Category: Spirituality

Freedom matters, even for animals.

So many of us take it for granted that we can hardly imagine what it’s like for our animals not to have freedom.

Mary Jo retells an account of rescuing a number of dogs from a terrible situation. I won’t get in the way of her story.

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Why the 5 freedoms of animal welfare matter

Hoarding and neglect cases hit us hard because we can’t imagine people who don’t take care of their animals.

By MARY JO DILONARDO
January 19, 2019.

A mama doodle and her week-old baby decompress after being rescued from a hoarding situation. (Photo: Mary Jo DiLonardo)

I was supposed to be on a break. I fostered eight puppies back to back last year with the last one leaving right after Christmas. No doe-eyed dog was going to tug on my heartstrings.

But then I heard about a hoarding and neglect case where some 30 doodles were found living outdoors, perched on piles of hard clay and mounds of feces. A local rescue, Releash Atlanta, waded into the mess and scooped up seven of these dogs, putting out a plea for fosters to help. I kept looking at the face of a mama dog curled up with her newborn pup.

What break? The frightened mom and her itty-bitty baby are now decompressing in my basement until their permanent foster takes over next week. They’re learning that people aren’t terrible, and mama has found that chicken tastes great.

There’s something about cases like these that hit animal lovers — heck, most people — with a sickening blow. We can’t wrap our heads around the idea of animals, especially pets, living in such deplorable conditions.

The 5 freedoms of animal welfare

Former rescue dog Stanna now lives a great life with the best food, shelter and toys. (Photo: Lucy Bell)

Look at the lives of most of the pets you know. They eat quality food, go to the vet regularly, stay cool in summer and warm in winter and want for very little.

These life basics seem like common sense to most of us, but more than 50 years ago the U.K. government wanted to put them in writing. In 1965, the Farm Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (which later became the Farm Animal Welfare Council) defined the specific conditions that must be met for animals being cared for by humans. They called them the “Five Freedoms,” which cover an animal’s physical and mental state. The freedoms were later updated but the gist is basically the same.

These conditions of humane treatment have been adopted by veterinarians and animal-welfare groups including the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).

The Five Freedoms are:

  • Freedom from hunger and thirst, by ready access to water and a diet to maintain health and vigor
  • Freedom from discomfort, by providing an appropriate environment
  • Freedom from pain, injury and disease, by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment
  • Freedom to express normal behavior, by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and appropriate company of the animal’s own kind
  • Freedom from fear and distress, by ensuring conditions and treatment, which avoid mental suffering

Taking things for granted

More than 300 German shepherds were rescued from filthy breeding operations in Georgia. (Photo: Guardians of Rescue)

These freedoms seem so incredibly basic and that’s likely why when an animal neglect case makes headlines, we’re all so horrified.

This happened in early January, when hundreds of German shepherds were found living in unimaginably squalid conditions from a suspected puppy mill in two locations in Montgomery and Candler counties in Georgia. Led by New York’s Guardians of Rescue, dozens of rescue groups immediately stepped up to help, rescuing more than 300 of the mostly purebred dogs. They found that in addition to being housed in filthy, crowded pens, some of the dogs had sores and had been living like that for at least five years.

“We know that a lot lost their lives fighting simply because they fought for dominance. It was a recipe for disaster every single day,” Mike Lawson, an investigator for Guardians, tells MNN. “They didn’t get out, they didn’t go for walks and they had to share the same soil covered with their own feces and urine. There was no protection from the cold and no shelter from the sun on a hot day. Obviously we are grateful they are no longer there.”

The German shepherds were living in cramped, filthy pens. (Photo: Guardians of Rescue)

People from around the country and even in other parts of the world followed the drama on Facebook as all the dogs were removed from the property. Many people donated to the various rescue groups and offered to help foster or otherwise give support to these hundreds of dogs.

While Guardians also is involved with typical, everyday rescues, the group is often called in for these complicated cases.

“When people feel there’s no more hope, that’s when we jump into action,” says Lawson, who’s a retired FBI agent, like many of the group’s investigators.

“There’s the sheer number of animals and generally it’s the same typical M.O. in all these hoarding cases: It’s cramped areas, the hygiene is at an 11 on a scale of 1 to 10, and generally the health of the animals is not taken into consideration,” Lawson says. “Regardless of how it started, nobody should be keeping so many dogs on any property.”

