There is so much to speak about in this book, and anyone the ‘wrong’ side of 50 should consider purchasing the book. Really! I include the link to the book on Amazon. (And nothing in it for me I have to say.)
I want to concentrate on two items of note.
The first is that given the right diet, primarily a Mediterranean plant-based diet, and plenty of exercise, it is possible for the brain to rejuvenate new brain cells. Yes, that’s correct! New brain cells!
The second item of note is over on page 194. Let me quote:
Dr. Waldinger’s findings are attractive because they debunk commonly held myths about health and happiness. The findings are based on a comprehensive review of the participants’ lives and biology.
and two sentences later:
The lesson learned is that health and happiness are not about wealth, fame, or working harder. They are about good relationships.
Dr. Robert Waldinger is a psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital and a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. His TED talk, “What Makes a Good Life?” has been viewed more than 36 million times. The link to the TED Talk is here.
What keeps us happy and healthy as we go through life? If you think it’s fame and money, you’re not alone – but, according to psychiatrist Robert Waldinger, you’re mistaken. As the director of a 75-year-old study on adult development, Waldinger has unprecedented access to data on true happiness and satisfaction. In this talk, he shares three important lessons learned from the study as well as some practical, old-as-the-hills wisdom on how to build a fulfilling, long life.
On page 198 among the list of tips about staying engaged is to consider adopting a pet! Yes siree!
Now I am 76 and have had 14 years of pure happiness. Because in 2007 I met Jean, and all her dogs. We fell in love!
We came up to Payson, Arizona in 2010 and were married. In 2012 we came up to our rural acres in Southern Oregon.
It is 2021 and there is no doubt that we are both ageing but we are still very much in love.
We are very happy and that is because as luck would have it we are also each other’s best friend!
This is an older post that for some reason wasn’t published until now!
Apparently dogs can teach us to sleep better!
If you can hear a note of skepticism in my voice then you are not mistaken.
For I am writing this post during the afternoon of Tuesday last. Jeannie and I were going out to dinner with neighbours in the evening and I was wondering if I could squeeze in a siesta fairly soon. Why?
Well last night [Ed. Back in 2017] (as in early on Tuesday morning), at 3am to be exact, a wet nose belonging to a German Shepherd, namely Cleo, was gently pushed into my face. Even in the dark I could sense that Cleo had an upset tummy. I quickly got up and opened our bedroom door; the one that opens onto the deck behind our house.
Five minutes later Cleo was back in the room and a few minutes more saw me back asleep.
At 4am on that same early Tuesday morning I received the second greeting of the day from a wet nose. This time it was Oliver and, yes, he too had an upset tummy. Oliver is not so self-disciplined as Cleo and I had to put on my dressing-gown and take Oliver outside via the front door.
Do you understand why I was so tired that afternoon!
We all know that dogs are the best of friends. They’re more than happy to greet you with excitement when you get home from work, and they’re thrilled to go on adventures with you, too. But dogs are more than just friends. They’re good for your health—in more ways than one.
First, good dog owners know that exercise is the name of the game. If you live on a small property or in an apartment, then it’s necessary to walk your dog regularly. And at the bare minimum, you most likely play tug-o-war inside or wrestle on the floor together. Your dog needs the exercise to stay happy and healthy—and so do you.
Second, your pup doesn’t just keep you active but she lowers your blood pressure. It’s hard to measure if you’ve never been one with blood pressure issues. But if you’re hypertensive, then maybe getting a dog isn’t such a bad idea.
Beyond keeping you active and your heart healthy, science shows that dogs help you sleep better. And sleep, as we know, is a huge part of being healthy. In a recent study of 40 healthy adults without sleeping disorders, scientists discovered that dogs aided in better sleep efficiency. That means you get more out of your sleep time with a fun-loving pet at your side.
