The moment of the equinox is Friday, March 20, 2015 at 22:45 UTC.
I want to share something with you that was sent in the mail to Jean and me two days ago.
The essence of a shadow is the energy of the leading edge of Creation.
The dominant species on a remote, possibly unique, planet called Earth has as yet to learn that life is the essence of a shadow.
As a result, the self-centred dominant species on this possibly unique planet appear to self-destruct. The shame and the pity are that a majority of life on the beautiful and evolving planet will accompany the selfish human species into the void of biological extinction.
The good news is that although extinctions have not been previously caused by dominant life forms on planet Earth, multiple mass extinctions have taken place. Life has regenerated every time. The planet will create new life and consciousness as it heals.
The Nature of Creation always wins. Stay tuned to learn if humans wake up in time.
AOL Universal Communications
Picking up on that last sentence, humans will wake up in time if we learn to care for each other and the environment as Nature’s animals have done for ever.
Just watch this short video of a mother wolf and her four one-week-old pups as evidence of the power of caring.
Yesterday, I offered you, dear reader, my foreword, as it were. It was a fictional account of the coming together of man and grey wolf that over many thousands of years led to the domesticated dog that so many millions of us know and love.
Yes, it’s fiction but it’s not entirely improbable. I say that because on the 20th May this year, I wrote about a meeting with a Grey Wolf that had been born in captivity yet not born a tame creature, far from it. The post was called Musings on Love and included this picture of that Grey Wolf, Tundra. The picture was taken by me just a few moments before I received a gentle lick on the face.
Moving on. This is Chapter One set some 30,000 years, give or take, after Omo reached out to those injured wolf cubs. Bet she had no idea what she started! 😉
Once again, all feedback welcomed. Your support, as conveyed yesterday, is incredible. Thank you so much.
Learning from Dogs
Philip stood very still as Sandra approached with the golden-brown puppy in her arms. The puppy was an exquisite, miniature version of the fully-grown German Shepherd dogs that were on view elsewhere about Sandra’s kennels.
It was unusually warm this September day and Philip had unbuttoned the cuffs of his blue-white checked cotton shirt and folded his shirt sleeves back above both elbows. Sandra offered the young, male puppy to Philip and he took it tenderly into his arms and cradled the gorgeous creature against his chest. The pup’s warm body seemed to glow through its gleaming fur and the moment of contact was pure magic. As Philip’s bare forearms touched the soft, sensuous flanks of this quiet, little creature something registered in Philip’s consciousness in ways that couldn’t be articulated but, nonetheless, something as real as, perhaps, a rainbow across the hills.
This first contact was a strong experience for both man and dog. For even at the tender age of twelve weeks or so, the tiny dog appeared to sense that the human person holding him so longingly was deep in thought; far away in some remote place, almost trying to bridge a divide of many years.
Philip sat very carefully down on the wooden-slatted bench behind him so he could rest the beautiful animal in his lap. The puppy was adorable. Large, over-sized ears flopped across the top of a golden-brown furry head. That golden-brown fur with countless black hairs intermingled within the tan flowed across the shoulders morphing into the predominantly cream colour of the pup’s soft, gangling front legs. That creamy fur continuing along the little creature’s underbelly. The puppy Shepherd dog almost purred with contentment, his deep brown eyes gazing so intently into Philip’s deep blue eyes. Puppy eyes starting to soften, maybe just a hint of eye-lids starting to close.
Philip had never before felt so close to an animal. In a life time of more than fifty-nine years including cats at home when he was a young boy growing up in North-West London, and a pet cat when his own son and daughter were youngsters, Philip had never, ever sensed the stirrings of such a loving bond as he was sensing now. As the young puppy seemed to be sensing in return. This was going to be Philip’s dog, without a doubt.
“So, Sandra, tell me again what I need to know about raising a German Shepherd?”
