And some more of our dogs from home.
Still got Ruby and Sweeny to come.
And some more of our dogs from home.
Still got Ruby and Sweeny to come.
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?
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.”
Slowly returning to normal!
As many of you read, last Friday I was discharged from the PeaceHealth Sacred Medical Center in Eugene, Oregon and returned home around 4pm.
It is important that I take it very gently and that means, inevitably, that my blogging is going to be very ad-hoc. Possibly for a few weeks!
The next important step is returning to the hospital this coming Wednesday to have the staples removed and a further cognitive check.
But I shall be OK and thank you all for your interest and concern in my escapade!
All of the dogs, especially Brandy and Cleo, are watching over me! (Over and beyond being loved beyond measure by Jeannie!)
A Very Happy New Year to you all!
Philosophising about this ageing lark!
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.
You may read the rest of that article here.
Here’s one of Frank’s poems that was published by The New Yorker in March, 2013.
By Frank Ormsby
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.
Happy Birthday, sweetheart!
Slowly we are all moving on.
You will all recall the shock of me seeing Pharaoh’s empty bed that first morning after he had died. This picture:
Not only was it difficult to look at but not one of our other dogs went near it. This was despite the fact that Jean had washed and cleaned the whole bed.
One could almost imagine the dogs understanding that it would not have respected their memory of Pharaoh to immediately takeover his rather nice bed.
But life has to move on!
Yesterday evening, just as Jean and I were getting everyone ready for bedtime, Cleo signaled that she was moving on.
She had settled herself down on the bed.
That was so good to see and was another step in the right direction in settling me down as well!
So on the theme of being calm, especially in these hot summer months, do read this recent article that was published on the Care2 site.
By: Becky Striepe June 21, 2017
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
How Cleo was taught by Pharaoh
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.
What amazing animals they are!
Really good news now that it’s well over a month since our two dogs have been taking this oil.
First off, I want to republish in full a post first shared with you all on the 19th September.
Just wanted to share our early results with you.
Back on the 13th September, I published a post under the title of Listening to our pets in more difficult times. I mentioned that Pharaoh was suffering pain in his rear hip joints and struggling at times to get up on all four feet and that we had started giving him Rimadyl.
One of the subsequent comments was from Pets, People, And Life who wrote:
Don’t wait around for a vet to tell you that your dog is in pain. You live in a state with legal MJ plus hemp oil is legal in all 50 states. I give CBD oil to my BC X Aussie 12 year old dog. He could not get up and yelped in pain before I began giving him 0.7ml daily that I drizzle over his food., After second dose he could stand up without help. Now he walks and runs with fluid movements of all limbs. It is totally safe and doesn’t require expensive tests, The danger of Rimadyl and other meds in that class used to treat arthritis, is that these types of meds cause kidney damage and your pet will have a shortened life span. Hemp oil works like a charm with no side effects.
We did some research and came across the following brand of Hemp (CBD) Oil specifically for dogs. We ordered it and it arrived last Saturday. Jean did not delay in adding* it twice a day to the food for both Pharaoh and Paloma.
Yes, it’s early days but I wanted to share this with you now.
There will be a more extensive report from me once these dogs have been using the oil for a few weeks.
Yesterday, as in Sunday 23rd, as per usual I let the ‘bedroom’ group of dogs out around 7am when I went down to clear out the stables. Usually Pharaoh comes away from the front door and ends up laying down on the area just outside the garage door.
But on this day he decided to trot down to the stables and join the others, mainly Brandy, Cleo and Oliver, in sniffing around after the horses and eating fresh horse dung. (Don’t ask me why our dogs find it so tasty!)
It was so lovely to see Pharaoh, who will be 13 1/2 years-old on December 3rd., still being able to walk around the property when he is in the mood.
Frankly, Jean and I are amazed at how well he is doing and how the hip displasia has not yet defeated him. We are certain that the CBD Hemp oil is a key factor.
Later that morning I took a couple of photographs to support my claim that he is still walking around, albeit somewhat stiffly first thing in the day.
Dear old Pharaoh!