People step up

Rescues and animal shelters save animals every day. They always need donations, fosters and other kinds of support. But when these unimaginable neglect stories surface, they know they can count on people to help.

“We see an outpouring of support from the community for a few reasons,” says Kristin Sarkar, founder of Releash Atlanta. “The first is, usually it’s a big undertaking that requires a lot of donations, whether financial or just items needed to begin the process of transferring the dogs to safety and it’s something everyone can help with, such as donating blankets, crates or leashes and collars.”

Sarkar posted the heart-wrenching video above of the doodle dogs being rescued with photos of the petrified pups as they were taken from their filthy pens. Immediately, people started asking how they could help.

“There’s also a visual that makes it hard to ignore. We can tell a story all we want, but when you actually see the story, it has a much greater effect. We’ve passed 100 car accidents, yet we will still slow down to look at the next one,” she says. “Lastly, a lot of times with cases like this, for the most part, people are good, and they want to help, and what better time to want to help than when the need is so great? Such is the case with these recent hoarding situations.”

I’ve learned this kindness firsthand.

My scared little foster dog was covered with mats and not trusting enough to really be handled yet. I asked a trainer friend of mine for advice and she called her assistant trainer who is also a groomer. He immediately came over on his day off and spent time calmly talking to this frightened pup as he trimmed off these horrible clumps of nastiness. People are amazing.

I fostered one other hoarding dog, Pax. He was petrified when he arrived and had heartworms, so he had a long road to recovery. People donated toys, treats and medical care while he was with me and were very kindly invested in his background and rescue, as well as his transformation. It took five months for him to come around and realize that people can be good.

The doodles and the German shepherds have a long road ahead of them. Thanks to rescues, fosters and the people who are donating for their care, they will now have access to the Five Freedoms. They’ll be free from hunger and pain, discomfort and fear, and will be in a safe, loving environment.

It will take a lot of work, but the good news is that eventually there will be happy endings.

“So many people have to invest time, energy, love and money into these dogs to fix them,” Lawson says. “These dogs have never been inside a home. They have never taken a car ride. Never been on a leash. Never have had a collar. To put these dogs into wonderful homes, everybody who has taken these dogs will have to put a lot into them. I’m sure, before you know it, you will start seeing some wonderful before-and-after photos of these dogs placed in homes.”

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Words fail me when it comes to the appalling cruelty as described above.

So thank goodness for those wonderful people who truly understand what it means for a dog to be loved and cared for.

Say Hello to the New Year!

This was too good to ignore.

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Police diver adopts dog rescued from icy lake

A puppy was saved from a frozen lake by a police diver in Turkey. The rescuer feared the worst but said it was miracle that she survived.

(Now try as I may I can’t embed the video but, please, follow the link to the page.)

https://www.bbc.com/news/av/world-europe-46709311/police-diver-adopts-dog-rescued-from-icy-lake

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It’s inspiring and beautiful what a human will do for a dog!

Last but not least Happy New Year to you.

That Winter Solstice

Good people, this is mid-Winter.

(Northern Hemisphere only.)

OK, not in the sense of weather because the worse is yet to come I’m sure. But in terms of the movement of the Planet Earth in its orbit around the Sun. And that’s what matters!

This is a really ancient moment as the following article published in The Conversation explains in much more detail.

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What winter solstice rituals tell us about indigenous people

By    Associate Professor of Environmental Studies, The University of Montana

December 13th, 2018.

On the day of winter solstice, many Native American communities will hold religious ceremonies or community events.

The winter solstice is the day of the year when the Northern Hemisphere has the fewest hours of sunlight and the Southern Hemisphere has the most. For indigenous peoples, it has been a time to honor their ancient sun deity. They passed their knowledge down to successive generations through complex stories and ritual practices.

As a scholar of the environmental and Native American religion, I believe, there is much to learn from ancient religious practices.

Ancient architecture

For decades, scholars have studied the astronomical observations that ancient indigenous people made and sought to understand their meaning.

One such place was at Cahokia, near the Mississippi River in what is now Illinois across from St. Louis.

The Cahokia mounds. Doug Kerr, CC BY-SA

In Cahokia, indigenous people built numerous temple pyramids or mounds, similar to the structures built by the Aztecs in Mexico, over a thousand years ago. Among their constructions, what most stands out is an intriguing structure made up of wooden posts arranged in a circle, known today as “Woodhenge.”

