Tag: Love

Revisiting the language of love.

That is the language of love spoken by our beautiful dogs.

The present unreliability of our internet connection prompted me to think about re-posting whatever I had posted exactly a year ago. It only took me a minute to look it up and, bingo, what a perfect topic for these wintry days.

ooOOoo

As our dear dogs speak it.

You will recall that last Friday I featured an item under the title of Private First Class Lingo. The item had been brought to my attention by Constance Frankland.

Well here’s another really special story that Constance came across on a website called Arditor and I wanted to share it with you.

ooOOoo

The Language of Love

love8 Ways Your Dog is Saying I Love You

Although dogs don’t speak our language, they are constantly trying to tell us that they love us and always showing love through their actions. Unfortunately, many shrug their shoulders or get annoyed over their dogs’ love gestures.
Here are 8 ways your dog is saying “I love you”…

waggingTail Wagging

Similar to a cat, a dog’s tail is a communication tool. In fact it is sometimes more accurate in translating its emotions than barking. Held at different positions, a dog’s wag could communicate excitement, fear, threat or submission. If your dog’s tail is held in a relaxed position and wagging all together with its entire butt, it means it is very happy to see you.

lickingFace Licking

Warm, sticky, wet and stinky! We know this can get annoying but licking a person’s face is a love gesture from a dog. Dogs lick faces for a few reasons. Mainly, if your pet dog is licking your face, he is trying to groom you! Grooming is an intimate gesture only done after a strong connection is made between dogs (so now you know he sees you as one of his kind). On the other hand, if a stranger dog licks your face, it is simply trying to say that he is harmless and friendly.

following3Following You Wherever You Go

This is another behaviour that can get on your nerves, especially when your dog attempts to follow you to work! However, it is only a dog’s way to show his love, devotion and loyalty to you. Wherever you are, that is where your dog wants to be. Dogs are extreme social creatures and unlike humans, there is no need for solitude.

Sheltie sleeping with her ownerSleeping with You

Similar to wild wolve packs, wild dogs curl up together to sleep in the night. Rather than sleeping alone in his designated corner, your dog prefers to snuggle right next to you in your bed. If you catch your dog sneaking onto your bed or falling asleep next to you in your couch, it implies that you are his family.

smilingSmiling

It is no surprise when you see something like a smile on your dog. Dogs do smile too! Research has found that dogs can also show and use facial expressions similar to how humans do. A dog’s smile is another way of showing his love and joy to his owner. Having said that, most of us are guilty of not recognizing our dog’s smile.

crotchCrotch Sniffing

Argh, this is an embarrassing one and how we wished our dogs can quit going around sniffing crotches. But before you start screaming at your dog, try to understand it. This behaviour is in fact a dog’s perculiar way of greeting. More importantly, apart from a hello, it allows the dog to understand and remember you through your scent.

sickTaking Care of You When You are Sick

Does your dog stay by your bed and watch you the whole time while you are nursing a flu? This is its natural instinct to care for a sick or wounded family member, just as they would in the wild. A dog extends its love and care to its sick or injured owner by quietly and patiently watching over him/her. But make sure you hide any superficial wounds away from your dog! It might actually lick your wound as its form of first aid.

leaning2Leaning on You

Whether you are sitting or standing, your dog is leaning on you and wouldn’t budge. You can’t move and you can’t get on with your daily routine. While you are wondering what they are up to, your dog has already got what they needed: your attention. Getting your attention and giving you their attention by leaning on you is their way of showing affection. Next time this happens, stop what you are doing and reciprocate with some love.

oooooooo

This turned out to be more of a Sunday Picture Parade but it seemed too special to hold it from you until the weekend.

No, our dogs don’t speak a language that we humans would recognise as such but, nonetheless, our dogs communicate in ways that still are as magical and special as our human poetry.

Speaking of poetry, let me close today’s post with this.

areallygreatdogooOOoo

Wherever you are in the world, with or without a dog in your life, please embrace the power of love.

Friday fondness

A rather personal posting for today.

My dear, sweet wife is struggling with a personal issue that I am not going to share with you dear readers; for obvious reasons. The issue is not to do with our relationship, not at all, but part of the journey of getting a little older day by day.

Yesterday morning, sitting up in bed after breakfast, accompanied by many of our dogs fast asleep around us, Jean had a bit of a weepy session. Today Jean and I are off to see a medical consultant to ascertain the nature of the issue. Not going to say any more than that.

So back to yesterday morning, me reflecting on Jean’s tears, and me musing about what to write for today’s post. There in my email inbox was an item in the latest Big Think newsletter that was perfect. It was called The Science behind Maintaining a Happy Long-Term Relationship and it was by Dr. Helen Fisher, senior research fellow at the Kinsey Institute.

Here is how that article by Dr. Fisher opens:

Plenty of people are pessimistic about the state of relationships in society. Dr. Helen Fisher, senior research fellow at the Kinsey Institute, isn’t one of them. She sees trends like extended periods of cohabitation before marriage and a persistent fear of divorce not only as interrelated, but also signs of a healthy change in attitude toward love. While marriage was once the start of a long-term relationship, she says, today it’s the finale. And that’s a good way to cope with a brain whose primitive regions are driven intensely toward short-term relationships. Dr. Fisher also explains how to maintain novelty, the fuel of romantic love, and how to be aware of the brain regions that affect satisfaction in a relationship.

Now I don’t have permission to republish the full transcript but I see that the video, that was included in the Big Think article, is on YouTube.

I count myself incredibly lucky to have met Jean back in December, 2007 and that out of that meeting came a loving relationship that is more beautiful than words. Well more beautiful than my words so I will let E. E. Cummings say it how it should be said.

love is more thicker than forget
more thinner than recall
more seldom than a wave is wet
more frequent than to fail
it is most mad and moonly
and less it shall unbe
than all the sea which only
is deeper than the sea
love is less always than to win
less never than alive
less bigger than the least begin
less littler than forgive
it is most sane and sunly
and more it cannot die
than all the sky which only
is higher than the sky
Share this text …?

E.E. Cummings, “[love is more thicker than forget]” from Complete Poems 1904-1962, edited by George J. Firmage. Copyright 1926, 1954, 1991 by the Trustees for the E.E. Cummings Trust. Copyright © 1985 by George James Firmage. Reprinted with the permission of Liveright Publishing Corporation.