And let’s not get this confused with sleeping with your dog in your bed. The same study indicated that people who let their pets sleep on the bed actually had worse sleep, not better. Which makes sense, right? If your pup continually crowds you out of the little space you have, you’re bound to be tirelessly stopping yourself from falling off the bed all night long. Not to mention if the dog needs to be let down for water or to use the bathroom. Your best bet for better sleep is to leave your pooch on the floor.
How to have the best night of sleep ever with your dog
As any dog owner knows, it’s not fun getting up the middle of the night to open doors, fill water bowls or take the dog out to pee. If you want to ensure that you’ll reap all the benefits of better sleep, then try these tips right before bed.
Prepare your dog for bed: Welcome the dog into the room, snuggle for a bit on the bed or floor, and then place your pup on the floor in his bed.
Open a door: Your pup might get restless at night, or scared. Leave a door open for the pup to roam or hide. Unless, of course, your pup can’t handle the freedom of nighttime roaming.
Fill the water bowl: Be sure to always have fresh water nearby. It’s an easy and simple fix when you know your pup likes to get up for a midnight drink.
Create space to borrow: Some dogs like to hide under the bed, in the closet beneath clothes or in the bathroom. The dog might be scared of thunder or lightning or simply find it cozier than out in the open. Ensure your dog’s comfort by keeping these options open.
Don’t forget the dog: Bedtime is often a haze. You’re tired and just want to sleep. Before rushing off to sleep, make sure your dog hasn’t been left outside on the patio or in the backyard.
Does Rocko eat dinner?: Make sure your dog eats a regularly scheduled meal in the evening.
Unexpected events: There are some things you just can’t plan for, like vomiting or diarrhea. Dogs eat strange things when you’re not looking. Respond as compassionately as possible.
Dogs can help you sleep better by making you feel more safe and secure. But if you don’t prepare you and your loyal friend for a good night sleep, then you’ll find yourself waking up in the middle of the night—more than once. Get the most out of your sleep by being prepared, and remember to put your dog on the ground not on the bed for the best night’s sleep possible.
Now I’m bound to say that since that night in September, 2017 we have not had a problem with our six dogs. I can’t remember since then one of our dogs having an upset tummy that kept us awake.
But I’m sure that there are dog owners who from time to time do have this problem and I hope you find this post useful and interesting, albeit three years late!
Sometimes the most precious gift in the world is the simplest one.
So starts today’s republished essay.
I would slightly amend the saying by removing the word ‘Sometimes‘. It is a fact that the most precious gifts are the simplest ones.
This essay was on The Dodo just three days ago and is perfect!
Shelter Pup Can’t Believe He Just Got His Very First Bed
March 25th, 2020
Sometimes the most precious gift in the world is the simplest one.
For Ezra, a stray dog who spent his life on the streets, that was somewhere soft and warm to sleep. And the smile on his face when he received his very first bed said it all.
When Ezra first arrived at Fairfield County Animal Shelter in September, he wouldn’t look anyone in the eye. He lay in the back of his kennel, shaking and staring at the wall. Shelter staff knew he’d need to overcome his fear to have a chance at a better life, so they came up with a plan to win him over: hot dogs.
“The hot dogs were the key to his heart,” Samira Yaghi, rescue coordinator at the shelter, told The Dodo. “We always had hot dogs when walking by Ezra’s kennel. What started with tossing the hot dogs slowly became him taking them gently out of our hands.”
As Ezra got more comfortable, he began to press his body up against the volunteers, allowing them to pet him.
Finally, five months after he arrived, the nervous dog went outside for his very first walk. “It’s been uphill ever since,” Yaghi said. “He is full of wiggles and bounce anytime he sees us approaching, eager to say ‘hello’ and eager to give us kisses.”
It was after one of these walks that Ezra’s life changed forever. “We had several dog beds donated and they were still sitting by the entryway,” Yaghi wrote on Facebook. “On his way out for a walk, he [lay] on the bed [and] had to be coaxed off. On their way back in from the walk, he [lay] on the bed again.”
Seeing how attached Ezra was to the bed, the shelter staff put it in his kennel. He immediately sat in the bed, smiling from ear to ear. “Just look at how happy and proud he is to have that bed,” Yaghi wrote. “He sat nice and tall with a smile of gratitude on his face!”
