Tag: Mary Jo DiLonardo

Earth Day 2017

We must have a better relationship with our one and only planet!

There’s a part of me that sadly wonders why we, as in Jean and me, and undoubtedly countless others, bother with recognising ‘Earth Day’!

For in so many ways our Planet is screaming out that we humans are not doing enough to care for it! (Yes, I know that’s an emotional outburst from me!)

It could be argued that we don’t have a friendship with our planet. For if we cared for and loved our home planet as so many of us care for and love our animals what a difference that would make.

My way of introducing this recent essay from Mother Nature Network this Earth Day 2017.

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The power of unusual animal friendships

Studying odd couple animal friendships can help researchers learn what goes into normal human relationships.

Mary Jo DiLonardo

April 20, 2017
A ferret and a cat take a nap together. (Photo: Best dog photo/Shutterstock)

We know that sometimes animals have unlikely friendships. Whether it’s circumstances that throw them together or they just happen to find a friend from another species, animals will occasionally become pals, creating an unconventional alliance.

These unusual relationships cause a certain amount of double-takes — and they’re often incredibly adorable — but there’s also a scientific benefit to studying odd animal friendships.

“There’s no question that studying these relationships can give you some insight into the factors that go into normal relationships,” Gordon Burghardt, a professor in the departments of psychology and ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Tennessee, told the New York Times.

An African elephant and a giraffe have become unlikely pals due to the confines of a zoo. (Photo: Glass and Nature/Shutterstock)

Cross-species bonds typically occur in young animals, and they’re also common among captive animals that have no choice but to seek each other out.

“I think the choices animals make in cross-species relationships are the same as they’d make in same-species relationships,” Marc Bekoff, professor emeritus of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Colorado, told Slate. “Some dogs don’t like every other dog. Animals are very selective about the other individuals who they let into their lives.”

And when predator and prey become buddies, that requires serious trust from the animal on the prey end, Bekoff points out.

The polar bears at SeaWorld San Diego in happier times. (Photo: samantha celera/flickr)

Animal friendships — whether in their own species or outside — can be very meaningful. Consider the story of Szenja, a 21-year-old polar bear who died at SeaWorld San Diego in mid-April after an unexplained illness including loss of appetite and energy, according to The San Diego Union-Tribune. Szenja had recently been separated from her long-time companion, Snowflake, who had been sent to the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium for a breeding visit. The pair had been together for 20 years. The polar bears made headlines in March when more than 55,000 people signed a petition not to separate the “best friends.”

In a statement, PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Remain said Szenja died of a broken heart.

Humpty the hippo and her friend Sala the kudu are orphans who became friends at a wildlife sanctuary in Kenya. (Photo: The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust)

Here’s a look at some animal odd couples that have forged lasting bonds.

A llama nuzzles its sheep friend. (Photo: Katriona McCarthy/flickr)
This squirrel and wren are backyard BFFs. (Photo: Bonnie Taylor Barry/Shutterstock)
A pigeon hangs out with its rabbit friends. (Photo: Marina2811/Shutterstock)
This kitten and bearded dragon can’t get enough of each other. (Photo: ohheyitsnikki/imgur)

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Dear people, make a promise to improve the relationship we all have with our planet.

Happy Easter Days

Learning about happiness from our animals as new parents!

Spring is most definitely in the air with this recent post published over on the Mother Nature Network site.

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Happy animal parents show off their babies

Animals feel happiness (and maybe even pride) in their new offspring.

Mary Jo DiLonardo April 12, 2017.

These golden retriever parents appear quite pleased with the new arrivals. (Photo: reinederien/Reddit)

When animals have babies, we often ascribe human feelings to what they’re likely going through. They must be proud and happy showing off those sweet, little babies, we figure. After all, look how adorable the wee ones are.

But as proud and as happy as they might look, do animal parents really feel that way?

We checked in with Jonathan Balcombe, the director of Animal Sentience with the Humane Society Institute for Science, who has published more than 50 scientific papers on animal behavior, as well as several books including “Pleasurable Kingdom: Animals and the Nature of Feeling Good.”

“Having researched and written two books on animal pleasure, I feel well qualified that say that animals clearly know happiness,” Balcombe says. “Bearing and raising young surely brings many forms of satisfaction and joy for animal parents, as we know it does for us.”

The idea of whether animals experience pride may not be so clear.

