Category: Spirituality

A Very Happy Christmas

To all of you and your families and loved ones.

I saw this post below on a blog site that was new to me. It was just called Lady Fi. It simply reached out to me in the most beautiful and peaceful manner and seemed like the perfect re-posting (with LadyFi’s permission) for today: December 25th.

Can’t add anything more to who LadyFi is other than what she writes on her About page.

So, you want to know who I am? Well, you’ll get a pretty good idea from reading my blog. But, in brief:

A Brit living in Sweden since 1996. Came here as a so-called love immigrant.

Have got two small kids and good supply of ear plugs.

Husband is like a third child and the dog is like the fourth.

Blessed with an ironic sense of humour.

Scriptwriter, textbook writer and translator (Swedish into English).

Here’s that post.

ooOOoo

Paws for thought

13 December is Lucia – one of my favourite times of year.

Lucia is all about children dressed in white and carrying candles

To symbolize hope and light in the darkness.

ablazeThe dawn that day didn’t disappoint either.

It blazed with light and colour,

So that dogs (and people) seemed small and humble

Under the huge lilac sky;

dogsinpurpleAnd paw prints were etched across a purple

Canopy of snow – leading the eye

To that glorious sky of hope.

pawprintsooOOoo

(I believe these pictures came from the Skywatch site.)

Trusting that for all of us your Christmas period and the whole year to follow offer endless visions of such stillness, peace and beauty.

Celestial certainties

Our December Solstice

I deliberately planned for this post to be published at the precise moment, in Pacific Time that is, when the solstice occurs.

Welcome to the shortest day of 2016.

Winter Solstice at the Stonehenge Monument in Southern England.
Winter Solstice at the Stonehenge Monument in Southern England.

I am now republishing much of what appeared on the EarthSky blog a few days ago.

Late dawn. Early sunset. Short day. Long night. For us in the Northern Hemisphere, the December solstice marks the longest night and shortest day of the year. Meanwhile, on the day of the December solstice, the Southern Hemisphere has its longest day and shortest night. This special day is coming up on Wednesday, December 21 at 10:44 UTC (December 21 at 4:44 a.m. CST). No matter where you live on Earth’s globe, a solstice is your signal to celebrate.

Want to know what time it is where you are living?

When is the solstice where I live? The solstice happens at the same instant for all of us, everywhere on Earth. In 2016, the December solstice comes on December 21 at 4:44 a.m. CST. That’s on December 21 at 10:44 Universal Time. It’s when the sun on our sky’s dome reaches its farthest southward point for the year. At this solstice, the Northern Hemisphere has its shortest day and longest night of the year.

To find the time in your location, you have to translate to your time zone. Click here to translate Universal Time to your local time.

World Time Zones
World Time Zones

Roll on Summer!

Footnote:

This morning I read an interesting set of facts about the Solstice over on the Mother Nature Network. It included this:

The word “solstice” comes from the Latin solstitium, meaning “point at which the sun stands still.” Since when has the sun ever moved?! Of course, before Renaissance astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus (aka “super smartypants”) came up with the ‘ol heliocentric model, we all figured that everything revolved around the Earth, sun included. Our continued use of the word “solstice” is a beautiful reminder of just how far we’ve come and provides a nice opportunity to give a tip of the hat to great thinkers who challenged the status quo.

Pure, unconditional love.

Giving from the heart; in this case a dog’s heart.

As many readers know we have nine dogs here at home, divided into the ‘kitchen’ group (Paloma, Casey and Ruby) and the ‘bedroom’ group (Pharaoh, Brandy, Cleo, Sweeny, Pedy and Oliver). Inevitably the latter group are closer to us because they share the bulk of the home with Jeannie and me, and sleep in our bedroom. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that the kitchen group are any less affectionate than the bedroom group it’s just that, for me especially, I am able to be emotionally and physically closer to our bedroom group because for most of the hours of each day they are close to me.

Brandy, Cleo and Oliver seem to be incredibly sensitive to Jeannie’s and my feelings. If something makes me cry then one of them will be next to me in seconds. When Jeannie and I hug, Oliver will stand on his rear legs, place his front legs on our bodies above our waists and act as if he is hugging us. Even the mention of the word “out” has Cleo running to the front door.

So many more examples but you get the drift!

