How times change! Morten is now writing stories on his iPad and sending them to me.
Like this one:
Once upon a time there were 2 Very cute dogs called cuty and puty and they were having a great day in the deep dark forest andcuty said I want to go home but puty doesn’t want to go home but they did. THE END
This was a story about two dogs
And included in that lovely email was this photograph:
Okay good people, my book event is now behind me and Jeannie and I are back home.
Happy Birthday to grandson Morten who is five today!
Indirectly there is a connection between my sub-title, above, and today’s post about squeezing cute creatures. For Morten will already have enjoyed many hugs and, hopefully, will grow up feeling very comfortable at giving and receiving hugs.
Thankfully, Jean is a great hugger and has opened my eyes to the power of giving in to a hug. Not suprising when one thinks of Jean’s years of hugging dogs way before she and I met back in 2007.
Dear old Pharaoh, as he has aged, (he will be 13 this coming June) clearly enjoys more hugs than when he was a more active, fitter German Shepherd and always on the go.
When The Daily Courier, our local newspaper, came to the house last December Timothy Bullard, the paper’s photographer, took the following photograph of Pharaoh and me having a ‘love in’.
So this recent article from the Care2 website seems an appropriate follow-on to my introductory remarks.
If any of the collected photographs you see here cause you to emit high-pitched noises or ache to cradle the pictured animal tight in your arms, you might be experiencing a bout of “cute aggression.”
The phrase refers to a phenomenon during which we catch sight of a living thing deemed “cute,” usually a baby or an animal or — double-whammy — a baby animal, and feel an overwhelming desire to play with the subject’s features; a compulsion to tickle its feet; the need to tease its rumples or bulges of fat; the want to bury our faces into its belly.
Granted, not all voiceless lifeforms enjoy being tugged at or played with in an intrusive manner, which is why this behavior is referred to, in part, as “aggressive.” While we might mean absolutely no harm to the creature we long to hold and hug, our near-hyperactive responses to its presence often seem beyond our control, what some have called the “squee” effect.
Yale researchers studied this “dimorphous expression” — the need to manhandle living creatures for which we feel only positive emotions — in 2014. Part of the experimental regimen involved asking some participants to pop bubble wrap while viewing images of “cute baby animals;” others did the same while looking at images of adult species. The results: Those who viewed the infants popped more bubbles by far.
One of the researchers, psychologist Oriana Aragón, said that participants would have likely squeezed whatever they had in their hands or arms while viewing images of the “cute” animals, be it a purse or a pillow. Had something alive, however, actually been in those arms, the strength with which the participants freed their fuzzy feelings might have been worrisome to the researchers.
But Aragón says that strong human emotions are often balanced by “an expression of what one would think is an opposing feeling.” This is similar to what happens when we cry while angry or laugh while nervous. Our actual expressions “scramble and temper” whatever feeling got us into such a tizzy in the first place, helping to restore our emotional equilibrium, “tamping down or venting” feelings that cause us to become too excited.
While wanting to squish what could be one’s own offspring might seem an evolutionary misfire, a 2012 study in the journal PLOS ONE indicates that cuteness creates a powerful “approach motivation,” the very thing that drives us to scoop up puppies and kittens in adoption kennels and squeeze them close to our chests and nuzzle them against our faces. It seems the need to be touchy-feely toward cuteness provokes precisely the kind of nurturing that keeps helpless creatures alive.
As for animals, those worthy of this treatment, appealing to us as “cute,” mimic physical characteristics of human babies — “a large head; rounded, soft, and elastic features; big eyes relative to the face; protruding cheeks and forehead; and fuzziness.” The same, in fact, seems to be true for Great Apes, as has been documented with Koko the gorilla and an Internet celebrity orangutan shown interacting with tiger cubs, though the scene remains controversial.
And so it seems the power of cuteness is made all the more apparent when humans (or elevated primates) respond to a rabbit or a duckling the way they might respond to their own kin. Our desire to squeeze is so powerful, in fact, that it “spills over” into interactions with other species. Thus, we have Web sites like Cute Overload that exist only for the compelling pull to exercise that need to feed our “cute aggression,” be the temptation a pleasure or a pain.
Demonstrating that cuteness can come in all sizes, let me close today’s post with this photograph.
Don’t go too long without giving or receiving a hug!
The wonderful way that animals have evolved to survive life on the go.
It is very easy to look at our wonderful domesticated dogs and forget that genetically they are still very much hunting dogs. Of all the dogs that we have had Dhalia seemed the most closely connected with those instincts, and she is still missed more than a year after she died. So much so that I’m going to republish part of the post that commemorated her life just after she died. Here it is:
Dhalia, as with so many other dogs, offered lasting lessons. April 8th, 2014
Inevitably, as Jean and I went around our ‘stuff’ yesterday after burying Dhalia in the morning, there were moments of quiet contemplation and gentle discussion. Interludes over a hot drink where we reflected on the special dog that she was.
Much has already been written in this place but there can’t be too many reminders for us quirky humans of how valuable are the qualities of trust and love given to us by our dogs.