…. that when it’s wet and miserable …
(These photographs were taken just ten minutes ago, Brandy to my right and Cleo to my left – the rain gauge now reading 0.27 in at 11:00 PDT. With the 1 in mark being passed at 15:45 PDT!)
The huge gift we receive from therapy animals.
I know there are times when giving Brandy a big hug feeds something very deep inside me. That unconditional affection Brandy shows me has a very strong healing sense.
I know that Jean shares my sense of being loved by Brandy, and by all our other dear dogs.
I am without doubt that hundreds of thousands of other people experience this.
Yet there must always be room for more therapy dogs which is why an item on Care2 just a few days ago is being shared with you today.
(P.S. When a photo of me hugging Brandy was sought his nibs did not comply!)
If you have a pet who’s mellow and loves being around people, and the idea of helping your pet bring joy to others appeals to you, you might just have a therapy animal in the making.
Accompanied by their owners, therapeutic visitation animals – which are most commonly dogs, but can also be cats, rabbits, pot-bellied pigs, horses, etc. – regularly visit people in hospitals, nursing homes, schools and other facilities, providing furry comfort and compassion.
“Four-footed therapists give something special to enhance the health and well-being of others,” says the website of Therapy Dogs International (TDI), a nonprofit organization that regulates, tests and registers therapy dogs and their handlers. “It has been clinically proven that through petting, touching and talking with animals, patients’ blood pressure is lowered, stress is relieved and depression is eased.”
What It Takes to Be a Therapy Animal
Therapy animals are “born, not made,” according to TDI. They must have an outstanding temperament, and be outgoing and friendly to people of all ages. They must also behave well with other animals.
As for dogs, along with the ability to obey basic commands like “Sit,” “Stay,” “Come” and “Leave it,” they are tested by therapy dog certification organizations to ensure they can do the following, according to TDI (most of these requirements apply to other species of potential therapy animals as well):
Getting Your Pet Certified as a Therapy Animal
Think your pet has the right stuff to be a therapy animal? To get an idea of the type of testing involved, this TDI brochure describes each of the 13 tests a dog must pass in order to be certified. The tests are similar for other animals.
Some therapy animal organizations, including Pet Partners, offer workshops so you and your pet can practice the required skills before being tested for certification.
The AKC website has a list of therapy animal organizations all across the U.S. from which your pet can receive certification. Contact the one nearest you for further information.
The Difference Between Therapy and Service Animals
Although the two are often confused, therapy animals are not the same as service animals, which “have been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability,” according to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
“An example of a service dog is a dog who guides an owner who is blind or assists someone who has a physical disability,” the American Kennel Club (AKC) explains. “Service dogs stay with their person and have special access privileges in public places such as planes, restaurants, etc.”
Therapy dogs, on the other hand, are privately owned. Unlike service animals and their handlers, in most U.S. states, therapy animals and their owners don’t have protections under federal law (ADA, the Fair Housing Act, etc.), reports the National Service Animal Registry.
You can find out more about therapy animals and getting your pet certified from these organizations:
Photo credit: Thinkstock
Closing this post with some photographs Jean took yesterday afternoon. Me with Pharaoh and Cleo.
(OK, they were staged for this post as the look on Cleo’s face rather suggests!)
A republication of a recent post from Val Boyko.
Yesterday, Val published a post over on her blog Find Your Middle Ground that really ‘spoke’ to me. That’s not to imply, by the way, that her other posts don’t very often reach out to me and, undoubtedly, to many others.
Val’s post was called The Depths of our Relationships and explored the different levels of relationships that we have with others in and around our lives.
Instinctively most people would regard us humans as far more complex than our animal companions. As the old Devon (South-West England) expression goes, “There’s now’t so queer as folk.”
Yet, once we have really got to know a dog there will be many who will see behind those fabulous eyes a sense of a depth of character, a soul comes to mind, that suggests that the brain of the dog offers a canine psychological complexity most of us don’t allow for.
To support that proposition just look at the eyes of Pharaoh in this photograph going back to June, 2007.