Last Friday The Washington Post published a heart-breaking story. It concerned a young man, just 33-years-old, who was dying from a brain hemorrhage. Here’s an extract from that story:

Ryan Thomas Jessen had gone to the hospital for what he thought was a migraine, but it turned out to be a brain hemorrhage, his sister, Michelle Jessen, wrote on Facebook earlier this month.

The hemorrhage, which doctors believe may have been brought on by high blood pressure, would prove fatal.

But before Jessen died, the 33-year-old Californian’s family wanted to let his dog, Mollie, see him one last time.

Michelle Jessen filmed that last visit by Mollie and, as one might expect, the video has been shared right across the world.

So very often words come so difficult when one wants to reflect on what we have just watched.

Which is why I’m allowing Jimmy Stewart to make it easier.

He never came to me when I would call

Unless I had a tennis ball,

Or he felt like it,

But mostly he didn’t come at all.

When he was young

He never learned to heel

Or sit or stay,

He did things his way.

Discipline was not his bag

But when you were with him things sure didn’t drag.

He’d dig up a rosebush just to spite me,

And when I’d grab him, he’d turn and bite me.

He bit lots of folks from day to day,

The delivery boy was his favorite prey.

The gas man wouldn’t read our meter,

He said we owned a real man-eater.

He set the house on fire

But the story’s long to tell.

Suffice it to say that he survived

And the house survived as well.

On the evening walks, and Gloria took him,

He was always first out the door.

The Old One and I brought up the rear

Because our bones were sore.

He would charge up the street with Mom hanging on,

What a beautiful pair they were!

And if it was still light and the tourists were out,

They created a bit of a stir.

But every once in a while, he would stop in his tracks

And with a frown on his face look around.

It was just to make sure that the Old One was there

And would follow him where he was bound.

We are early-to-bedders at our house — I guess I’m the first to retire.

And as I’d leave the room he’d look at me

And get up from his place by the fire.

He knew where the tennis balls were upstairs,

And I’d give him one for a while.

He would push it under the bed with his nose

And I’d fish it out with a smile.

And before very long He’d tire of the ball

And be asleep in his corner In no time at all.

And there were nights when I’d feel him Climb upon our bed

And lie between us,

And I’d pat his head.

And there were nights when I’d feel this stare

And I’d wake up and he’d be sitting there

And I reach out my hand and stroke his hair.

And sometimes I’d feel him sigh and I think I know the reason why.

He would wake up at night

And he would have this fear

Of the dark, of life, of lots of things,

And he’d be glad to have me near.

And now he’s dead.

And there are nights when I think I feel him

Climb upon our bed and lie between us,

And I pat his head.

And there are nights when I think I feel that stare

And I reach out my hand to stroke his hair,

But he’s not there.

Oh, how I wish that wasn’t so,

I’ll always love a dog named Beau.

There is no love without pain,

But to have lived without the love of a dog in one’s life would be not to have lived at all.

Our dear, dear dogs!

What to say to the kids.

Reflections on what we leave behind.

I included in yesterday’s post the interview with Bill Kotke and his concern that humanity’s greed, and that’s the correct term in my view, focusing on each generation having more, howsoever one defines ‘more’, was utterly at odds with a sustainable future on the only home we have: Planet Earth.  A finite planet in a finite solar system.

On Monday I was chatting with Roger D. back in the old country. It was Roger who introduced me to gliding back in the late 70s. Later we were in business together in Colchester, Essex and we still keep in touch.

Anyway, Roger was bemoaning the current state of affairs in the UK regarding Brexit and went on to say that every economic strategy offered by this or that UK Government was about growth. Whether we are talking economic growth, improvement in living standards or population growth why are there no leading figures in any leading government standing up and saying this can’t go on! Because it can’t!

world_population_1050_to_2050We are presently a global population of 7.5 billion. This year alone, as of today, there have been 56,000,000 deaths. But also, as of today, there have been 133,000,000 births. (I rounded the figures but what difference does it make!) That’s a growth of 77 million persons in this one year. It cannot go on!

Bill Kotke also spoke of soil loss. Just last Sunday there was a Care2 item about soil loss. From which I extract:

Could soil ever actually run out?

Yes. If we continue to harm and degrade topsoil at the current rate, it’s estimated that the world could lose all its topsoil within 60 years.

Topsoil is the uppermost layer of soil on the surface of the earth. It’s the most fertile type of soil that typically contains lots of nutrient-rich organic matter from broken down plants and other organisms. Topsoil is also alive with beneficial microbes, fungi and critters like earth worms, which feed on the organic matter.