The sweet photo of him smiling in his bed even caught the attention of the shelter’s northern rescue partner, S.N.A.R.R. Animal Rescue Northeast. Soon, Ezra and his beloved bed will be on their way to New York in search of a home, and his friends at the shelter couldn’t be more proud of how far he’s come.
Of our 6 dogs only 1 is a non-rescue. Jean’s history with dogs goes right back to Mexico and her finding homes in the USA for homeless street dogs taken in by her. When I met her, back in 2007, she had well over 20 dogs and when we came up to America to be married, in 2010, we came across the border with 16 dogs. All with the necessary paperwork I will add. But the border officer, after calling out to a colleague in the next customs booth, “Hey Jake, there’s a guy here with 16 dogs!“, couldn’t go throw all the paperwork and simply passed them all; not that we had anything to hide!
So Cleo was purchased to be companion to Pharaoh when Pharaoh was becoming an elderly dog.
Pharaoh died on the 17th June, 2017 and he is still badly missed!
Continuing the theme of revisiting earlier posts this week!
More on Pharaoh’s life
What a wonderful relationship it has been.
Years ago if I was ever to own a dog, it had to be one breed and one breed only: a German Shepherd Dog.
The reason for this was that back in 1955 my father and mother looked after a German Shepherd dog called Boy. Boy belonged to a lovely couple, Maurice and Marie Davies. They were in the process of taking over a new Public House (Pub); the Jack & Jill in Coulsdon, Surrey. My father had been the architect of the Jack & Jill.
As publicans have a tough time taking holidays, it was agreed that the move from their old pub to the Jack & Jill represented a brilliant opportunity to have that vacation. My parents offered to look after Boy for the 6 weeks that Maurice and Marie were going to be away.
Boy was the most gentle loveable dog one could imagine and I quickly became devoted to him; I was 11 years old at the time. So when years later it seemed the right time to have a dog, there was no question about the breed. Boy’s memory lived on all those years, and, as this post reveals, still does!
Pharaoh was born June 3rd, 2003 at Jutone Kennels up at Bovey Tracy, Devon, on the edge of Dartmoor. As the home page of the Jutone website pronounces,
The Kennel was established in 1964 and it has always been the aim to breed the best German Shepherd Dogs for type and temperament. To this end the very finest German bloodlines are used to continue a modern breeding programme.
and elsewhere on that website one learns:
Jutone was established by Tony Trant who was joined by Sandra Tucker in 1976. Sandra continues to run Jutone since Tony passed away in 2004. Both Tony and Sandra qualified as Championship Show judges and Sandra continues to judge regularly. Sandra is the Secretary and a Life Member of the German Shepherd Dog Club of Devon.
Turning to Pharaoh, here are a few more pictures over the years.
The next picture of Pharaoh requires a little background information.
For many years I was a private pilot and in later days had the pleasure, the huge pleasure, of flying a Piper Super Cub, a group-owned aircraft based at Watchford Farm in South Devon. The aircraft, a Piper PA-18-135 Super Cub, was originally supplied to the Dutch Air Force in 1954 and was permitted by the British CAA to carry her original military markings including her Dutch military registration, R-151, although there was a British registration, G-BIYR, ‘underneath’ the Dutch R-151. (I wrote more fully about the history of the aircraft on Learning from Dogsback in August 2009.)
Anyway, every time I went to the airfield with Pharaoh he always tried to climb into the cockpit. So one day, I decided to see if he would sit in the rear seat and be strapped in. Absolutely no problem with that!
My idea had been to fly a gentle circuit in the aircraft. First I did some taxying around the large grass airfield that is Watchford to see how Pharaoh reacted. He was perfectly behaved.
Then I thought long and hard about taking Pharaoh for a flight. In the Cub there is no autopilot so if Pharaoh struggled or worse it would have been almost impossible to fly the aircraft and cope with Pharaoh. So, in the end, I abandoned taking him for a flight. The chances are that it would have been fine. But if something had gone wrong, the outcome just didn’t bear thinking about.
