way back somehow and so without that pre-conditioned feeling of panic, I cycled on along the back roads and hauled my bicycle over fences and gates.
Two hours later I cycled back in to the marina and abandoned the bike next to the boat. The boat is never locked, another aspect I really appreciate. I don’t think this would be possible everywhere, but it allows for a very open way of life. So I grabbed a cushion and headed to the bow of the boat, lying in the sun, drinking a beer, watching the world go by.
This just proved to me how easy it is to be happy sometimes. We need very little but that day will stay in my memory for a long time as a point in time where I was 100% content.
I had the great fortune of living on a yacht Songbird of Kent, a Tradewind 33, for five years in the late ’80s early ’90s based out of Larnaca on the Greek side of Cyprus. I can fully vouch for the peace that Natalie has written about.
Now it’s very fair to say that there wasn’t a rush of donations. It would be more accurate to say that there were no donations for several days. In fact it is only in the last twenty-four hours that the amount donated has gone from 216 to 244 Australian dollars. (The fund will be transferring those Aussie dollars across to assist John Zande and his lovely wife soon. The currency being used is because it is the sister of John’s wife who is raising the money and she lives in Australia.)
Now it would be very wrong of me to seek the reasons why not a single follower or reader of this place chose not to make a donation. But I will offer this perspective. In that Jean and I wanted to make a second donation and it has taken several days to figure out why our gift wasn’t being processed; the reason being a rather cautious (our) bank attitude to debit card payments being made overseas. So if anyone else has tried to make a donation and the system has got in the way then please do find a solution.
Because John and his wife, Dionete, are totally immersed in doing their best to help the homeless and abandoned dogs in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Here are copies of recent emails that John and Dionete have sent me over the last few days.
Morning Paul, I took a camera this morning just to show you the new boy I’m helping. Gorgeous fellow, and young. It never stops. They never stop showing up… which is something I’m sure Jean understands all too well from her work in Mexico.
Again, thank you for your help and posting the campaign.
I queried if this new boy had a name?
No name yet. Can you think of one? I found him on the corner of a street where I feed two (sometimes 3) cats every morning. G’s mum and dad used to live in that street and her dad would feed them. He loved cats, and after he died (and G’s mum moved closer to us) I’ve kept going back. It’s been over a year now that I go there every day, and despite every effort to capture them, I’ve failed. They’re quite feral, but I can’t bring myself to letting them to fend for themselves.
And these are those photos.
John then continued that same day:
Anyway, the boy showed up about 9 days ago, so on my daily run I feed and water him. G put his pictures on Facebook this morning and a girl (Luiza) responded saying she knows of another lady who’s also feeding him. I saw food there once, on day 2 I think, but none since, so I’m not sure what that’s all about. The girl who actually responded is a part of this loose Vista Verde group. I’ve never met her, but I know of her. We’re helping her as she took in a dog a few months ago that had been hit by a car and is paralysed, but, to her credit, she’s refused to give in and has him in physio (including water treadmills), which is actually showing some positive signs. That’s sort of how it all works. Here’s some pictures and video of that case. Gorgeous dog.
The boy is relatively safe where he is. He has shelter, and doesn’t appear to be in any mood to move on, which is good. If he stays put we can help. Finding a home for him is not easy, but after we can find some place as a temporary shelter we’ll get him into the vet, neutered, treated for whatever, then settled. The huge problem is, there simply aren’t any shelters we can just take him to, so we can’t get him off the street and into the vet immediately. Every shelter is over-full, and that makes rescues just that much harder. It’s not the case of simply finding a dog (or cat) and getting them to safety… which is heartbreaking. You just have to hope they stay put. A few times I’ve put a dog in the car and taken them from danger (like near a main road) and brought them up to our area where there are parks and plenty of shelter and people to help. It’s a safe place, and if they stay put we often have successes… But that takes time. But, as I said, he doesn’t seem to want to move on, and he’s starting to put on weight. He was desperately thin, but 500g of mince and a big bowl of dry food every day seems to be doing the trick.
Here’s hoping to a good ending for him.
In speaking with Jeannie about this poor dog she very quickly suggested the name of Socks. John happily went with Jean’s suggestion.
Hi Paul, just a quick update on socks. Luiza (the girl I mentioned yesterday) has found temporary shelter for Socks for one month. It’s not long, but will give us the chance to neuter him and do all necessary blood work. Finding him a home is the next hill, but I spent time with him this morning, just sitting with him, and he’s really a lovely, gentle fellow, so here’s hoping.