Source: Poetry (January 1939). (Taken from here)

That is my love for Jean.

The language of love

As our dear dogs speak it.

You will recall that last Friday I featured an item under the title of Private First Class Lingo. The item had been brought to my attention by Constance Frankland.

Well here’s another really special story that Constance came across on a website called Arditor and I wanted to share it with you.

ooOOoo

love8 Ways Your Dog is Saying I Love You

Although dogs don’t speak our language, they are constantly trying to tell us that they love us and always showing love through their actions. Unfortunately, many shrug their shoulders or get annoyed over their dogs’ love gestures.
Here are 8 ways your dog is saying “I love you”…

waggingTail Wagging

Similar to a cat, a dog’s tail is a communication tool. In fact it is sometimes more accurate in translating its emotions than barking. Held at different positions, a dog’s wag could communicate excitement, fear, threat or submission. If your dog’s tail is held in a relaxed position and wagging all together with its entire butt, it means it is very happy to see you.

lickingFace Licking

Warm, sticky, wet and stinky! We know this can get annoying but licking a person’s face is a love gesture from a dog. Dogs lick faces for a few reasons. Mainly, if your pet dog is licking your face, he is trying to groom you! Grooming is an intimate gesture only done after a strong connection is made between dogs (so now you know he sees you as one of his kind). On the other hand, if a stranger dog licks your face, it is simply trying to say that he is harmless and friendly.

following3Following You Wherever You Go

This is another behaviour that can get on your nerves, especially when your dog attempts to follow you to work! However, it is only a dog’s way to show his love, devotion and loyalty to you. Wherever you are, that is where your dog wants to be. Dogs are extreme social creatures and unlike humans, there is no need for solitude.

Sheltie sleeping with her ownerSleeping with You

Similar to wild wolve packs, wild dogs curl up together to sleep in the night. Rather than sleeping alone in his designated corner, your dog prefers to snuggle right next to you in your bed. If you catch your dog sneaking onto your bed or falling asleep next to you in your couch, it implies that you are his family.

smilingSmiling

It is no surprise when you see something like a smile on your dog. Dogs do smile too! Research has found that dogs can also show and use facial expressions similar to how humans do. A dog’s smile is another way of showing his love and joy to his owner. Having said that, most of us are guilty of not recognizing our dog’s smile.

crotchCrotch Sniffing

Argh, this is an embarrassing one and how we wished our dogs can quit going around sniffing crotches. But before you start screaming at your dog, try to understand it. This behaviour is in fact a dog’s perculiar way of greeting. More importantly, apart from a hello, it allows the dog to understand and remember you through your scent.

sickTaking Care of You When You are Sick

Does your dog stay by your bed and watch you the whole time while you are nursing a flu? This is its natural instinct to care for a sick or wounded family member, just as they would in the wild. A dog extends its love and care to its sick or injured owner by quietly and patiently watching over him/her. But make sure you hide any superficial wounds away from your dog! It might actually lick your wound as its form of first aid.

leaning2Leaning on You

Whether you are sitting or standing, your dog is leaning on you and wouldn’t budge. You can’t move and you can’t get on with your daily routine. While you are wondering what they are up to, your dog has already got what they needed: your attention. Getting your attention and giving you their attention by leaning on you is their way of showing affection. Next time this happens, stop what you are doing and reciprocate with some love.

ooOOoo

This turned out to be more of a Sunday Picture Parade but it seemed too special to hold it from you until the weekend.

No, our dogs don’t speak a language that we humans would recognise as such but, nonetheless, our dogs communicate in ways that still are as magical and special as our human poetry.

Speaking of poetry, let me close today’s post with this.

areallygreatdog

What is Love?

Today’s post is inspired by something I read that is very special.

The last time I published a post headed What is love?, back in 2012, I included this:

I would imagine that there are almost as many ideas about the meaning of love as there are people on this planet.  Dictionary.com produces this in answer to the search on the word ‘love’.

love

[luhv]  noun, verb, loved, lov·ing.
noun

  1. a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person.
  2. a feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection, as for a parent, child, or friend.
  3. sexual passion or desire.
  4. a person toward whom love is felt; beloved person;sweetheart.
  5. (used in direct address as a term of endearment, affection,or the like): Would you like to see a movie, love?

But, I don’t know about you, those definitions leave something missing for me.  Here’s my take on what love is, and it’s only by having so many dogs in my life that I have found this clarity of thought.

Love is trust, love is pure openness, love is knowing that you offer yourself without any barriers.  Think how you dream of giving yourself outwardly in the total surrender of love.  Reflect on that surrender that you experience when deeply connecting, nay loving, with your dog.

One of the very special qualities of our dogs is their natural and instinctive ability to love, unconditionally, both us humans and other animals around them (with some notable exceptions; of course.)

Yet as much as we want to learn unconditional love from our dogs, there is something just too complex about us humans to manage that. Possibly rooted in our inability to really live in the present, another quality our dogs also demonstrate so perfectly.

In doing research for today’s post, I was amused by an article in The Guardian newspaper back in 2012, What is love? Five theories on the greatest emotion of all. Amused by there being just five theories!

That article opens:

“What is love” was the most searched phrase on Google in 2012, according to the company. In an attempt to get to the bottom of the question once and for all, the Guardian has gathered writers from the fields of science, psychotherapy, literature, religion and philosophy to give their definition of the much-pondered word.

So I sub-titled today’s post by saying that I was inspired by something.

Here it is, recently published over on The Conversation and republished within their terms. I think you are going to love it!

ooOOoo

The life-changing love of one of the 20th century’s greatest physicists

December 9, 2015

Author: Richard Underman, Chancellor’s Professor of Medicine, Liberal Arts, and Philanthropy, Indiana University

Love is for everyone. mawazeFL/Flickr, CC BY-NC
Love is for everyone. mawazeFL/Flickr, CC BY-NC

One of the great short stories of the 20th century is Nobel Laureate Isaac Bashevis Singer’s The Spinoza of Market Street. It tells of an aged scholar who has devoted his life to the study of Spinoza’s great work, Ethics. Protagonist Dr Fischelson has lost his library job and, like his hero, been expelled from his religious community for his heretical views. Looking down from his garret with disdain at the crowded street below him, he devotes his days to solitary scholarship. At night he gazes up through his telescope at the heavens, where he finds verification of his master’s wisdom.