To understand the purpose of Woodhenge, scientists watched the sun rise from this structure on winter solstice. What they found was telling: The sun aligned with both Woodhenge and the top of a temple mound – a temple built on top of a pyramid with a flat top – in the distance. They also found that the sun aligns with a different temple mound on summer solstice.

Archaeological evidence suggests that the people of Cahokia venerated the sun as a deity. Scholars believe that ancient indigenous societies observed the solar system carefully and wove that knowledge into their architecture.

Scientists have speculated that the Cahokia held rituals to honor the sun as a giver of life and for the new agricultural year.

Complex understandings

Zuni Pueblo is a contemporary example of indigenous people with an agricultural society in western New Mexico. They grow corn, beans, squash, sunflowers and more. Each year they hold annual harvest festivals and numerous religious ceremonies, including at the winter solstice.

At the time of the winter solstice they hold a multiday celebration, known as the Shalako festival. The days for the celebration are selected by the religious leaders. The Zuni are intensely private, and most events are not for public viewing.

But what is shared with the public is near the end of the ceremony, when six Zuni men dress up and embody the spirit of giant bird deities. These men carry the Zuni prayers for rain “to all the corners of the earth.” The Zuni deities are believed to provide “blessings” and “balance” for the coming seasons and agricultural year.

As religion scholar Tisa Wenger writes, “The Zuni believe their ceremonies are necessary not just for the well-being of the tribe but for “the entire world.”

Winter games

Not all indigenous peoples ritualized the winter solstice with a ceremony. But that doesn’t mean they didn’t find other ways to celebrate.

The Blackfeet tribe in Montana, where I am a member, historically kept a calendar of astronomical events. They marked the time of the winter solstice and the “return” of the sun or “Naatosi” on its annual journey. They also faced their tipis – or portable conical tents – east toward the rising sun.

They rarely held large religious gatherings in the winter. Instead the Blackfeet viewed the time of the winter solstice as a time for games and community dances. As a child, my grandmother enjoyed attending community dances at the time of the winter solstice. She remembered that each community held their own gatherings, with unique drumming, singing and dance styles.

Later, in my own research, I learned that the Blackfeet moved their dances and ceremonies during the early reservation years from times on their religious calendar to times acceptable to the U.S. government. The dances held at the time of the solstice were moved to Christmas Day or to New Year’s Eve.

The solstice. Divad, from Wikimedia Commons

Today, my family still spends the darkest days of winter playing card games and attending the local community dances, much like my grandmother did.

Although some winter solstice traditions have changed over time, they are still a reminder of indigenous peoples understanding of the intricate workings of the solar system. Or as the Zuni Pueblo’s rituals for all peoples of the earth demonstrate – of an ancient understanding of the interconnectedness of the world.

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Let me pick up on the last sentence: “Or as the Zuni Pueblo’s rituals for all peoples of the earth demonstrate – of an ancient understanding of the interconnectedness of the world.”

We are all of us interconnected across the world. We have been for a very long time.

The importance of understanding this, truly understanding this, is critical to our future.

Why don’t we do this?

The day of the dogs.

I saw this on the BBC News site back in November and had been meaning to share it with you before now. But it’s still highly relevant.

Do no more than go straight into the article.

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Nepal festival celebrates ‘day of the dogs’

The Nepalese festival Kukur Tihar celebrates dogs by blessing them with a red mark on their forehead

Every dog has its day, and for canines in Nepal that phrase could not be more literal.

The five-day Nepalese Hindu festival of Tihar started this week and the second day is known as Kukur Tihar or “day of the dogs”.

Dogs are celebrated and blessed with a Tika – a red mark applied to their forehead.

The animals are also given flowers, garlands and offered food as part of the festival.

Scooby the Japanese Spitz enjoyed being decorated with garlands of fresh marigold flowers

Hindus believe that dog is the messenger of Yamaraj – the God of death – and by keeping the dogs in good humour they will be able to appease Yamaraj himself.

Sumnima Maudas said Kukur Tihar is one of her “favourite Nepalese festivals” and added the day was all about her chihuahua Sanu

The festival, which shares some traditions with Diwali in India, also celebrates cows and crows.

Dog owner Umid Pokharel celebrated with his labrador Frieza but said “worshipping them for a day is not enough”

It is not just beloved pets who are involved in the celebrations. Stray dogs are honoured on the day too.

