Tag: Mary Jo DiLonardo

My furry friend’s breath!

Dogs see cleanliness from a different angle to most of us.

Can’t resist starting today’s post with that silly joke: “My friend’s breath is so bad, we don’t know if he needs gum or toilet paper.”

But, dear friends, this post is not about how smelly or not we humans are but it is about how our dogs clearly see what they smell like in a different way to you and me.

All brought on by a lovely, and most interesting, article that appeared on Mother Nature Network on May 17th.

Have a read:

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Why do dogs like to roll in smelly things?

Mary Jo DiLonardo May 17, 2017.

Rolling in smelly stuff just feels so good. (Photo: Cindy Haggerty/Shutterstock)

We know dogs have amazing noses. Scientists say their sense of smell is anywhere between 10,000 and 100,000 times more acute than ours. While humans have a mere 6 million olfactory receptors in our noses, dogs have somewhere around 300 million, according to Nova.

But that doesn’t mean their idea of what smells “good” matches our sensibilities.

If your canine buddy runs across an overturned garbage can or something dead in the backyard, there’s a good chance he’ll roll around in it until he’s good and stinky too. Does your dog just like the gross smell or is there some other innate reason for what we think is a disgusting habit? Animal behaviorists have several theories.

They’re trying to hide their own smell

Well-known dog expert and psychologist Stanley Coren, author of many books on dog behavior, says the explanation that seems to make the most evolutionary sense is that dogs roll in odoriferous things to disguise their own scent.

“The suggestion is that we are looking at a leftover behavior from when our domestic dogs were still wild and had to hunt for a living,” Coren says. “If an antelope smelled the scent of a wild dog, or jackal or wolf nearby, it would be likely to bolt and run for safety.”

But if a dog’s wild ancestors rolled in the dung of antelope or carrion, prey antelopes would be less suspicious than if the animal smelled like its true self. This would allow those wild canines to get closer to their prey.

Animal behaviorist Patricia B. McConnell is skeptical of this theory.

“First off, most prey animals are highly visual, and use sight and sound to be on the alert for predators. It’s not that they can’t use their noses, but their noses are dependent on wind direction and so sight and sound are often more important,” McConnell writes, noting that’s why hoofed animals have eyes on the sides of their head and ears that swivel around, in order to see and hear animals sneaking up from behind.

“In addition, if a prey animal’s sensory ability is good enough to use scent as a primary sense for predator detection, surely they could still smell the scent of dog through the coating of yuck. Neither does this explain the intense desire of dogs to roll in fox poop.”

They’re trying to share their own smell

Just like a cat will rub up against you to mark you with its smell, some behaviorists theorize that a dog will roll in something stinky to try to cover up the smell with its own scent. Just like dogs will roll around on a new dog bed or toy as if they are trying to claim it as their own, Coren writes, some psychologists have suggested that dogs will roll in grossness or rub against people trying to leave a trace of themselves.

Again, McConnell disagrees, pointing out that dogs have much easier and effective tools if they want to make their mark.

“This idea makes little sense to me, since dogs use urine and feces to scent mark just about everything and anything,” she writes. “Why bother with the milder scent of a shoulder or the ruff around one’s neck when you’ve got urine to use?”

It’s a communication tool

Being smelly is a way to communicate to other dogs what a dog has found. (Photo: Ivica Drusany/Shutterstock)

Dogs might roll around in smelly things because it’s one way to bring news back to the rest of the pack about what they’ve found.

Pat Goodmann, research associate and curator of Wolf Park in Indiana, has extensively studied wolves and scent rolling.

“When a wolf encounters a novel odor, it first sniffs and then rolls in it, getting the scent on its body, especially around the face and neck,” Goodmann says. “Upon its return, the pack greets it and during the greeting investigates the scent thoroughly. At Wolf Park, we’ve observed several instances where one or more pack members has then followed the scent directly back to its origin.”

But it’s not just gross smells that attract this rolling behavior. Goodman placed an array of smells in the wolf enclosures and found that the wolves were just as likely to roll in mint extract or perfume as they were to get up close and personal with fish sandwiches, elk droppings or fly repellent.

Motor system link to the brain

Yet another theory, according to Alexandra Horowitz, author of “Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know,” who runs the dog cognition lab at Barnard College, is that there’s a link between the nose and the brain. A stinky odor that lights up the olfactory lobe in a dog’s brain also works on the brain’s motor cortex. That communication tells the dog to get some serious contact with the smelly new discovery, Horowitz tells the New York Times.