We need reminding how dogs are so intuitive and can reach out to a stranger without a moment of hesitation. As Jean described when recalling how she first came across Dhalia.
It was a Sunday around the middle of the month of September in the year 2005. My friend, Gwen, and I had set off for La Manga, a small fishing village three miles from San Carlos, Mexico. As the trip would take us through areas of desolate desert and the day was forecast to be a sizzler, we left early. The purpose of the journey was to feed a pack of dogs that were living on the outskirts of La Manga. These wild dogs were gradually getting used to our presence and with the aid of a humane trap we had previously caught two of them, a small puppy and her mother. Those two dogs were at my home and were gradually becoming tame so that good homes could be found for them.
Half-way to our destination, we saw two dogs running by the side of the road. It wasn’t unusual to see strays searching for road-kill. I stopped the car and prepared food and water for them. One dog took off almost immediately but the other just stood perfectly still looking intently at me. She was rail-thin and full of mange. Her ears and chest were scabbed with blood, and I could see that previously she had had pups. Tentatively, I pushed the food towards her. She took a bite and sat on her haunches; her eyes never leaving mine. Then she lifted a paw and reached out to me. Immediately, I burst into tears and scooped her into my arms. I carried her back to the car where she lay quietly in my lap whilst we went on to do our feeding. She was bloody and very smelly. However, I didn’t care.
Dhalia was always a gentle dog. One that would mix with any of the other dogs. A dog that loved people, of all types and ages.
The reason that my post from last year came to mind was as a result of a recent article on The Conversation blogsite. It was called Motion dazzle: spotting the patterns that help animals outsmart predators on the run and seemed ideal to share with all you good people who support this place.
Motion dazzle: spotting the patterns that help animals outsmart predators on the run
Many animals use the colours and patterns on their bodies to help them blend into the background and avoid the attention of predators. But this strategy, crypsis, is far from perfect. As soon as the animal moves, the camouflage is broken, and it is much easier for a predator to see and catch it. So how do animals protect themselves when they’re on the move?
Researchers are exploring whether high-contrast patterns during motion, such as stripes and zigzags, may be distorting the predator’s perception of where the animal is going. But, as little is known about such “motion dazzle”, we have built an online game to help shed light on it.
Lessons from war
The idea is that it may be more effective for animals to focus on preventing capture, rather then preventing detection or recognition, is actually more than 100 years old. It was naturalist Abbott Thayer who suggested that high-contrast patterns may distort the perceived speed or direction of a moving object, making it harder to track and capture.
Such motion dazzle patterns were actually used in World War I and II, where some ships were painted with black and white geometric patterns in an attempt to reduce the number of successful torpedo attacks from submarines. However, due to many other factors affecting wartime naval losses, it is unclear whether motion dazzle patterns actually had the desired effect.
What about the natural world? Zebras have bold stripes, and scientists have debated the function of their patterns since Darwin’s time. A recent modelling study suggested that when zebras move, their stripes create contradictory signals about their direction of movement that is likely to confuse predators. There are potentially two visual illusions responsible for this, which could form the basis of motion dazzle effects: the wagon wheel effect and the barber pole illusion.
The wagon wheel effect is named after Western movies, where the wheels on wagons often appear to be moving backwards. This is because the visual system takes “snapshots” over time and links them to create a continuous scene, in the same manner as recording film. If a wheel spoke moves forward rapidly between sampling events, it will appear to have moved backwards as it will be misidentified as the following spoke.
The barber pole illusion (also known as the aperture effect) occurs because the moving stripes provide ambiguous information about the true direction of movement. These illusory effects produced by stripes could therefore lead to difficulties in judging the speed and movement of a moving target. However, the zebra study was entirely theoretical and didn’t test whether striped patterns actually affected the judgements of real observers.
Surprisingly, the first experimental tests of the effectiveness of motion dazzle patterns weren’t carried out until recently. Some studies have shown that strikingly patterned targets can be more difficult to catch than targets with other patterns in studies using humans as “predators” playing touch screen computer games. However, other studies have found no clear advantage for motion dazzle patterns So although patterns can affect our perception of movement, it’s still not clear which are most effective at doing so.
We are addressing the question of which patterns are best for avoiding predators during movement using Dazzle Bug – an online game that asks players to imagine themselves as a predator, trying to catch a moving bug as fast as possible. Each bug has a different body pattern as well as a random pattern of movement. Bugs with easy to catch patterns will disappear, whereas those that are particularly tricky to catch will survive ––just like in nature. Over time, the patterns on the bugs’ body will evolve so that they become harder to catch with each successive generation.
This citizen science project will allow us to see what patterns are most effective at evading capture. We can then use these results to look at what visual effects these patterns have, and to see whether these patterns match up with those found on real animals in the wild.
Our findings will offer insight into the role of stripes, which are common in many species. While these patterns may have evolved to confuse the visual perception of a predator, they may also be a result of other selection pressures, such as attracting a mate or regulating body temperature. If striped patterns survive and evolve in the game, this would provide strong evidence that these patterns do act to confuse human predators, perhaps by producing the illusions described above. As motion perception seems to be highly conserved across a wide range of populations, these illusions may occur for many other predators too.
