Just a few days ago I wrote of the time when I was living in the small village of Harberton in South Devon, England. Harberton was a wonderful reminder that these modern times don’t reach to everyone all of the time. There were still plenty of folk who recalled the past times in very beautiful ways. (I wish I could remember the name of the old Devonian who used to come into the village pub on a regular basis and demonstrate that by listening to a local’s accent he could tell which Devon village they were from!)
It’s all too easy to lose sight of the fact that many things change very slowly, and local and regional accents are examples of that.
If we told you that listening to two old Welsh farmers recount the good ol’ days might just become the highlight of your day, would you believe us?
For whatever reason, whether it’s their charm, genuine brotherly love, or endearing/confounding Welsh dialect, Howell and Gerwyn George have mesmerized nearly everyone who has given up a few moments to watch them reminisce.
“I could listen to this pair all day long…,” said another.
In the 18-minute video, the George brothers discuss everything from livestock to family and changing agricultural practices. Everything is interjected with anecdotes that invariably lead to one or both of the men to erupt into laughter. Several times, I found myself laughing without even knowing what in the world they were saying.
But enough gab from us; we’ll gladly let Howell and Gerwyn take over the conversation. Someone throw these two a reality television contract.
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.
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!
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!
The last two posts have offered two aspects of our bountiful Nature. First we had Earth Day and the celebration of our trees. Then yesterday we had the celebration of the birth of five Canada Geese goslings.
So it seemed appropriate to continue the theme for another day.
Earlier this month there was an article over on MNN that I saved for later use simply because the message it offered was counter-intuitive. Here’s how that article opened:
Deforestation vs. nature: The winner might surprise you
Large-scale tree-planting projects, abandoned farmland help balance out rain forest destruction.
By: Michael Graham Richard
Wed, Apr 08, 2015 at 10:11 AM
The researchers found that despite ongoing deforestation in the rain forests of South America and Southeast Asia — a huge problem, regardless of what happens elsewhere — other regions outside the tropics, such as Africa and Australia, have been improving enough to offset the losses. Some of the more unexpected sources of this extra biomass are farmland abandoned after the fall of communism where forests have spontaneously regrown in the former Soviet republics, as well as in areas of China where large-scale tree planting projects took place.
What really caught my eye was another photo from NASA that showed the biomass stored in trees in the USA.
But as the article reminded readers:
We’re only talking about biomass quantities being offset, though; the loss of rain forests also mean the loss of many species of animals and plants, as well as unique habitats that can’t be replaced by other regions elsewhere, such as the savannah of Africa or the Australian Outback. So while this is good news, we can’t declare victory over deforestation just yet!
Nonetheless, I am sure that I am not the only one to welcome this reminder of the power of Nature. Or in the closing words of that MNN article:
In the period between 2003-2012, the total amount of vegetation above the ground has increased by about 4 billion tonnes of carbon. Any way you slice in, 4 billion tonnes is significant!
This is particularly important because around 25 percent of the CO2 that we release into the atmosphere by burning formerly buried hydrocarbons is absorbed by plants, so having more of them can help slow down (but not stop) climate change, and there’s a limit to plants’ rate of absorption. Still, it’s nice to get good news for a change …
While it may be a long way yet from them being tonnes of carbon, let me close with three pictures of ‘increasing tree biomass‘ right here on Hugo Road in Merlin, Oregon.
Nature really does have all the answers to man’s long-term survival.
I can’t recall how I came across the story but it doesn’t matter. A story that was presented on the MNN website back in May, 2013. That had it’s origin in an episode of the Johnny Carson Show back in the year 1981. An episode where the late Jimmy Stewart read a poem about his dog, Beau.
Here’s the clip of that 1981 show.
Impossible not to be deeply moved by that clip.
A further web-search came across this item on WikiPedia:
James Stewart owned a “willful but beloved” golden retriever named Beau, of whom he was extremely fond. Beau slept in the corner of Stewart’s bedroom, but would often crawl onto the bed between Stewart and his wife Gloria. Stewart recalled, “he was up there because he wanted me to pat his head, so that’s what I would do. Somehow, my touching his hair made him happier, and just the feeling of him laying against me helped me sleep better.”
While shooting a movie in Arizona, Stewart received a phone call from Dr. Keagy, his veterinarian, who informed him that Beau was terminally ill, and that Gloria sought his permission to perform euthanasia. Stewart declined to give a reply over the phone, and told Keagy to “keep him alive and I’ll be there.” Stewart requested several days’ leave, which allowed him to spend some time with Beau before granting the doctor permission to euthanize the sick dog. Following the procedure, Stewart sat in his car for ten minutes to clear his eyes of tears. Stewart later remembered:
After [Beau] died there were a lot of nights when I was certain that I could feel him get into bed beside me and I would reach out and pat his head. The feeling was so real that I wrote a poem about it and how much it hurt to realize that he wasn’t going to be there any more.
You can understand why I sub-titled this post ‘Millions will share these sentiments.’ because there are millions of dog-owners right across the world who have their dogs sleep with them in the bedroom. We have five do just that: Pharaoh, Sweeny, Cleo, Dhalia and Hazel. Hazel and Dhalia sleep in line pressed up against me and Sweeny sleeps in the crook of Jean’s legs. Yes, it can be a pain turning at night. Yes, it can be a pain going to the bathroom in the night. But would we miss them sleeping on the bed: YES!
To reinforce that last point, here are two photographs of me and Jean on Christmas Day morning.
