Tag: Mother Nature Network

Mindfulness and health

What is it about mindfulness that delivers?

I have posted before about the role of mindfulness and do so again.

Simply because this article published by Mother Nature Network is both comprehensive and detailed.

In a world which seems crazier by the day it is good to remind ourselves how beneficial is mindfulness.

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Why is mindfulness beneficial for your health?

Practicing focus and acceptance can help with stress and more.

Rachel Pomerance Berl
March 16, 2020

By paying attention and listening to your body and feelings, you can get a sense of peace and calm. (Photo: andblank/Shutterstock)

Focus on your breath. Listen to your body. Notice your emotions, but don’t judge them.

These are a few of the cues routinely used to induce mindfulness, a meditative state of self-awareness and detached acceptance that promises practitioners a sense of peace and presence of mind.
By putting equanimity within arm’s reach, if even for a moment, mindfulness programs are quickly gaining steam throughout the country. And it’s perhaps no surprise. At a time when America’s huddled masses seem more wound up, stressed out and distracted than ever before, the call to calm down is a compelling one.

At issue is not only relief from stress but also the innumerable ailments related to it. And like yoga, mindfulness programs are proving to be powerful antidotes. From depression and anxiety to weight control and pain management, there’s a mindfulness treatment out there for what ails you. Fortune 100 companies are using mindfulness as part of leadership training, and the military is incorporating such techniques to reduce stress before deployment and to help ease post-traumatic stress disorder.

“It’s cultivating a general skill that can be applicable in lots of different circumstances,” says Vermont-based psychotherapist Arnie Kozak, who’s been using mindfulness in his clinical practice for nearly 20 years. “I think the place where it pays the biggest benefit is helping people to reduce reactivity,” he says. As Kozak explains, mindfulness won’t change someone’s condition, but it can change someone’s response to it and, in doing so, alleviate suffering.

How and why mindfulness works

Calming environments can help you accept and observe the chaos without judging it, part of the mindfulness approach. (Photo: Tejvan Pettinger [CC by 2.0]/Flickr)
In dealing with a difficulty — say, a crisis at work or a chronic disease — people often get mired in the narrative they create about the situation, perhaps chastising themselves about their feelings or behavior, envisioning catastrophic consequences or rehashing the incident ad nauseam. Mindfulness, however, teaches a healthy skepticism about the stories we tell ourselves, say Kozak, who likes to repeat a mantra: “Don’t believe everything you think.”

Fundamental to the practice is acceptance, rather than avoidance of a stressful situation. In a sense, it’s the opposite of the “Calgon, take-me-away” approach of yesteryear (commercials for the bath products featured a harried Mom pleading with Calgon to “take me away” from the cacophony of domestic life). Mindfulness, alternatively, would ask you to accept and observe the chaos, without liking or disliking what’s happening around you.

If that sounds challenging, it is — but the rewards can be profound. And they don’t require some sort of monastic discipline.

After an eight-week course of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) at the University of Massachusetts Center for Mindfulness, participants changed their brain structure, according to a study by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital. Brain scans of the subjects, who meditated an average of 27 minutes a day, found a thickening of regions associated with learning, memory, self-awareness and compassion and a thinning of the region connected to stress and anxiety.

According to Psychologist Lindsay Sauers, there are two parts of the stress-response cycle, and though everyone knows the first part — the rush that comes when you system is flushed with adrenaline and cortisol — the second part doesn’t get as much notice, but it’s important. There must be an emotional and physical release in response or the cycle is “incomplete.”

“We often wait until the ‘breaking point,’ when addressing the impact of stress becomes an absolute necessity,” she told Dave Bellomo of NorthCentralPA.com. “The challenge is that in waiting, we often feel so guilty about the consequences of the breaking point that once the immediate distress has leveled off, we go right back to pushing aside stress until it grows to that ‘breaking point’ again. It becomes a ‘rinse and repeat’ situation. While the rinse and repeat might be tolerable if we know it’s going to happen … this all-or-nothing process has a cumulative, detrimental impact on the body.”