Sandra Chambers, her grey hair turned up in a bun behind her head, brushed the dog hairs and the biscuit crumbs off her navy-blue overalls and sat down alongside Philip on the bench. Sandra had seen hundreds of prospective owners over the more than forty years that she had been breeding German Shepherds up here on Devon’s Southern Dartmoor flanks. But Philip was not typical of those hundreds of others. First, he came on his own despite admitting that he was married. Uncommon for a married couple not to chose a dog together. Then Philip, a good-looking, well-dressed, thoughtful man, that Sandra had guessed was in his late 50’s, had mentioned never previously owning a dog yet there was no question in his mind that this, his first dog, had to be a German Shepherd. Sandra had counselled Philip that Shepherd dogs were wonderful, loyal companions but at the same time were incredibly strong animals; both physically and wilfully. The commitment to properly and fully training a Shepherd dog was not to be underestimated. A powerful, male Shepherd dog had the potential to kill a cat or a smaller dog in an instant, even to attack a stranger. Training a dog such as this German Shepherd was without question. Even more so in the case of the pup that Philip so fondly held as both the pup’s parents were from the very finest German bloodlines.
But despite Philip being such an unusual first owner, Sandra couldn’t miss the remarkable way that both Philip and the puppy had connected.
Sandra explained, “Well we’ve discussed his feeding needs, so that’s a big step. At first just care and love him so he quickly registers that your home is his home. Shepherds are very bright, very instinctive animals. Just look at the way that he is watching your face just now!”
“Once you have him home, Philip, start into a routine in terms of potty training. Let him out into your garden in his puppy harness so that he can sniff around. As soon as he takes a pee or a dump reward him with kind words, a rub between his ears, even a small biscuit. He will very quickly learn to potty outside.”
“You know I’m only a phone call away if you have any queries.”
Thus it was on a warm, sunny day in the first week of September, 2003 Philip drove the twenty miles from Sandra’s kennels in Bovey Tracey to his Harberton home just a few miles West of Totnes. The little pup quiet as a mouse curled up on a blanket inside the puppy carrier placed on the passenger front seat; the passenger seat-belt around the front of the carrier; just in case!
Philip and his wife, Maggie, had anticipated that them getting a dog was more or less inevitable and the garden fencing around their village home had been double-checked. Philip closed the wooden, five-bar gate behind him and drove the short distance up their gravel drive and parked the car. He opened the passenger door and lifted the puppy carrier out and set it down on the warm grass.
A soft, wet nose lead the rest of a puppy’s body out of the carrier, cautiously sniffing and smelling the blades of grass. He padded across to a small tree, squatted and pee’d his first pee in his new home.
The front door opened and Maggie came down the front steps, slipping a beige jacket over her shoulders, brushing her long, blond hair back across the jacket as she did so and walked up to them. “So you got him, then!”
She crouched down to be at the puppy’s level. The dog, his eyes glistening with curiosity, came over to Maggie and sniffed her outstretched fingers.
“Oh, he is rather cute. Did you have difficulty choosing him?”
“No, not at all. Sandra only had three puppies that were available just now and this little lad seemed to bond with me, and me with him, in a way that just wasn’t echoed with the other two puppies.”
“Plus, you know I always wanted a male Shepherd and the other pups were both females.”
Maggie stroked the young dog along his furry back. “What are we going to call him?”
Back in July, I published a post reviewing Traveling Light, the novel by Andrea Thalasinos. At the end of that post, I made the following offer.
Now here’s an offer.
Wiley has offered a free copy of Andrea’s book as a ‘give-away’ from Learning from Dogs. Here’s the plan.
Would you like to write a story about any aspect of the relationship that dogs can have with humans?
Any length, truth or fiction; it doesn’t matter. Email your story to me to be received by the end of Wednesday, 31st July 2013, Pacific Daylight Time …… [and] I will publish every one received.
Just one story was received, from Wendy, and the promised free copy of Andrea’s book has been mailed to her.
So here is that short story.
I Am Leader
The water was angry today. I watched as it tore the tall trees from their roots, thundering, roaring, snapping them, toppling them.
I watched as the angry water shredded the shore. I watched as its fury snatched my pup, my baby, sweeping her away like a dying twig torn from the mother tree.