The deeper layers of soil beneath the topsoil are not nearly as rich. They are primarily made up of decomposing rock that provides the raw material for future topsoil as well as a substrate for deeply rooted plants to anchor in.

If the delicate ecosystem within topsoil is disrupted, it will essentially die. Plants can’t grow in topsoil that doesn’t have abundant organic matter and thriving populations of microbes.

Yes, there are street protests about this political action or that political action but why aren’t we seeing tens of thousands on the streets protesting about the loss of our topsoil!!

Moving on.

There was a recent essay from Patrice Ayme in which he wrote about the Australian Asthma Thunderstorm. Just read this long extract from that essay:

(November 29th, 2016 Italics are from the story as presented in the New York Times)

Mr. McGann was one of thousands of people in Melbourne having an attack of thunderstorm asthma. About 8,500 people went to hospitals. Eight have died, and one remains in intensive care more than a week after a thunderstorm surged across Melbourne, carrying pollen that strong winds and rain broke into tiny fragments.

Perennial ryegrass seeds were swept up in whorls of wind and carried from four million hectares of pasturelands (about 9.9 million acres) that lie to Melbourne’s north and west. If broken into fragments, they are so fine that they can be inhaled.” 

Actually what also lie north and west of Melbourne are giant fields of canola. Consider the following propaganda picture:

Mr. McGann did not end up in the hospital.  “Every breath I took made the next breath harder,” he said, adding that he had no family history of asthma. “I just didn’t realize it could have the effect it had.”

Grass pollen is the primary source of allergies in southern Australia, and tracking the data allowed scientists to forecast high levels of grass seeds in the atmosphere on Nov. 21. Still, Ms. Hennessy said, the government was taken by surprise.”

Surprise, indeed, this did not happen before, by two orders of magnitude. How come so much more severity?

My lawyer’s theory is different.  It evolved from my own observations and theories of why asthma and allergies, let alone weird cancers, have been augmenting spectacularly. There are around 150,000 artificial, man-made chemical products in use. By medical drug standards, they are untested (in earlier essays, I mentioned 80,000, which is the number brandished in the USA; however, French specialists talk about 150,000 untested chemicals.).

Canola (or rapeseed), Brassica napus, is an oilseed crop which is cultivated for its high quality edible oil used in many foods (eg. margarines and cooking oil) and seed meal (the fibrous material left after the oil pressing process), which has a high protein content. That makes it highly desirable as a stock feed.

In 2010-11, the Australian state of Victoria, where Melbourne is located,  produced 476 thousand tonnes of canola with a gross value of $293 million.

Control of weeds, particularly weeds from the Brassicaceae family (broadleaf), through herbicide application during the canola-growing season, significantly improves the quantity of the grain produced. Weeds compete for space, nutrients and sunlight. (African countries have dismissed that the quality of GMO seed is higher, in contradistinction with US propaganda; quite the opposite, they say)

Two genetically modified (GM) canola varieties have been developed in Australia, Roundup Ready® (by Monsanto Australia Ltd) and InVigor® (by Bayer CropSciences Pty Ltd). For maximum effect, each GM variety has been developed to be tolerant to and hence used with, a specific herbicide. The result is the mass poisoning of the planet, horizon to horizon.

The same poisoning trick is used for insecticides. To boot, the poison resistance spreads, demanding even higher doses of poison to be used in the grand outdoors..

In other words, massive quantities of poisons are put in the soil, and from there, are kicked up, in the air.

Exposed to this life destroying poisons, the body reacts by shutting down all pores. Asthma.

It cannot go on!

It is time for you and me and millions of others to be the change we want to see. Whether it’s the little things like recycling, or car sharing, or the bigger things like moving to an eco village we have to make a difference.

We have to learn from those communities that for thousands of years lived harmonious and sustainable lives on the planet. Doing so many thousands of years before farming man came on to the scene

In 1969 I spent a year in the outback of Australia as a correspondent for KotiPosti; a Finnish magazine. While I was out in the wilderness looking for Finns to write about it was impossible not to be drawn into the history of the aboriginal Australian.

