Tag: Learning from Dogs

Dogs teach us so much!

But the single most important lesson is integrity.

Again, another post from previous times. Albeit just a couple of years ago.

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Another tribute to dear Pharaoh.

The most profound thing that I learned from Pharaoh is that dogs are creatures of integrity. That goes back to a day in June, 2007. Some six months before I met Jeannie in Mexico in December, 2007. I was sitting in Jon’s home office just a few miles from where Pharaoh and I were then living in South Devon.

It was a key chapter in Part Four of my book where I examine all the qualities that we humans need to learn from our dogs.

So here is Chapter 13 from my book Learning from Dogs. (Written in ‘English’ English!)

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Chapter 13
Integrity

In the Introduction to this book I mentioned how the notion of “learning from dogs” went back to 2007 and me learning that dogs were creatures of integrity. Let me now elaborate on that.
It is a Friday morning in June in the year 2007. I am sitting with Jon at his place with Pharaoh sleeping soundly on the beige carpet behind my chair. I didn’t know it at the time but it was to become one of those rare moments when we gain an awareness of life that forever changes how we view the world, both the world within and the world without.

“Paul, I know there’s more for me to listen to and I sense that we have established a relationship in which you feel safe to reveal your feelings. However, today I want to talk about consciousness. Because I would like to give you an awareness of this aspect of what we might describe under the overall heading of mindfulness.”
I sat quietly fascinated by what was a new area for me.

“During the years that I have been a psychotherapist, I’ve seen an amazing range of personalities, probably explored every human emotion known. In a sense, explored the consciousness of a person. But what is clear to me now is that one can distil those different personalities and emotions into two broad camps: those who embrace truth and those who do not.”

Jon paused, sensing correctly that I was uncertain as to what to make of this. I made it clear that I wanted him to continue.

“Yes, fundamentally, there are people who deny the truth about themselves, who actively resist that pathway of better self-awareness, and then there are those people who want to know the truth of whom they are and seek it out when the opportunity arises. The former group could be described as false, lacking in integrity and unsupportive of life, while the latter group are diametrically opposite: truthful, behaving with integrity and supportive of life.”
It was then that Jon lit a fire inside me that is still burning bright to this day. For he paused, quietly looking at Pharaoh sleeping so soundly on the carpet, and went on to add, “And when I look at dogs, I have no question that they have a consciousness that is predominantly truthful: that they are creatures of integrity and supportive of life.”
That brought me immediately to the edge of my seat, literally, with the suddenness of my reaction causing Pharaoh to open his eyes and lift up his head. I knew in that instant that something very profound had just occurred. I slipped out of my chair, got down on my hands and knees and gave Pharaoh the most loving hug of his life. Dogs are creatures of integrity. Wow!

****

Later, when driving home, I couldn’t take my mind off the idea that dogs were creatures of integrity. What were those other values that Jon had mentioned? It came to me in a moment: truthful and supportive of life. Dogs have a consciousness that is truthful, that they are creatures of integrity and supportive of life: what a remarkable perception of our long-time companions.
I had no doubt that all nature’s animals could be judged in the same manner but what made it such an incredibly powerful concept, in terms of dogs, was the unique relationship between dogs and humans, a relationship that went back for thousands upon thousands of years. I realised that despite me knowing I would never have worked it out on my own, Jon’s revelation about dogs being creatures of integrity was so utterly and profoundly obvious.

As I made myself my usual light lunch of a couple of peanut butter sandwiches and some fruit and then sat enjoying a mug of hot tea, I still couldn’t take my mind off what Jon had revealed: dogs are examples of integrity and truth. I then thought that the word “examples” was not the right word and just let my mind play with alternatives. Then up popped: Dogs are beacons of integrity and truth. Yes, that’s it! Soon after, I recognised that what had just taken place was an incredible opening of my mind, an opening of my mind that didn’t just embrace this aspect of dogs but extended to me thinking deeply about integrity for the first time in my life.

Considering that this chapter is titled “Integrity”, so far all you have been presented with is a somewhat parochial account of how for the first time in my life the word “integrity” took on real meaning. That until that moment in 2007 the word had not had any extra significance for me over the thousands of other words in the English language. Time, therefore, to focus directly on integrity.

If goodness is to win, it has to be smarter than the enemy.