Bringing mindfulness mainstream

University of Massachusetts’ Center for Mindfulness is where MBSR — and much of the mindfulness movement in this country — got its start. That’s thanks to Jon Kabat-Zinn, an MIT-trained biologist who founded the center in 1979 and developed the MBSR program, helping to bring meditation mainstream.

Today, there are some 520 MBSR programs across the country and about 740 worldwide, according to the center’s executive director, Saki Santorelli. The center has seen more than 20,000 people complete its eight-week course, with many of them referred by conventional medical centers.

Mindfulness programs have also become a fixture of many integrative health care centers at universities across the country such as the dozens of members that comprise the Consortium of Academic Health Centers for Integrative Medicine.

Santorelli attributes the interest in mindfulness primarily to research and access. “From the very beginning, research has been a critical part of this process,” he says, adding that “society, in many ways, trusts science.” The growing body of literature on mindfulness fuels further interest.

Also, mindfulness work has a low bar to entry, Santorelli says. It doesn’t require renouncing one’s faith. It doesn’t necessarily cost anything. And it enables people to take an active role in their own healing.

He argues that the optimal approach for health care incorporates both the Western discipline, in which practitioners do something “to” or “for” a patient, with the self-care inherent in mindfulness.

While the former is critical if a patient requires surgery, the latter can bring about a sustained approach to well-being, Santorelli says. How so? He explains that through mindfulness, observation gives way to self-awareness — the point at which it becomes possible to change habits and behaviors.

That’s especially important, he adds, since so many of today’s maladies are related to lifestyle — from obesity to smoking.

Practical applications

Eating slowly and thinking about every bite may help you make healthier eating choices. (Photo: KPG Ivary/Shutterstock)

As director of research at the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, Frederick Hecht is using mindfulness techniques to disrupt the automatic eating behavior that so often derails efforts to lose and maintain weight.

“The idea is to chew our food a little more carefully, to really savor both the texture and the taste of the food, to be aware of all the sensations you’re feeling as you eat,” with the goal of getting greater satisfaction from less food, he says. By paying close attention to how they feel before and after eating, participants may be more likely to make healthier choices.

“There’s promising data for things like mindful eating, but it’s preliminary data,” says Hecht, who is training in internal medicine and clinical epidemiology. “More research and better research is really key, and its particularly key for health professionals when we’re called on to really recommend this, and we need a stronger evidence base.”

At the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, pulmonologist Roberto Benzo is using mindfulness techniques to help patients manage conditions such as lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). “Health is far beyond fixing an organ, having a transplant, getting a coronary fixed — that is just a piece of the story,” Benzo says, referencing his yet-to-be-published research showing that quality of life and self-care hinge on one’s emotional state.

The many benefits of mindfulness training.

Gratitude and an appreciation of nature can help a stressed person tune into the moment. (Photo: vvvita/Shutterstock)

With that in mind, Benzos work as founding director of Mayo’s Mindful Breathing Lab is to help patients see past their disease and appreciate life.

“To embrace life, we always embrace what we like … It’s difficult to embrace that sometimes we’re sad, sometimes things are not going in the direction we want,” he says. “Mindfulness is the ability to be here and now even when one has a condition like a lung disease or a heart disease or something like that.”

Using techniques like breathing, moving and gratitude, Benzo has found that patients tune in to the moment and feel better. “They start to look at the good that is in front of them,” he says.

But getting to that stage requires switching gears.

To that end, Los Angeles-based psychologist Elisha Goldstein and author of “The Now Effect” reminds his patients to simply “STOP.” The acronym stands for: Stop, take a few breaths, observe your experience and proceed. As Goldstein puts it, the exercise “pops them out of autopilot” and into a position to ask “what really matters in life” at that moment. From that place of calm, we are better poised to make the best choice and the most of the moment.

As those moments build up, they may amount to a lifetime of living in the midst of them.

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I can do no better than to repeat the advice of Elisha Goldstein in that penultimate  paragraph.

Stop, Take a few breaths, Observe your experience, Proceed.

We most certainly need this help. All of us!

Dogs and grass!