Then one day Dr Fischelson falls ill. A neighbor, an uneducated “old maid,” nurses him back to health. Eventually, though the good doctor never understands exactly how or why, they are married. On the night of the wedding, after the unlikeliest of passionate consummations, the old man gazes up at the stars and murmurs, “Divine Spinoza, forgive me. I have become a fool.” He has learned that there is more to life than the theoretical speculations that have preoccupied him for decades.

The history of modern physics boasts its own version of Fischelson. His name was Paul Dirac. I first encountered Dirac in physics courses, but was moved to revisit his life and legacy through my service on the board of the Kinsey Institute for the Study of Human Sexuality and teaching an undergraduate course on sexuality and love.

A brilliant but very strange man

Born in Bristol, England, in 1902, Dirac became, after Einstein, the second most important theoretical physicist of the 20th century. He studied at Cambridge, where he wrote the first-ever dissertation on quantum mechanics. Shortly thereafter he produced one of physics’ most famous theories, the Dirac equation, which correctly predicted the existence of antimatter. Dirac did more than any other scientist to reconcile Einstein’s general theory of relativity to quantum mechanics. In 1933 he received the Nobel Prize in Physics, the youngest theoretical physicist ever to do so.

At the time Dirac received the Nobel Prize, he was leading a remarkably drab and, to most eyes,

Paul Dirac in 1933. Nobel Foundation via Wikimedia Commons
Paul Dirac in 1933. Nobel Foundation via Wikimedia Commons

unappealing existence. As detailed in Graham Farmelo’s wonderful biography, The Strangest Man: The Hidden Life of Paul Dirac, Mystic of the Atom, on which I rely heavily in this article, Dirac was an incredibly taciturn individual. Getting him to utter even a word could prove nearly impossible, leading his mischievous colleagues to introduce a new unit of measure for the rate of human speech, the Dirac, which amounted to one word per hour.

Dirac was the kind of man who would “never utter a word when no word would do.” Farmelo describes him as a human being completely absorbed in his work, with absolutely no interest in other people or their feelings, and utterly devoid of empathy. He attributes this in part to Dirac’s tyrannical upbringing. His father ruthlessly punished him for every error in speech, and the young Dirac adopted the strategy of saying as little as possible.

Dirac was socially awkward and showed no interest in the opposite sex. Some of his colleagues suspected that he might be utterly devoid of such feelings. Once, Farmelo recounts, Dirac found himself on a two-week cruise from California to Japan with the eminent physicist Werner Heisenberg. The gregarious Heisenberg made the most of the trip’s opportunities for fraternization with the opposite sex, dancing with the flapper girls. Dirac found Heisenberg’s conduct perplexing, asking him, “Why do you dance?” Heisenberg replied, “When there are nice girls, it is always a pleasure to dance.” Dirac pondered this for some minutes before responding, “But Heisenberg, how do you know beforehand that the girls are nice?”

Love finds the professor

Then one day, something remarkable entered Dirac’s life. Her name was Margit Wigner, the sister of a Hungarian physicist and recently divorced mother of two. She was visiting her brother at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, where Dirac had just arrived.

Known to friends and family as “Manci,” one day she was dining with her brother when she observed a frail, lost-looking young man walk into the restaurant. “Who is that?” she asked. “Why that is Paul Dirac, one of last year’s Nobel laureates,” replied her brother. To which she replied, “Why don’t you ask him to join us?”

Thus began an acquaintance that eventually transformed Dirac’s life. Writes Farmelo:

His personality could scarcely have contrasted more with hers: to the same extent that he was reticent, measured, objective, and cold, she was talkative, impulsive, subjective, and passionate.

A self-described “scientific zero,” Manci embodied many things that were missing in Dirac’s life. After their first meeting, the two dined together occasionally, but Dirac, whose office was two doors down from Einstein, remained largely focused on his work.

After Manci returned to Europe, they maintained a lopsided correspondence. Manci wrote letters that ran to multiple pages every few days, to which Dirac responded with a few sentences every few weeks. But Manci was far more attuned than Dirac to a “universally acknowledged truth” best expressed by Jane Austen: “A single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”

She persisted despite stern warnings from Dirac:

I am afraid I cannot write such nice letters to you – perhaps because my feelings are so weak and my life is mainly concerned with facts and not feelings.

When she complained that many of her queries about his daily life and feelings were going unanswered, Dirac drew up a table, placing her questions in the left column, paired with his responses on the right. To her question, “Whom else should I love?” Dirac responded, “You should not expect me to answer this question. You would say I was cruel if I tried.” To her question, “Are there any feelings for me?” Dirac answered only, “Yes, some.”

Realizing that Dirac lacked the insight to see that many of her questions were rhetorical, she informed him that “most of them were not meant to be answered.” Eventually, exasperated by Dirac’s lack of feeling, Manci wrote to him that he should “get a second Nobel Prize in cruelty.” Dirac wrote back:

You should know that I am not in love with you. It would be wrong for me to pretend that I am, as I have never been in love I cannot understand fine feelings.

Yet with time, Dirac’s outlook began to change. After returning from a visit with her in Budapest, Dirac wrote, “I felt very sad leaving you and still feel that I miss you very much. I do not understand why this should be, as I do not usually miss people when I leave them.” The man whose mathematical brilliance had unlocked new truths about the fundamental nature of the universe was, through his relationship with Manci, discovering truths about human life that he had never before recognized.

Soon thereafter, when she returned for a visit, he asked her to marry him, and she accepted immediately. The couple went on two honeymoons little more than month apart. Later he wrote to her:

Manci, my darling, you are very dear to me. You have made a wonderful alteration in my life. You have made me human… I feel that life for me is worth living if I just make you happy and do nothing else.

A Soviet colleague of Dirac corroborated his friend’s self-assessment: “It is fun to see Dirac married, it makes him so much more human.”

In Dirac, a thoroughly theoretical existence acquired a surprisingly welcome practical dimension.