So we ended up motoring for 30 minutes all around the airfield which, as the next picture shows, met with doggie approval. The date was July 2006.
What a dear dog he has been over all the years and, thankfully, still is!
As if to reinforce the fabulous dog he still is, yesterday it was almost as though he knew he had to show how youthful he still was.
Because, when I took his group of dogs out around 7.30am armed with my camera, Pharaoh was brimming over with energy.
First up was a swim in the pond.
Then in a way he has not done before, Pharaoh wanted to play ‘King of my Island’, which is in the middle of the pond.
Then a while later, when back on dry land, so to speak, it was time to dry off in the morning sunshine.
Long may he have an enjoyable and comfortable life.
Pharaoh died of old age on June 19th, 2017. He was 14!
Despite the fact that we have six wonderful dogs including Cleo there is still a twinge of sadness when Pharaoh is mentioned. And now you know the origins of Pharaoh!
More than that how do you know if anything is real?
I was sitting in the living-room yesterday and watching Cleo dream. She was on the floor in front of the lit fire and happily involved in her dream.
She was such a beautiful dog. It was natural of me to wonder of what she was dreaming. I could see her feet twitching and her eyelids flicking as though she was dreaming of chasing. But any more than that was pure speculation.
Then I mused about how the world looked for Cleo, and for the rest of our dogs come to that.
Then I went back to a philosophical article that I read quite recently.
What does it all mean? Are we real? What is reality?
3 philosophers set up a booth on a street corner – here’s what people asked
Research Fellow Center for Philosophy and History of Science, Boston University
February 6th, 2019
The life choices that had led me to be sitting in a booth underneath a banner that read “Ask a Philosopher” – at the entrance to the New York City subway at 57th and 8th – were perhaps random but inevitable.
I’d been a “public philosopher” for 15 years, so I readily agreed to join my colleague Ian Olasov when he asked for volunteers to join him at the “Ask a Philosopher” booth. This was part of the latest public outreach effort by the American Philosophical Association, which was having its annual January meeting up the street.
I’d taught before – even given speeches – but this seemed weird. Would anyone stop? Would they give us a hard time?
I sat between Ian and a splendid woman who taught philosophy in the city, thinking that even if we spent the whole time talking to one another, it would be an hour well spent.
Then someone stopped.
At first glance, it was hard to tell if she was a penniless nomad or an emeritus professor, but then she took off her hat and psychedelic scarf and came over to the desk and announced, “I’ve got a question. I’m in my late 60s. I’ve just had life threatening surgery, but I got through it.”
She showed us the jagged scar on her neck. “I don’t know what to do with the rest of my life,” she said. “I’ve got a master’s degree. I’m happily retired and divorced. But I don’t want to waste any more time. Can you help?”
Wow. One by one, we all asked her to elaborate on her situation and offered tidbits of advice, centering on the idea that only she could decide what gave her life meaning. I suggested that she might reach out to others who were also searching, then she settled in for a longer discussion with Ian.
And then it happened: A crowd gathered.
At first I thought they were there to eavesdrop, but as it turned out they had their own existential concerns. A group of teenagers engaged the philosopher on my right. One young woman, who turned out to be a sophomore in college, stepped away from the group with a serious concern. “Why can’t I be happier in my life? I’m only 20. I should be as happy as I’m ever going to be right now, but I’m not. Is this it?”
It was my turn. “Research has shown that what makes us happy is achieving small goals one after the other,” I said. “If you win the lottery, within six months you’ll probably be back to your baseline of happiness. Same if you got into an accident. You can’t just achieve happiness and stay there, you have to pursue it.”
“So I’m stuck?” she said.
“No…” I explained. “Your role in this is huge. You’ve got to choose the things that make you happy one by one. That’s been shown from Aristotle all the way down to cutting-edge psychological research. Happiness is a journey, not a destination.”