ABORIGINAL AUSTRALIANS ARE descendents of the first people to leave Africa up to 75,000 years ago, a genetic study has found, confirming they may have the oldest continuous culture on the planet.
Professor Eske Willerslev of the University of Copenhagen, who led the study, says Aboriginal Australians were the first modern humans to traverse unknown territory in Asia and Australia. “It was a truly amazing journey that must have demanded exceptional survival skills and bravery,” he says.
A century-old lock of hair, given by a West Australian indigenous man to an anthropologist, has led to the discovery that ancestors of Aboriginal Australians reached Asia at least 24,000 years before another wave of migration that populated Europe and Asia.

It was back then that I truly understood the relationship that those early Australians had with the earth; with their planet. Forget religions and churches, the Aborigines had a spiritual relationship with the planet that sustained them.

I will never forget exploring quietly, just me and my wife of those days, the caves and darker recesses around the base of Ayers Rock, better called Uluru, the most amazing monolith right out there in the middle of the desert. The unmistakable signs of so many of those quiet recesses being spiritual places for those ancient people.
home-1Uluru, or Ayers Rock, is a massive sandstone monolith in the heart of the Northern Territory’s arid “Red Centre”. The nearest large town is Alice Springs, 450km away. Uluru is sacred to indigenous Australians and is thought to have started forming around 550 million years ago. It’s within Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, which also includes the 36 red-rock domes of the Kata Tjuta (colloquially “The Olgas”) formation.

It is just he same for the North American Indians. They have a spiritual relationship with the land.

Back to Bill Kotke’s talk. He spoke of how when each of us was the product of the fertilisation of the egg by the sperm in utero we grow first as a fish, then as a mammal and, finally, emerge as a human: “We are connected to the earth!

As you all know I am a secular humanist. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t have deep, as in spiritual, feelings for the lands and the oceans and for the wildlife of this planet

So let me close by repeating what I said at that meeting where Bill was presenting. For Bill spoke of being connected, in a heartfelt manner, with the planet. For if one is so connected then it is natural for one to want to love and protect the planet.

This is what I said:

Bill,

In 1991 I departed Gibraltar Harbour solo on my yacht Songbird of Kent heading West out across the Atlantic.

After I had settled in to the routine of being at sea, better described as settling in to being connected to the ocean, I loved watching the dolphins come up to the boat, give it the once over, raise their heads and offer me a brief eye contact and then slip away.

Then I became aware that when I was laying down on my bunk in the cabin I could sense when the dolphins were close to my hull. Each time I had that sense I would come up to the deck, briefly pausing to clip on my safety harness lest I truly joined the dolphins, and one or two of those dolphins were always by my boat.

I called this post What To Say To The Kids. Not just my son and daughter, now both mature adults, but my grandson Morten son to my daughter and her husband.

Because I feel so strongly that waiting for our leaders and politicians to lead humanity in protecting our planet is pointless. They are driven by other values.

It cannot go on!

I want to be measured by my son and my daughter, and by my grandson in due time, as a person who made a difference; even just a small one.

For I truly believe that showing love for our planet will make a difference and that is what I want to say to my kids.

We have to return to community living;  a twenty-first century version of such living. Even in the giant populations of big cities we have to reach out and form local communities. Groups of people who are driven by the imperative to curtail population growth, eager to share in as many ways as possible and totally committed to taking no more from the planet than they put in.

Because It cannot go on!

This is what I want to say to my kids.

 

 

How we love.

Reflections!

This the fourth day since my mother died.

They have been days of a great jumble of emotions.

But the over-riding emotion has been one of feeling very loved and cared for. Not only by Jeannie, of course, and by my son, Alex, and daughter, Maija, but also by so many of you from my Learning from Dogs ‘family’.

A dear friend, Richard, living in England was incredibly supportive. Richard and I go back nearly 40 years to when we first met. We were both selling Commodore computers for our respective companies back in the early 1980’s. (Richard used to be a typewriter salesman for Olivetti UK and I was an ex-IBM Office Products salesman.)

Anyway, Richard pointed me to this beautiful song by Beth Nielsen-Chapman How We Love.

It sums up perfectly what all your ‘Likes’ and responses to my post The End Of An Era meant to me.

Love you all! I will return to daily posts from this Saturday.

I will not forget your kindness when I needed it so much.

Returning the love.

Wonderful reminders of how so many offer so much love to our animals.

p1160586On Saturday Jean and I spent the day at PetSmart’s store in Medford, OR., supporting another of their wonderful pet adoption events.

There were many dogs and cats available and even more wonderful people coming to find a new dog or a new cat for their homes (the final figures not available at the time of writing this post).

