Caring for animals.

Some humans seem to care more about pets than people … but why?

This intriguing headline was the title to a recent post published by Mother Nature Network.

Coincidentally there was some useful material in the article that I could use in a chapter in the new book. But I did think the whole article should be shared with you good people.


Some humans seem to care more about pets than people … but why?

Mary Jo DiLonardo   November 3, 2017

Unconditional love is one things pets can give us that humans can’t — but that’s only part of the story. (Photo: Soloviova Liudmyla/Shutterstock)

A Facebook acquaintance of mine recently posted about walking past a pet store where volunteers were outside pleading for pet rescue donations. They pointed out how many dogs and cats were euthanized each year, which made her wonder how people could be so fervent about animals when there are so many sick babies in the world.

It’s not that those volunteers dislike babies — or grown-up humans, for that matter — but in some cases, they might simply like animals more.

You know the type, and you may even be one yourself. Some say it’s due to unconditional love. Your cat doesn’t care if you are in your pajamas all day. Your dog doesn’t talk about you behind your back. But when it comes right down to it, does anyone really value animals above humans?

The story of two shootings

A photo posted by supporters on the ‘Justice For Arfee’ Facebook page. (Photo: Justice for Arfee)

Psychology professor and author Hal Herzog looks at the “humanization of pets” in an editorial for Wired. Herzog is the author of “Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat: Why It’s So Hard To Think Straight About Animals.”

“Newspaper editors tell me stories about animal abuse often generate more responses from upset readers than articles about violence directed toward humans. But do Americans really care more about pets than people?” Herzog asks.

He tells the story of two shootings that happened within 50 miles of each other in Idaho in 2014. One was Jeanetta Riley, a pregnant mother of two who was shot by police outside of a hospital while she incoherently waved a knife. The story didn’t make much of a blip on the news radar.

Less than 14 hours later, police in another Idaho town were called about a report of a barking dog locked in a van. An officer claimed when he approached the vehicle the dog (which he misidentified as a pit bull) lunged at him, so he pulled the trigger. Turns out “Arfee” was a Lab and people became incensed at the shooting, which made national news. There was a “Justice for Arfee” Facebook page and a rally. In the end, the shooting was ruled unjustified, and the police department issued an official apology.

“The bottom line is that, at least in some circumstances, we do value animals over people,” Herzog writes. “But the differences in public outrage over the deaths of Jeanetta Riley and Arfee illustrate a more general point. It is that our attitudes to other species are fraught with inconsistency. We share the earth with roughly 40,000 other kinds of vertebrate animals, but most of us only get bent out of shape over the treatment of a handful of species. You know the ones: the big-eye baby seals, circus elephants, chimpanzees, killer whales at Sea World, etc. And while we deeply love our pets, there is little hue and cry over the 24 horses that die on race tracks in the United States each week, let alone the horrific treatment of the nine billion broiler chickens American consume annually.”

Creating a moral dilemma

We obviously love our pets. But to what extent?

Researchers set up a moral dilemma where they asked 573 participants what they would do if they had to choose between saving a dog or a person who had darted in front of a bus. The answers varied depending on the relationship they had with the dog and with the person.

In some scenarios, the dog was the participant’s own personal dog versus a random canine. And the person was either a foreign tourist, a local stranger, distant cousin, best friend, grandparent or sibling.

The dilemma is something along the lines of, “A bus is traveling down the street. Your dog darts in front of it. At the same time, a foreign tourist steps in the path of the bus. Neither your dog nor the tourist has enough time to get out of the way and it’s clear the bus will kill whichever one it hits. You only have time to save one. Which will you save?”

The subjects were much more likely to save the pet over a foreign tourist, versus someone closer to them. People were also much more likely to save their own dog versus a random dog. And women were twice as likely as men to save a dog over a person.

The study was published in the journal Anthrozoos.

Empathy for animals versus people

Researchers hypothesized that people would feel more empathy towards babies and puppies because they were vulnerable. (Photo: Africa Studio/Shutterstock)

In another study, sociologists at Northeastern University had college students read made-up news stories in which a victim was attacked by a baseball bat “by an unknown assailant” and left unconscious with a broken leg and other injuries.

The participants were all given the same news story, but the victim in each case was either a 1-year-old baby, a 30-year-old adult, a puppy or a 6-year-old dog. They were asked to rate their feelings of empathy toward the victim after reading the story.

The researchers hypothesized that the victims’ vulnerability — determined by their age, not species —would be the key factor in triggering the most concern in the participants.

The baby elicited the most empathy, with the puppy and adult dog not far behind. The adult person came in last.

“Contrary to popular thinking, we are not necessarily more disturbed by animal rather than human suffering,” said study co-author Jack Levin, professor of sociology and criminology at Northeastern University, in a statement.

“Our results indicate a much more complex situation with respect to the age and species of victims, with age being the more important component. The fact that adult human crime victims receive less empathy than do child, puppy, and full-grown dog victims suggests that adult dogs are regarded as dependent and vulnerable not unlike their younger canine counterparts and kids.”