“There’s no ‘noxious scent’ receptor in the dog’s brain,” she added. “But they do seem particularly interested in rolling in smells that we find somewhere between off-putting and disgusting.”

It makes them feel cool

But maybe the reason dogs roll in gross things is to show off to their canine friends. It could be the same reason some of us wear flashy clothes or smelly perfume. McConnell calls it the “guy-with-a-gold-chain” hypothesis.

“Perhaps dogs roll in stinky stuff because it makes them more attractive to other dogs,” she says. “‘Look at me! I have dead fish in my territory! Am I not cool?!’ Behavioral ecology reminds us that much of animal is related to coping with limited resources — from food to mates to good nesting sites. If a dog can advertise to other dogs that they live in an area with lots of dead things, then to a dog, what could be better?”

Can you stop the rolling?

Get used to giving baths or keep your dog on a leash. (Photo: Shevs/Shutterstock)

Whatever the reason for your dog’s roll in the muck, there’s little chance you can get him to change his habits.

“With thousands of years of practice backing their interest, dogs will continue to go boldly where no man, or woman, would ever choose to go,” says veterinarian Marty Becker. “The only surefire way to stop the stinky sniff-and-roll is to keep your dog on the leash or teach a foolproof ‘come-hither’ when called.”

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At the start of today’s post I implied that we humans had a certain degree of sensitivity as to how we smelt.

Well, to be precise, today’s post started with a silly joke.

So, I better close with another silly joke (but one I had to look up to remind myself of exactly how it went):

As you may know, Mahatma Gandhi, walked barefoot most of the time.

This resulted in an impressive set of calluses on his feet.

He also ate very little, which made him rather frail.

And as a result of his odd diet, he suffered from bad breath.

This made him a super calloused fragile mystic hexed by halitosis.

Follow that; as they say!

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!

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
jake-dog-in-toledo-area-humane-real-life-room-jpg-653x0_q80_crop-smart
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!

Saturday Smile

The power of our interconnected world!

When Jean and I moved to Oregon back in 2012 we lost two dogs; Chester and Paloma. Frankly, it was very much the fault of ‘yours truly’ for I was far too complacent about assuming that all the dogs would very quickly know this place was their new home.

We never saw Chester again and even today, some four years later, if his name comes up in conversation I can see the pain appear on Jean’s face.

Amazingly, we found Paloma after four days!

Mother Nature Network recently had an article about a dog who disappeared but, thanks to the power of the Internet, some two years later it became clear that the dog was still alive.

Here is that article for all you good people.

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Senior dog missing for 2 years spotted online

Original owners thrilled to know he’s alive and well in a happy place.

Mary Jo DiLonardo

September 26, 2016
Captain Ron's original owners say his favorite song as a younger dog was 'Scarborough Fair' by Simon and Garfunkel. (Photo: Old Friends Senior Dog Sanctuary/Facebook)
Captain Ron’s original owners say his favorite song as a younger dog was ‘Scarborough Fair’ by Simon and Garfunkel. (Photo: Old Friends Senior Dog Sanctuary/Facebook)

Captain Ron is a favorite at the Old Friends Senior Dog Sanctuary in Mount Juliet, Tennessee. He was taken in by the rescue group about two years ago when he was picked up as an older stray with health issues. They knew the aging dog likely wouldn’t be adopted at a traditional shelter and probably wouldn’t make it out after the three-day hold period. So Captain Ron became a permanent resident at the home-based sanctuary where older dogs go to live out their senior years.

Captain Ron’s photo is often shared on the group’s Facebook page, where the sweet-faced pooch caught the eye of some very special people: his former owners.

Captain Ron, with a major photobomb by Lacy :)
Captain Ron, with a major photobomb by Lacy 🙂

They reached out and contacted the shelter, so happy to see that their four-legged best friend was happy and in a wonderful place.

Lil' Liza Jane and Big Captain Ron
Lil’ Liza Jane and Big Captain Ron

It turns out that Captain Ron’s original name was Oscar. He lived on a farm with cows and sheep and is a Grand Pyrenees/Rottweiler mix. He lost his eye from a fungal infection called blastomycosis and was just getting over an illness when he disappeared from the farm. The owners have since moved out of state and agreed that the best place for 13-year-old Captain Ron is with his new canine family where he is settled and happy. At the sanctuary, Captain Ron shares his days and nights with about 50 other dogs.

