Tag: Colin Chappell

One calculating dog, and

… one unsuspecting human.

The title and sub-title are almost the complete sub-title to a book from Colin Chappell. As sub-titles so often do, they offer the flavor of the book to come.

OK! Let me start properly!

Some time ago, Colin and I agreed to do a book swap and then review each other’s book. We duly exchanged books and Colin held to his side of the agreement! I sent Colin Learning from Dogs and Colin sent me Who Said I Was Up For Adoption?

For reasons that now escape me first I gave the book to Jeannie and she read it and very much liked it. I was going to ask Jeannie to dictate a review for me but, oh I don’t know why not, that never happened. To add to me embarrassment, I still haven’t read the book myself plus Colin ages ago published his review of my book over on his blog Me and Ray.

So when author Deborah Taylor-French reviewed the book on her blog Dog Leader Mysteries I held my breath very tightly and asked Deborah and Colin if I might republish her review here.

I am delighted to say that both were very happy for me to so do! Here it is.

ooOOoo

Overcoming challenges to adopting, Ray

By Colin Chappell, Guest Blogger

When Ray came to live with us, he brought with him many issues. We had been advised that he had no social skills. We had ascertained that he had no training relevant to living in a home, and we knew that he was very cautious around people and other dogs. It was not long before he displayed “Startle Response” (never touch a sleeping Ray!), and “Fear Aggression”. The “Fear Aggression” was Ray’s way of handling uncomfortable situations such as being close to other people and dogs. Ray was a fast learner at home with us and, while he made some mistakes, he was trying to adapt to his new life. He did seem to want to please us, just as we wanted him to be happy. The first thing we had to do however was to arrange for him to have a full medical. When the vet called us to discuss the results, we knew we had a problem.

His dog’s diagnosis? Read about a heartbreaking medical condition.

Medical professionals assess Heartworm status as Stage One to Stage Four. Stage Four, the most advanced, is considered terminal. They estimated Ray at Stage Two, which provided hope that treatment could be successful. Treating heartworm is very expensive and offers no guarantee that the dog will survive the treatment, and so we now had to make the difficult decision of how to proceed with a dog that had lived with us for only a short time. There were some theoretical options for consideration.

1. Commit a lot of money to a treatment program, which may kill Ray? – We were fortunate in that we could manage the estimated $3500.00 financial burden of the treatment program, but did we want to? Ray had not been with us very long and was carrying a lot of emotional “baggage” from his past. While it would be nice to believe that he would adapt to be a lovely family pet, nobody could offer us that guarantee so that we would be investing a considerable amount of money in a dog with unknown potential. Furthermore, treatment consisted of a series of deep muscle injections with an arsenic-based compound, which should kill all the heartworms, however, when heartworms die, the pieces of worm can cause restrictions or even a blockage.

There was a significant possibility that Ray could die from congestive heart failure. To reduce the risk of this potential outcome; a dog must be kept as calm as possible to maintain a very low heart rate. Life for Ray, and for us, would be complicated for the next six months or so.

2. Do nothing? – An option but, in reality, a cruel and irresponsible decision. His quality of life would have slowly deteriorated as the heartworms spread, causing damage to his lungs and other organs throughout his body. Death would have been his only escape.

3. Return Ray to the shelter? – We knew they would have taken him back, but that raised some issues. We would be avoiding making the difficult decision by transferring the responsibility to the shelter. This rationale is against my core belief of accepting one’s responsibilities. Returning him also had some very questionable ramifications in that they would probably not be able to adopt him out again.

Who would want to take on an unknown dog with a serious (and expensive) health issue? Would the shelter be prepared to finance the treatment of a single dog when they are dependent on voluntary financial contributions and are constantly fund-raising to maintain their day-to-day services?

Given our excellent relationship with the shelter, we presented them with our dilemma and asked what they would do if Ray were returned. The answer was, not too surprisingly, very diplomatic. They would not be able to make any decision until he had been reassessed as a possible candidate for future adoption. They also made it clear that whatever decision we made, they would support it wholeheartedly. While their support was appreciated, my feelings were that his future would probably not be too long if returned.