That was a comment written on my blog some years ago, left by someone who writes their own blog under the nom-de-plume of Patrice Ayme. It strikes me as beautifully relevant to these times, times where huge numbers of decent, law-abiding folk are concerned about the future. Simply because those sectors of society that have much control over all our lives do not subscribe to integrity, let alone giving it the highest political and commercial focus that would flow from seeing integrity as an “adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.” To quote my American edition of Roget’s Thesaurus.

Let me borrow an old pilot’s saying from the world of aviation: “If there’s any doubt, there’s no doubt!”

That embracing, cautious attitude is part of the reason why commercial air transport is one of the safest forms of transport in the world today. If you had the slightest doubt about the safety of a flight, you wouldn’t board the aircraft. If you had the slightest doubt about the future for civilisation on this planet, likewise you would do something! Remember, that dry word civilisation means family, children, grandchildren, friends, and loved ones. The last thing you would do is to carry on as before!

The great challenge for this civilisation, for each and every one of us, is translating that sense of wanting to change into practical, effective behaviours. I sense, however, that this might be looking down the wrong end of the telescope. That it is not a case of learning to behave in myriad different ways but looking at one’s life from a deeper, more fundamental perspective: living as a person of integrity. So perfectly expressed in the Zen Buddhist quote: “Be master of mind rather than mastered by mind.” Seeing integrity as the key foundation of everything we do. Even more fundamental than that. Seeing integrity as everything you and I are.

It makes no difference that society in general doesn’t seem to value integrity in such a core manner. For what is society other than the aggregate of each and every one of us? If we all embrace living a life of integrity then society will reflect that.

Integrity equates to being truthful, to being honest. It doesn’t mean being right all the time, of course not, but integrity does mean accepting responsibility for all our actions, for feeling remorse and apologising when we make mistakes. Integrity means learning, being reliable, and being a builder rather than a destroyer. It means being authentic. That authenticity is precisely and exactly what we see in our dogs.

The starting point for what we must learn from our dogs is integrity.

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The face of integrity!

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Dogs don’t lie!

They offer unconditional love!

Their world is relatively straightforward.

That is all that we need to know about them.

Writing 101 Day Four

All men should strive to learn before they die, what they are running from, and to, and why.

Yet another WordPress theme:

Day Four: Serially Lost

Today’s Prompt: Write about a loss: something (or someone) that was part of your life, and isn’t any more.

This doesn’t need to be a depressing exercise; you can write about that time you lost the three-legged race at a picnic. What’s important is reflecting on this experience and what it meant for you — how it felt, why it happened, and what changed because of it.

Today’s twist: Make today’s post the first in a three-post series.

Our blogs are often made of standalone posts, but using them to take readers on longer journeys is an immersive experience for them — and you. It allows you to think bigger and go deeper into an idea, while using a hook that keeps readers coming back.

A series can take many forms:

We also have advice that might help. If you decide to go serial, we’ve got days scheduled later in Writing 101 for parts two and three, so don’t worry about writing everything now or having to shoehorn the other posts in. If you’re not sure where to start, share your trilogy ideas in The Commons first to get some feedback.

You only need to write the first post in the series today — we’ll let you know when it’s time for the next installment.

This is a very easy theme for me to write about. For I want to share an early story from my yet unfinished book. My book of the same name as this blog: Learning from Dogs. This story has appeared on the blog some years ago but what is presented today is a much-revised version.

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Messages from the night.

Jean, where’s Dhalia?

Don’t know. She was here moments ago.

Jeannie, You take the other dogs back to the car and I’ll go and scout around for her. Oh, and you better put Pharaoh on the leash otherwise you know he’ll follow me.

Paul, don’t worry, Dhalia’s always chasing scents; bet she beats us back to the car. Especially as it’s going to be dark soon.

Nonetheless, I started back down the dusty, dirt road, the last rays of the sun pink on the high, tumbled cliffs of granite. This high rocky, forest plateau, known as the Granite Dells, just three miles from our home on the outskirts of Payson in Arizona, made perfect dog-walking country and rarely did we miss an afternoon out here. However this afternoon, for reasons I was unclear about, we had left home much later than usual.