Most, if not all, dogs eat grass – this explains why!

Of the many Mother Nature Network articles there are many that concern dogs. Such as this one.

Dogs love to eat grass especially when the grass is green and fresh. Quite often some of the dogs throw up not long after.

Here’s a post on Mother Nature Network that explores the topic.

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Why do dogs eat grass?

By Morieka Johnson    August 15, 2019.

Some dogs just like the taste of grass. (Photo: Tanja Esser/Shutterstock)

No walk around the neighborhood is complete without my dog Lulu eating grass. Even on a full stomach, she likes to hunt for the perfect blades and chew away. Left unattended, I’m sure she could mow down a small lawn. Since lawns today have any number of herbicides and pesticides, many pet parents wonder if it’s OK to let their dogs eat grass.

Here’s what the experts say about these grass-eating habits.
It’s yummy: It’s normal for dogs to chew on the green stuff because they like the taste of grass, says Dr. Jennifer Monroe of Eagles Landing Veterinary Hospital in Georgia. Some pooches even develop preferences that range from fresh leaves to drier weeds or even a particular species of grass. What they cannot discern is whether grass has been chemically treated. Use caution when walking on a neighbor’s lawn and stick with greener products in your own yard. Monroe recommends nontoxic treatment options.

“You do have to be careful if you have a dog that is a chronic grass eater,” she says. “We do have a lot of clients who bring pets in for vomiting and wonder if it’s from something the yard was treated with.”

Nutritional deficiency: Most commercial dog foods offer a balanced diet, so many experts say its unlikely that your dog isn’t getting the nutrition he needs from his dinner. Instead, dogs with certain intestinal diseases don’t necessarily digest food properly and have trouble absorbing minerals, which can lead to grazing, says Monroe. Anemia and bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract also cause dogs to eat dirt.

Some dogs eat grass because they need to throw up. (Photo: smerikal [CC by-SA 2.0]/Flickr)
They are trying to induce vomiting: When dogs are eating something that doesn’t agree with them, they often have an upset stomach and eat grass to induce vomiting. If eating grass causes your dog to vomit twice a week or more, call your veterinarian because there could be another underlying health issue. She also recommends a visit if there is any doubt that your dog may be ill; better safe than sorry.

Some dogs nibble the lawn and are fine, while others are always eating grass and vomiting. It may just be the grass tickling their throat and stomach lining that causes them to vomit, says PetMD, or it could be something more serious. That’s why it’s key for dog owners to make sure their pets aren’t sick. Keep track of how often your dog vomits and let your vet know.

Instinct: One theory is that this unusual dog behavior is just instinct. Dogs in the wild are natural omnivores who eat meat and plants, so domesticated dogs naturally gravitate towards plant material too, says Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine. Another theory is that wild dogs would eat plant material in the stomach of their prey, so they developed a taste for it.

Behavioral issues: Dogs can develop obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) regarding the grass. (I suspect that my Lulu falls into this category. She’s pretty determined during those lawn-gobbling excursions.) In the majority of cases, Monroe says this is no reason for concern. To correct the behavior, she recommends reducing your dog’s grazing time.

Basket muzzles restrict grass guzzling, too. In severe cases, she recommends consulting a certified veterinary behaviorist for advice. Otherwise, let them stop to smell — and chomp — the greenery.

“If not they are not vomiting and not destructive, I say let them enjoy it,” Monroe says.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with new information since it was first published in October 2013.

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All very straightforward it seems.

But I suspect there may be just a few who found this post revealing.

Dogs observations of us humans

A widely-reported study shows the depth to which dogs understand us.

I have seen this reported both in The Smithsonian and Mother Nature News.

I have included both!

I’ll comment at the end of the articles.