“Whether they feel ‘pride’ is an interesting question, and a rather anthropomorphic one in that it is an emotion that we egocentric humans know well, but one that might not apply to non-humans,” Balcombe says. “I don’t think that matters though; what is important to recognize is that other species have lives that matter to them and that is not just because they have an interest in avoiding pain and suffering, but because they also seek pleasures and rewards.”

With that in mind, here’s a photo roundup of some animal parents with their new offspring. (They certainly seem happy!)

‘Yep, I made these.’ (Photo: yasmapaz & ace_heart/flickr)
Sweetie looks awfully happy with her new puppy. (Photo: SmileLikeAKat/imgur)
They’re just so teeny. (Photo: mjconns/Reddit)
Sophia, an orangutan at Chicago’s Brookfield Zoo, holds her new baby. (Photo: Jim Schulz/Chicago Zoological Society)
This bulldog dad hangs out with his son. (Photo: STARER_OF_CAMELTOES/imgur)
This Australian shepherd mom has a little guy who looks just like her. (Photo: Techdestro/Reddit)

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Yes, Spring is most certainly Sprung.

I have used this line before and will now show my age by sharing the full ‘poem’.

Spring is Sprung

“Spring has sprung,
The Grass has riz,
I wonder where the birdies is?
The bird is on the wing,
But that’s absurd!
The wing is on the bird!”

I don’t know the origins of this silly verse but suspect it may have been The Goon Show, as described (in part) on WikiPedia:

The Goon Show was a British radio comedy programme, originally produced and broadcast by the BBC Home Service from 1951 to 1960, with occasional repeats on the BBC Light Programme. The first series broadcast from 28 May to 20 September 1951, was titled Crazy People; subsequent series had the title The Goon Show, a title inspired, according to Spike Milligan, by a Popeye character.[1]

The show’s chief creator and main writer was Spike Milligan. The scripts mixed ludicrous plots with surreal humour, puns, catchphrases and an array of bizarre sound effects. Some of the later episodes feature electronic effects devised by the fledgling BBC Radiophonic Workshop, many of which were reused by other shows for decades. Many elements of the show satirised contemporary life in Britain, parodying aspects of show business, commerce, industry, art, politics, diplomacy, the police, the military, education, class structure, literature and film.

We can never have too much laughter and happiness in our lives!

Santa Monica goodness!

Unfettered, unrestrained kindness.

Those of you that followed that terrible act of murder and mayhem on Westminster Bridge and near the Palace of Westminster not so many days ago will have been fully aware of the way that ordinary people, going about their ordinary lives, rushed to the aid of the injured.

Members of the public rush to help a man run down after the vehicle struck.

So just hold that image in your head while I extend the idea of helping others, as described in a recent item on Mother Nature Network.

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Firefighter saves dog with ‘mouth to snout’ resuscitation

Mary Jo DiLonardo

March 24, 2017.
Photo Courtesy of Billy Fernando

When Santa Monica firefighters were called to a burning apartment, they found the lifeless body of a tiny dog overcome by the heat and smoke on the floor of a bedroom. They pulled out the dog, named Nalu, but he wasn’t breathing and didn’t have a pulse.

For 20 minutes, firefighter Andrew Klein performed CPR including “mouth to snout” resuscitation on the 10-year-old bichon frise/Shih Tzu, while his owner knelt by thinking the little dog had died. Firefighters also gave the dog oxygen through a specially designed mask for pets. And then a small miracle happened: he eventually regained consciousness, according to a Facebook post from the Santa Monica Fire Department.

Photo Courtesy of Billy Fernando

“It was pretty amazing because I’ve been on a number of animal rescues like this that did not come out the same way that Nalu’s story did,” Klein told KTLA. “It was definitely a win for the whole team and the department that we got him back.”

Nalu was taken to the vet where he spent 24 hours in an oxygen chamber and is now doing well.

Photo Courtesy of Billy Fernando

“I stood there in shock, and then I followed them and was in shock,” Nalu’s owner, Crystal Lamirande, said. “I’m a nurse and now I know how family members feel when they watch us do CPR on their family members. It’s awful.”

Photographer Billy Fernando was on the scene and captured photos and videos of the rescue. His video shows firefighters patting Nalu and rubbing his side as they give him oxygen saying, “C’mon bud” and “Atta boy” as he starts to come around.

“This brave firemen (sic) named Andrew Klein from Santa Monica Fire Department went in for the rescue and gave the pet a CPR and took care of him back to life,” he wrote on Facebook and Instagram. “Faith in humanity restored.”