If we find that patterns other than stripes – such as speckles, splotches or zigzags – are most effective in preventing capture, this then leads to new and interesting questions about how these patterns may act to confuse or mislead. Whatever the outcome, Dazzle Bug will provide insight into how bodily patterns may have evolved to help animals to survive life on the go.
There are things that are beyond rational explanation.
Warning – this post is rather more ‘touchy-feely’ than you are used to seeing on Learning from Dogs. So if it wanders about in ways that you struggle to follow then just stifle your yawn and come back tomorrow!
It goes back to an earlier plan that I had in terms for a couple of posts. Both focussing on the myriad of examples of the appalling decline in our world. I had been collecting a number of essays to support the proposition that if we don’t learn from dogs the qualities of integrity and unconditional love then our world was doomed. I had collected the essay from Ellen Cantaro over on TomDispatch about the incredible stupidity of fracking. Or the one from Tom’s own pen in an essay about climate change being the new ‘Anti-News’. I had saved the recent essay from George Monbiot discussing the madness of the so-called dredging practices in the UK’s Somerset Levels. I had fumed at another George Monbiot essay Bring It On that included this incredible statement:
It is hard to think of a more serious allegation. For six months an undercover officer working for the Metropolitan Police was instrumental in planning a major demonstration, which ended up causing injuries and serious damage to property. Yet the police appear to have failed to pass this intelligence to the City of London force, leaving the target of the protest unprotected.
I had many more examples but you get the message!
So what stopped me?
I was chatting to Jon Lavin on Monday about a variety of things. Jon asked how the book was coming along. I replied by saying that a recent NaNoWriMo webinar had persuaded me that the book wasn’t a novel and should be re-written as a non-fiction story. Going on to add that I might include some of the appalling examples of what was going wrong in our society to strengthen the argument that we truly have much to learn from dogs.
Jon, who had read the first, very rough draft of the book that appeared on this blog, cautioned me against doing that. He went on to say that in the world of solutions focussed therapy, the area that Jon practices in professionally, the way forward was always to focus “on what’s working“. Jon continued by saying that while one would initially allow the problems to be voiced, this negativity would always be a tiny piece of the overall process, say less than 5% of the session. That even if a client’s whole world seemed to be failing, there would always be something that was alright, always a 1% that was working, and that would be the place to start. A quick web search endorsed that as the website of Good Therapy revealed, from where I read:
Solution focused brief therapy (SFBT) targets the desired outcome of therapy as a solution rather than focusing on the symptoms or issues that brought someone to therapy. This technique only gives attention to the present and the future desires of the client, rather than focusing on the past experiences. The therapist encourages the client to imagine their future as they want it to be and then the therapist and client collaborate on a series of steps to achieve that goal. This form of therapy involves reviewing and dissecting the client’s vision, and determining what skills, resources, and abilities the client will develop and use to attain his desired outcome. Solution focused therapy was developed by Steve De Shazer, Insoo Kim Berg, and their team at the Brief Family Therapy Family Center in Milwaukee, USA.
Thus coming back to the book rewrite, Jon said that people wanted to read ‘good news’ not negativity. It was a key reminder for me and an incredibly inspiring call that in these challenging times, whether on this blog or in a potential book, I need to write about all the powerfully, positive lessons that dogs, and all warm-blooded creatures, offer mankind. The lessons of integrity, love, trust, balance, loyalty, faithfulness, affection, forgiveness and more.
OK, moving on.
On the evening of February 7th Jean and I settled down to watch a YouTube video. It had been featured in a post from LadyBlueRose that had been published on the 6th. The post was called His Name is Spirit and it was the story of a woman, Anna Breytenbach, who has dedicated her life to what she calls interspecies communication.
We had reached the six-minute point in the film, already captivated by it, when the telephone rang. I paused the film and answered the phone. It was neighbour Dordie from next door ringing to say that when she had seen us earlier in the day she had forgotten to mention that there was this incredible film that we really had to watch …… yes, you guessed it! The film that Jean and I were watching at that moment.
ENHANCING THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN HUMANS, OTHER ANIMALS AND THE NATURAL WORLD
Welcome to an exploration of interspecies communication – a journey of discovering ways to restore a deep relationship with all of life.
Human and animal communication creates a valuable bridge between human and non-human animals. By connecting with our intuition, we can engage in meaningful dialogue and remember how to hear the subtle messages from those whose space we share in our lives and our natural environment. Coming from a place of respect and reverence for all life, we can learn to understand our wilder relatives, honour their truths and live in greater harmony.
and where one also can watch the short introductory film that is on her home page; as below.
A web search then came across a fascinating interview with Anna.
So where does this all end up?
Simply, that in a world dominated by media of all types that favour ‘doom and gloom’ it can be incredibly difficult to hang on to the message offered by Jon and by Anna, and by many others no doubt, the message that our individual health, and by implication the health of this planet, is afforded through staying positive.
Or put more basically, if you are feeling low go and hug a dog! So I can do no better than to close with the same picture that closed Tuesday’s post Meet the dogs – Dhalia.