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Stray Dogs May Understand Human Signals, Too

By Brigit Katz

Researchers in India studied whether 160 stray dogs would react to commands like gesturing toward a bowl. This image, taken in 2012, shows street dogs surrounding an Indian tea vendor in Allahabad. (AP Photo / Rajesh Kumar Singh)

Dogs are famously good at interpreting human signals, whether communicated verbally or through gestures. But much of what we know about our furry friends’ comprehension of social cues focuses on pet dogs, which share close relationships with their owners and are trained to follow commands. Now, a study published in Frontiers in Psychology, suggests that stray dogs can also understand human gestures, indicating that this ability might be innate.
The new research took place on the streets of several regions in India, which is home to some 30 million stray dogs. Coexistence between canines and humans there is not always peaceful; people have been known to attack street dogs, and vice versa. Around 36 percent of the world’s annual rabies deaths occur in India, most of them children who came into contact with infected dogs.

To better manage the country’s street dogs, it’s essential to gain further knowledge of their behavior, Anindita Bhadra, study co-author and animal behaviorist at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research Kolkata, tells Liz Langley of National Geographic. So she and her colleagues set out to discover whether strays, which have never undergone specific training, are able to understand humans in a similar way to their pet counterparts.

The researchers took to the streets equipped with two bowls; one contained chicken and the other was empty but had been rubbed with raw chicken, transferring the food’s scent. The bowls were covered with pieces of cardboard and handed to an experimenter who did not know which one contained the snack. This researcher would approach a stray dog, place the bowls on the ground and point at one of them, sometimes momentarily, sometimes repeatedly.

In total, the researchers studied 160 adult strays. Around half of them refused to get close to either bowl, perhaps because they had negative interactions with humans in the past, the researchers speculate. But of the dogs that did approach the bowls, approximately 80 percent went to the one to which the experimenter had pointed. Whether the researcher had pointed to the bowl briefly or repeatedly did not seem to matter. This response, according to the study authors, suggests that untrained stray dogs are “capable of following complex pointing cues from humans.”

Dogs share an intertwined evolutionary history with humans, with domesticated pooches emerging at least 10,000 to 15,000 years ago, though some experts have argued for an even earlier date. This close contact has prompted dogs to develop a number of skills that allow them to communicate with people, including interpreting human emotion. Still, Bhadra says, the researchers found it “quite amazing” that stray dogs without a history of close human interaction were able to “follow a gesture as abstract as momentary pointing.”

“This means that they closely observe the human, whom they are meeting for the first time, and they use their understanding of humans to make a decision,” Bhadra adds. “This shows their intelligence and adaptability.”

Because some dogs seemed anxious and were wary of approaching the researchers, it’s not clear how a dog’s personality—and past experiences—might affect its ability to interpret human signals. But this ability does not appear to be entirely dependent on training, the study authors say, which in turn should inform efforts to manage stray dogs.

“They are quite capable of understanding our body language and we need to give them their space,” Bhadra says. “A little empathy and respect for another species can reduce a lot of conflict.”

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Mother Nature News had a second picture in their broadly-similar article. Indeed, I’m going to republish this article as well. For although they are of the same story they offer a slightly different account.

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Even stray dogs understand human cues

A new study shows these feral canines are paying close attention.

By Starre Vartan   January 21, 2020

Even untrained dogs can follow simple communications. (Photo: Abir Bhattacharya/Shutterstock)

Dogs were likely the first animals that human beings domesticated — scientific guesses vary as to whether that was 10,000 years ago in Europe or 30,000 years ago in Asia (or, as one theory goes, humans tamed grey wolves two separate times). Regardless, they have been our companions for much of human history, and all of modern history. We have evolved together.

And that longstanding connection shows up in feral dogs.

Behavioral biologist Dr. Anindita Bhadra of the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research in Kolkata, India, revealed this by studying stray dogs in several Indian cities. In the experiment, Bhadra and her colleagues would find a solo stray dog and put two covered bowls on the ground nearby. They they’d simply point to one of the bowls; some did this just once, others did it a few times.

The researchers, who published their work in Frontiers in Psychology, recorded the dogs’ reactions. Half the dogs seemed nervous, and didn’t look at or come close to either bowl. But the other half — noted as less anxious dogs by the researchers — approached the bowls. Of those friendlier dogs, about 80% went to the bowl the researcher pointed at. As long as the dogs weren’t too scared of the people, they were easily able to interpret what the pointing meant.