Photo Courtesy of Billy Fernando

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Now I don’t care what can go wrong in this world if there are always people who in an instant can demonstrate unfettered, unrestrained kindness like those wonderful people on that bridge in London and those wonderful people who are part of the Santa Monica Fire Department team.

One-way streets.

Life is not a rehearsal.

Jean and I can’t imagine being the age that we are and living on our own. Yet, realistically, the time will come when either Jean or me will be the surviving spouse. Not something that we want to think about. But when it does come to that point, it would be a million times worse if being left alone meant losing one’s partner and being utterly alone; as in no animals around the house. For both Jean and me having a dog or two in our lives at that stage will make it easier to cope.

No better highlighted than a recent article over on Mother Nature Network. That article is republished for you good people.

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Senior dogs and veterans are better together

One Last Treat pairs them up with beautiful results.

Mary Jo DiLonardo

March 20, 2017
Greg Brabaw and Pops enjoy a sunny moment together. (Photo: Mike Walzak/One Last Treat)

A longtime Marine in Vietnam, Detroit veteran Greg Brabaw was living at home with no family and few friends when someone reached out to the One Last Treat organization on his behalf. They thought Brabaw might be a good candidate for the group’s program pairing vets with senior dogs looking for homes. Soon, the grizzled Brabaw met Pops, a little Chihuahua.

“Greg was really all alone. When we brought him Pops, he basically opened up to us and told us how much Pops allowed him to think about something other than his own suffering” says Joel Rockey, the founder of One Last Treat. “They are pretty much best friends now.”

The nonprofit, which got started in the summer of 2016, hunts for senior dogs looking to live out the rest of their lives with love and attention. A special program under the group’s umbrella, called Vet Friend Till the End, finds the dogs homes with veterans and then pays all the pets’ health bills.

Rockey came up with the idea not long after spending five years in the Navy in Iraq and Afghanistan and returning home. He wanted to focus his energy on something he felt passionate about, and he happened upon an old pug in a snowstorm. The dog was blind, deaf and injured, but Rockey took him home and named him Lurch.

“He only lived for three more months, but we gave him a pretty awesome three more months,” Rockey says. “I felt really compelled to gear my energy towards animals and how to make their lives better. I liked being there in their last moments, so I called my vet buddies and they were down with the idea.”

Homes instead of treats

Veteran Dave Kidder recently adopted his new pal, Peggy Sue. (Photo: One Last Treat)

Originally, the team planned to bring treats to senior dogs that were about to be euthanized in animal shelters. But shelters didn’t want to call attention to the last hours of those dogs, so they had to formulate a new game plan.

Now they find senior dogs and get them first into foster homes, and then into adoptive homes. In the nine or so months the group has existed, they’ve found homes for about 25 dogs. Many are adopted by everyday people; some are adopted by veterans. If a veteran adopts a dog from their organization or another rescue, they’ll pay the veterinarian bills for the rest of the dog’s life. The majority of dogs have come from the Detroit area, but the group has pulled dogs out of shelters when they’ve been in California and have veteran/dog “teams” coming on board in Ohio, Missouri and California.

“We try to pull animals that will be good companion animals … relaxed and laid-back and not too much going on healthwise,” Rockey says. “Maybe they’re starting to go downhill a little bit but not knocking on the door.” That way the dogs might be with their adopters for at least a few years, he says.

There are currently working with seven dog/veteran teams. Supporters often donate to a specific team to help pay their bills.

Rockey’s own rescue dog, Bandit, is more than 16 years old. (Photo: One Last Treat)

Rockey says the benefits to the dogs is obvious; they get homes instead of being overlooked. But the benefit to the veterans is unmeasurable.

“The biggest thing is self importance. As a vet myself, I think veterans, when they get out of the military, aren’t asked to do anything anymore,” Rockey says. “They start losing self importance. Everyone is thanking them, but they’re not being asked to do anything. When they’re taking care of a senior animal, they’re needed and it creates a new sense of value in their life.”

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Do drop into the website for that organisation One Last Treat and sign up for their newsletter. It strikes me as a great cause.

Sweet Senior Solutions!

Where did it all go?

I am, of course, referring to the years of one’s life. From the minutia that we are already over half-way through the month of March to the rather broader acceptance that this coming November will see me turn seventy-three!

The trick to surviving these senior years is to focus on living in the present moment as much as one can and not worrying about the world around us or where on earth it is all heading to!