Yes, there are a great deal of people who are unloving and uncaring towards our beautiful animals. But never let that cloud the fact that there are countless people who will put their love for animals way ahead of their own needs.

So when Marg emailed me a link to a recent story on ABC News not only did I want to share it with you good people but it was the perfect story to follow Saturday’s adoption event. Here it is:

ooOOoo

#WalkWithWalnut: Hundreds tread Cornwall beach to mark final walk for 18yo whippet

8021240-3x2-700x467
http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-11-13/mark-woods-and-walnut-were-joined-by-hundreds-of-dog-walkers/8021246

Before a trip to doggy heaven, 18-year-old whippet Walnut was joined by hundreds of people and their pups for a walk along an English beach.

Walnut’s owner Mark Woods posted details about the dog’s final walk along the beach on Facebook, inviting dog owners to join him on a beach in Newquay, Cornwall to celebrate his pet’s life.

“He has had an incredible life and having reached the grand age of 18 is ready for his final sleep,” Mr Woods wrote.

“I would love it if dog lovers/owners and friends would join us for a celebration of Walnut on his favourite Porth Beach.”

Hundreds of pooches left paw marks on the sand and supporters used the hashtag #WalkWithWalnut on social media to pay tribute to the animal, who also became a media star in his final days.

“If #walkwithwalnut has done something, it’s restored my faith in the compassion of humanity, in a particularly dreary year,” one tweeted.

“Meanwhile, at Porth Beach Newquay, humans demonstrate proper love and solidarity on their #walkwithwalnut and Mark,” tweeted another supporter.

Mr Woods carried Walnut across the beach as his ill health meant he was no longer able to walk.

He told local media Walnut had provided much comfort over the years, seeing him through two marriages and three engagements.

After Walnut was euthanased the evening after the walk, Mr Woods posted a thank you to all who attended.

Photo: "He went very quickly and in my arms," Mark Woods said in a Facebook post on the day they euthanased Walnut. (Facebook: Mark Woods)
Photo: “He went very quickly and in my arms,” Mark Woods said in a Facebook post on the day they euthanased Walnut. (Facebook: Mark Woods)

“Walnut passed away this morning at 11.56am … he went very quickly and in my arms,” Mr Woods wrote on his Facebook page.

“Thank you to the hundreds of people that attended the walk this morning and to all those that had their own walks with their beloved pets around the world.”

The whippet breed originated in England and have an average lifespan of 12 to 15 years.

ooOOoo

There were many videos taken of the walk lots of them being uploaded to YouTube. I chose the following one to share with you. Be warned, this will bring tears to your eyes!

Finally, let me return to the overall theme of today’s post: how much we return the love our dogs give us.

By including the following photograph of this woman, whose name we missed, chatting to Jean at the PetSmart event. Not only had this loving lady taken in many rescue dogs she also fostered other dogs as they awaited their new home. The terrier mix in her arms is her dog and, of course, was one time a homeless dog that she rescued.

p1160612Don’t our wonderful pets bring out the best in us!

For Dollar and all the other lost dogs.

A beautiful amendment to this blog!

Last Thursday, I published a post under the name of Affairs Of The Heart.

There was a reply from Asha:

My mom still cries for my pet GSD we lost 15 years ago to illness. There are no words to describe that loss.

I asked Asha what was the name of that dearly loved German Shepherd. She replied that it had been called Dollar. That then gave me an idea.

Thanks. Indeed, it just crossed my mind that there could be a page on this blog where readers leave the names and a few words of past loved dogs. Would that work for you?

Asha replied, “Oh wow! That so melted my heart.”

So I have just finished setting up a page Keep Their Memories Alive. You will see it listed on the sidebar next under the link for Try The Book For Free.

When you click on the link under the heading Keep Their Memories Alive you will go here:

We Shall Not Forget Them.

For millions, the relationship between a person and their dog is precious beyond words. Do you still grieve the loss of your wonderful dog? Let us all know what your dog meant to you. Write whatever you want. Leave it as a thought to this page.

I am hoping that Asha will be first to leave a message for Dollar. I am hoping that many of you will leave a message so that all of us will not forget the love we have received from our departed furry friends.

Thank you Dollar!

NB: I may have overlooked whether or not comments can be attached to a page under WordPress. If not, I will come up with a fix very soon. In the meantime, leave your thoughts as a response to this post.

Affairs of the heart.

Those four-legged affairs, that is!