Paul and Manci in 1963. GFHund via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY
Paul and Manci in 1963. GFHund via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY

A man who had been thoroughly engrossed in the life of the mind discovered the life of the heart. And a human being whose greatest contributions had been guided by the pursuit of mathematical beauty discovered something beautiful in humanity whose existence he had never before suspected.

In short, a brilliant but lonely man found something new and wonderful that had been missing his entire life: love. As my students and I discover in the course on sexuality and love, science can reveal a great deal, but there are some aspects of reality – among them, love – that remain largely outside its ambit.

ooOOoo

Picking up on that last sentence, “there are some aspects of reality – among them, love – that remain largely outside its ambit.” all I can offer is to introduce dogs to the students!

I struggled for ages wondering how to close today’s post. In the end, decided on the following:

In memory of Clyde!

This could be the most important lesson we learn from our dear dogs.

Reclining Clyde
Reclining Clyde

Our immediate neighbours to the South of us, Larry and Janell, lost one of their dogs last Saturday. Here’s the email that was sent out by Larry:

Bad day at the ranch

We lost Clyde today. A neighbor who is a veterinarian came by this morning and did the deed. He had cancer in his shoulder, we had a tumor removed a couple of months ago but there must have been some left because his left front became totally unusable and then his left rear started to go too. We tried everything that the vets could come up with but it was starting to eat him up.

He was born in central South Dakota at a cattle ranch where I got him in April 2004, a six week old black bundle of wrinkles. He learned his manners from Barney, who we lost a little over 2 years ago from cancer as well. Barney and Clyde, what a GREAT pair!!

We still have Baxter the Aussie, who has pretty well recovered from getting hit by a car and severely injured the beginning of last month and Bob the cat.

I will miss Clyde terribly, just like I have ALL my labs! They are wonderful dogs. Just thinking that I’ll probably never have another big floppy eared pal like that makes me want to just cry my eyes out!!

One of the fondest memories of my life is/was going bird hunting, especially ducks, and having a well mannered lab as my partner!! I’ve shared time and my lunch with some good ones!! I so very much wish/hope that there really is a “RAINBOW BRIDGE”!!

Jean and I obviously knew Clyde and can confirm that he was the most gentle, kind-hearted dog one could find.

I wanted to treasure the memory of Clyde, on behalf of all the dear dogs in the world, and asked Larry and Janell if they would be comfortable with me publishing the email. They replied without hesitation that it was fine and then sent me some photographs of Clyde to include in this post.

———-

So the easy course for this post would be to leave it at this and move on. (And, please, if you are not up for a degree of introspection from yours truly, then do stop reading at this point!)

———-

But when I awoke this morning (Tuesday), a little after 5am, Jean still asleep next to me, three dogs likewise across the bed, and knowing I would be writing about Clyde later on in the day, I started to reflect on life and death and was there a lesson for us humans in the death of our beloved dogs. When Jean awoke an hour later, I asked her how many of her dogs had died over the years. She replied that there had been at least twenty dogs that had died and that she could remember each and every one of them.

That then opened up a much deeper reflection on death and whether our dogs really can offer us a lesson in this regard. For I’m not ashamed to admit that at times I feel scared about the future. I’m 70-years-old, seeing the signs of what the medics call ‘cognitive ageing’, have a few minor challenges in the areas of prostate, blood pressure, thyroid, and know how terribly unprepared I am for the second of life’s two certainties: death.

Jean’s view was that dogs have the ability to live so perfectly in the present that, except in very rare occasions, they don’t grieve for the loss of a loved one. Clearly, a significant difference between dogs and us humans.

Then it was clear that we humans only grieve for the death of someone we knew. That within the family that rarely extended back beyond our grand-parents. That seemed to offer some philosophical help. For if it comes down to the memories that others will have of us, after we have died, then it behoves us to live the best life we can, doing our best at every stage in our lives. Accepting that it is impossible not to make mistakes and end up with regrets, yet so long as we try to be true to ourselves then that’s all that matters.

It was then a very small onward step to love and the potential for the greatest learning from our dogs. For dogs so frequently show us the magic of unconditional love.

Back to Clyde.

Here are two other photographs of dear Clyde, separated by the words in Larry’s covering email.

Clyde cleaning Pearl the lamb.
Clyde cleaning Pearl the lamb.

Paul, here are a few pictures of Clyde. Feel free to use what you like. We always said Clyde had a big heart, big stomach and no ambition as evidenced by these pictures! At one time we were nursing an orphan lamb in the house, Clyde adopted the lamb, Pearl, and looked after her, Larry.

Clyde and Pearl demonstrating such a dear friendship.
Clyde and Pearl demonstrating a dear friendship.

I know that when our Lilly dies, she is 17, Jean will weep many tears.

I know that when our Pharaoh dies, he is soon to be 12, I will weep many tears.

But those pictures of Clyde remind all of us that it is in life that it is important to love. Important, almost beyond words, to be kind to others, to offer and receive love, and to treasure the present.

So, yes, we must shed a few tears of the heart yet thereafter we must treasure the memories.

“For if we cry at losing the sun, our tears will hide the light of the stars.”

Thank you, Clyde!

The book! Part Five: Love

It is incredibly easy and, yet, so difficult to write about the love of a dog. Now if that isn’t a dysfunctional way to start this chapter on love, then I don’t know what would be!

Let me try to open this up to a more rational line of thought.

Dogs are so quick to show their love for a human. It could be the wag of a tail, the way a dog’s eyes connect with our eyes, a gentle lean of a head against our legs, curling up on our lap, licking our hands or our faces, and more; so much more. All of these ways make sense to us. For they are familiar to us humans from the point of view of how we show our love to our partner or to our children.

But there are a myriad of stories about a dog offering love to a human that go way beyond anything that we could emotionally understand. Let me offer one that was published on my blog back in January, 2011. It was the story of a Skye Terrier called Bobby.

Namely, that on the 15th February 1858, in the City of Edinburgh in Scotland, a man named John Gray died of tuberculosis. Gray was better known as Auld Jock and on his death he was buried in the old Greyfriars kirkyard situated on Candlemaker Row in Edinburgh.

Bobby had belonged to John Gray, who had worked for the Edinburgh City Police as a night watchman, and the two of them, John and Bobby, had been virtually inseparable for the previous two years.