Kelsang Ongmu Tamang’s cat Missy joined in with the tradition as well as dogs Sweetie and Milly

Treats given to dogs during Kukur Tihar can range from meat, milk, eggs and good quality dog food.

Pappu the pug has been enjoying the food element of the festival

Tihar is also called Deepavali or the festival of lights.

Throughout this festival, people in Nepal clean their houses and courtyards; light up lamps and pray to Laxmi – the Goddess of Wealth – urging her to visit their houses and bless them.

Daisy Pie certainly looked pleased to be the centre of attention

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Just beautiful!

Picture Parade Two Hundred and Sixty-Seven

These are just mouth-wateringly beautiful.

Margaret K. from down in Australia sent me the link to these photographs.

I should add the words that precede the photos.

Many people think of Finland as the land of cold weather and darkness. However, Ossi Saarinen (previously here and here), a Finnish photographer, believes that the country is much more than just that, and he shows another surprisingly enchanting side of his motherland.

Ossi brings delightful feelings through his photos of spectacular Finnish nature, especially the untouched forests covering almost three-quarters of the whole country. And within these peaceful and ancient forests, wild animals roam freely and enjoy their lives at their best.

Finnish animals appear to be very mysterious, fascinating and charming just like they’ve stepped out from fairy tales. Ossi does not skip the chances to capture the beauty of Finnish wildlife either. He believes that every encounter between the animals and humans becomes an unforgettably amazing experience (Well, let’s not talk about the encounter with a bear).

Now, let’s enjoy the fairy tale’s atmosphere in his photos

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Oh my! Beautiful beyond words!

Staying with the theme of loyal dogs

Or rather letting Deinah Storm offer a guest post.

This is a guest post. It stays with the theme of loyalty. The loyalty of dogs towards their dead masters.

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8 Dogs Who Remained Loyal to Their Now-Gone Masters

By Deinah Storm, December 5th, 2108

A dog has always been a man’s best friend. Having a pet dog is always great. You have a partner to go with anywhere you want. Also, you won’t feel alone when you have a pet dog. Dogs are creatures that are filled with joy; no wonder fur parents from around the world try to give their best to show how they care for their pooch—be it to provide them the best dog food, regularly visit the vet, or keep dog house warm.

The love and affection that dogs give their owners are comparable to a mother’s love. It is unconditional and lasts a lifetime, and even beyond. Here is a list of eight dogs who remained loyal to their now-gone masters.

Hachiko
You may have heard of this name before already. Hachiko’s story has been all over the world. They even made movies about this loyal dog. He was originally owned by a Japanese professor at Tokyo University named Eizoburo Ueno. His students were the ones who nudged him to adopt this beautiful Akita dog. Every day that the professor goes to work, he goes to the train station to take the train. Hachiko always waited for him to return so they could go home together. After having been partners for only less than a year, Eizoburo Ueno died tragically while he was at work. So that day, Hachiko was waiting in vain for his master to return. But, he never did. Still, Hachiko waited every single day of his life for his now-gone to return to the train station. People were feeding Hachiko and giving him treats until he got old and died. A lot of people mourned over his death, and a statue was built for him.

Capitan
Capitan was a dog owned by an Argentinian man named Michael Guzman. He was bought by Michael for his son Damian as a gift. They always had a special bond and loved each other. When Mr. Guzman passed away after just a year, Capitan could not be found by the Guzman family. Eventually, they were able to locate him. He was beside his master’s grave. Capitan stayed there for six long years until he passed away.

Hawkeye
Hawkeye  was a labrador who was owned by a Navy SEAL who died in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan. A photo went viral during his funeral service. It was a picture of Hawkeye lying sadly in front of his master’s casket. He stayed there for the whole service. It is disheartening for dogs to lose their owners. Thankfully, the best friend of the deceased took Hawkeye and cared for him.

Ruswarp
Ruswarp was owned by Graham Nuttall. One day, they went on a walk along the mountains in Wales. But, they did not return. So, Graham’s friends alerted the police. A search was done. But after several weeks, they could not be found. Eventually, after eleven weeks of being missing, another person found Graham beside a stream together with Ruswarp. Ruswarp never left his master’s side even after several weeks. Ruswarp was so weak and ill when they were found. A statue of Ruswarp was unveiled at a train station which he and his owner helped save.