I am hunter. I am leader.
But now I am nothing.
I ran after my pup, tried to grab her by the nape, take her back. But I failed. I saw her paddle in the froth, scramble atop a long gnarled broken bole that was once a tree. My pup shook, her ears flattened, her tail tucked. She cried. I watched the cold, angry froth take her.
My mind sang with the cry of my little grey pup that I could not save, the little one who would never learn about the hunter, the leader.
I picked my way, shivering, along a path — it used to be our way to good hunting, to the forest edge where the deer grazed as near as yesterday. Now…
My left shoulder ached where the water nearly took me, hurled a branch at me in frustration. I fell and dragged myself away from the collapsing shore, to higher ground. The rain poured and sleeted to drench the shambles left by water that continued to roar and foam. Mud slid through my feet, gusts took my breath.
It was very cold. My ears twitched, hearing nothing beyond the roar of the fury. Water is very noisy when it is angry. The others, my sisters, my mate, I could not scent them, hear them, see them.
The day retreated. I blinked to see better, my eyes wide, but they saw nothing that I could recognise. My nose and ears twitched and twisted — nothing. I could hear my little grey one, my pup; she shivered and cried in my mind, but my eyes and ears, my nose … she was gone.
I stumbled over broken branches, a drowned fox, mice flushed from their holes, a broken-necked bird, bushes overturned and torn apart, walls of fallen trees. Daylight was lost in a twilight.
Now, I scented a 2-legged. I stilled. Crackling. Smoke, deep and hard to breath. Rabbit, burnt. These were the smells I knew of the 2-leggeds. One was near.
I crouched and crept. Yellow-orange light bounced and throbbed through the jumble of once-forest. I remained low, but now I could hear. The 2-legged rustled. It was noisy and careless while its fire snapped. And the rabbit smell was very faint, distorted.
I could see it now, this 2-legged, seated in that foolish way 2-leggeds have, crossing one foot over the other. It rustled again and held a big stick over its fire — the stick jabbed through the rabbit. The rabbit’s fur was gone from its blackened body, abandoned near the 2-legged’s thigh.
My stomach twitched. My mouth filled with hunger. I took another step.
The 2-legged looked up and over. He saw me, then quickly looked away.
I am hunter, I am leader — you do not meet my gaze unless you want to be punished.
I crouched, readied myself to spring.
The 2-legged stood. I eased back. My back paws met the tangled once-forest left of the water’s anger and stopped me. I tensed.
But the 2-legged lifted the big stick with its rabbit, tore a haunch with its hand. It looked directly at me again — no, I am hunter, I am leader — and threw the haunch at me. The burnt meat landed close to my feet.
The 2-legged looked away and returned to its foolish, awkward sitting. It tore ragged bites from the burnt rabbit, holding the big stick between the paws of its upper limbs.
My stomach demanded food. I scented the burnt rabbit, the smell of blood faint and smoky. I did not hunt the rabbit, I am not like the vultures and scavengers … but I was hungry. I nosed it, picked it up and turned away from the 2-legged. The flesh was warm. It sated. I licked my paws, swiped my whiskers and jowls to groom.
For a moment, my mind tricked me. I heard my pup. I scented my mate, my others, we were sated, we curled together, our warm bodies close, to sleep through the long cold night.
I opened my eyes. I was alone.
Except the 2-legged. Its odour was unmistakable, deer hide, rabbit, something sweetly sour I thought must be its own scent, not the ones borrowed by the other animals it ate or draped over its body.
I studied the 2-legged. It had curled on its side. The fire beside it throbbed yellow and orange, throwing strange shadows where they should not be. When I looked away, my sight was poor. I would not look directly at the fire again.
All was silent, save the angry water behind us. We lived. Nothing else lived. The water took everything.
I dreamed of my mate, his powerful howls alerting our cousins of our hunt; the deer was warm, its blood and flesh giving us another day of life. The deer was old and slow, an easy hunt. Its time had come; we knew that, understood it, this deer and our pack.