There was no sign of Dhalia ahead on the road so I struck off left, hoping she was somewhere up amongst the trees and the high boulders. Soon I reached the first crest, panting hard in the thin air. Behind me, across the breath-taking landscape, the setting sun had dipped beneath faraway mountain ridges; a magnificent sight. Suddenly, in the midst of my brief pause admiring the perfect evening, a sound echoed around the cliffs. The sound of a dog barking. I bet my life on that being Dhalia. Just as quickly the barking stopped.

The barking started up again, barking that suggested Dhalia was hunting something. The sound came from an area of boulders way up above the pine trees on the other side of the small valley ahead of me.

Perhaps, Dhalia had trapped herself. More likely, I reflected, swept up in the evening scents of the wilderness, Dhalia had temporarily reverted back to the wild, hunting dog she had been all those years ago. That feral Mexican street dog who in 2005 had tentatively turned away from scavenging in a pile of rubbish in a dirty Mexican town and shyly approached Jean. Jean had named her Dhalia.

I set off down to the valley floor and after fifteen minutes of hard climbing had reached the high boulders the other side. I whistled, then called “Dhalia! Dhalia! Come, there’s a good girl.”

Thank goodness Dhalia was such a sweet, obedient dog.

I anticipated the sound of dog feet scampering through rough undergrowth. But no sound came.

I listened; no sounds, no more barking. Now where had she gone? Perhaps past these boulders down into the steep ravine beyond me, the one so densely forested with pine trees. With daylight practically gone I needed to find Dhalia very soon. I plunged down the slope, pushing through tree branches that whipped across my face, then fell heavily as a foot found empty space instead of the anticipated firm ground.

I cursed, picked myself up and paused. That fall had a message: the madness of continuing this search in the near dark. The terrain made very rough going even in daylight. At night, the boulders and plunging ravines would guarantee a busted body, at best! Plus, I ruefully admitted, I didn’t have a clue about finding my way back to the road from wherever I was!

The unavoidable truth smacked me full in the face. I would be spending this night alone in the high, open forest!

It had one hell of a very scary dimension. I forced myself not to dwell on just how scary it all felt. I needed to stay busy, find some way of keeping warm; last night at home it had dropped to within a few degrees of freezing. I looked around, seeing a possible solution. I broke a small branch off a nearby mesquite tree and made a crude brush with which I swept up the fallen pine needles I saw everywhere about me. Soon I had a stack sufficient to cover me, or so I hoped.

Thank goodness that when me and Jeannie had decided to give four of our dogs this late afternoon walk, I had jeans and a long-sleeved shirt on, a pullover thrown over my shoulders. Didn’t make Dhalia’s antics any less frustrating but I probably wasn’t going to freeze to death!

The air temperature sank as if connected with the last rays of the sun. My confidence sank in harmony with the temperature. I lay down, shuffled about, swept the pine needles across my body, tried to find a position that carried some illusion of comfort. No matter the position, I couldn’t silence his mind. No way to silence the screaming in my head, this deep, primeval fear of the dark forest about me, imagination already running away with visions of hostile night creatures, large and small, watching me, smelling me, biding their time.

Perhaps I might sleep for a while? A moment later the absurdity of that last thought hit me. Caused me to utter aloud, “You stupid sod. There’s no way you’re going to sleep through this!

My spoken words echoed off unseen cliffs in the darkness, reinforcing my sense of isolation. I was very frightened. Why? Where in my psyche did that come from? I had spent many nights alone at sea without a problem, a thousand miles from shore. Then, of course, I knew my location and always had a radio link to the outside world. But being lost in this dark, lonely forest touched something very deep inside me.

Suddenly, I started shivering. The slightest movement caused the needles to slip from me and the cold night air began to penetrate my body. I mused about how cold it might get and, by extension, thanked my lucky stars that the night was early October not, say, mid-December. So far, not too cold, but soon the fear rather than the temperature started to devour me. What stupid fool said, ‘Nothing to fear but fear itself!’ My plan to sleep under pine needles, fear or no fear, had failed! I couldn’t get warm. I had to move.

Looking around, I saw an enormous boulder a few yards away, like some giant, black shadow. No details, just this huge outline etched against the night. I carefully raised myself, felt the remaining needles fall away, and gingerly shuffled across to the dark rock. I half-expected something to bite my extended hand as I explored the surface, as I ran my hand down towards the unseen ground. Miracle of miracles, the granite gently emitted the warmth absorbed from the day’s sun. I slowly settled myself to the ground, eased my back against the rock-face and pulled my knees up to my chest. I felt so much less vulnerable than when I had been flat out on the forest floor. I let out a long sigh, then burst into tears, huge heart-rending sobs coming from somewhere deep within me.