Fido
Fido was owned by a factory worker in Italy. His name literally translates to “faithful.” He always went with his master to the bus station and waited for him to come back every single day. One tragic day, his owner was killed in the factory due to a bombing attack. Fido waited all day for his owner to return. He eventually returned home, but every single day he waited by the train station for fourteen years until he died.

Shep
Shep was owned by a shepherd. One day, his shepherd was ill and was rushed to the hospital. Shep waited outside the hospital until his owner died. He followed his owner’s casket as it was loaded onto a train to be sent home. Shep waited by the train station for five years. Every single day, he checked each person who went off the train. He stayed there until Shep tragically died in the train station when he became deaf and went to the tracks where a train hit him.

Greyfriars Bobby
Bobby was owned by a police officer. When the officer died, Bobby never left his grave for fourteen years. When Bobby died, he was buried near his master. He had a gravestone which read “Greyfriars Bobby — died 14th January 1872 — aged 16 years — Let his loyalty and devotion be a lesson to us all.” He had a statue made for him across the place where they are buried.

Waghya
Waghya was owned by the King of the Maratha Empire. Traditionally, when a king dies, his remains are cremated. So, when the king died, Waghya never left his side until he was about to be incinerated. When the funeral pyre was lit, Waghya leaped into his death.

Dogs are forever loyal and loving

Dogs bring love and happiness to the world. They are there forever for humans. They will love you for all of eternity. So, love your dogs and care for them. They will never let you down.

(Source of Featured Image: Pexels.com)

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It would be wrong of me to close without thanking Deinah. It’s a great guest post.

Finally, Deinah’s bio:

Author’s Bio:
Deinah Storm is a pet lover from the US that’s had cats and dogs all her life. When she’s not walking the dogs with her family, she spends time writing informational and interesting blogs about pets to share with pet lover communities.

 

Lidl Recalls Orlando Brand Dog Food

Yet another dog food recall.

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Lidl Recalls Orlando Brand Dog Food

November 9, 2018

Lidl USA is voluntarily recalling specific lots of Orlando brand Grain Free Chicken & Chickpea Superfood Recipe Dog Food because the products may contain elevated levels of Vitamin D.

What’s Recalled?

The recalled Orlando brand products include the following lot numbers manufactured between March 3, 2018 and May 15, 2018:

  • TI1 3 Mar 2019
  • TB2 21 Mar 2019
  • TB3 21 Mar 2019
  • TA2 19 Apr 2019
  • TB1 15 May 2019
  • TB2 15 May 2019

Elevated Vitamin D Levels

Dogs consuming elevated levels of Vitamin D could exhibit symptoms such as vomiting, loss of appetite, increased thirst, increased urination, excessive drooling, and weight loss.

Customers with dogs who have consumed this product and are exhibiting these symptoms should contact their veterinarian as soon as possible.

No other products sold by Lidl are impacted by the recall.

This is a voluntary recall and is being conducted in cooperation with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

What to Do?

Customers who have purchased this product with the affected lot codes should stop feeding it to their dogs and discard the product immediately or return it to their nearest Lidl store for a full refund.

Customers who have questions about this recall should call the Lidl US Customer Care Hotline at 844-747-5435, 8 AM to 9 PM Eastern time, 7 days a week.

U.S. citizens can report complaints about FDA-regulated pet food products by calling the consumer complaint coordinator in your area.

Or go to http://www.fda.gov/petfoodcomplaints.

Canadians can report any health or safety incidents related to the use of this product by filling out the Consumer Product Incident Report Form.

Get Dog Food Recall Alerts by Email

Get free dog food recall alerts sent to you by email. Subscribe to The Dog Food Advisor’s emergency recall notification system.

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Please share this amongst all your friends.

Bet they are wrong!

It seems to me, that although the science is good it can’t be perfect!

I saw this recently and, ….. well you decide!

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Dogs may not be as exceptionally smart as we think they are

Mary Jo DiLonardo

MARY JO DILONARDO

October 3rd, 2018.

Dogs have a scientific reputation for being rather brainy, but a new study says that may not be deserved. (Photo: Shevs/Shutterstock)

I know I’m biased, but I think my dog is brilliant. I’ve been bringing home animals all my life — from parakeets to ducks, cats to horses. But of all my feathered and furry pets, it’s no contest: Dogs are by far the brainiest. They are quick learners and great communicators with an incredible ability to solve problems.