Yes, this living in the present lark is so much easier to write than it is to practice. If only we had the same knack of living in the present that our dogs do. Take, for example, dear old Pharaoh. Now well into his thirteenth year (he will be fourteen in June) he really struggles to move around with his very weak rear hips. He frequently poops himself and just as frequently has to be assisted by me or Jean to get him onto his feet. But is there ever a complaint from the old man? No! Never!

Every evening when we are all ready to go to bed and the dogs are let out for their night-time ‘pee’, Pharaoh always comes up to Jean and nuzzles her and enjoys having his head fondly stroked by Jean. What a stoic, wonderful dog he is.

So after yesterday’s post about dear old Roman up in Seattle how serendipitous it was to read yesterday the following item over on the Mother Nature Network site.

It is republished here.

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9 sweet reminders why you should adopt a senior pet

Mary Jo DiLonardo   March 13, 2017

Older rescue dogs have a leg up on younger dogs when it comes to napping skills. (Photo: ShawshankRedemption/imgur)

When you decide to bring a new pet into your home, it can be tempting to pick up a puppy or kitten. They’re all cuteness and goofiness and you know that hopefully they’ll be with you for a healthy, long life. But there’s a special place in animal lover’s heaven — or at least boatloads of good karma — for people who adopt older pets. They don’t know the animal’s history and know their time with them is limited, but they open their hearts and homes just the same.

Here’s a look at some of these sweet senior adoptions that will make your heart melt.

Reddit user ShawshankRedemption got the sweet rescue dog above, who apparently really knows how to nap. “The pound had guessed her at 14 when they picked her off the street and the vet doesn’t bother to guess. Medical costs have been ok, it was just a lot at first since she was sick and malnourished from being neglected,” he writes. “I have to say it’s all been worth it.”

Polly was given up to a shelter by her owner, who offered to pay to have her euthanized. (Photo: rocknroll_heart/Reddit)

Reddit user rocknroll_heart adopted Polly, a special needs senior dog that was about to be euthanized. She’s deaf and had to have dental surgery because of major issues with her teeth.

“I’ll be honest — I was a little worried about adopting a senior dog because I knew I’d be devastated if I only had a limited time with her,” she writes. ” However, I’ve made it my mission to make sure her limited time here would be the best time a dog could ever have because she hasn’t had the best of care up until now. Now I’d like to only adopt senior dogs because I see how happy she is now, and I’m sure there are many out there who need that level of care as well.”

Steve Greig hangs out with his dogs, while posing for the RescueMen charity calendar. (Photo: wolfgang2242/Instagram)

Steve Greig’s house in Colorado is kind of a sanctuary for mostly senior dogs and the occasional pig and rabbit. He’s been featured on a RescueMen charity calendar and is constantly opening his home to older pets in need of a place to stay.

“I get asked a lot about how I managed to cope with the inevitable heartbreak that comes with senior dog adoption. I think that the heartbreak is offset by the increased appreciation I have for life specifically because I have a house full of seniors,” Greig writes on his popular Instagram account.

“When you are young or when your pets are young its easy to take them (and everything else) for granted. The end is so far away that you don’t even think about it and it’s easy to overlook the intricate beauty of the daily dance … Having senior pets helps to change that pattern and slow everything down. I watch them so closely. I help them with things that younger pets can do for themselves and so I get to celebrate the ordinary; days when everyone eats all their food, the nights we are able to go for a walk, the times they don’t need any medicine, or the times when the medicine they do need cures them. Those little things make me stop and feel that everything is right in the world at that moment. It makes me look around and take stock of all the love in my life, and smile about the love that has been there before.”

Pepper’s new owner doesn’t know how he lost his left ear. (Photo: CallMeAl_/Reddit)

Senior cat Pepper was given up for adoption when his owner moved to a place that doesn’t allow cats. Reddit user CallMeAl_ says the kitty was obviously well loved and well cared for. She believes his owner was elderly and had to move to a senior facility.

“That broke my heart imagining someone crying while dropping off this sweet sweet cat,” she writes.

Rocky lounges after a walk. (Photo: trebleKat/Reddit)

Reddit users termisique and trebleKat adopted Rocky, an 11-year-old German shepherd and harrier hound mix dog that no one else would rescue. Their cat is still adjusting to the new roommate, but Rocky is certainly getting comfortable in his new home.

“He is missing most of his teeth and has hip dysplasia, but is sweet and well trained. Our plan is to spoil him and keep him happy for the rest of his days.”

Molly says Otitis is very empathetic and can tell when she’s having a bad day. (Photo: Adventures of Otitis/Facebook)

When Molly Lichtenwalner met Otitis, the senior white cat had been surrendered by his family who couldn’t afford to pay for the surgery to have his ears removed. Now earless, he’s no longer suffering from painful cysts, but he certainly has an unusual appearance.