Socks update: His shelter home is ready today, we’ve been told. That, however, might now not be needed. Sunday I saw he now has a huge dog house on the footpath, with blankets, food and water. He wasn’t interested in the mince I brought him, so I just left some chewing treats. Same thing this morning (I’ve just gotten back). So, we’ll go back later today just to speak (again) to the people in the street (we don’t know who exactly put the dog house there), and it might be the case that he just goes straight to the vet for neutering, maybe a few days in the shelter for recovery, then back to his house while (if still needed) we look for a permanent home/family.
Hello Paul – I can see you’ve been playing “email tennis” with the gofundme staff – good to read they (finally) managed to sort it out.
We saw Socks today. Apparently a bunch of neighbours got together to feed and take care of him, albeit on the street (he was given a 2nd-hand doghouse & doona (oops, duvet)). One of the guys has been thinking of taking him to his country house; an acquaintance of mine knows of somebody who might adopt him. Yes, everything’s still in the air, but he has it much much better than other dogs we’ve found and helped.
Now we can book his neutering/vaccine.
As for me, I don’t have enough words to thank you & Jean. Truth to be told it feels a bit weird to be the beneficiary of a campaign. We’ve always helped others and suddenly seeing ourselves in this position is a tad uncomfortable, actually – which doesn’t mean this money is not welcome, considering all the cases we’ve had so far this year.
Fingers crossed it all works out for Socks. We’ll keep you posted.
So, good people, this is why I beseech you to please support what John, Dionete and his close group are doing on behalf of those dogs down in Brazil. Please make a donation!
Over on my website, under My Writings, I mention my recently published booklet, The Amazing World of Dogs.
Here’s an extract from pages 17-18 of that booklet.
Finally, Dr. Morten Kringelbach of the Department of Psychiatry at Oxford University1 explains that the need to nurture is very deep in us humans and that dogs produce an instinctive parental response in us that is very similar to our nurturing instinct for our children.
If the magic of having dogs in our lives for such a long time ended there it would still be breathtakingly wonderful. But dogs could now be offering us humans the capacity to understand many human diseases. Literally, our dogs could be saving our lives!
The challenge in understanding human diseases is that within our ‘breed’ there is a great variability of genes. Not surprising when one considers the incredible diversity and variation within us humans.
But when we turn to dogs then we have a bonus. For despite there being, as mentioned earlier, 400 or more different breeds of dog, within each breed dogs are very similar to each other. In other words, that narrow gene pool within a specific dog breed makes if far easier to pinpoint genetic mutations than it is in humans.
Elinor Karlsson is the director of the Vertebrate Genomics Group at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard.2 As a geneticist, Dr. Karlsson has identified, “hundreds of diseases common to dogs and humans”. In 2005, the dog’s genome was fully mapped; all 2.4 billion letters of the dog’s genome
Among those common diseases between us humans and our wonderful dogs are diabetes, cardiac diseases, epilepsy, many cancers especially bone cancers, and breast cancer and even brain tumours.
The statistics are grim: About 60 to 70 percent of children who have glioblastoma, a form of brain cancer, do not survive more than two years. This fast-growing cancer is resistant to traditional treatments like radiation and chemotherapy.
For dogs, cancer statistics are also grim. More than 6 million dogs are diagnosed with cancer every year, and one out of four dogs will get cancer during their lifetime. It’s the leading cause of death for dogs after the age of two.
But there could be hope for both dogs and kids. A vaccine being developed that destroys cancer cells in dogs could also be successful in fighting glioblastoma in children.
Researchers at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Mo., have started a partnership with ELIAS Animal Health, a company that’s testing treatments for osteosarcoma (bone cancer) and B cell lymphoma in dogs.
“If we take advantage of the resources we have in this region and get behind those collaborations, this could be a mecca for advanced, exciting, innovative therapies for cancer and lots of other diseases,” Dr. Doug Myers, an oncologist at Children’s Mercy, told the Kansas City Star.
ELIAS Cancer Immunotherapy (ECI) uses the dog’s own immune system to destroy the cancer. “Research has shown that ex vivo activated T cells have the machinery to effectively kill cancer cells, including cancer stem cells,” according to the company’s website. “ELIAS Cancer Immunotherapy utilizes adoptive cell therapy to deliver an army of activated T cells.”
The dog is vaccinated with his own cancer cells to produce an immune response, then the generated white blood cells destroy the cancer cells.
“Personalized T cells are then safely obtained from the patient through apheresis [the removal of blood] and then ‘super charged’ to produce a large population of killer T cells that are reinfused into the patient to kill the cancer,” the company explains.
ELIAS Animal Health is currently conducting clinical trials of ECI at Kansas State University, the University of Missouri-Columbia and a few animal hospitals across the country. The success rates of using ECI along with surgery on dogs with cancer are being compared with those of patients that are treated with surgery alone.