“We thought it was quite amazing that the dogs could follow a gesture as abstract as momentary pointing,” Bhadra said in a news release. “This means that they closely observe the human, whom they are meeting for the first time, and they use their understanding of humans to make a decision. This shows their intelligence and adaptability.”

Wolf puppies surprised researchers with their responses. (Photo: Bildagentur Zoonar GmbH/Shutterstock)

In another study, three out of 13 untrained 8-week-old wolf puppies spontaneously retrieved a ball for a person who threw it, as MNN’s Mary Jo DiLonardo explains. It was a small study, and a low percentage of retrieving puppies, but it was an unexpected result as these weren’t domesticated dogs. “It was so unexpected, and I immediately knew that this meant that if variation in human-directed play behavior exists in wolves, this behavior could have been a potential target for early selective pressures exerted during dog domestication,” Christina Hansen Wheat, a biologist at Stockholm University, said.

Her observations show that playing with people may be a very old trait for wolves, that could reflect how our human ancestors first got to know them. This playful behavior may have sparked humans’ interest in domestication. If a dog could fetch a stick or other thrown object, they could be quite useful to hunting humans.

Of course, their adorable, big puppy-dog eyes and floppy ears (both traits that have become accentuated over time as dogs evolved) are among the reason we are still drawn to dogs today. (It also helps that they’re great listeners.)

But long before that happened, dogs served an important purpose — assisting people in locating and retrieving prey, and serving as eyes and ears for an intruder. Simple tasks like showing they can follow directions or fetch an object may have moved prehistoric dogs from outside the fire circle to within it, which is why understanding these behaviors are so important.

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If we go back into the mists of time then prehistoric wolves (or dogs) learnt to bond with early humans because it served both their interests to so do. Humans became much more adept at hunting and wolves obviously became the benefactors of food!

Now dogs are so well bonded to human gestures that even non-domesticated dogs understand the signals that we humans put out. I say ‘non-domesticated’ but in a real sense all dogs are domesticated. It would be more accurate to say that these are dogs who do not have a home with humans.

The oldest human-animal relationship by far!

What your pet dogs need to eat! Eat meat!

A fascinating article on vegetarian diets for our dogs.

We are non-meat eaters here at home. Have been for a while. Our diet is essentially vegan most of the time with some fish thrown in as well. It seems to be doing us well!

But what does us good is not what does dogs good. Not at all!

You know that dogs need meat but there was a recent article on Mother Nature Network which went into details:

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Is a vegetarian diet safe for my dog?

By Jessica Knoblauch
June 3, 2019.

Experts say plant-based diets don’t always give dogs the nutrition they need. (Photo: Stickler/Shutterstock)

More people are forgoing meat in their diets for a whole spectrum of reasons — from environmental to philosophical — and now vegetarians are taking a second look at their dogs’ meat-based diets too. As a result, more owners are putting their dogs on a vegetarian or even vegan diet to bypass the health and ethical dilemmas that come with a side of beef, pork or chicken in their pet’s kibble.

“I’ve been vegan for more than two years now, and I don’t wish to contribute to the slaughterhouse or factory farm industry for my own food nor for my dogs’,” explains Debra Benfer, who together with her husband owns three vegan dogs. “If people really read what ingredients are put in dog food, I believe more people would understand why a vegetarian diet is the way to go.”

Some of those ingredients include meat from animals deemed unfit for human consumption, known in the pet food industry as the 4 Ds — dead, dying, diseased or disabled animals. In addition, many commercial pet foods contain “meat meal” or “byproducts,” which can include various animal parts and slaughterhouse waste that don’t exactly match the idyllic pictures of juicy meat chunks often seen on a bag or can of dog food. Much like commercial meat for humans, meat used in pet food can contain hormones, pesticides and antibiotics, a concern that has led many dog owners to seek alternative diets.

“If someone is saying it’s OK to give my dog these things, I would add a 5th ‘D’ to that equation and say ‘don’t,’” says Jill Howard Church, president of the Vegetarian Society of Georgia. “As a vegetarian, I know what’s in human meat and since the meat that falls below the human standard is what goes into pet food, it gives me cause for concern.”