“When I came across Otitis, I knew he was the perfect cat for me,” Lichtenwalner told the Dodo. “He was an older, special needs cat that I knew needed the home and love that I absolutely knew I could give him. I found out later that many people asked about him, but no one ever put in an application for him — I was the first.”

Lichtenwalner is writing a children’s book based on Otitis about discovering how your disability can make you special. You can follow the kitty’s exploits on Facebook and Instagram.

Reddit user sicwriter adopted this sweet older corgi/collie mix. (Photo: sicwriter/imgur)

Reddit user sicwriter posted adorable images of this older corgi/collie mix, who he adopted. “Rescued my new best friend a month ago — a reminder that older dogs need homes too!”

Can you tell where Midnight ends and the blanket begins? (Photo: Kaalb/Reddit)

Midnight has feline herpes and extra toes, but her illness and polydactyl tendencies didn’t stop Reddit user Kaalb from adopting the beautiful senior kitty.

“She’s a cuddle bug and adorable!” she writes.

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This is what life is all about!

(P.S. Don’t forget to keep looking for a loving home for Senior Roman.)

 

So! How cool is this!

The world of music as heard by our dogs!

Many people beyond Jean and me must be aware that whatever is showing on the television has a very soothing effect upon dogs. As in our dogs are quickly fast asleep in the evenings when we sit down after our evening meal.

But some research is pointing the finger more at what our dogs hear than what they see. (Oh, does anyone know the factual answer to the question of whether dogs can even make out images on a television screen?)
Mary Jo DiLonardo, a frequent writer over on the Mother Nature Network, recently wrote about the calming influence over dogs of certain types of music.

It’s a great read and I’m very happy to share it with you.

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Stressed dogs prefer reggae and soft rock

Study of shelter dogs finds music lowers cortisol levels, heart rate.

Mary Jo DiLonardo    January 27, 2017

dog-wearning-blue-headphones-jpg-653x0_q80_crop-smart
Is she jamming to Bob Marley, by any chance? (Photo: Luna Vandoorne/Shutterstock)

When you crank the music, do you ever think about your dog’s musical tastes? If your pup needs to chill, you may want to put on some Bob Marley or John Denver.

Researchers at the University of Glasgow worked in conjunction with the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) to see how various types of music affected the stress levels of kenneled dogs. Shelter dogs listened to a wide range of music from Spotify playlists. The genres varied from day to day, with the furry residents listening to classical, reggae, soft rock, pop and Motown in a series of experiments.

While each genre was playing, the researchers measured the dogs’ stress levels by monitoring their heart rate variability and cortisol levels. They also kept track of whether the dogs were lying down or barking while the music was on.

The researchers found that regardless of what type of music was playing, the dogs were generally “less stressed” with music vs. without. They spent significantly more time lying down (versus standing) when any type of music was playing. They also seemed to show a slight preference for reggae and soft rock, with Motown coming in last, but not by much.

Musical tastes may vary

The responses to the genres was mixed, co-author Neil Evans, a professor of integrative physiology, told the Washington Post.

“What we tended to see was that different dogs responded differently,” Evans said. “There’s possibly a personal preference from some dogs for different types of music, just like in humans.”

The results make a good argument for playing music in shelters, where dogs can be frightened by unfamiliar surroundings. Evans points out that stress can cause dogs to bark, cower and behave in ways that makes it hard for them to be adopted. It’s worth noting that in the tests, playing music of any kind didn’t make barking dogs stop barking; however, when the music stopped, quiet dogs were more likely to start barking.

“We want the dogs to have as good an experience as they can in a shelter,” said Evans, who pointed out that people looking to adopt “want a dog who is looking very relaxed and interacts with them.”

Two of the Scottish SPCA’s facilities now play music for their residents, and the research has convinced them to expand the program. The research has been published in the journal Physiology & Behavior.

“Having shown that variety is key to avoid habituation, the Scottish SPCA will be investing in sound systems for all their kennels,” the charity said on its website. “In the future, every center will be able to offer our four-footed friends a canine-approved playlist with the view to extending this research to other species in the charity’s care.”

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Really great work on behalf of our wonderful dogs.

Who knows! The findings from this research may filter down to that species of creature that tends to share their world with dogs: homo sapiens!

Yes, I’m a coward!

I just can’t publish the Dogs vs. Wives list!