That web-search that found the WikiPedia item also found an excerpt from Professor Stanley Coren’s fabulous book Why We Love the Dogs We Do. I say fabulous because it’s a book that I have read and is on the book-shelf not four feet from where I am sitting. With Stanley Coren’s written permission, for which I say thanks, that excerpt is now republished:
While I was on a book tour a few years ago, I had the opportunity to meet with Jimmy Stewart. He was no longer the young Charles Linbergh character that I remembered from the film The Spirit of St. Louis, or the easy moving character that became a hero in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. His age had begun to show on him, and he appeared to be almost fragile. He was slow moving and even slower talking than I remember him being in the movies. However, when he started to speak about his dogs his face broke into a smile and the pace of his talking picked up. He told me:
“When I married Gloria she already had a German Shepherd named Bello. He loved her a lot and, after a while, he and I got along. Gloria really loves German Shepherds best of all, but sometime after we lost our second one, she decided that they weren’t the breed of dogs that I needed. Anyway, she went out and got me this Golden Retriever named Simba, and its been Goldens ever since for me. “We actually have three dogs now. Kelly and Judy, are Golden Retrievers, and then there is Princess who is some kind of a mixed breed that my daughter found and we sort of rescued. Princess had some behavior problems and I think that Kelly and Judy picked up some of her bad habits–figured that if Princess could get away with it so could they. We had met Matthew Margolis [who co- authored of a number of fine dog training books, such as When Good Dogs Do Bad Things, with Mordecai Siegal] and Gloria liked him. He runs the National Institute of Dog Training. Kelly and Judy were not behaving. They didn’t listen to anything we said, and they were always jumping up and barking and pulling on the leash–both were just imitating Princess, I think. Well, anyway, Matthew told us that he would have to take the dogs to his training kennel for six weeks to get them to behave. The reason that he wanted them at the kennel had something to do with ‘socialization’ and other dog things like that. It was supposed to help their shyness and excitability. Gloria and I didn’t like it, but she felt that we had to do something. Well that lasted just one day. You know I love my house, but without any dogs around it feels like some kind of mausoleum. I told Gloria ‘Get those dogs back home because I can’t put up with them not being here.’ Anyway, Matthew tried to set up a training program at the house, but it really didn’t work so well. In the end we compromised. We broke the three dogs up into squads, so we could send one or two of them to school for short sessions, and still have one or two at home for company. I still didn’t like it, even though we got to visit their school on weekends. Gloria made a lot of phone calls to make sure they were OK–to reassure me I guess. “I suppose the truth is that I’d rather have a happy dog than a trained one. My dogs have never been good at things like ‘sit’, ‘stay’ or even ‘come’. I think that we’ve given the tourists a few laughs, especially when the dogs hit the end of their leashes hard enough to drag Gloria down the street. I don’t even mind it when the dogs jump up. Matthew showed us how to jerk the leash to correct that kind of thing. I suppose that it does have to be done–you know to keep them from knocking someone down or messing their clothes–but it seems kind of cruel to me. If my dog jumps up on me I figure that he wants to kiss my face and tell me that he thinks that I’m a really nice person. I don’t believe that you should punish a dog for saying ‘I love you.’ When your dog’s face is up looking at yours like that I think that you should tell him just how nice you think that he is too. Gloria told me that Matthew says that we mother the dogs too much and that they’ll never really be well trained. Well, they’re a lot better now than what they were before, so some of the training must be working. The difference between ‘trained OK’ and ‘trained perfectly’ doesn’t really matter all that much to me. I once did a film with Lassie. When that dog got excited it jumped all over Rudd Weatherwax [Lassie’s trainer]. Now that’s the smartest dog in the world. If the world’s best trained dog can jump around to show he’s happy then my dogs should be allowed to do the same. “The truth is that it’s just really hard for me to get to sleep without a dog in my bedroom. It’s funny about that. I once had a dog named Beau. He used to sleep in a corner of the bedroom. Some nights, though, he would sneak onto the bed and lie right in between Gloria and me. I know that I should have pushed him off the bed, but I didn’t. He was up there because he wanted me to pat his head, so that’s what I would do. Somehow, my touching his hair made him happier, and just the feeling of him laying against me helped me sleep better. After he died there were a lot of nights when I was certain that I could feel him get into bed beside me and I would reach out and pat his head. The feeling was so real that I wrote a poem about it and about how much it hurt to realize that he wasn’t going to there any more.”
I later learned just how intense his feelings were for his dog Beau. At the time, Stewart was making a picture which was shooting on location in Arizona. One evening he got a phone call from his veterinarian, a Dr. Keagy. The call was about Beau. Keagy told him that Beau was very sick. He was having trouble breathing and was in considerable pain. The disease had progressed to the point that it was obvious to Keagy that the dog couldn’t be saved. He was calling for permission to end Beau’s life quickly. Stewart’s wife Gloria said that she couldn’t make that decision since Beau was Jimmy’s dog. “I can’t just tell you to put him to sleep like this,” Stewart said, “Not over the phone–not without seeing him. You keep him alive and I’ll be there.” Stewart was always known as an easy actor to work with, who never made excessive demands. So, the director was taken aback when he went to him to ask for a few days off to fly home to see to his dog. The leave was granted and Stewart got to sit with Beau for a long while before making the decision. He later admitted that when he left the veterinarian’s office he had to sit in his car for around 10 minutes, just to clear his eyes of tears, so that it would be safe to drive home.
NB: Please note that Professor Stanley Coren is the author of the above excerpt, the material is copyrighted by SC Psychological Enterprises Ltd and has been republished with permission. I would thoroughly recommend visiting the blog-site of Psychology Today, Canine Corner.