I dreamed of my sisters, nipping at my pup, teasing her to chase them in mock hunts. I dreamed of my brothers, circling and securing our family. My pack. My life.
The day hung low and grey. Overnight, the angry water had become a sussurrating hiss behind us.
With its strange flat feet and its big stick, the 2-legged was tossing dirt and wet leaves over the ash where the fire and the rabbit had been. The old fire flared briefly. A cool damp gust caught some of the sparks and swept them high. A bird swooped near to see, then lost interest, flapped its wings to gain height.
The smell in the air was smoke and faint rabbit scent. It was upturned earth and rot and rain.
The 2-legged’s odour wore the smoke and long-dead deer.
The 2-legged came close. It looked at me — no — I am hunter, I am leader, you do not meet my gaze. But it was stupid and foolish, this 2-legged, like a pup that had not yet learned. It neared me. I growled, prepared to attack.
Surely it could see my flattened ears, my lowered shoulders?
No, it was stupid. It walked passed me.
I watched. The 2-legged paused and turned. It swung one of its upper limbs down low, then away, a sweeping motion. Strange language. It did not lower its ears, or roll on its belly. It made noises with its mouth. The noises were terrible, low, rumbling, but they were not threatening. I watched.
It made the motion again, then turned and walked on.
I sat on my haunches.
I am leader, I am hunter. But this 2-legged did not understand. It had not learned from its pack.
We two were the only ones I scented. We were alone. The angry water had taken the others.
The 2-legged stopped, made the strange sweeping motion and noises again. I took a step in its direction.
I am hunter. I am leader.
My pup cries in my mind. My mate howls. My sisters tease, my brothers scout. But around me is silence, the scents dirty and empty, the forest destroyed, the deer gone. We two are alone.
The 2-legged’s head bobs up and down. I take another step.
We walk on, stepping carefully over the tangled mess that was once our home, our feet slipping in mud, scratched in dying brambles, struggling in the unfamiliar path before us. 2-legged uses the big stick as if it were a third leg.
It is learning. I am patient.
I am hunter. I am leader.
Don’t know about you but I found that story by Wendy more than compelling. Found it hauntingly beautiful. A ancient account of the first meeting between man and wolf.
Therefore, can’t close without again reproducing this short extract and images of the grey wolf posted on the 20th May Musings on love.
While we were looking at the animals, along the pathway came a couple of the volunteer staff walking a Grey Wolf (Canis Lupus).
I was utterly captivated by this beautiful animal. Her story was that she was born in captivity and owned by an individual who soon decided he didn’t want her! Not long thereafter Tundra, as she became named, was brought to the Sarvey Wildlife Center in Washington and thence to Wildlife Images when she was just 8 weeks old.
Tundra turned to look at me. I stood perfectly still and quiet. Tundra seemed to want to come closer. As one would with a strange dog, I got down on my knees and turned my eyes away from Tundra’s. I sensed she was coming towards me so quickly held up my camera and took the picture below.
I kept my gaze averted as I felt the warm breath of this magnificent animal inches from my face. Then the magic of love across the species! Tundra licked my face! The tears came to my eyes and were licked away. I stroked her and became lost in thought.
Was this an echo of how thousands and thousands of years ago, a wolf and an early man came together out of trust and love and started the journey of the longest animal-human relationship, by far?
I was doing some research for another writing project about the history of the domestication of the dog and came across a peer-reviewed article on The National Center for Biotechnology Information website, here in the USA. The article was entitled: Genome-wide SNP and haplotype analyses reveal a rich history underlying dog domestication. The website link is here. (As an aside, if you drop in here and look at the NCBI sitemap it may well serve as an excellent resource.)
Anyway, the dog domestication article is, of necessity, highly scientific but nonetheless worth the read. Here’s a taste from the Abstract.