Gradually the tears washed away my fear, restored a calmer part of my brain. That calmer brain brought the realisation that I hadn’t considered, well not up until now, of what Jeannie must be going through. At least I knew I was alive and well. Jeannie, not knowing, would be in despair. I bet she would remember that time when out walking here in the Dells we had lost little Poppy, an adorable ten-pound poodle mix, never to be found again despite ages spent combing the area, calling out her name. A year later and Jeannie still said from time to time, “I so miss Poppy!“. First Poppy and now me! No question, I had to get through this in one piece, mentally as much as physically.

Presumably, Jeannie would have called 911 and been connected to the local search and rescue unit. Would they search for me in the dark? I thought unlikely.

Thinking about Jeannie further eased my state of mind and the shivering stopped. Thank goodness for that! I fought to retain this new perspective. I would make it through, even treasure this night under the sky, this wonderful, awesome, night sky. Even the many pine tree crowns that soared way up above me couldn’t mask a sky that just glittered with starlight. Payson, at five-thousand feet, had many beautifully clear skies and tonight offered a magical example.

Frequently during my life, the night skies had spoken to me, presented a reminder of the continuum of the universe. On this night, however, I felt more humbled by the hundred, million stars surrounding me than ever before.

Time slipped by, my watch in darkness. However, above my head that vast stellar clock. I scanned the heavens, seeking out familiar pinpoints of light, companions over so much of my lifetime. Ah, there! The Big Dipper, Ursa Major, and, yes, there’s the North Pole star: Polaris. Great! Now the rotation of the planet became my watch, The Big Dipper sliding around Polaris, fifteen degrees for each hour.

What a situation I had got myself into. As with other challenging times in my life, lost in the Australian bush, at sea hunkering down through a severe storm, never a choice other than to work it out. I felt a gush of emotion from the release this changed perspective gave me.

Far away, a group of coyotes started up a howl. What a timeless sound, how long had coyotes been on the planet? I sank into those inner places of the mind noting how the intense darkness raised deep thoughts. What if this night heralded the end of my life, the last few hours of the life of Paul Handover? What parting message would I give to those that I loved?

Jeannie would know beyond any doubt how much I had adored her, how her love had created an emotional paradise for me beyond measure. But my son and daughter, dear Alex and Maija? Oh, the complexities I had created in their lives by leaving their mother so many years ago. I knew that they still harboured raw edges, and quite reasonably so. I still possessed raw edges from my father’s death, way back in 1956. That sudden death, just five days before Christmas and so soon after I had turned twelve, that had fed a life-long feeling of emotional rejection. The feeling that had lasted for fifty-one years until, coincidentally also five days before Christmas, in 2007, I had met Jean.

My thoughts returned to Alex and Maija. Did they know, without a scintilla of doubt, that I loved them. Maybe my thoughts would find them. Romantic nonsense? Who knows? Dogs had the ability to read the minds of humans, often from far out of visual range. I knew Pharaoh, my devoted German Shepherd, skilfully read my mind.

I struggled to remember that saying from James Thurber. What was it now? Something about men striving to understand themselves before they die. Would that be my parting message for Alex and Maija? Blast! I wished I could remember stuff more clearly these days and let go of worrying about the quote. Perhaps my subconscious might carry the memory back to me.

I looked back up into the heavens. The Big Dipper indicated at least an hour had slipped by. Gracious, what a sky in which to lose one’s mind. Lost in that great cathedral of stars. Then, as if through some stirring of my consciousness, the Thurber saying did come back to me: “All men should strive to learn before they die, what they are running from, and to, and why.

I reflected on those who, incarcerated in solitary confinement, had their minds play many tricks, especially when it came to gauging time. What a bizarre oddment of information; where had that come from? Possibly because I hadn’t a clue about my present time. It felt later than 11pm and earlier than 4am, but any closer guess seemed impossible. Nevertheless, from out of those terrible, heart-wrenching hours of being alone I had found calm; had found a peace within. I slept.