It is, after all, the season of goodwill.

But there was more to my decision about not publishing the list; I didn’t want hundreds of you telling me to go and put this blog where the sun doesn’t shine!

Let me explain.

Bob Derham, a long-term friend for many years back in the ‘old country’, four days ago sent me an email that contained: Sixteen Logical Reasons Why Some Men Have Dogs And Not Wives:

Here’s an example:

derham
3. Dogs like it if you leave lots 
Of things on the floor.

You get the drift of the theme!

My email reply read: Will have to think very carefully as to how this one is presented. Probably blame you!! 😉

I thought carefully and decided not to publish!

I preferred to republish this recent article from Mother Nature Network.

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13 of the world’s most gentle dog breeds

By: Mary Jo DiLonardo on Dec. 21, 2016.

collie-retriever-wearing-flowers-jpg-638x0_q80_crop-smartSweet-natured personalities

Some dog breeds are spastic, while others are incredibly calm. Some breeds have reputations for playfulness, while more athletic types work on farms bossing around sheep or find their calling doing police work.

But there are plenty of dog breeds that are just generally sweet and loving and gentle. Kids can crawl all over them, take toys out of their mouth or even mess with them at mealtime, and these sweet pups don’t care.

Here’s a look at some of the most gentle dog breeds around.

golden-retriever-jpg-638x0_q80_crop-smartGolden retriever

Picture Parade One Hundred and Seventy-Four

Today’s picture parade also comes with words.

Originally seen on Mother Nature Network where it was published by Mary Jo Dilonardo back on November 8th.

Take a moment of Zen with these dogs

Chilled-out canines experience a moment of utter calmness

fred-jpg-838x0_q80
Fred the Basset hound appears to have more Zen moments than most dogs. (Photo: ‘Zen Dogs’ by Alex Cearns/HarperOne)

Australian animal photographer Alex Cearns remembers the first Zen dog image she ever captured, a Shar-Pei named Suzi.

“During her photo session, I caught a shot of her with her eyes closed, and a big smile on her face. I called the image ‘Zen Dog,’ and when her owners saw it, they immediately fell in love with the vibe of the image and with Suzi’s relaxed and happy pose,” Cearns says.

“With such positive feedback, I became keen to capture the emotion and moment of being a Zen dog for other dogs who visited my studio.”

Cearns tries to take at least one Zen-like image for every dog photo session she conducts at her Houndstooth Studio, even if the process takes time. She has compiled 80 of these images of meditative canines in her new book “Zen Dogs.”

Bailey is an Australian shepherd. (Photo: 'Zen Dogs' by Alex Cearns/HarperOne)
Bailey is an Australian shepherd. (Photo: ‘Zen Dogs’ by Alex Cearns/HarperOne)

To get her canine subjects to relax, Cearns makes sure they are authentically calm and happy. Her studio is small, quiet and without many distractions.

“During my photo sessions, I realized that some types of dogs are more likely to close their eyes than others,” Cearns says. “Dogs who were fairly laid back, or who liked to lie about were easier to photograph in a Zen state, whereas dogs overly fixated on toys or treats wouldn’t close their eyes for a second, should the toy or treat disappear. They kept their eyes firmly on the prize.”

Lexie the Weimaraner looks stately. (Photo: 'Zen Dogs' by Alex Cearns/HarperOne)
Lexie the Weimaraner looks stately. (Photo: ‘Zen Dogs’ by Alex Cearns/HarperOne)

Although it might look like the dogs are zoned out or even sleeping, that’s not the case; Cearns has skillfully caught a restful moment with her camera.

“The images capture a split second blink of my dog subjects, freezing the moment in time,” she says. “Sitting only a foot away, I’m able to watch each dog subject carefully to pick up on their blinking pattern, and take a series of images just before I predict their blink.”

Barney is a Cavalier King Charles spaniel. (Photo: 'Zen Dogs' by Alex Cearns /HarperOne)
Barney is a Cavalier King Charles spaniel. (Photo: ‘Zen Dogs’ by Alex Cearns /HarperOne)

The book “Zen Dogs” includes photos of a wide range of breeds, interspersed with Zen-inspired quotes by Gandhi, Buddha, St. Francis of Assisi and others with thoughtful, meditative words to share. There’s this one, for example, from “Unknown”:

If you’re always racing to the next moment, what happens to the one you’re in?