The research was first presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association in 2013 and has recently been published in the journal Society & Animals.

Although the study focused on cats, Levin says he thinks the findings would be similar for cats versus people.

“Dogs and cats are family pets,” he said. “These are animals to which many individuals attribute human characteristics.”

Mary Jo DiLonardo writes about everything from health to parenting — and anything that helps explain why her dog does what he does.


So all you wonderful followers of this place – what do you think of some humans seeming to care more for animals?

I cry for the wolves.

This is so wrong.

Like thousands of others I have been supporting the efforts to ensure that the US Government did not proceed with the proposal to remove wolves from endangered species protection.

Wolves are the animals that enabled early man to ‘progress’ from hunter-gatherer to the life of farming, and thence to our modern world.  As I write elsewhere on Learning from Dogs,

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.

So it utterly breaks my heart to republish a recent post on The Sand County, Jeremy Nathan Marks wonderful and evocative blog.  Here it is, republished with Jeremy’s kind permission.


I used to believe

As some of you may have heard, late last week the Obama Administration officially delisted gray wolves from endangered species protection. This means that 40 years of wolf recovery efforts have come to an end. Wolves only occupy a tiny fraction of their former habitat and with anti-wolf governments occupying the state houses in the few places that still have wolf populations, states like Montana, Wyoming, Idaho and Wisconsin, it is hard to imagine that wolves have a bright future in the lower 48 states.

I am deeply, profoundly saddened by this decision. I have learned over time how wolves -like so many other species- just don’t register on the list of national concerns and priorities. A great many people oppose the delisting, in fact one gets the impression that the effort to remove these protections has consistently been guided by political pressures and a political agenda and not by a true commitment to a sustainable and enduring wolf recovery. I know that I am hardly alone in registering my disappointment and voice of protest.

I cannot let this sad milestone pass without acknowledging it here on this blog. If you do not like wolves -if you feel hatred or resentment towards them or are pleased at what has recently transpired, I respectfully request that you refrain from sharing your feelings here. I seldom offer any “directives” like this, but if you are a reader of this blog then you know how strongly I feel about this issue. I am sharing these thoughts because I want to not only draw attention to what has happened, but also because I feel the need to mourn it. I tremble at the thought of a United States -or a North America- without wolves. Defenders of the administration and the Department of Interior’s position will say that the United States Government is committed to protecting wolves and ensuring their future but I am afraid I see things quite differently. This is not a partisan political issue: Democratic and Republican administrations alike are behind this stance towards wolves.

I would like to share a poem which I feel is very incomplete and does not begin to adequately draw upon the well of feelings, concerns and thoughts I have on this subject. But I would be remiss I think if I did not mark what has just happened.

I used to believe

I used to believe that one day
I might live carefully, cooperatively
beside the wolves

I would go to them but respect their
space; wait for their return and tend
my garden with local mind, open my windows

When they moved off I would wait
and make a space; I would lock my guns
in bolted cabinets to honor and not to intrude

I used to believe that there was a chance
of this because there were others who saw
in wolves the same uncertainties and histories

And we, a new community, would redraw
the map, eradicate “the frontier” and perhaps
expunge that word altogether from our plans

It is ironic really how a word, a concept,
one invisible line can have more tendrils
and seeds than a weed, more pups than a pack.

Jeremy Nathan Marks


The Center for Biological Diversity has been incredibly active in fighting for the continued protection of the wolf. The Press Release about the loss of protection is here.  Do read it and do everything you can to help. PLEASE!

Let me share some of my special feelings about wolves.

Back in September, 2009, I wrote about An amazing true story of a relationship between a wild wolf and a man, from which this picture is taken.

Luna, the wild wolf, sleeping with Tim and Tim's dog, taken in 2006.
Luna, the wild wolf, with Tim and Tim’s dog; taken in 2006.

Then in February this year, I wrote about Oregon and the wolf.  The following picture was in that Post.

These wolf pups born to the Wenaha Pack in 2012 helped get recovery back on track. But their future remains tenuous (photo courtesy ODFW)
These wolf pups born to the Wenaha Pack in 2012 helped get recovery back on track. But their future remains tenuous (photo courtesy ODFW)

Please now listen to this:

So you can see that I have written frequently about wolves; indeed just a few days ago did so and included this photograph.

Wolf greets man.
Wolf greets man.

Now just look at those eyes of the Grey Wolf above and compare them to the eyes of the German Shepherd dog below and tell me that wolves aren’t as close to man as dogs.


Finally, feel free to share this post as far and wide as you can.  Learning from Dogs is published under a Creative Commons License. This link covers how to share my material.

Please do something to help these ancient animals who, more than any other creature, helped put mankind ‘on the map’.

Thank you.

Oregon and the wolf

Sharing a beautiful aspect of this new home State of ours.