In my recent post where I updated you on our longer-term findings of using hemp oil, I included a couple of recent photographs of Pharaoh. As in:

A shot taken of Pharaoh walking past me.
A shot taken of Pharaoh walking past me.

and

Cleo watching Pharaoh come away from the house.
Cleo watching Pharaoh come away from the house.

Blogger RoughSeasInTheMed commented, in part,

How lovely for Pharaoh. It’s a good age for a GSD.

But as delighted as we are with how Pharaoh is combating his weakening rear hips there is no disguising the fact that the day of his death is getting closer all the time. (Not just for Pharaoh, but for all of us!)

So I cherish each day with Pharaoh as, indeed, I do with all our dogs. Both Jean and I have love affairs with our dogs that almost defy description and it’s a not an infrequent reflection between Jeannie and me that as they come to the end of their days each and every death is going to be extremely painful. Jean still mourns the loss of her dogs from many years back.

So on to this beautiful post that was recently published over on Mother Nature Network.

ooOOoo

7 reasons you will never forget your dog

For many, the loss of a dog is harder than any other. Here’s why.

Jenn Savedge October 25, 2016
he passing of a pet leaves a hole in your heart — and your life. (Photo: mythja/Shutterstock)
The passing of a pet leaves a hole in your heart — and your life. (Photo: mythja/Shutterstock)

It’s been three years, but it was only a few weeks ago that I was able to pull my old dog’s bed out of storage and look at it without crying. Otis wasn’t just my dog; he was my friend, my workout partner, my first baby and my stalwart protector. In our 14 years together, Otis was there for me through the birth of both of my daughters, five moves, one tarantula infestation and countless bad haircuts, which he endured without skipping a beat.

It’s no wonder his death left a giant black lab-sized hole in my heart. Anyone who has ever lost a longtime pet knows this feeling, and many also understand completely that the loss of a pet can be as hard as the loss of a close friend or family member. Here’s why you’ll never forget a loyal dog:

1. You may be closer to your dog than you are to some members of your family.

A 1988 study published in the Journal of Mental Health Counseling asked dog owners to create a family diagram placing all their family members and pets in a circle whose proximity to them represented the strength and closeness of their relationships. Not surprisingly, the participants tended to put their dogs as close as or even closer than family members. In 38 percent of the cases, the dog was closest of all.

2. You dog’s world revolves around you and your happiness.

If there’s one thing that your dog loves even more than chew toys, cheeseburgers and chasing squirrels, it’s you. His world literally revolves around you, and he will do anything at all to make you happy. There’s no other being in the world that will give you as much nonjudgmental love as a dog will.

3. Your pet is your stress reliever.

A study published in Frontiers in Psychology found that contact with pets can help to reduce stress by lowering levels of stress hormones, calming the heart rate, and even elevating feelings of happiness. Losing a pet is like losing a friend, counselor and yoga-instructor all in one.

All it takes is a quick scratch to make your dog’s day. (Photo: Wisut/Shutterstock)

4. Pets appreciate your every effort, no matter how small.

At the end of the average day, I will have cooked, cleaned, run errands, worked, shuffled kids from school to after-school activities and home again, paid bills, worked some more, rotated laundry, and organized a playdate , a fundraiser or a closet all without anyone in my household even noticing. Yet my two current dogs (Henry and Honey) are seemingly overjoyed by any effort I make — no matter how small — to keep them fed or happy. It’s easy to feel like a superhero when you see the love in your dog’s eyes reflected back at you.

5. Your dog understands you.

Honey, my energetic running partner, knows well before I reach for my shoes whether or not it’s time to get ready for a run. Henry knows when it’s time to play and when it’s time to dog pile on the sofa for popcorn and a movie. And it’s not just your mood that dogs understand. New research shows that your dog probably understands much of what you say — and even the tone of voice you use to say it.

6. Dogs are loyal to the bitter end.

For all of the good days we had, my boy and I had our struggles, too. Yet Otis never judged me for the days that I forgot to feed him (or myself,) or when I walked around the house like a zombie while caring for a new baby. He didn’t object to squeezing into the middle console of a two-seater truck when we moved across the country. He forgave me for all of those missed walks and harsh words when I struggled to juggle the demanding tasks of caring for a growing family.

Yet, when I needed him, he was there, without fail. It was Otis who sat by my side as I rocked a colicky baby through countless sleepless nights. When the Twin Towers crumbled to the ground, I wept silently into his collar. When a close friend lost her son to cancer, Otis walked with me around and around the block as I struggled to understand the meaning of life.