4. Euthanize Ray? – The thought of euthanizing Ray gave me a lot of problems because of Skeeta, my first cat in Canada. Skeeta always seemed to love the company of pretty much anybody and her original owners did not feel that they had the time for her any longer, and so were looking for an alternative home for her. She made a tremendous impact on us all but, after only three months she was distressed. The diagnosis came that she had feline leukemia. Her condition considered untreatable, so the medical staff recommended euthanasia. Looking back, I still struggle with Skeeta’s death. (Terms like “euthanize”, “put down”, and “put to sleep” are all gentle words that only mask the reality of killing.)

The issue with Skeeta was not that her life could not be saved, but that it was far too easy to euthanize her. To have an animal killed, regardless of the justification, should take far more than signing a piece of paper and handing over a relatively small amount of money. Such a simple process was somehow offensive to me in that it resulted in the death of a living creature that had displayed an unquestionable ability to connect with us on an emotional level.

The more I thought about Skeeta, the more I decided that Ray deserved an opportunity to live and it would be my goal to ensure that he had that opportunity. My decision, therefore, was to keep Ray with us and start treatment as soon as possible. Fortunately, Carol had come to the same conclusion, and so treatment was scheduled for the summer.

It did cross my mind that Carol may not be able to justify the cost of the treatment so while I was not anticipating an issue over this, I had made plans to cover the cost on myself. Less than three years old, Ray had not enjoyed a good start to his life. Now Ray worked hard to adapt to our family environment. This big dog had already made a niche for himself in our family. Ray showed signs of wanting to stay with us.

Most importantly to me, Ray was a dog who had invited me to be his friend**.

Friends for life, rare and welcome as love and kinship.

What sort of friend would I be to walk away from him, and leave him to whatever fate would await? Ray could well die during the heartworm treatment, but then he could also survive it. I committed to whatever became necessary to ensure that he had the best chance possible of a long and happy life. I suddenly realized just how important he was to me. I loved this guy!

** The details of this life-changing moment (for both of us) are in his book.

About Colin Chappell: Born in England, part of the post-war “baby boomers” Chappell moved to Canada in 1975 with a wife and two children. Through no planning, he happened to fall into a position that included a mandatory deduction for a pension plan. Less than 30 years later, he retired and pursued new interests. When his children had grown he chose a fresh start. Chappell explored music and, due to lack of finances, he bought a “fixer upper” for his new home.

All photos by Colin Chappell

A few years later, Chappell found himself in a new relationship. The question of owning a dog often came into their conversations. It resulted in him being adopted by Ray, and their lives have never been the same since.

Experiences and day-to-day incidents with Ray prompted starting a blog using Word Press, Please visit meandray.com Writing this blog he got the idea of writing a book about Ray. Find this book on Amazon at Who Said I Was Up for Adoption?

Chappell’s writings continued and, after experimenting with some poetry, decided to put together a book of simple, but hopefully thought-provoking, verse.

Just Thinking by Colin Chappell

ooOOoo

Colin, I do hope this makes up somewhat for me not sticking to our agreement!

In fact, me reading this post out aloud to Jeannie yesterday evening, and being most moved by your words (and photographs), makes it easy for me to read your book without delay!

The implications of inequality

What on earth has inequality to do with dogs!

A fair question one might think. Because this blog is primarily about what we humans should be learning from our dogs. Well, I do see a connection, a message of learning for us. Stay with me for a while.

But first, here’s how I open up Chapter 18 Sharing in my book – Learning from Dogs.

Here’s a silly story that made me laugh when I first came across it.

A man in a casino walks past three men and a dog playing poker.
“Wow!” he says, “That’s a very clever dog.“
“He’s not that clever,” replies one of the other players.
“Every time he gets a good hand he wags his tail.“

This clever dog couldn’t hide his happiness and had to share it by wagging his tail. OK, it was a little bit of fictional fun but we all recognise that inherent quality in our dogs, how they share so much of themselves in such an easy and natural fashion.