But a new paper in the journal Learning & Behavior finds dog intelligence is “not exceptional.”

Although animal smarts have long been the subject of scientific research, recently there’s been a lot of focus on canine cognition. And that’s what triggered Stephen Lea, professor emeritus at the University of Exeter, to take a closer look. He was editor of the journal Animal Behavior, where he saw so many papers dealing with the mental abilities of dogs.

“Through the process of working as an editor [and] seeing all this research, I definitely got a sense that we as a collective had gotten a bit overexcited about dog intelligence,” Lea told Popular Science.

History of studying dog smarts

Dogs can learn problem solving, but raccoons often solve puzzles more easily. (Photo: Joerg Huettenhoelscher/Shutterstock)

Dogs and their brains have been studied for centuries (remember Pavlov and his bell?), but then were pushed aside for more popular studies with primates and other species. It wasn’t until the 1990s when dogs came back into focus. Lea wondered whether humans were giving dogs too much credit.

Lea and his coauthor, Britta Osthaus of Canterbury Christ Church University, studied more than 300 papers on the intelligence of dogs and other animals. They looked at research that covered three groups: carnivorans (another name for carnivores), social hunters and domesticated animals. Dogs fall into all three groups.

They discovered that when it comes to brainpower, dogs don’t particularly excel in any of the groups. There were species in each that were on par with or better than dogs in cognition comparisons. Raccoons, for example, seem to solve puzzles more easily, and hyenas seem to follow the cues of their pack more handily.

“Taking all three groups (domestic animals, social hunters and carnivorans) into account, dog cognition does not look exceptional,” said Osthaus in a statement. “We are doing dogs no favor by expecting too much of them. Dogs are dogs, and we need to take their needs and true abilities into account when considering how we treat them.”

Dogs do, however, stand out from their smart counterparts because they perform well in all three categories.

“Every species has unique intelligence,” Lea told Popular Science. “Their intelligence is what you would expect of an animal that is … recently descended from social hunters … that are carnivores and that have [also] been domesticated …There’s no other animal that fits all three of those criteria.”

Sounds pretty brilliant to me.

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It seems to me that science it taking far to narrow a look at our dogs.

For if one expands the range of qualities then one can include:

  • Unconditional love,
  • Companionship,
  • Sensitivity,
  • Consciousness,
  • Spirituality,
  • Bravery,
  • and a whole lot more besides.

A Letter to Mr. Cosmos, Page Two

The concluding part of my letter to Mr. Cosmos.

Your Universe, Mr. Cosmos, is an enormous place.

Just the view at night from one small planet, the one that I happen to live on, Planet Earth, reveals millions upon millions of stars. It is then beyond inconceivable that there are not, in turn, countless numbers of other planets.

Extending this line of thought and recognising that a ‘mere’ billion years after the formation of our solar system and Planet Earth, some 4.54 billion years ago, the earliest life appeared, we can’t surely be alone!

Granted it was only cyanobacteria, as in blue-green algae, but, but, but ……… that this evolution of life on Planet Earth, and that evolution eventually leading to intelligent life, including the gift to us humans of the genetic separation of the dog from the wolf some 100,000 years ago, has not occurred on other planets is also totally inconceivable.

So, dear Mr. Cosmos, why have we not detected any signs of that intelligent life. Where are they?

Mr. Cosmos, back in June this year there was an article on the Big Think site that asked just this question.

Are we alone in the universe? New Drake equation suggests yes

A fresh take on the decades-old Drake equation incorporates new factors and greater uncertainty, suggesting a high likelihood that humanity is alone in the universe.

By , 25th June, 2018

At the Los Alamos National Laboratory in 1950, physicist Enrico Fermi famously posed to his colleagues a simple question borne of complex math: ‘Where are they?’

He was asking about aliens—intelligent ones, specifically. The Italian-American scientist was puzzled as to why mankind hasn’t detected any signs of intelligent life beyond our planet. He reasoned that even if life is extremely rare, you’d still expect there to be many alien civilizations given the sheer size of the universe. After all, some estimates indicate that there is one septillion, or 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, stars in the universe, some of which are surrounded by planets that could probably support life.

So, where are they, and why aren’t they talking to us?

Now, as the article reveals, there is a lot to tackling this question, much of it involving statistics and mathematics, but it does prove one very important fact: Finding another planet as good for life and humanity as this one is just about impossible.