She brightened a bit, while her friends were still puzzling over whether color was a primary or secondary property. They thanked us and moved on.
Suddenly, the older woman who had stopped by initially seemed satisfied with what Ian had told her, and said that she had to be on her way as well.
Again it was quiet. Some who passed by were pointing and smiling. A few took pictures. It must have looked odd to see three philosophers sitting in a row with “Ask a Philosopher” over our heads, amidst the bagel carts and jewelry stalls.
During the quiet I reflected for a moment on what had just happened. A group of strangers had descended upon us not to make fun, but because they were carrying around some real philosophical baggage that had long gone unanswered. If you’re in a spiritual crisis, you go to your minister or rabbi. If you have psychological concerns, you might seek out a therapist. But what to do if you don’t quite know where you fit into this world and you’re tired of carrying that burden alone?
And then I spotted her … an interlocutor who would be my toughest questioner of the day. She was about 6 years old and clutched her mother’s hand as she craned her neck to stare at us. Her mother stopped, but the girl hesitated. “It’s OK,” I offered. “Do you have a philosophical question?” The girl smiled at her mother, then let go of her hand to walk over to the booth. She looked me dead in the eye and said: “How do I know I’m real?”
Suddenly I was back in graduate school. Should I talk about the French philosopher Rene Descartes, who famously used the assertion of skepticism itself as proof of our existence, with the phrase “I think, therefore I am?” Or, mention English philosopher G.E. Moore and his famous “here is one hand, here is the other,” as proof of the existence of the external world?
Or, make a reference to the movie “The Matrix,” which I assumed, given her age, she wouldn’t have seen? But then the answer came to me. I remembered that the most important part of philosophy was feeding our sense of wonder. “Close your eyes,” I said. She did. “Well, did you disappear?” She smiled and shook her head, then opened her eyes. “Congratulations, you’re real.”
She grinned broadly and walked over to her mother, who looked back at us and smiled. My colleagues patted me on the shoulder and I realized that my time was up. Back to the conference to face some easier questions on topics like “Academic Philosophy and its Responsibilities in a Post-Truth World.”
A few days ago Jean and I listened to an episode from the BBC Radio 4 series The Art of Living. Or as the home page of the programme’s website explains, The Art of Living is a …
Documentary series revealing how engagement with art has transformed people’s lives.
Anyway, the episode that we listened to was a delightful 30-minute discussion between Marie-Louise Muir and the Belfast-born poet Frank Ormsby. The reason we selected this episode to listen to in particular is revealed by republishing how the BBC introduced the programme. (For Jean was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in December, 2015.)
Frank Ormsby’s Parkinson’s
The Art of Living
When the poet Frank Ormsby was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, his response was unexpected. He embarked on a newly fertile creative period, documenting his experiences and finding a voice in his poetry that he was beginning to lose in his daily communications.
His first act was to search Google – for jokes. “Which would you rather have, Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s. Obviously Parkinson’s! I’d rather spill half my pint than forget where I left it.”
As he discusses with Marie-Louise Muir, the illness has changed him. It’s mellowed him. After a career as a school teacher, his daily life is now quieter and more solitary. There’s a poetry, almost, in his pauses and silences.
Frank belongs to the generation of Northern Irish writers that has followed in the footsteps of Seamus Heaney and Michael Longley. His medication, he believes, has aided his creativity. But it has also induced hallucinations. He finds himself sitting on his own in his study but surrounded by people, by the ghosts of his mother-in-law and unidentified visitors. And he’s also haunted by a fear that the earth will open up and swallow him.
But if you ask how he’s doing, he writes, “I’ll tell you the one about ‘parking zones disease’.
I’ll assure you that the pills seem to be working”.
Photo credit: Malachi O’Doherty, With readings by Frank himself and Ciaran McMenamin from The Darkness of Snow. Produced by Alan Hall. A Falling Tree production for BBC Radio 4.