When it came to the funeral, Bobby led his master’s funeral procession to the grave at Greyfriars Cemetery, and later, when this devoted Skye Terrier tried to stay at the graveside, he was sent away by the caretaker of the church.

But Bobby returned and refused to leave; whatever the weather conditions. Despite the efforts of the keeper of the kirkyard, plus John’s family and many local people, Bobby refused to be enticed away from the grave for any length of time and, as a result, he touched the hearts of the local residents.

Although theoretically dogs were not allowed in the graveyard, people rallied round and built a shelter for Bobby and there he stayed, guarding Auld Jock his late master.

There Bobby stayed for fourteen years, laying on the grave, leaving only for food.

To this day, close by Greyfriars Kirkyard, there is a Bobby’s Bar and outside the bar a cast metal stature of Bobby on a plinth.

The love that a dog shows us is a form of unconditional love that is not unknown in our human world but is not common. I would vouch that few people have truly ever experienced unconditional love or are even clear as to what it is. For although one might define unconditional love as affection without any limitations, or love without conditions, in other words a type of love that has no bounds and is unchanging, the reality of the love of one person towards another, a spouse, lover or child, is that there are limits to how that one person is treated and that going past those limits, regularly and persistently, eventually destroys that love.

Let’s turn to the world of novels. Some book authors make a distinction between unconditional love and conditional love. In the sense that conditional love is love that is earned through conscious or unconscious conditions being met by the lover. Whereas in unconditional love, love is given to the loved one no matter what. Loving is primary: an acting of feelings irrespective of will.

Yet there’s another aspect of unconditional love that relates commonly between individuals and their dogs. That is that our love for a dog encompasses a desire for the dog to have the very best life in and around us humans. Take the example of acquiring a new puppy. The puppy is cute, playful, and the owner’s heart swells with love for this adorable new family member. Then the puppy urinates on the floor. One does not stop loving the puppy but recognises the need to modify the puppy’s behaviour through love and training than, otherwise, continue to experience behaviours that would be unacceptable in a particular situation.

Having explored the concept of love and how dogs offer us the beauty of unconditional love, how should we adopt a loving approach to the world, and why?

It’s the little things that count is a famous truism and one no better suited to the world of love. Little things that we can do in countless different ways throughout the day. Sharing a friendly word and a smile with a stranger, dropping a coin or two into a homeless person’s hands or, better still, a loaf or bread or a chocolate bar. Being courteous on the road, holding a door open for someone at your nearby store, showing patience in a potentially frustrating situation. Continuing, perhaps, with such little things as never forgetting that we have two ears and one mouth and should use them in that proportion, or be more attentive when a loved one is speaking with us, possibly engineer periods of quiet contemplation, understanding that the world will not come to an end if the television or ‘smartphone’ is turned off for a day. The list of loving actions is endless. Or in the words of Nelson Mandela, “No one is born hating another person…People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

Why this need for love?

Because this world of ours so desperately needs a new start and that start must come from a loving attitude to each other, to the plants and animals, and to the blue planet that sustains us.

We need our hearts to open; open enough to tell our heads about the world of love.

1,001 words Copyright © 2014 Paul Handover

Thanksgiving theme: Love

The power of love

Today’s post is inspired by a comment left by Virginia Hamilton to a post that was published in this place back on 27th September, 2009. The post was called Sticks and stones. This is a flavour of the post.

oooo

I make no apologies for today’s post being more emotional and sentimental.

The phrase ‘sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me‘ is well known throughout the English-speaking world and surprisingly goes back some way.  A quick web search found that in the The Christian Recorder of March 1862, there was this comment:

Remember the old adage, ‘Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never harm me’. True courage consists in doing what is right, despite the jeers and sneers of our companions.

So if in 1862 the saying was referred to as an ‘old adage’ then it clearly pre-dated 1862 by some degree.

A few days ago, Dusty M., here in Payson, AZ, sent me a short YouTube video called The Power of Words.  I’m as vulnerable as the next guy to needing being reminded about what’s important in this funny old world.  Then I started mulling over the tendency for all of us to be sucked into a well of doom and gloom.  Take my posts on Learning from Dogs over the last couple of days, as an example.

There is no question that the world in which we all live is going through some extremely challenging times but anger and negativity is not going to be the answer.  As that old reference spelt out so clearly, “True courage consists in doing what is right, despite the jeers and sneers of our companions.

So first watch the video,

then let me close by reminding us all that courage is yet something else we can learn from dogs.

oooo

Then this is the comment from Virginia left to that post just a few days ago:

Our sermon today was about sticks and stones which is perfect timing because my sixth graders are throwing words at each other and it is hurting. So I looked up the phrase and found you. We were shown the video in a faculty meeting and since you tie into dogs I was hoping to find “the answer.” When you look at the website you’ll see out community project where I have twenty schools training in three shelters. One would think that because these kids are so loving to the animals that they could pass that kindness to each other. Any words of wisdom? Also check this video out. Thank you, Virginia

Virginia is a gifted teacher in Indialantic, FL. She uses her love of animals to teach students about giving back and community service. Her students volunteer at animal shelters and help train dogs so they are more easily adoptable. By doing this they get outside of the classroom and learn important life skills.

oooo

My reply to Virginia was: “Virginia, I took a break from the writing and saw your comment to this post and was blown away to use the vernacular! Thank you so much. Don’t know about me offering words of wisdom but I am going to publish a new post based entirely around your comment, and the question. Before the end of the week! Thank you so much for dropping by.”

To that end, I am going to do nothing more than quote a chunk from a forthcoming chapter of my book: Learning from Dogs. The chapter is the first in Part Five: Dog qualities we have to learn. What follows is the last 400 words of that chapter.

Let’s turn to the world of novels. Some book authors make a distinction between unconditional love and conditional love. In the sense that conditional love is love that is earned through conscious or unconscious conditions being met by the lover. Whereas in unconditional love, love is given to the loved one no matter what. Loving is primary: an acting of feelings irrespective of will.

There’s another aspect of unconditional love that relates commonly between individuals and their dogs. That is that our love for a dog encompasses a desire for the dog to have the very best life in and around us humans. Take the example of acquiring a new puppy. The puppy is cute, playful, and the owner’s heart swells with love for this adorable new family member. Then the puppy urinates on the floor. One does not stop loving the puppy but recognises the need to modify the puppy’s behaviour through love and training than, otherwise, continue to experience behaviours that would be unacceptable in a particular situation.