Let’s face it, Jean and I know as much about Oregon as we know about Timbuktu! A house and property requiring much love and care and 10 dogs, 5 cats and 2 miniature horses does rather cramp one’s style!  Actually, let me be honest.  We just adore the grounds that surround the house.  Almost every single walk around the property with or without a few dogs brings some new discovery.  Thus we are not lusting to get out.

Just by way of example, yesterday we discovered that the dam built across our creek, just upstream of the bridge, was used in days long ago for creating flood irrigation.  That’s the dam in the picture below.  The old plank and steel work are still in the undergrowth alongside the creek; to the right of the picture.

Irrigation dam on Bummer Ck.
Irrigation dam on Bummer Ck.

OK, to the point of this post.

Shortly after we arrived here in Merlin, Oregon we joined Oregon Wild.  Their Mission Statement says: Oregon Wild works to protect and restore Oregon’s wildlands, wildlife and waters as an enduring legacy for all Oregonians.  Can’t argue with that!

Last December a press release was issued about Bringing Wolves Back Home to Oregon.  Here’s part of that release.

Wolves in Oregon:

Gray wolves (Canis lupus) were once common in Oregon, occupying most of the state. However, a deliberate effort to eradicate the species was successful by the late 1940s.

Trouble for wolves began before Oregon even became a state. In 1843 the first wolf bounty was established and Oregon’s first legislative session was called in part to address the “problem of marauding wolves”. By 1913, people could collect a $5 state bounty and an Oregon State Game Commission bounty of $20. The last recorded wolf bounty was paid out in 1947.

After an absence of over half a century, wolves began to take their first tentative steps towards recovery. Having dispersed from Idaho, the native species is once again trying to make a home in Oregon. One of the first sightings came in 1999 when a lone wolf was captured near the middle fork of the John Day River, put in a crate and quickly returned to Idaho. In 2000, two wolves were found dead – one killed by a car, the other illegally shot.

In 2006, a flurry of sightings led state wildlife biologists to believe that a number of wild wolves were living in Northeast Oregon near the Wallowa Mountains and the Eagle Cap Wilderness. In May of 2007 a wolf was found shot to death near La Grande, OR.

As I explain on this blog, there is a deep connection between dogs and wolves:

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.

Back to Oregon Wild.  Just three weeks ago came this update.

State Announces Wolf Recovery Numbers

With the state’s wolf killing program on hold, conservationists celebrate recent success, express concern for the future.

SALEM, OR Jan 16, 2013

Today the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) announced the state’s wolf population has risen to at least 53 animals and as many as five breeding pairs. Though still mostly confined to the Northeastern corner of the state, the news was welcomed by conservationists.

The confirmation of wolf numbers comes on the heels of a number of announcements of new wolf pups, interbreeding between packs, and new science demonstrating the important and irreplaceable role wolves and other native hunters play on the landscape.

The announcement also comes on the heels of the one-year anniversary of another great wolf recovery story. On December 28, 2011, a wolf known as Journey (OR-7) crossed the Oregon border to become the first wolf in California in nearly a century. The story was celebrated around the world.

Read the rest of this good news story here.  But I couldn’t resist showing you this photograph that appeared in that story.

These wolf pups born to the Wenaha Pack in 2012 helped get recovery back on track. But their future remains tenuous (photo courtesy ODFW)
These wolf pups born to the Wenaha Pack in 2012 helped get recovery back on track. But their future remains tenuous (photo courtesy ODFW)

Let me close with these two videos.

Imnaha alpha female wolf, July 2011

Snake River Wolf Pack howling

Published on Aug 1, 2012

On July 25, 2012, an ODFW wolf biologist on a survey for wolf pups took this video of a Snake River wolf pack pup howling. The video was taken in the Summit Ridge area within the Snake River Wildlife Management Unit, in Wallowa County.

In the video, the pup howls three times. A low returning howl is heard and the pup gets up. Then, other members of the wolf pack (not seen in the video) return the pup’s howls.

Wolves are highly social animals and howling is a common behavior that help packs communicate and stay together. Wolf howls can be heard from several miles away.

More information on wolves in Oregon can be found at http://www.dfw.state.or.us/wolves.

Another Sunday pause

More beautiful pictures.

Many of you ‘Liked’ the pictures from last Sunday’s Small pause today post.  Those pictures were sent to me by Cynthia, wife of long-time friend Dan Gomez.

So I decided to present another set, this time sent to me by Suzann, who is Dan’s sister.  Again, they are beautiful albeit very different images.

Northern Lights Over Teepees



Now check out that thermometer!


Now more beautiful images.







The next picture is a fire rainbow; the rarest natural phenomenon in the atmosphere.  The picture was taken on the Idaho Washington border and the event lasted for about an hour.

Apparently, the clouds have to be cirrus of an altitude of 20,000 feet with just the right proportion of ice crystals.  Then the sunlight has to illuminate the clouds at precisely 58 degrees to the horizontal.


Sunset at the North Pole

Another rare picture taken when the moon was closest to the earth. Taken Thursday, the 13th. of March 2011.


Note how unusual it is to see the sun below the moon!

Thanks Su for sending me the pics.