That wonderful joke offered by Frank, this one: “Which would you rather have, Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s. Obviously Parkinson’s! I’d rather spill half my pint than forget where I left it.” comes a little after the 5-minute point in the interview. I strongly encourage you to listen to the full interview. Here’s the link to the radio programme.
Jean and I were sitting up in bed a couple of mornings ago reflecting on how recent it has been since we ‘got it’ in terms of what becoming old really means. For me and Jean, for different reasons, it is only in the last twelve months that ageing, the process of becoming older, the decline in one’s faculties, and more and more, has been truly understood. Yes, before then of course one understood that we were getting old. But it was an intellectual understanding not the living it on a daily basis understanding we now experience.
Back to Frank Ormsby. Or rather to a feature in the Belfast Telegraph published in 2015.
Frank Ormsby: Life at Inst was very different from my upbringing
Leading Belfast poet and former Inst. Head of English Frank Ormsby on his tough Fermanagh upbringing, losing his father when he was 12 and how humour has helped him cope with a Parkinson’s diagnosis.
March 23, 2015
As Frank Ormsby sits in the study of his beautifully-appointed 1930s home in north Belfast there is no hint of his much more austere upbringing. As befits the workspace of a poet and long-time English teacher at one of Belfast’s leading schools, the bookcases that line the walls are crammed with a wide range of literature.
It could not be a more different environment from the rural home where he grew up just after the Second World War.
When Frank was born in 1947, his father Patrick was already in his 60s. “I remember him as an old, grey-haired man”.
It was Patrick’s second marriage. His first had produced 10-12 children. “I was never totally sure of the exact number”, Frank recalls.
“I never met them as they had dispersed to Scotland and other places by the time my father, by then a widower, had married my mother. As far as I know the last one of them died last year.”
Frank’s home was about a mile and half outside Irvinestown. His mother Anne had worked on a relative’s farm – “she could build hay or cut turf as well as any man” – and his father as a farm labourer who occasionally sought work in the factories in Scotland.
“The conditions in which we lived were lacking in luxury. We had no running water. We had to carry it in buckets from a well half a mile away. There was no electricity and it was a long time before we even had a radio, or wireless as it was called then,” Frank says.
Here’s one of Frank’s poems that was published by The New Yorker in March, 2013.
By Frank Ormsby
They have the look
of being born old.
Thinning elders among the heather,
trembling in every wind.
My father turns eighty
the spring before my thirteenth birthday.
When I feed him porridge he takes his cap off. His hair,
as it has been all my life, is white, pure white.
Maybe that’s how it is. Having the look of being born old!
But there’s one thing that I treasure beyond gold itself. Having the fortune to be living out my final days, however many there are, in the company of my beautiful Jeannie and all the loving dogs around me.
My dogs are both terrified of thunderstorms. These are some of the tricks that vets and trainers have recommended to help our poor babes when stormy weather rolls in.
Our lab mix, Jenna, trembles in the corner when it thunders, while our 60-pound dog, Bandit, tries to leap into my lap. These are some of the ways to calm a dog during thunderstorms that we’ve tried.
Every dog is different, so what works for one may not work for another. Jenna is terrified of the Thundershirt, for example, but many people I know swear by it. Chances are, not all of these calming techniques will help your dog during a thunderstorm. You’re basically throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks.
Ways to Calm a Dog During Thunderstorms
1. Lavender Oil
You don’t want your dog to ingest lavender oil, so put a few drops on her collar when a storm is freaking her out. The soothing scent can help calm some dogs’ nerves, and the smell is a distraction from what’s going on in the sky.
Just like humans, dogs find massage soothing. The video above shows a calming massage that you can use on your dog during a thunderstorm. You can also try an ear massage, which Jenna responds to really well. Basically, you gently run your hand up the dog’s ear, from where the ear meets the head to the tip of the ear. When you reach the tip, gently massage for a second, then repeat. Like in the video, it seems to work best if I also talk to her in a soothing voice while massaging.