Now if one was being pedantic one would say that sharing is not the same as equality. Yet I see them as two separate seats in life’s common carriage.

Many lovers of dogs know that when they lived a life in the wild, slowly evolving from the grey wolf, they replicated, naturally, the pack characteristics of wolves. As in the pack size was around 25 to 30 animals. Yes, there was a hierarchy in the pack but that really only presented itself in the status of three animals: the female ‘alpha’ dog; the male ‘beta’ dog; the ‘omega’ dog that could be of either gender. Ninety percent of the pack were animals on equal standing. If only that was how we humans lived.

A few days ago there was an essay published on The Conversation blogsite under the title of Why poverty is not a personal choice, but a reflection of society.

It opened with this photograph.

A homeless camp in Los Angeles, where homelessness has risen 23 percent in the past year, in May 2017. AP Photo/Richard Vogel

Let me emphasize this: “A homeless camp in Los Angeles, where homelessness has risen 23 percent in the past year, in May 2017.”

Here are two small extracts from that article:

Research Investigator of Psychiatry, Public Health, and Poverty Solutions, University of Michigan


As someone who studies poverty solutions and social and health inequalities, I am convinced by the academic literature that the biggest reason for poverty is how a society is structured. Without structural changes, it may be very difficult if not impossible to eliminate disparities and poverty.


About 13.5 percent of Americans are living in poverty. Many of these people do not have insurance, and efforts to help them gain insurance, be it through Medicaid or private insurance, have been stymied. Medicaid provides insurance for the disabled, people in nursing homes and the poor.

Four states recently asked the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for permission to require Medicaid recipients in their states who are not disabled or elderly to work.

This request is reflective of the fact that many Americans believe that poverty is, by and large, the result of laziness, immorality and irresponsibility.

In yesterday’s post celebrating July 4th, where I shared that lovely picture sent to me by Neil Kelly from my Devon days, there was an exchange of comments between me and author Colin Chappell. Colin is the author of the book Who Said I Was Up For Adoption.

First, in response to Colin saying “That pic really says it all doesn’t it!”, I replied:

No question. Indeed, one might ‘read’ that picture at many levels. From the level of providing a smile for the day all the way through to a very profound observation on life itself.

Colin then replied to me:

I ‘ll go straight for the profound perspective! As I recently noted on another blog, I cannot recall anybody from history who became famous for their material possessions. In fact, I recently read an article written after an individual had surveyed a few thousand gravestones… and they drew the same conclusion. There was not a single epitaph which alluded to a material possession. Dogs know all that intuitively, so why does our superior (?) mind have trouble grasping such a simple perspective?

I then responded by saying that I thought it would make a fabulous introduction to today’s post. The heart of which I am now coming to.

Here in our local city, Grants Pass, there is a Freethinkers and Humanists group. They meet once a month. Jerry Reed from that group some time ago recommended to me reading the book The Spirit Level authored by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett.

Jerry and I were exchanging emails in the last couple of days and he reminded me of that book.

There it was sitting on my bookshelf with a bookmark in at page 62. For reasons that escape me, I had become distracted and forgotten to stay with the book. Despite me being very interested in the proposition.

I said as much in an email reply to Jerry. He then replied to my email with this:

Hey, that happens to me a lot too, very frequently. So, I frequently settle for a video that might capture the essence of the book in considerably less time, while also maintaining my attention much better.

So, if you want a video about what Wilkinson has to say, here’s the one I recommend:

Here is that video. It is a little under 17 minutes long. Please watch it.

Published on Oct 24, 2011

http://www.ted.com We feel instinctively that societies with huge income gaps are somehow going wrong. Richard Wilkinson charts the hard data on economic inequality, and shows what gets worse when rich and poor are too far apart: real effects on health, lifespan, even such basic values as trust.

I haven’t got anything profound to say by way of closing today’s post.

But what I will say is that if our societies, especially in certain countries not a million miles from home, more closely emulated the sharing and caring that we see in our dogs then that really would be wonderful.

Image seen on this website: http://enlightendogs.com/about/testimonials-2/