Captain Ron’s family was thrilled to share photos of the pup in his younger days.

Young Captain Ron
Young Captain Ron
little Captain Ron
little Captain Ron
Captain Ron as an adolescent
Captain Ron as an adolescent

Although fans of the sanctuary’s Facebook page are divided over whether the owners should have tried to bring the dog back or let him stay where he’s been the past two years, most are glad that they got to see Captain Ron/Oscar happy and healthy, long after they had given up hope he was lost for good.

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 This is certainly an age where the world wide web is changing hugely the ways we live our lives. This is one very positive example of that change.

Be careful what you say!

Science is showing that dogs understand us very well!

First off, if you have a few minutes go across to this link on the BBC Radio 4 website. The programme is called: How extensive is your dog’s vocabulary? The segment is just a little over 4 minutes long and is described:

Many dog owners know that their pets can understand key words like biscuit, walkies or maybe even sausages, but can some clever pooches actually spell or tell the time? Winifred Robinson finds out more.

First broadcast on You & Yours, 31 August 2016.

Secondly, you will be nodding in agreement with Ryan O’Hara of K9 Magazine who was featured in the segment.

Thirdly, now enjoy this recent article that was published over on Mother Nature Network.

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Your dog totally gets what you’re saying

Dogs understand words and tone — much like humans do

Mary Jo DiLonardo August 30, 2016

Dogs don't just hear the tone of your voice. They also hear what you say. (Photo: Golden Pixels LLC/Shutterstock)
Dogs don’t just hear the tone of your voice. They also hear what you say. (Photo: Golden Pixels LLC/Shutterstock)

Your dog gets excited and wags his tail when you say “good boy!” and “treat!” and maybe even “Want to go for a walk?!”

But is it the words he understands or the lilt and obvious happiness he picks up in your voice?

Researchers in Hungary say that dogs understand both the meaning of the words we say, as well as the tone we use when we speak them. So even if you say, “I’m going to work!” in your most upbeat, cheery voice, there’s a good chance your dog is going to see right through you and know this isn’t good news.

“During speech processing, there is a well-known distribution of labor in the human brain,” said lead researcher Attila Andics from Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest  in a statement. “It is mainly the left hemisphere’s job to process word meaning, and the right hemisphere’s job to process intonation.”

The study, published in the journal Science, found that praise activates the reward center in the brain only when both the words and the intonation are in sync.

Dogs in Hungary sit around the MRI scanner used to measure their brain activity. (Photo: Enikő Kubinyi)
Dogs in Hungary sit around the MRI scanner used to measure their brain activity. (Photo: Enikő Kubinyi)

Researchers trained 13 dogs — mostly border collies and golden retrievers — to lie quietly in a harness in a functional MRI machine while the machine recorded the dogs’ brain activity. A trainer who was familiar to the dogs spoke various words to them with either praising or neutral intonations. Sometimes she said praising words that were often heard by the dogs from their owners, such as “well done!” and “clever!” and other times she used neutral words that the dogs likely didn’t understand, which the researchers believed meant nothing to the pets.

The dogs processed the familiar words using the left hemisphere of their brains, no matter how they were spoken. And tone was analyzed in the right hemisphere. But positive words spoken in a praising tone prompted the most activity in the reward center of the brain.

So “good boy!” said in a positive tone got the best response, while “good boy” in a neutral tone got the same response as a word like “however” said in either a positive or neutral way.

“It shows that for dogs, a praise can very well work as a reward, but it works best if both the words and the intonation are praising,” Andics said. “So dogs not only tell apart what we say and how we say it, but they can also combine the two, for a correct interpretation of what those words really meant. Again, this is very similar to what human brains do.”

What this means for us is that humans aren’t so unusual when it comes to how our brains and language work together.

“Our research sheds new light on the emergence of words during language evolution,” said Andics. “What makes words uniquely human is not a special neural capacity, but our invention of using them.”

Here’s a video of the researchers explaining how the whole thing works:

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Yes, we dog owners know they understand much of what we say. Yes, we also have found out that some key words have to be spelt out (w-a-l-k is one for us!) as Ryan O’Hara mentions.

Nevertheless, this is fascinating research undertaken by the team in Hungary! Well done the team: people and dogs!

P.S. Spare a thought for all those Londoners and their dogs who, 350 years ago, this evening UK time experienced the Great Fire of London.

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This painting shows the enormous scale of The Great Fire. Unknown artist, c.1700.