Having explored the concept of love and how dogs offer us the beauty of unconditional love, how should we adopt a loving approach to the world, and why?

It’s the little things that count is a famous truism and one no better suited to the world of love. Little things that we can do in countless different ways throughout the day. Sharing a friendly word and a smile with a stranger, dropping a coin or two into a homeless person’s hands or, better still, a loaf of bread or a chocolate bar. Being courteous on the road, holding a door open for someone at your nearby store, showing patience in a potentially frustrating situation. Never forgetting that we have two ears and one mouth and should use them in that proportion, be more attentive when a loved one is speaking with us, engineer periods of quiet contemplation, understand that the world will not come to an end if the television or ‘smartphone’ is turned off for a day. The list of loving actions is endless.

Why?

Because this world of ours so desperately needs a new start and that start must come from a loving attitude to each other, to the plants and animals, and to the blue planet that sustains us.

We need our hearts to open; open enough to tell our heads about the world of love.

Copyright 2014: Paul Handover

It would be lovely, Virginia, if this could be read out to your classes. Even better if young peoples’ thoughts, responses, and questions could be posted here as comments.

A very Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Do animals fall in love?

Opening our minds to a beautiful concept!

One of the better things about my old home country, the United Kingdom, is The Open University.  As Wikipedia explains:

The OU was established in 1969 and the first students enrolled in January 1971. The University administration is based at Walton Hall, Milton Keynes in Buckinghamshire, but has regional centres in each of its thirteen regions around the United Kingdom. It also has offices and regional examination centres in most other European countries. The university awards undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, as well as non-degree qualifications such as diplomas and certificates or continuing education units.

With more than 250,000 students enrolled, including around 32,000 aged under 25 and more than 50,000 overseas students, it is the largest academic institution in the United Kingdom (and one of the largest in Europe) by student number, and qualifies as one of the world’s largest universities.

For reasons that I am unclear about, I subscribe to the OU’s newsletter.  Thus it was that a few weeks ago, this dropped into my ‘in-box’.

Do animals fall in love?

Do romantic relationships exist in the animal kingdom?

Throughout his lifetime, evolutionist and biologist Charles Darwin researched and wrote about how he felt that love can exist within the animal world. Particularly in his papers ‘The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals’ and ‘Comparison of the Mental Powers of Man and the Lower Animals’, he explored how animals can display supposed ‘human emotions’ like pleasure, pain, happiness and misery. He investigated how animals could seemingly appear to feel ‘down’ when separated from their companions, and seemed to jump for joy and touch one another in a way similar to a human hug when reunited.

Although monogamy and lifelong pair bonds are generally rare in the animal kingdom, some animals seem to thrive on it. Recent research has shown that Gibbons, who were thought to mate for life, have more complicated relationships, with mates occasionally philandering, and even sometimes dumping a mate, suggesting some similarity to human relationships. Swans also form monogamous pair bonds that last for many years, and occassionally for life. Loyalty to their mates has made them a virtually universal symbol of love. But some researchers believe it isn’t as romantic as it first appears, and that they stay together because spending extra time attracting a new mate has the potential to impact on the otherwise reproductive time.

Darwin’s theories have paved the way for further studies. In this free article, Tim Halliday explores natural selection and evolution in the animal world.

Here is that article.

ooOOoo

Natural Selection and Evolution

Tim Halliday explores natural selection and evolution in the animal world

By: Professor Tim Halliday (Department of Life Sciences, The Open University)*

In the Rules of Life series, and its accompanying CD, Aubrey Manning looks at the behaviour of animals and describes many new discoveries about the way that this is beautifully adapted to meet the challenges which animals face in their daily lives. The scientific study of animal behaviour, or ethology, was founded some 50 years ago by Niko Tinbergen and Konrad Lorenz. Their most significant contribution was to bring together the study of natural history with an understanding of evolution by natural selection. Since then, the numerous studies that have been made of animal behaviour have revealed that animals do many things that challenge many of the ideas that people had about natural selection 50 years ago. Natural selection theory has developed enormously since that time, largely as the result of animal behaviour studies, and a number of popular misconceptions about evolution have been revealed to be false as a result.

One such misconception is embodied in the phrase ‘survival of the fittest’, first coined by Herbert Spencer, and often used to encapsulate the way natural selection works. It is misleading, because ‘survival’ is only part of the story. Evolutionary change comes about because some individuals are more successful in reproduction and so pass on their genes to succeeding generations. As a result, the characteristics that make individuals successful in reproduction become more common in the population. It is thus reproduction that is important in evolution, and survival becomes simply a means to that end.

The importance of this point becomes apparent when we appreciate that, for most animals, reproduction is a very costly and sometimes dangerous activity, as illustrated many times in the series. To engage effectively in reproductive activity requires a great deal of energy and other resources that could otherwise be put towards survival. This is apparent in the common observation that animals show a greatly reduced growth rate, or stop growing altogether, when they reach sexual maturity. The resources that they derive from feeding are diverted from growth to reproduction.

A second common misconception is that natural selection acts ‘for the good of the species’. There are numerous examples of animal behaviour that show that this cannot be the case. For example, African lions live in prides, consisting of several females and their cubs, controlled by a group of two or three males. Other mature males are excluded from living in a pride. From time to time, a coalition of excluded males is formed and they attempt to take over a pride, by attacking and driving away the current pride-holders. If they succeed in doing this, their first act is to kill any cubs in the pride that are still being suckled by their mothers. To kill the young of one’s own species cannot benefit the species. The adaptive value of this behaviour for males is that, deprived of the cubs they have been suckling, the females very quickly come on heat and can conceive cubs fathered by the new pride-holders.

This example illustrates another common misconception about evolution, that, when mating, males and females are acting cooperatively. While it is in the interests of both parents that reproduction is successful, the way that that success comes about is not necessarily the same for the two sexes. For male lions, it is of no reproductive benefit to them to guard females that give birth to cubs fathered by other males. Infanticide is of benefit to them because it ensures that cubs born in the pride are their offspring. Infanticide is costly for females because the considerable time and resources that they have put into producing cubs is wasted. There is thus a conflict between the sexes, even though they have to behave cooperatively if either is to reproduce at all.