This is our only home!!

My wish, dear Mr. Cosmos, to you is this: That before I die it becomes clear beyond question that the peoples of this sweet Planet, from the lone individual living on some island out in the wilderness to the Governments of the most powerful nations on Earth, understand that nothing is more important than loving, caring for and looking after Planet Earth.

I remain, dear Mr. Cosmos, your respectful servant.

Paul H.

A step in my own self-awareness.

But the most important step I have ever taken.

In yesterday’s post I wrote:

It was the fickle finger of fate that led me to the arms, metaphorically speaking, of a core process psychotherapist back in Devon in the first half of 2007. That counselling relationship that revealed a deeply hidden aspect of my consciousness: a fear of rejection that I had had since December, 1956. That finger of fate that took me to Mexico for Christmas 2007 and me meeting Jean and all her dogs. That finger of fate that pointed me to the happiest years of my life and a love between Jeannie and me that I could previously never ever have imagined.

Here’s the full account. (But this is quite a long post and has the potential to cause some pain. Of course, I don’t intend that. But it’s best to mention that now.)

First we need to go back to that evening of December 19th, 1956. I had turned 12 on November, 8th and had just completed my first term at a nearby Grammar School. Then the family, as in Mum, Dad, me and my younger sister Elizabeth, were living comfortably in a detached house in Toley Avenue, a road off the main street that comprises Preston Road.

Preston Road is one of the outer suburbs of London to the North-West, sandwiched between Wembley, closer in to London, and Harrow, a little further out.

Anyway, on that evening of the 19th my mother came into my bedroom, located at the front of the house and next to Mum and Dad’s bedroom, at the usual time to say ‘Good night’ to me.

But while it was the usual time for Mum to be saying goodnight to me, clearly something was different this particular evening.

Mum sat down on the edge of my bed, just where my knees were, looked at me, and said, with pain in her voice: “Paul, you do know your father isn’t very well. He may not live for much longer.”

To be honest, all these many years later, I have no recollection as to whether or not I was aware that my father wasn’t very well.

Mum then leaned over to me, gave me my goodnight kiss, got up, and went out of my bedroom switching off the room light as she closed the door. As she always did and no different to any other evening.

Likewise, as with any other evening, I went off to sleep within a few minutes.

However, when I awoke the following morning, the morning of December 20th,  it was clear that something terrible had happened during the night. Let me explain that my father had had two daughters with his first wife, prior to meeting Mum, and I loved them both and saw them as elder sisters. The eldest was Rhona and she was a registered nurse (SRN). (My other ‘sister’ was Corinne.) Of course, Rhona was helping Mum care for Dad.

I got up and went downstairs. There was Rhona in the kitchen. Rhona came up to me and held me very tightly and then quietly told me that our father had died during the night. Rhona went on to add that Mum had thought it best not to wake me and Elizabeth and somehow arranged not only for the doctor to come in to certify Dad’s death but also for our father’s body to be removed from the home. Elizabeth and I had slept through it all!

I don’t recall having any emotional reaction to Rhona’s news; not even crying. It was if it was all just too unreal to take in.

A few days later, Mum, very clearly in her own mind doing her best to protect me and Elizabeth from pain, subsequently thought it wise that we didn’t go to our father’s funeral and cremation.

Now I have not the slightest doubt that many, if not all, of you will have cringed on reading the above.

Once back at school for the first term of 1957, I soon became aware of being the target of a degree of bullying, presumably because I was showing my grief through my behaviour and attitude, that my academic performance rapidly fell apart leading on to me leaving school before I went on to the Sixth Form.

The other thing that I was aware of in 1957, and for every December 20th thereafter, that this day was always a tough one. A day when I remembered with a degree of sadness and emotional pain that fateful night and morning in 1956.

Nevertheless, my adult life really was (is!) a wonderful journey for me. It included a period working as a freelance journalist out in Australia in the late 1960s, becoming an Office Products salesman for IBM UK after returning from Australia to England and then in 1978 starting my own company, Dataview Ltd., in the early days of the personal computer revolution. Then after eight whirlwind years with Dataview growing in leaps and bounds each year, being approached in 1986 by a group of investors who wished to buy me out: I said “Yes”. That resulted in me going to live on a yacht, Songbird of Kent, a Tradewind 33, out in Cyprus (Larnaca Marina).