Muska is a relaxed Hungarian vizsla. (Photo: 'Zen Dogs' by Alex Cearns/HarperOne)
Muska is a relaxed Hungarian vizsla. (Photo: ‘Zen Dogs’ by Alex Cearns/HarperOne)

“As soon as a dog visits my studio, I aim to genuinely make friends with them and ensure they are comfortable and feel secure,” says Cearns. “I try to find out what they love most — a certain type of treat, or a particular toy — and then use that knowledge to win them over.”

Kono is a miniature poodle in a moment of Zen. (Photo: 'Zen Dogs' by Alex Cearns /HarperOne)
Kono is a miniature poodle in a moment of Zen. (Photo: ‘Zen Dogs’ by Alex Cearns /HarperOne)

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Don’t know about you but I have been incredibly stressed out these last few weeks. So that saying: If you’re always racing to the next moment, what happens to the one you’re in? really speaks to me.

Big hugs to you all.

Lessons from our older dogs.

“Not even old age knows how to love death.”
So wrote Sophocles.
Encyclopedia Britannica offers us this:
Sophocles, (born c. 496 bc, Colonus, near Athens [Greece]—died 406, Athens) with Aeschylus and Euripides, one of classical Athens’ three great tragic playwrights. The best known of his 123 dramas is Oedipus the King.
The reason for me selecting this start to today’s post is simply that I wanted to bring into focus the stark reality that death is one of the very few unavoidable certainties for every living creature (with perhaps tax being the other one for us humans!).
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Older dogs can teach us a thing or two about unconditional love

Photos reveal special bond between senior pups and their people.

Mary Jo DiLonardo

October 31, 2016
Clementine the pug was the inspiration for Sobel's book. (Photo: Jane Sobel Klonsky)
Clementine the pug was the inspiration for Sobel’s book. (Photo: Jane Sobel Klonsky)

Creative inspiration hit, of all places, in the insurance office. Photographer Jane Sobel Klonsky was sitting in her broker’s office in her small town of Manchester, Vermont, when she was transfixed by the bond between a woman and her older dog.

“This big old bulldog was sitting in a bed next to (my broker) and she had her hand on Clementine’s side and a lightbulb went off. I thought I want to document these really intense relationships we have with our dogs,” Klonsky says. “There was so much poignancy in the relationship she had with an older dog, so much kindness and love. They just lived in the moment and taught us to be better people, and I thought this is what I wanted to do.”

Clementine (pictured above) became the first subject for Klonsky’s book “Unconditional: Older Dogs, Deeper Love,” in which she captures the special relationship between senior dogs and their people.

“Clementine has a wonderful, quirky personality that has always made me certain that she communicates with me,” her owner, Phil Arbolino, writes. “The tilt of her head, the look in her eyes, her enthusiasm when I come home, and her joy when we play with her toys have been the greatest evidence that her love for us is real and unconditional. And we have unconditional love for her in return.”

 Walt loves the company of others, but really only has eyes for Judy. (Photo: Jane Sobel Klonsky)
Walt loves the company of others, but really only has eyes for Judy. (Photo: Jane Sobel Klonsky)

Klonsky started photographing friends’ dogs in Vermont and then progressed to friends of friends’ dogs. Eventually she branched out and began taking images of dogs all over the country. Like Walt, who lives in Texas.

When Judy Coates was 80, her son and his family gave her a Great Dane puppy as a combination Mother’s Day and birthday present.

“Life with Walt is so amazing because of his size and his gentleness,” Coates writes. “His love is so real — so uncomplicated. I am blessed to know this marvelous animal. Walt brings joy to my life, and to a lot of others who snicker when they see this little, gray-haired lady driving around town with his huge head hanging out the rear window.”

Ozzie, an Australian kelpie-shepherd mix, enjoys the water. (Photo: Jane Sobel Klonsky)
Ozzie, an Australian kelpie-shepherd mix, enjoys the water. (Photo: Jane Sobel Klonsky)

When Klonsky began her project, she had only planned to include photographs. “I always believed the image would tell the whole story,” she says. But her husband suggested she have her human subjects share stories about their canine relationships.

“I started asking people to write about their special bonds and what made their dogs so special to them. Everyone willingly said they would love to do it. I think sometimes it was hard for them to put their feelings into words.”

Seline Skoug writes about her Australian kelpie-shepherd mix, Ozzie (pictured above): “Ozzie and I may be free souls, but we always return home to where our hearts are. Never have I had a dog who understands me as well as he does. Never has he wavered in being there for my family and me.”