The interplay of cooperation and conflict is also apparent in the relationship between parents and offspring. For animals that produce more than one young at a time, it is usually to the advantage of the parent to share food more or less equally among its progeny. For each individual progeny, however, it is to its advantage if it receives more food than its siblings. There is thus a great deal of competition among progeny. This takes a bizarre form in the European Fire Salamander, and in a species of shark described in one of the programmes. In these animals, the young develop within the mother and, as they grow, they eat one another until only one, very large young is left. It may be that producing one offspring at a time is a good strategy from the mother’s point of view, or it could be that she would have higher reproductive success if she produced more; it may be, however that she has no choice in the matter.

The key to understanding evolution by natural selection is to think of it, not in terms of an individual’s survival, but in terms of its effectiveness in passing on its genes, what in the series is referred to as ‘genetic accounting’. Natural selection favours those individuals that pass on the most copies of their genes. This enables us to explain many aspects of animal behaviour that are difficult to explain purely in terms of survival. For example, in many species, particularly among birds, certain adult individuals do not breed themselves, but help other adults to do so, for example by feeding their young. In almost all cases, helpers turn out to be close relatives of the parents they are helping and so they are, in an indirect way, helping to spread those genes that they share with their relatives.

* Tim Halliday is professor of biology at The Open University, where he has worked on newts, toads and frogs since 1977.

ooOOoo

Two photographs that offer my answer to the question: Do animals fall in love?

animallove

oooo

Hazel asleep with her dear friend Cleo. (Hazel to the left.)
Hazel asleep with her dear friend Cleo. (Hazel to the left.)

Love is??

Reflections on the meaning of love.

Yesterday, I explored love across the species; back to that first encounter between wolf and early man.

Today, I want to revisit what we mean when we use the word ‘love‘ and feel the emotion.  I say revisit because it’s not the first time I have dipped my toes into this particular pool.  Last August, I wrote a piece What is love?  It opened thus:

How the relationship that we have with domesticated animals taught us the meaning of love.

This exploration into the most fundamental emotion of all, love, was stimulated by me just finishing Pat Shipman’s book The Animal Connection.  Sturdy followers of Learning from Dogs (what a hardy lot you are!) will recall that about 5 weeks ago I wrote a post entitled The Woof at the Door which included an essay from Pat, republished with her permission, that set out how “Dogs may have been man’s best friend for thousands of years longer than we realized“.

The following day, I wrote a further piece introducing the book and then commenced reading it myself.  Please go there and read about the praise that the book has received.

What I want to do is to take a personal journey through love.  I should add immediately that I have no specialist or professional background with regard to ‘love’ just, like millions of others, a collection of experiences that have tapped me on the shoulder these last 67 years.

The challenge for us humans is that while we instinctively understand what emotions represent: love, fear, anger, joy, grief, sadness, happiness, et al, we really have no way of knowing precisely what another person is feeling and how that feeling compares to our own awareness and experience of that emotion.

Stay with me as I explore how others offer a meaning of love.

As it happens, this week’s Sabbath Moment from Terry Hershey was much about love.

If you judge people you have not time to love them. Mother Teresa

Where there is great love there are always miracles. Willa Cather

Someday, after we have mastered the winds, the waves, the tides, and gravity, we shall harness… the energies of love. Then for the second time in the history of the world man will have discovered fire. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Then some further reflections:

Here’s my take: Life is complicated and at times, very, very challenging. And sometimes, overwhelming.  Bad things can happen to good people. Decisions can be thorny and disconcerting. However. Even in the midst … where there is great love, there are always miracles.

and

Here’s the deal:

  • Love is not always where I predict it will be.
  • Love can grow and blossom even in the face of striving and anguish.
  • If we judge we cannot love. Just because I see something one way, doesn’t mean that I am right and you are wrong.
  • When we do love, we are present. When we are present, there is always a thread.  The good news is that we are in this together. One day you may be that thread for me. And one day, I may be that thread for you.

Powerful words! Words that will have many nodding.  Yet still nothing absolute that offers a definition of love that would be universally understood.  Because there can be no universal definition.  That is the magic of all emotions – they defy the ‘science of life’.  So let’s just treasure that magic.

A few days ago, Sue over at Dreamwalker’s Sanctuary wrote a post under the title of Cosmic Seeds of Thought.  With Sue’s kind permission, I republish that in full.

Last night I wrote this poem, its been a while since I posted one, so as my pen flew across the page I was inspired with these words.. Maybe due to the recent Solar flares, but my ears have been ringing ever louder as the energies have intensified.. The Silence space within is a place to reflect and absorb the peacefulness of Oneness with the Universe…. A place I often go, where we can just close our eyes to the constant noise as the Planet cries with yet more pain…  Meditation helps centre our minds. If you would like to follow a meditation I often do… You can find it Here on a post I did back in 2008 .

silence

Silence booms in an explosion of sound

Splintering static high pitched and loud

Morse Coded downloads in intermittent bursts

The Cosmos is talking-Do you hear its verse?

~~

I escape to the mountains and I run to the sea

But its chatter surrounds me as I long to be free

I hear cries of children, laments from the old

Each on a journey their stories to be told

~~

The Elephants and Dolphin their cries go unheard

Yet I hear their low rumbles and clicks how absurd

Each voice in the matrix – every thought in the mix

A Planet in Crisis – will it ever be fixed?

~~

So I turn down the volume as I shut the outer door

As I meditate inward finding higher-self law

Here I seek Peace in the stillness I find

The Key to the Cosmos we turn in the mind

~~

All things are great and all things are small

The Mind gives them power and shall overcome all

The Universal Plan- I am part and unique

Each one is searching to fit the pieces they seek

~~

And the answer is simple- but we make is so hard

With the choices we choose as we shuffle life’s cards

It seems we chose greed, possession is King

Forgetting how to love our fellow Human Being

~~

But it’s never too late for we each have a heart

To alter our ways – To care is a start

So clear out your Anger, your hatred and greed

Listen to your heartbeat –Start sowing Love Seeds

© Sue Dreamwalker – 2013 All rights reserved.