Church’s two dogs were on a vegetarian diet for their entire lives and lived to be a healthy 15 and 19 years old. Church currently has a 3-year-old black Labrador retriever that’s also thriving on a vegetarian diet.

Church and Benfer’s positive experience with vegetarian dog diets is mirrored in hundreds of testimonials found on the internet from owners who have successfully switched their dogs to a vegetarian diet. Some owners have bypassed the dog food industry altogether by cooking their own wholesome vegetarian dog meals.

“People are taking control of their animals’ diet back into their own hands instead of relying on the pet food industry so much,” says Greg Martinez, author of “Dog Dish Diet: Sensible Nutrition for Your Dog’s Health“. “We’ve all been held hostage by industry a little bit.”

In addition to decreasing a dog’s carbon pawprint (meat production is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions), owners say that putting their dogs on a vegetarian diet has resulted in everything from longer life spans and shinier coats to decreased aggression.

‘It is truly unnatural for them’

It would be smart to consult with a veterinary nutritionist before switching to a vegetarian diet for your dog. (Photo: Rasulov/Shutterstock)

However, there are those who worry that vegetarian dogs may not be able to get adequate nutrition from a plant-based diet. Dogs, like humans, are omnivores, meaning they can survive on a diet of either plant or animal origin, but owners must be careful to ensure that their dogs are getting the proper nutrients from plant-based ingredients. (Cats, on the other hand, are strictly carnivores.)

According to the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), a non-regulatory industry group that establishes pet food standards, dog food for an average adult dog should contain about 18% protein, an amount deemed necessary for good health and proper growth and development. But since every protein source contains different levels of amino acids, which are protein’s building blocks, all protein is not created equal. Some proteins are better for pets than others. For example, egg and cottage cheese are considered quality sources of protein for dogs.

“Vegetarian proteins tend not to have all the amino acids, so you have to do multiple combinations of varying types of sources of protein to get the right amino acids, which can get a little tricky to manage,” says Dr. Jessica Waldman, a veterinarian who operates a full-time pet rehabilitation clinic in Santa Monica, California. Waldman says she steers her clients away from vegetarian diets because she believes they are unnatural.

“Although I think it would be possible to put a dog on a vegetarian diet, it is truly unnatural for them,” says Waldman. “There are still dogs in the wild and they eat a vast majority of animal protein, so I think that keeping your pet’s diet as close to natural is best for limiting disease and promoting health.”

Other vets disagree, arguing that dogs can successfully be vegetarians as long as their diet is balanced and they are able to get proteins from varying sources.

Dr. Jennifer Larsen, a veterinary nutritionist at the University of California-Davis, says that both commercial and home-cooked vegetarian diets “can be used safely and can provide adequate nutrition if carefully and appropriately formulated” and as long as owners pay special attention to providing their dogs with the proper protein and amino acids.

Commercial vegetarian diets and home-cooked options are prescribed by veterinarians for dogs with specific diseases, but there currently isn’t much extensive research to prove or disprove their healthfulness. One survey conducted by PETA found that 82% of dogs that had been vegan for five years or more were in good to excellent health and that the longer a dog remained on a vegetarian or vegan diet, the greater the likelihood that the dog would have overall good to excellent health.

The study, however, also found that vegetarian dogs may be more prone to urinary tract infections as well as a form of heart disease known as dilated cardiomyopathy, which can be caused by a deficiency of the amino acids L-carnitine or taurine. But as the researchers pointed out, DCM isn’t just a problem for vegetarian dogs since L-carnitine and taurine also can be washed away in the processing of meat in commercial dog food.

To help bypass this problem, some commercial dog food companies like V-dog, a high protein vegan dog food, have added taurine and L-carnitine to their formulas to insure quality health that “exceeds the nutrient profiles established by the AAFCO,” says V-dog President David Middlesworth.

Though putting dogs on a vegetarian diet may remain controversial until further studies are conducted, veterinarians and vegetarian dog owners can agree that people considering putting their dog on a vegetarian diet should first do their own research to determine what’s best for their individual dog’s needs and/or consult their veterinarian.