3. A Hand on the Back
Sometimes, your dog just needs to know that you are there and in control of the situation. This trick works well on our dog, Bandit, who is definitely boss dog in our house. During a storm, a hand on his back helps him feel like he can step back from being the pack leader, which helps him feel secure and safe. Talking in a soothing voice helps here, too.
4. Training Exercises
You may feel like it’s mean to start bossing your scared dog around, but practicing her sit/stay/shake is a great way to distract your dog from the storm and remind her that you’ve got this under control. This one works well on both of my dogs.
These wrap shirts help soothe a lot of dogs during thunderstorms, and they’re available at any pet store. Many friends with dogs have recommended the Thundershirt to me. It made Jenna more anxious, but she is clearly in the minority in this situation.
6. White Noise
If your dog can’t hear the storm, your dog won’t be so scared. Dogs can feel the shift in pressure from a storm, even when they can’t hear it, so this technique seems to work best in conjunction with other calming techniques, like massage or lavender oil. Bring your dog to her favorite room, turn down the lights, and turn up the white noise. If you don’t have a white noise machine, you can find free white noise tracks on YouTube, like the one above.
7. Rescue Remedy for Pets
Rescue Remedy is a blend of plant extracts. They make homeopathic drops and gummies for humans, and they have drops for pets, as well. The site recommends putting the drops into water, but I’ve also had good luck putting them onto a treat or into a glob of peanut butter, if my dogs aren’t too scared from the storm to take a treat.
As I mentioned above, different natural remedies will work for different dogs, so don’t be discouraged if the first thing you try doesn’t work out. Sometimes, especially for high anxiety dogs, you’ll have the best results combining a few of these ways to calm a dog during a thunderstorm.
I don’t know about tips for calming dogs, some of these sound great for yours truly!
This post should be read in conjunction with the post that came out an hour ago: Dogs and Learning. It was first published on Learning from Dogs on March 19th, 2014.
Where to start this story about Cleo?
I guess by going back to the days when I was living in the village of Harberton, near Totnes in South Devon, England. That means going back to 2003, the year when it seemed the right time for me to get a dog. (Jean and I first met in December, 2007) There was always only one breed to be considered; the German Shepherd dog.
Thus that desire for a German Shepherd led me to Sandra Tucker who lived not too many miles away who owned the GSD breeders Jutone. It was at Jutone where I saw the wonderful puppy dog who became my Pharaoh.
But Sandra did better than breed the dog that has meant more to me than words can ever describe, she gave me some fantastic advice. That being that when Pharaoh was getting on in life, then bring in a German Shepherd puppy. There were two solid reasons why this made sense. The first was that Pharaoh would teach the new puppy many of the skills and disciplines that Pharaoh had learnt as a young dog and, secondly, the puppy would keep Pharaoh active.
That puppy was Cleo.
Cleo was born on the 23rd January, 2012. At that time we were still living down in Payson, Arizona. Right from the start she was, and still is, the most joyful, loving dog one could imagine. That top photograph shows in her eyes the openness of her heart and soul.
So here we are coming rapidly up to the two-year anniversary (6th April, 2014) of when Cleo entered our lives.
Cleo continues to be the most loving, gentle, sweet German Shepherd.
However, as Sandra so correctly predicted, Pharaoh has ‘taught’ Cleo a number of commands such as Sit, Stay, Lie Down, Come, and more. Not a minute’s training of Cleo has come from Jean and me.
Cleo is very fond of Pharaoh and it’s obvious that Pharaoh gets a huge amount from having Cleo around him.
Fast forward to now, as in January, 2017, and the relationship between Pharaoh and Cleo is still incredibly important. Cleo senses that Pharaoh is in the last ‘phase’ of his life but still shows him incredible respect.
Cleo is a very intuitive dog who appears at times to really understand what Jean and I are talking about, even when it has nothing to do with dogs. For instance, Cleo knows when I am finishing up my lunch and that the next thing that will follow is Jeannie and me taking the dogs out for their afternoon walk.
Cleo is almost certainly the most knowledgeable and obedient of all of our dogs and it’s all down to Pharaoh’s skills as a teaching dog.