Start sowing love seeds!  Wonderful.

How to close it for today?  Frankly, I’m not sure.  So I’m going to ‘cheat’. By which I mean republish something else from last August. A guest essay about the loss of love.  Because it seems to me that one way (the only way?) to experience what love truly means is when we lose it. As Eleanore MacDonald describes below in the most heart-rending and beautiful fashion.

oooOOOooo

one of the seven great dogs

“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.”
Anatole France

Djuna Cupcake, my heart of hearts,
photo by Breelyn MacDonald

A great squall came upon us here on our farmlet a week ago. I saw it first from a distance, in that dawning of the morning when Djuna usually announced the coming day with his gentle, breathy ‘woooof’, his polite plea to join us on the bed. Mysteriously disturbing, it surely was a sign of things to come, but we didn’t know how dangerous it really was until it was upon us.

And when it was suddenly there, a Great Joy was sucked from our world and an overwhelming sadness took its place … a raging stillness, hot and stifling, no breath, no heartbeat.

My springs of Joy are dry … (a sentiment stolen in part from that great old song, Long Time Traveler)

Djuna Cupcake was one of the Seven Great Dogs. If you’ve seen the film ‘Dean Spanley’, you will know what I mean. If you have loved and been loved by a dog of pure heart … one who was a great teacher of presence, of patience, one who was the dispenser of unconditional love and the blessings of an incomparable joy … one who was a great listener, guardian, and the embodiment of Buddha, Coyote, the Goddesses Eleos and Kuan Yin all in one soft coated body … one who was your loving shadow because he or she felt that it was their job to see you safe at all times … you will know what I mean.

He died quite suddenly. Like that squall, his death came with no warning and for days after Paul and I were sucked deep into that great black hole of grief. The dread attacked us at every turn, where we would always see him but now only a glaring emptiness stood. I felt as though my heart and soul had a raw, oozing, gaping, searingly painful wound where he had been torn away from me. Stolen. We cried a lot.

Some people will never understand. I try to feel compassion for them, rather than issuing the big ‘EFF YOU”, but I am only human. What is this BS about a ‘three day’ rule? What? Because he was ‘just a dog’ we should be over it all in 3 days? Djuna was surely a better person than most Humans and I will never stop missing him. I feel so deeply sorry for those people who have overlooked having such grace and beauty bless their lives –– the companionship of a great dog (or cat or horse, or human person) –– so that, when the monumental end comes and they’ve come through the great fires of sorrow, and have been washed by the flush of a million tears, they come through to the other side where they are able to see the remarkable love, joys and lessons they’d been gifted by that companionship. I can only hope now to ‘be’ the person Djuna thought me to be.

3 days and 3 more and 3 million more and even then more just won’t do it.

Paul and I were with Djuna on our bedroom floor when he died. I lay with him next to my heart, whispering love, my arm draped over his neck … and as he was leaving us, I saw him standing just beyond Paul. Alert, ears akimbo, head cocked, eyes bright, a wad of socks in mouth, standing in his particularly great exuberance, as he did each morning when the time for chores presented itself – “Come on! It’s time to go! Get with it you silly humans! There’s work to be done, there’s a barn to clean and a day to sniff, there’s delight to be found!” And then he left.

My ‘joyometer’, my daily dispenser of mirth, and my constant reminder of the importance of presence, has gone missing – his lessons of ‘Be Here Now’ measured in doses of ’Oh, sense the beauty in the music of the wind!’, ‘Let’s just run in circles and laugh’, ‘I love, love, love you!’ … gone. It is wholly up to me now to remember to stay in each moment, to just be a nice person, cry whenever I must, to laugh as much as possible and dance for the sheer joy of it. And when the cacophony of the deafening silence has quieted and the colors of sorrow have muted and gone transparent and I’ve had some time to let the Aegean clean up those bloodied wounds in my heart and soul, there will be room again here for another one of the Seven Great Dogs. And the cycles will continue on.

Almost every evening Djuna and I took an evening stroll down our quiet lane. I loved watching him dance his great joy, nose to the ground scenting all of the news of the day or nose to the sky, sensing what was coming on the breeze. On our walks I watched the seasons change, the rising of the full moon, the greening of the new spring and the evening skies, like snowflakes, no one ever alike … I watched the Canadian geese come and go, the Red Tail hawks courting in the air above me, and let the build up of my day fall away as I tread softly with my gentle friend. It took me several days after Djuna’s death for me to realize that here was yet again another gift he had left for me in his wake, and one I should continue to enjoy. The sky was black to the West, we’d had heavy winds and rain all day, but when there was a break I set off on ‘our’ walk. Wrapped tightly in sadness and hardly breathing with the missing of him, I shuffled along about a 1/2 mile and turned for home before the rains started up and the chill wind began to blow, fierce again, from the south. That wind battered and bashed me until it freed the tears from my eyes, and the freezing rain lashed my face until I grew numb. As though suddenly realizing I was about to drown, I surfaced, taking in great gulps of air as though I’d not been breathing for several days, and began to climb free of the suffocating bonds of my sadness.

Part of our family

My Djuna, my Cupcake … My Heart of Hearts who knew my soul, my every thought; great lover of Paul and I, and of Breelyn; great lover of his mare and his pony, of socks and his furry toys and his GWBush chew doll; great lover of his evening walkies and of riding in the car, and feeding the birds; great lover of sofa naps and sleeping in late with us on the bed and chasing BALL and rolling on the grass and of eating horse poop; bountiful bestower of stealthy kisses; joyful jokester, Greek scholar (he knew about 15 words and understood several phrases spoken to him in Greek; something we did only after he’d begun to understand words and phrases *spelled out* in English! ‘Car’, ‘dinner?’, ‘play with the ball?’, ‘feed the birds’, water, pony, get the goat, etc!); Djuna, beloved Honorary Cat, our timekeeper, our guardian angel, our boss, our playfully dignified friend (thanks for that Marija) and family member, and one of the Seven Great Dogs – we will love and miss you forever.

But now – there’s work to be done, there’s a barn to clean and a new day to sniff, there’s delight to be found!

love – photo by Breelyn MacDonald

Copyright (c) 2012 Eleanore MacDonald

oooOOOooo