The secret story is in the eyes

Lucy and Savvy are two spaniel BFFs. (Photo: Jane Sobel Klonsky)
Lucy and Savvy are two spaniel BFFs. (Photo: Jane Sobel Klonsky)

Senior dogs communicate a whole lifetime of living just in their eyes, says Klonsky. “Most of these senior dogs just look at you and look into your soul. They have this intense love that they want to give.”

A well-lived life means a bit of a carpe diem attitude, which Klonsky says the dogs seem willing to share with their human families. “I see it all in their eyes. They say it doesn’t matter what happened yesterday. Let’s live for today. They’re wiser and calmer, and they can share that with us.”

Shelby the corgi hangs out in the car with her owner, Robert. (Photo: Jane Sobel Klonsky)

Sometimes they live life on their own terms.

“Shelby came into our lives like a tempest and took on the demeanor of a precocious kid,” writes Robert Gutbier. “Food and rides in the truck are her top priorities, with Debbie and I being third on the list. Always watching her human charges from a polite distance, Shelby gives love and affection as needed — but always on her terms. Such is a Corgi.”

Jennifer Lalli goes fishing with her dog, Barbarella. (Photo: Jane Sobel Klonsky)
Jennifer Lalli goes fishing with her dog, Barbarella. (Photo: Jane Sobel Klonsky)

Many of the dogs photographed in the book are now gone. For example, Jennifer Lalli writes of her pit bull, Barbarella: “I didn’t think I could live without her. We were a team. We faced everything together. Side by side, we were strong, intelligent, and beautiful. Now my once-in-a-lifetime dog is gone.”

Although some people might think of the project as melancholy, Klonsky says she doesn’t.

“I never thought of it as sad. I think of it as a celebration of relationships. I look at it as very beautiful.”

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“A celebration of relationships.”

Exactly!

More calming.

For dogs and for us humans!

Coincidentally, thinking of yesterday’s post, The Power of a Good Massage, there in my email ‘in-box’ was an item from Mary Jo Dilonardo  of the Mother Nature Network. It’s a perfect follow-on.

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‘Real life’ room lets shelter dogs de-stress (and hang on the couch)

Adopters and pets can check each other out in a home-like setting.

Mary Jo DiLonardo

October 19, 2016
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Long-time resident Jake takes a break in Toledo Area Humane Society’s Real Life Room. (Photo: Toledo Area Humane Society/Facebook)

Being at an animal shelter is anything but a normal experience. Dogs and cats are often stressed from all the noises, smells and just the strange environment. And for potential adopters, it’s tough to figure out a pet’s personality when the dog is panting, pacing and generally anxious.

One Ohio animal shelter came up with a calming solution. The Toledo Area Humane Society created what they call a Real Life Room. The out-of-the-way place has a home-like setting, filled with a comfortable recliner, a fluffy rug, a dog bed, a big box of toys and even a TV. The goal is to make dogs and owners feel like they’re at home, away from all the strangeness of the shelter.

Behind the closed door, the pet can relax — and the family can get a sense of what the dog or cat is really like.

Sometimes the shelter also uses the room to give stressed-out shelter dogs a place to unwind for a while. Some long-time residents that seem particularly unhappy with their shelter stay have had their spirits lifted by visiting the room, according to the shelter.

“Every dog reacts differently to the kennels: Some dogs really don’t mind the noise and energy of that environment. However, for dogs that were surrendered to the shelter, that can be a shocking contrast to the comforts they previously experienced at their homes,” a representative for the shelter told People.

“For these dogs, the RLR (Real Life Room) provides an environment they are used to. Dogs that are stressed from the kennels because of the noise, high volume of people, and other dogs, the RLR allows them to have some quiet time where they can relax and destress, just be a dog.”

The Austin Animal Center in Texas likes the idea so much, it’s including a real life room as part of the shelter’s new expansion project.

“It’s hard to get to know a dog when you’re just taking them for a walk or taking them out to a play yard,” Austin Animal Center Kasey Spain tells MNN. “With these rooms, you can go there with a cat or dog and see if they cuddle on the couch, if they’re playful, if they jump on the furniture … everything that potential adopters want to know.”

When pets aren’t as stressed, their real personalities shine through, Spain says, and that often translates to the real goal: more adoptions.

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Kasey Spain is so correct in saying that when a pet animal isn’t stressed their real personality shows through. Remember this photo from last Thursday!

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My case rests!

However, I can’t close today’s post without appealing to anyone thinking of taking on a dog to opt for a dog from your local animal rescue shelter. Ex-rescue dogs repay that trust shown to them in spades!