Advances in genome technology have facilitated a new understanding of the historical and genetic processes crucial to rapid phenotypic evolution under domestication 1,2. To understand the process of dog diversification better, we conducted an extensive genome-wide survey of more than 48,000 single nucleotide polymorphisms in dogs and their wild progenitor, the grey wolf. Here we show that dog breeds share a higher proportion of multi-locus haplotypes unique to grey wolves from the Middle East, indicating that they are a dominant source of genetic diversity for dogs rather than wolves from east Asia, as suggested by mitochondrial DNA sequence data 3
But what really caught my eye was Figure 1, a wonderful illustration of the links between all the breeds of dogs and the grey wolf.
Branch colour indicates the phenotypic/functional designation used by dog breeders 8,9. A dot indicates ≥95% bootstrap support from 1,000 replicates. a, Haplotype-sharing cladogram for 10-SNP windows (n = 6 for each breed and wolf population). b, Allele-sharing cladogram of individuals based on individual SNP loci. c, Haplotype-sharing phylogram based on 10-SNP windows of breeds and wolf populations. d, Allele-sharing phylogram of individual SNPs for breeds and wolf populations. For c and d, we note breeds where genetic assignments conflict with phenotypic/functional designations as follows: 1, Brussels griffon; 2, Pekingese; 3, pug; 4, Shih-tzu; 5, miniature pinscher; 6, Doberman pinscher; 7, Kuvasz; 8, Ibizian hound; 9, chihuahua; 10, Pomeranian; 11, papillon; 12, Glen of Imaal; 13, German shepherd; 14, Briard; 15, Jack Russell; 16, dachshund; 17, great schnauzer; and 18, standard schnauzer. Gt, great; mtn, mountain; PBGV, petit basset griffon vendeen; pin., pinscher; ptr, pointer; ret., retriever; shep., shepherd; sp., spaniel; Staf., Staffordshire; std, standard; terr., terrier. Canine images not drawn to scale. Wolf image adapted from ref. 31; dog images from the American Kennel Club (http://www.akc.org).
The diagram on its own was a bit of a struggle but looked at in conjunction with the research paper was much better understood. Another reason for going to the original article on the NCBI website is the interesting range of links to other scientific papers that may be seen to the right-hand side of the screen. For example:
The mean sequence distance to ancestral haplotypes indicates an origin 5,400-16,300 years ago (ya) from at least 51 female wolf founders. These results indicate that the domestic dog originated in southern China less than 16,300 ya, from several hundred wolves. The place and time coincide approximately with the origin of rice agriculture, suggesting that the dogs may have originated among sedentary hunter-gatherers or early farmers, and the numerous founders indicate that wolf taming was an important culture trait.
Mitochondrial DNA sequences isolated from ancient dog remains from Latin America and Alaska showed that native American dogs originated from multiple Old World lineages of dogs that accompanied late Pleistocene humans across the Bering Strait. One clade of dog sequences was unique to the New World, which is consistent with a period of geographic isolation. This unique clade was absent from a large sample of modern dogs, which implies that European colonists systematically discouraged the breeding of native American dogs.
If you needed a reminder of the Pleistocene period, as I did, there’s a helpful Wikipedia entry here.
The final link that I wanted to highlight was this one, for all dog owners who worry about the health of our dogs.
Dogs exhibit more phenotypic variation than any other mammal and are affected by a wide variety of genetic diseases. However, the origin and genetic basis of this variation is still poorly understood. We examined the effect of domestication on the dog genome by comparison with its wild ancestor, the gray wolf. We compared variation in dog and wolf genes using whole-genome single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) data. The d(N)/d(S) ratio (omega) was around 50% greater for SNPs found in dogs than in wolves, indicating that a higher proportion of nonsynonymous alleles segregate in dogs compared with nonfunctional genetic variation. We suggest that the majority of these alleles are slightly deleterious and that two main factors may have contributed to their increase. The first is a relaxation of selective constraint due to a population bottleneck and altered breeding patterns accompanying domestication. The second is a reduction of effective population size at loci linked to those under positive selection due to Hill-Robertson interference. An increase in slightly deleterious genetic variation could contribute to the prevalence of disease in modern dog breeds.
Have to say that there are some fabulous learning opportunities from the enormous range of websites available nowadays.
Dogs wouldn’t treat other members of their pack like this.