Suddenly, a sound slammed me awake. Something out there in the dark had made a sound, caused my whole body to become totally alert, every nerve straining to recognise what it might be. It sounded like animal feet moving through the autumn fall of dead leaves. I prayed it wasn’t a mountain lion. Surely such a wild cat preparing to attack would be silent. Now the unknown creature had definitely paused, no sound, just me knowing that out there something waited. Now what! The creature had started sniffing. I hoped not a wild pig. Javelinas, those pig-like creatures that always moved in groups, could make trouble – they had no qualms at attacking a decent-sized dog.

Poised to run, I considered rising to my feet but chose to stay still and closed my right-hand around a small rock. The sniffing stopped. Nothing now, save the sound of my rapid, beating heart. I sensed, sensed strongly, the creature looking at me. It seemed very close, ten or twenty feet away. The adrenalin hammered through my veins.

I tried to focus on the spot where I sensed the animal waited; waited for what? I pushed that idea out of my head. My ears then picked up a weird, bizarre sound. Surely not! Had I lost my senses? It sounded like a dog wagging its tail; flap, flap, flapping against something such as a tree-trunk.

A dog? If a dog, it had to be Dhalia!

Then came that small, shy bark! A bark I knew so well. Oh wow, it is Dhalia. I softly called, “Dhalia, Dhalia, come here, there’s a good girl.

With a quick rustle of feet Dhalia leapt upon me, tail wagging furiously, her head quickly burrowing into my body warmth. I hugged her and, once more, tears ran down my face. Despite the darkness, I could see her perfectly in my mind. Her tight, short-haired coat of light-brown hair, her aquiline face, her bright inquisitive eyes and those wonderful head-dominating ears. Lovely large ears that seemed to listen to the world. A shy, loving dog when Jean had rescued her in 2005 and these years later still a shy, loving dog.

Dhalia licked my tears, her gentle tongue soft and sweet on my skin. I shuffled more onto my back which allowed her to curl up on my chest, still enveloped by my arms. My mind drifted away to an era long time ago, back to an earlier ancient man, likewise with arms wrapped around his dog under a dome of stars, bonded in a thousand mysterious ways.

The morning sun arrived as imperceptibly as an angel’s sigh. Dhalia sensed the dawn before I did, brought me out of my dreams by the slight stirring of her warm, gentle body.

Yes, there it came, the end of this night. The ancient sun galloping towards them across ancient lands; another beat of the planet’s heart. Dhalia slid off my chest, stretched herself from nose to tail, yawned and looked at me, as much to say time to go home! I could just make out the face of my watch: 4.55am. I, too, raised myself, slapped my arms around my body to get some circulation going. The cold air stung my face, yet it couldn’t even scratch my inner warmth, the gift from the loving bond Dhalia and I had shared.

We set off and quickly crested the first ridge. Ahead, about a mile away, we saw the forest road busy with arriving search and rescue trucks. I noticed Jean’s Dodge parked ahead of the trucks and instinctively knew she and Pharaoh had already disappeared into the forest; Pharaoh leading the way to us.

We set off down the slope, Dhalia’s tail wagging with unbounded excitement, me ready to start shouting for attention from the next ridge. We were about to wade through a small stream when, across from us, Pharaoh raced out of the trees. He tore through the water, barking at the top of his voice in clear dog speak, ‘I’ve found them, they’re here, they’re safe’. I crouched down to receive my second huge face lick in less than six hours.

Later, once safely home, it came to me. When we had set off in that early morning light, Dhalia had stayed pinned to me. So unusual for her not to run off. Let’s face it, that’s what got us into the mess in the first place. Dhalia had stayed with me as if she had known that during that long, dark night, it had been me who had been the lost soul.

The message from the night, as clear as the rays of this new day’s sun, the message to pass to all those I loved. If you don’t get lost, there’s a chance you may never be found.

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I know it will cause Jean much angst to republish this photograph but I can’t close today’s post with sharing this picture with you.

Lost and found!

Dhalia died peacefully on April 7th, 2014.

Two years today!

Learning from Dogs first saw the light of day two years ago.

It all started on July 15th, 2009, during a very hot summer down in San Carlos, Mexico where I was first living with Jean.