7. Even if your dog is no longer with you, he wants to comfort you.

Your dog would never want you to be sad — even if your sadness is caused by his loss.

Animation student Shai Getzoff captured this sentiment perfectly in his short film “6 Feet.”

“I based this story on my beloved dog who passed away last April,” Getzoff commented in the film notes. “She spent 15 and a half wonderful years with me and my family. After she passed away, it took a while getting used to life without her. It felt like she was always around, when in reality she wasn’t really there any more. This, for me, is a way to say goodbye.”

Grab a tissue and give it a watch.

6 FEET from Shai Getzoff on Vimeo.

ooOOoo

Let me leave you with this photograph of Pharaoh, an image that will stay with me until my last breath.

Pharaoh – just being a dog!

The utterly incomprehensible

A journey of the mind and the soul.

NB: Regular readers will find that today’s post is rather different to my usual run of things. But I do hope that you end up sharing my feelings of mystery; sharing what seems to me utterly incomprehensible. I am speaking of The Infinite.

Let me start with this quotation:

The infinite has always stirred the emotions of mankind more deeply than any other question.

The infinite has stimulated and fertilised reason as few other ideas have. But also the infinite, more than another other notion, is in need of clarification.

Let me now take you back many years, back to the Autumn of 1969 when I left Gibraltar bound for The Azores on my yacht Songbird of Kent. I was sailing solo.

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

Despite me being very familiar with my boat, and with sailing in general, there was nonetheless a deep sense of trepidation as I headed out into a vast unfamiliar ocean.

On the third or fourth night, I forget which, when some four hundred miles into the Atlantic and therefore far from the light pollution from the land, I came on deck and was emotionally moved in a way that has never ever been surpassed.

For way up in the heavens above me was the Andromeda galaxy, clearly visible with the naked eye.

andromeda-galaxy-josh-blash-7-23-2014-e1473897834535
Josh Blash captured this image of the Andromeda galaxy.

That photograph above and the following are from the EarthSky site.

Although a couple of dozen minor galaxies lie closer to our Milky Way, the Andromeda galaxy is the closest major galaxy to ours. Excluding the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, which can’t be seen from northerly latitudes, the Andromeda galaxy – also known as M31 – is the brightest galaxy in all the heavens. It’s the most distant thing you can see with your unaided eye, at 2.3 million light-years. To the eye, it appears as a smudge of light larger than a full moon.

Not only could I not take my mind off seeing the Andromeda galaxy, I couldn’t easily comprehend seeing the stars come all the way down to the horizon; all 360 degrees about me.  Right down to the edge of my ocean horizon; a swirling blackness out to where it kissed that glorious night sky.

That image of that dome of stars would be forever burnt into my memory. An image that both made no sense, yet made every sense

Fast forward forty-seven years to now!

Recently we have had some beautiful clear nights here in Southern Oregon. Just the other night, before the moon had risen, there up in the night sky just a short distance from the constellation Cassiopeia was Andromeda. Immediately, my memory of that dark night sky out in the Atlantic came rushing back at me

The Andromeda galaxy is 2.3 million light-years away. But how can one possibly comprehend the distance? The fact that light travels at 186,000 miles per second or 671 million miles per hour (the exact value is 299,792,458 metres per second (approximately 3.00×108 m/s) has no meaning whatsoever. Think about it! Light is traveling at the equivalent speed of going around our planet 7.46 times every second!

But if you can’t fathom the distance to the Andromeda galaxy try this!

Back in March, 2016 a new galaxy that has been named GN-z11 was spotted by the Hubble space telescope 13.4 billion light years away. That’s approximately 5,830 times more distant than the Andromeda galaxy!

Now it is starting to become very difficult to comprehend.

Over the last couple of weeks BBC Radio 4 has been airing 10 talks given by Professor Adrian Moore under the heading of A History of the Infinite. They are freely available to be listened to and I so strongly recommend them.

But it was episode eight that made me lose my mind. Just like that night so many years ago on Songbird of Kent.

For that episode was called The Cosmos. You can listen to it here. Please, please do so! This is how that episode is presented:

Does space go on for ever? Are there infinitely many stars? These are some of the questions Adrian Moore explores in the eighth episode in his series about philosophical thought concerning the infinite.