Tradewind 33 – Songbird of Kent. My home for five years.

While in Cyprus I got to know really well the wonderful, inspiring Les Powells, a three-times solo circumnavigator on his yacht Solitaire, and that thanks directly to Les offering me some very good advice, me experiencing the beauty, and the fear, of solo sailing out in The Atlantic and returning to Plymouth, in Devon, England, via Horta in The Azores, on the 16th June, 1994.

But! But! But!

But there was another part of my adult life that wasn’t such a wonderful journey. My relationships with the opposite sex! Culminating in my third wife, Julie, announcing on the day of the 50th anniversary of my father’s death, as in December 20th, 2006, that she was leaving me. (The reality of what she did to me was not pretty but I will spare you the details.)

Let me explain a little more.

After I had returned to England, sailing into Plymouth, in 1994, I subsequently sold Songbird of Kent and purchased a small house in the little village of Harberton, just a few miles out of Totnes, in South Devon. An easy decision to stay in South Devon because both Rhona and Corinne had their family homes close to Totnes.

Upper Barn, My home in Harberton.

I quickly became involved in the local business community undertaking a variety of coaching roles under the umbrella of Sales and Marketing; I was then a Chartered Member of the Institute of Marketing. In turn, Julie and I met each other and we became married.

In the Autumn of 2006, a Core Process Psychotherapist came to me seeking some business advice.  ‘J’ had had many years of coaching individuals one-to-one but had the idea, the good idea to my mind, of coaching the directors of companies in the whole process of listening to their employees and offering advice and guidance whenever there was the potential of conflict. If the employees worked more effectively together then ‘J’ believed the company as a whole would be more effective in reaching their goals.

‘J’ had no idea how companies worked, for want of a better term, and my role was teach ‘J’ the  fundamentals of operating the sort of company that was common to South Devon.

That’s what I was doing up to that fateful day of December 20th, 2006.

Because upon hearing the news that my then wife was leaving me, I simply blew apart emotionally. In the most terrible manner that I had never experienced before.

Very early on in January, 2007 I felt that I was descending into some bottomless pit of despair. In desperation I rang ‘J’ and explained what had happened on the 20th. ‘J’ listened and then said, quite properly, that he couldn’t see me as his client because we already had a working relationship. I pleaded and pleaded with ‘J’ to allow me to be his psychotherapy client. Finally, ‘J’ agreed but on the very strict condition that if he thought the counselling relationship wasn’t working then we would terminate it. He asked, and received, my understanding and agreement to that condition.

It wasn’t long thereafter before ‘J’ was asking me a little of my early experiences and I recounted that night of December 19th-20th and how I had not been able to say ‘Goodbye’ to my father.

‘J’ was quiet for a few minutes and then said:

“Paul, you have a son don’t you?”

I silently nodded.

“How do you think Alex would react if your death was handled for him in the same manner as your mother handled it for you?”

I gasped, conscious of how much I loved Alex, and Maija my daughter, and could hardly get the words out of my mouth: “He, he, … he would think he had been emotionally rejected ….”, continuing, “Oh my goodness! Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh, my sainted aunt! That’s it! I interpreted what happened back then when father died as rejection. That I wasn’t important to my father. So that’s what I have been experiencing all my adult life – a fear of rejection! But until now that fear has been completely submerged in my subconscious! Wow!”

That is the reason why, not to sound too immodest, I have been successful in all matters to do with my working life: I did everything to be accepted by my customers, my managers, my associates, and so on.

But it was also the reason why I had been so unsuccessful in my many, many relationships with women. Why I was unfaithful to my first wife. Why I could never say “No” to an emotional relationship with a woman, whether or not that woman had the potential to be a good long-term companion. Because I behaved in ways that minimised the chances of that woman rejecting me. That was why my last wife, Julie, before I met Jean, so gravely affected me when she chose, quite deliberately, to tell me she was leaving me on the 50th anniversary of my father’s death.

So that’s how ‘J’ held my hand, metaphorically speaking, and walked me into the light of how the past had affected me.

Dear, dear reader of Learning from Dogs, I do hope this makes sense and possibly in some small way this post holds out a hand to you.

I will close with this. Heard on a film that Jean and I recently watched.

Unless you understand yourself, can you be truthful to yourself?

The journey inwards is the most important and rewarding journey we can take!