Now, some 1,000 posts later life is very different.  Jean and I are now married and living incredibly happily, with our twelve dogs and six cats, in Payson, Arizona, some 80 miles NE of Phoenix, up at 5,000 feet on the fringe of the world’s largest Ponderosa Pine forest.

Ponderosa pine forest

So apologies if today’s Post is partly reflective on the last two years.  It also seems appropriate to revisit the reasons why so many articles on the Blog aren’t about dogs.

I feel the need to do that because the number of new readers now is just staggering.

The first full month was August 2009.  Wordpress stats reveal that there were 1,172 unique viewers of the Blog.  The last full month was, of course, June 2011.  Wordpress figures were 31,664 unique viewers!  That’s over a 1,000 viewers a day, and the trend is still upwards!

I am, of course, deeply moved by this response.  Thank you, one and all!

In writing Learning from Dogs, I have tried to stay close to the theme that dogs are a metaphor for change for mankind.  But that doesn’t mean that this is a doggy Blog.

As I wrote on the Welcome page, “Dogs live in the present – they just are!  Dogs make the best of each moment uncluttered by the sorts of complex fears and feelings that we humans have. They don’t judge, they simply take the world around them at face value.”

Learning from Dogs is a Blog about the fundamental truths that we need to be reminded of, for our long-term survival. Dogs teach us the importance of integrity, of faith and loyalty and of unconditional love.

But just as importantly, dogs are a reminder that our evolution to Neolithic man may have been an evolutionary mistake.  Stay with me for just a while.

Dogs were domesticated a mind-numbing number of years ago.  There is good evidence that dogs were co-operating with man 30,000 years ago.  However, one might speculate why the DNA of the dog separated from the grey wolf approximately 100,000 years ago.  Was it because they evolved even that far back as domesticated companions to man?  Science can’t tell us that yet.

But 30,000 years ago man was most definitely a hunter-gatherer.  Archaeologists have pondered whether the domesticated dog allowed man to be so successful as a hunter-gatherer that, in time, man was able to evolve into farming which, of course, we describe more accurately as the Neolithic Revolution.

Here’s an extract from WikiPedia,

The “Neolithic” Revolution is the first agricultural revolution—the transition from hunting and gathering to agriculture and settlement. Archaeological data indicate that various forms of domestication of plants and animals arose independently in six separate locales worldwide ca. 10,000–7000 years BP (8,000–5000 BC), with the earliest known evidence found throughout the tropical and subtropical areas of southwestern and southern Asia, northern and central Africa and Central America.

However, the Neolithic Revolution involved far more than the adoption of a limited set of food-producing techniques. During the next millennia it would transform the small and mobile groups of hunter-gatherers that had hitherto dominated human history, into sedentary societies based in built-up villages and towns, which radically modified their natural environment by means of specialized food-crop cultivation (e.g., irrigation and food storage technologies) that allowed extensive surplus food production.

These developments provided the basis for concentrated high population densities settlements, specialized and complex labor diversification, trading economies, the development of non-portable art, architecture, and culture, centralized administrations and political structures, hierarchical ideologies and depersonalized systems of knowledge (e.g., property regimes and writing).

There’s one sentence that just jumps off the ‘page’.  It’s this one. “During the next millennia it would transform the small and mobile groups of hunter-gatherers that had hitherto dominated human history

Here’s a quick bit of history about Homo Sapiens, from here,

Neanderthal man: from 230,000 years ago

Around 250,000 years ago Homo erectus disappears from the fossil record, to be followed in the Middle Palaeolithic period by humans with brains which again have increased in size. They are the first to be placed within the same genus as ourselves, as Homo sapiens(‘knowing man’).

By far the best known of them is Neanderthal man — named from the first fossil remains to be discovered, in 1856, in the Neander valley near Dusseldorf, in Germany. The scientific name of this subspecies is Homo sapiens neanderthalensis. The Neanderthals are widely spread through Europe and the Middle East, and they thrive for an extremely long period (from about 230,000 to 35,000 years ago). Bones of animals of all sizes, up to bison and mammoth, and sophisticated stone tools are found with their remains.

Thus as a species we, as in H. sapiens, survived for approximately 200,000 years as hunter-gatherers!