With the help of the theories of the Ancient Greeks through to those of modern cosmologists, Adrian examines the central question of whether our universe is finite or infinite.

For most of us, looking up at the stars gives us a sense of infinity but, as Adrian discovers, there is a strong body of opinion which suggests that space is finite, albeit unbounded. This is a difficult idea to grasp, but by inviting us to think of ourselves as ants, astrophysics professor Jo Dunkley attempts to explain it.

Adrian also tackles the idea of the expanding universe and the logic that leads cosmologists to argue that it all started with a big bang, and may all end with a big crunch.

Finally, we discover from cosmologist John Barrow how the appearance of an infinity in scientists’ calculations sends them straight back to the drawing board. The infinite, which the Ancient Greeks found so troubling, has lost none of its power to disturb.

A Juniper production for BBC Radio 4.

If you find that episode compelling beyond belief then all the episodes are available on the BBC iPlayer and may be found here.

I started with a quotation that is the opening of the final episode. It is a quotation from the German mathematician David Hilbert. As Wikipedia explains, in part:

hilbertDavid Hilbert (German: [ˈdaːvɪt ˈhɪlbɐt]; 23 January 1862 – 14 February 1943) was a German mathematician. He is recognized as one of the most influential and universal mathematicians of the 19th and early 20th centuries.

I will return to that first sentence in Hilbert’s quotation:

The infinite has always stirred the emotions of mankind more deeply than any other question.

For me that sight of the Andromeda galaxy and the stars back in 1969 was in every meaning of the word a sight of the infinite and it has forever stirred my emotions very deeply indeed!

Oh, I Wish …..

…. that animal cruelty just never ever happens!

Yes, I know that’s a naive wish.

But it doesn’t alter my sincere wish!

So thank goodness for the many wonderful people and organisations around the world that do their utmost to help animals.

Take, for example, Animals Asia. This is what they do:

Founded in 1998, Animals Asia promotes compassion and respect for all animals and works to bring about long-term change. We work to end the barbaric bear bile trade, which sees over 10,000 bears kept on bile farms in China, and, according to official figures, about 1,200 suffering the same fate in Vietnam.

Animals Asia has rescued over 500 bears, caring for them at its award-winning bear sanctuaries in China and Vietnam.

Animals Asia also works to end the trade in dogs and cats for food in China and Vietnam, and lobbies to improve the welfare of companion animals, promote humane population management and prevent the cross border export of “meat dogs” in Asia.

In addition, Animals Asia campaigns for an end to abusive animal practices in zoos and safari parks in Asia, and works closely with governing authorities to improve animal management and increase awareness of the welfare needs of captive animals.

Take this wonderful account of what they did for one bear.

ooOOoo

Freed from a bile farm – is this the happiest bear ever?

Watch Tuffy jump for joy in his first days outside – after being rescued from a bear bile farm where he’d spent years of torture in a tiny cage.

Rescued in September last year on the same day as six other bears, Tuffy’s paws have hardly hit the ground since arriving at Animals Asia’s Vietnam sanctuary.

tuffycagedThe vet team has been working hard to rehabilitate him after years of having his bile extracted. In fact his gall bladder was so damaged it had to be removed. Examinations had found numerous gallstones, meaning he’d lived in pain for years.

That wasn’t the only surgery Tuffy faced. In addition he had three fractured teeth removed. He also had painful, dry, cracked paws.

tuffyinacageAnimals Asia Bear Manager Louise Ellis said:

“The cracked paws are common to bile farm bears as they only walk on bars, not grass. Dehydration is likely to have contributed to this too. So for his carers to see him take to the pool so quickly after he first became ready to face the outdoors was an amazing moment.

“Coming from years of little or no water, for Tuffy this must feel like a true oasis after being parched and in pain for so long. It must have felt like such a relief to have the freedom to splash around in the water after only being able to stand on the hard metal bars of the bile farm cage.”

tuffyrescuedIn fact Tuffy loved being outdoors so much he decided not to return to his den in the evening – choosing instead to sleep under the stars.

There are still around 1,200 bears in bile farms in Vietnam and over 10,000 more in China. Animals Asia has rescued nearly 600 bears from the bile industry and continues to care for almost 400.

Bear bile is used in traditional medicine.

ooOOoo
Dearest Tuffy! One of the lucky ones.
But that doesn’t diminish the anger and the disgust I feel at the way too many so called human beings can have such disregard for our beautiful animals!