(I realise how the heading and the sub-heading don’t appear to have any correlation but stay with me please!)
It’s widely known, I’m sure, that the wolf, from which the wild dog and the domesticated dog evolved, lives in packs of around 50 animals. The size of the pack offers a cohesive, stable structure for the wolf, and other pack species, ensuring group survival and well-being. In a very real sense the way that wolves live is a fabulous example of the power of community.
The Dog linage began 37 million years ago in North America in predators that had distinctive pairs of shearing teeth and ran down prey. Early canids reached Europe seven million years ago.
Thirty-seven million years! Now that’s what I call an example of “group survival and well-being“. The power of community.
As stated elsewhere on this blog,
Dogs are part of the Canidae, a family including wolves, coyotes and foxes, thought to have evolved 60 million years ago. There is no hard evidence about when dogs and man came together but dogs were certainly around when man developed speech and set out from Africa, about 50,000 years ago. See an interesting article by Dr. George Johnson.
The ten dogs we have here at home are split into two groups of five. What we call the bedroom group: Pharaoh, Cleo, Sweeny, Hazel and Dhalia, and the kitchen group consisting of Lily, Casey, Ruby, Paloma and Loopy. Both groups are separated by wooden fences so are more than aware of each other.
Something that is clear is that whenever one of the dogs is hurt, all the other dogs take notice. Others in the same group will come up to their hurt ‘buddy’ and offer comfort in a variety of ways. Sadly, I can’t give you a better example than our poor Loopy who is suffering badly from the dog equivalent of dementia.
Here’s a picture taken of Loopy on Wednesday afternoon. You will notice the strange sleeping position that she frequently adopts. That’s an aspect of her dementia.
The other dogs in her group all give her special attention. Such as not grabbing her sleeping bed, not pushing or shoving near her, giving her a wide space in general. The other dogs sense there is something badly awry with Loopy and accommodate that.
So what on earth has this to do with yesterday’s post Who owns the World? Keep hanging in there!
A recent link in Naked Capitalism‘s daily news summary was to a story in the British Guardian newspaper. Written by the Guardian’s Kevin McKenna, it was about the likelihood of Scotland breaking away from the United Kingdom.
Scottish independence is fast becoming the only option
Even to a unionist like me, an Alex Salmond-led government is preferable to one that rewards greed and corruption
It’s an interesting article and I recommend you read it directly. But what jumped off the page at me were these paragraphs. Please focus deeply on the words and ponder on how foreign they are to the concept of community.
Yet we conveniently overlook the fact that London has already broken away from the United Kingdom and now exists as a world super-state governed by the greed of unhindered capitalism and recognisable as British only by its taxis and bad service. As the world’s most newly minted oligarchs continue to colonise the independent state of London, it becomes almost impossible for families on less than £250k to live decently there. Poor London families made homeless by the coalition benefit cuts are being evacuated as far north as Middlesbrough.
Last week, Goldman Sachs, one of the banks with its fingers in the till when global economic meltdown occurred, awarded an average bonus of £250,000 to each of its employees. The gap between the richest in our society and the poorest stretched a little more and we were reminded yet again that the UK government, despite its promises, allows greed, incompetence and corruption to be rewarded. (How many people do you think will go to jail for the Libor rate-fixing scandal?) Meanwhile, Westminster politicians are dividing the poor into categories marked “deserving” and “scum”.
Think a dog is just a cuddly animal that gives you a chance to do some dog-walking? Again, written elsewhere on Learning from Dogs.
value and cherish the ‘present’ in a way that humans can only dream of achieving
are, by eons of time, a more successful species than man.
Now compare that with the last sentence in Noam Chomsky’s essay from yesterday, “As long as the general population is passive, apathetic, diverted to consumerism or hatred of the vulnerable, then the powerful can do as they please, and those who survive will be left to contemplate the outcome.”
“Hatred of the vulnerable“; “those who survive will be left to contemplate the outcome” are not expressions that resonate with the values of loving communities. If we humans want “group survival and well-being” we had better learn from species lupus and canid. Pronto!