Now after just 12,000 years, give or take, as ‘farmers’ we are facing the real risk of extinction. Go back to that WikiPedia extract above and re-read “concentrated high population densities settlements, specialized and complex labor diversification, trading economies, the development of non-portable art, architecture, and culture, centralized administrations and political structures, hierarchical ideologies and depersonalized systems of knowledge (e.g., property regimes and writing)“.

If you want to fully comprehend the mess we, as in man, have got ourselves into, then watch the stunning movie What a Way To Go: life at the end of the empire.  That movie website is here or you can watch it from here.  (I will be reviewing the film on Learning from Dogs in the next couple of weeks.)

The filmmakers, Tim Bennett and Sally Erickson, towards the end of the film muse if mankind must go back to some form of hunter-gatherer society, not literally, of course, but ‘back’ to a form of society that is fundamentally sustainable with the world upon which we live.  As successful as Neanderthal man.  Here’s where dogs may have critically important lessons for mankind.

  • Dogs form small packs, up to a maximum of 50 animals
  • They have a simple hierarchy within the pack; the alpha female (who has first choice of breeding male and makes the very big decisions about whether the pack should move to a better territory), the beta male (always a dominant male that teaches the young pups their social skills and breaks up fights within the pack – my Pharaoh, as seen on the home page, is a beta GSD), and the omega dog (the clown dog, male or female. whose role is to keep the pack happy through play).
  • They survive through an extraordinary relationship with humans but if they have to revert to the ‘wild’ they survive as hunter-gatherers.

Maybe humans, at heart, also share certain similar characteristics:

  • We are happiest in social groups of less than 50
  • We much prefer simple methods of group order, where rules and discipline are managed within the group.  (Think about how easily we form all sorts of local clubs and groups.)
  • A ‘local’ approach to survival through deep and extensive group co-operation would be so much more effective than what most of us presently experience in our societies.

That’s why so many of the articles that appear on Learning from Dogs focus on the madness of what we experience so often in our present enormous, faceless, distant societies.

Back to Sally Erickson, one of the film makers mentioned earlier.  Here’s what she wrote in her Blog

Our world is in need of healing at every level. We as a species aren’t going to survive, the way we are going. If we don’t heal ourselves, evolve a new consciousness, and fundamentally change the way we live, human beings won’t make it.

Where’s it all heading?  Who knows?  I am reminded of that wonderful quote attributed to Niels Bohr but, more likely, from an unknown author (although Mark Twain is often suggested), “Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future.

Happy Birthday, Learning from Dogs.  Thank you to all of you that have supported this venture over the last two years.

Reflections on the Blog

To the many loyal readers of Learning from Dogs

This Blog has been running since July 15th 2009.  As of yesterday, there had been 777 posts – a nicely rounded number if nothing else.  It has been and continues to be a great way of communicating with the wider world.

However, both Jon and I are facing a number of challenges that make it very difficult to maintain a Post a day as it has been, more or less, since the start in 2009.

Jon is in the last few months of completing a Master’s degree with huge demands on his creative time.  I have volunteered to take a full US Pilot’s Licence and Instrument Rating with a great school down in Scottsdale, Phoenix, essentially building on my UK private flying experience that goes back to 1981.  This is going to keep me pretty well occupied until the end of February, 2011.  Both of us have private family lives that mustn’t be encroached upon (Jon does a much better job at this than me!).

On reflecting on this Blog, I have realised that the old salesman in me has tripped me up.  In the sense that we have developed a virtual relationship with many hundreds of readers that, I think, includes the expectation of a new Post every day.  But the reality is that any Blog that is written without a commercial angle, as with Learning from Dogs, should be more a reflection of what stimulates the Blog authors than trying to ‘serve’ a market – that’s the old salesman mistake!

So on the basis that this Blog is about integrity and why dogs set such a wonderful example of integrous behaviour, there is going to be a change of emphasis.

  • The Blog will continue to publish articles focussed close to the theme as expressed here.
  • We will continue to publish other pieces, including humorous items, if they are worth sharing (agreed a subjective measure).
  • We will continue to publish articles from Guest authors.
  • If pressures or circumstances conspire to mean that a Blog article isn’t published every single day, then that will be just the way it is – Jon and I are not going to beat ourselves up about it!

In the next few days, the Blog is going to pass the 100,000 readers mark since it started.  You have to realise how much that means to all the people who have written for Learning from Dogs.  Thank you!

Any ideas, comments or feedback to the above?  Please let us know.