“Early clinical study results already show positive outcomes,” Tammie Wahaus, CEO of ELIAS Animal Health, said in November 2016.
Among the ECI success stories is that of Dakota, a German shorthaired pointer who continues to survive a year after she was diagnosed with osteosarcoma. This is twice as long as her original prognosis. X-rays taken during a follow-up examination showed no signs of the cancer spreading.
Could ECI also successfully treat children with glioblastoma? Dr. Kevin Ginn, a pediatric oncologist at Children’s Mercy, and other researchers are currently developing protocols for trials. They’re planning to apply for a Phase II clinical trial with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, using the results of ECI’s studies on safety and effectiveness as far as dogs are concerned. The Phase II trial would give ECI to a large group of children to see if it’s effective and further evaluate its safety.
Animal health trials are regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. They are less expensive and proceed faster than FDA-regulated human trials, the Kansas City Star reports, “but successful human health treatments often bring a larger return on investment.”
In this case, a larger return on investment could be a win-win for children as well as dogs with cancer.
Many would extend that proficiency of dogs to include their sense of loyalty and forgiveness, to and of us humans, but that all pales into insignificance when compared to what our understanding of dogs is giving us.
No less than the capacity to help cure many of our diseases, to deeply understand the workings of the human mind, and above all else, to offer insight into our very existence.
(And, please, make a note of my final remark at the end of today’s post.)
Those who are regular visitors to this place will know that John Zande, who lives in Brazil, is a good friend, and, for that matter, I try to be a good friend of his place. (If you didn’t read my recent review of John’s latest book On The Problem of Good then it is here.)
So when a couple of days ago I received the following email from John you can imagine my positive response to his request.
Paul, hi, I have a favour to ask.
My wife’s sister, Dee (who lives in Australia) has started a gofundme campaign to help cover a rash of vet surgery bills we’ve had recently. These past few months (most of summer, really) has been appalling with the number of dumped animals in our area.
Together with a few other people in our loose group we rescued about ten and got them adopted out to good homes. Plus, we have three in temporary shelters as we nurse them back to health. We took one into our house, Nina, thus making eleven here now, who had her tail amputated last Tuesday. We were fortunate in that our vet worked for free (a 3hr operation) and only charged us for the anesthetist.
We’re lucky to have these wonderful people around, but we’re a tad snowed under right now with the accumulated surgeries and medicines, which is why Dee started this little campaign.
Now there was no question that Jean and I wanted to help. Not only by making a modest donation ourselves but by promoting Dee’s campaign. I emailed a reply to John saying just that.
John then responded with more details, including some photographs:
Dee is married to a very good friend of mine from Uni. She started this campaign to help Dionete, my wife, and I (and if possible a few other Vista Verde folk who’re in our rescue network) here in Brazil. Dee was here just before Christmas and saw the problem first hand. She actually helped us rescue a wonderful little fellow, Terrorista, who now lives a few streets away with a wonderful family.
I didn’t know, but Dionete was chatting to her a week or two ago and it came up just how many vet/surgery/medicine expenses we’d accumulated over the summer. Without either of us knowing, she, Dee, then started this gofundme campaign to lend a hand and help clear the vet bills. We’re not an NGO (we actually help four here in Sao Jose dos Campos, two in Sao Paulo, and Sandra’s Maxmello in another city south of Sao Paulo). Because we’re not an NGO we’ve never thought about doing a campaign ourselves, so was surprised when Dee started this one. It’s quite modest, $1,000 Australian dollars (the goal) converted to Brazilian Reis will make a sizable dent in our backlog of vet surgery bills. Our bills are tiny compared to a guy we know who does have an NGO and owes his network of vets 90,000. He’s a wonderful fellow and I’m actually working with him to try and get a mobile neutering unit started here in Sao Jose dos Campos. But that’s another story. So, to be clear, the campaign is for us here in Vista Verde, which is sadly a dumping ground for animals. Surrounding districts seem to think we’re all wealthy here and therefore they can dump their animals. It’s infuriating, and the animals never stop coming.
I am sure that Jean and I aren’t the only ones that want to help.
And John could offer no better reason for seeking some financial support from the wider world. Here’s some of his later email:
My apologies if there was some confusion. I’m actually heading out right now to feed a new fellow I found a few days ago and is sleeping outside a house in another district. When I get back I’ll send some more photos, OK.
Let me close with some more photos of dogs that have been helped by John, Dionete and the rest of the great band of the Vista Verde Fund.
Please offer whatever you can to help. Even the smallest amount makes a real difference.