Jennifer Adolphe, an animal nutritionist at the University of Saskatchewan, told The Washington Post that pet owners should do research. She advises pet owners to do “some homework to find out who is behind the company, if it employs a full-time qualified nutritionist, what kind of quality control measures do they use.”

“It just takes research and the willingness to stick by your reasons for having your dogs on a vegetarian diet,” says Benfer, who often makes homemade dog food for her three vegan dogs. “I get strange looks when I let people know my dogs are vegan, but it’s only because they aren’t educated about dogs being vegetarian and don’t realize how easy and possible it really is to do.”

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with new information since it was published in August 2010.

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Well not much to add from me. This article is completely clear to my mind.

Dogs need meat!

Out playing in the cold

Another fascinating article.

Indeed, this article from Mother Nature Network has no fewer than six YouTube videos of dogs out in the cold.

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Why dogs love the cold and playing in the snow

By Mary Jo DiLonardo , December 5, 2019

Snow turns your dog’s world into a brand new playground. (Photo: Ksenia Raykova/Shutterstock)

When temperatures drop or snow starts to fall, many of us hibernate inside under warm blankets — after stocking up on bread and milk, of course. But not our dogs.

Cold? They love the cold! They run around the yard with heads held high and tails streaming, bucking like frisky foals.

What is it about the cold and snow that makes our canine friends so absolutely bonkers?

“I think it’s just fun. It’s something new. Plus snow is like a brand new toy,” says certified dog trainer and behaviorist Susie Aga of Atlanta Dog Trainer. “They have fur coats on, and they’re warm all the time so they feel good when it’s cold.”
But it’s even more amazing when it snows. That baffling, stupendous, chilling white stuff is for catching, rolling around and racing in. Like this:

Dogs have fun in the snow for probably the same reason little kids have fun in the snow: It changes their usual playground.

“It’s really no different than us humans (particularly children), who find many different forms of entertainment in the winter,” says certified professional dog trainer Katelyn Schutz in Wisconsin Pet Care.

“We toss snowballs, build snow forts, and hurdle ourselves down snowy hills on sleds, skis, and snowboards. It’s no wonder our dogs follow our lead!”

This newness isn’t just what they see, of course, but it’s what they smell and what they feel when they’re outside romping in the snow.

“More than anything, I suspect that the very sensation of snow on the body is engaging for dogs,” Alexandra Horowitz, PhD, author of “Inside of a Dog: What Dogs, See, Smell, and Know,” tells Scientific American.

“Have you ever run through the shallow waves of the sea? Why does kicking up sand and seawater make us happy? I can’t say. But it is clear that it does.”

Not all dogs love the snow and cold, Aga points out. Hairless breeds shiver and get too cold when exposed to frigid temperatures. (Above all, just pay attention; your dog will let you know if he’s not enjoying the weather.) They might need doggie sweaters or jackets before heading outside to play.

But cold-weather breeds like Siberian huskies, Newfoundlands and great Pyrenees have dense coats and were bred to withstand winter’s wallop.

“For snow dogs, that’s when they come alive,” Aga says. “They become more energetic. It allows them to run and play without getting overheated. They just feel freer in it.”

When your dog is racing and bounding around in the snow yelling, “Wheeeee!” it’s obvious he’s having fun.

“Dogs will play with something that is interesting and moves in a different way — it feels interesting,” Dr. Peter Borchelt, a certified applied animal behaviorist, told the Dodo.

“It’s about novelty and creating different movements — they’re trying to learn what is this thing and what to do with it.”

Plus, snow is really fun to catch.

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That’s a really fun post and a delightful collection of videos.

It’s a truism I know but it still needs saying out loud: Dogs are amazing!

Picture Parade Three Hundred and Seventeen

A republication of a Picture Parade from November, 2016

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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

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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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It’s a wonderful reminder of what is important in our lives.

Big hugs to you all.

Picture Parade Three Hundred and Sixteen

Just four fabulous photographs for you this week.

Continuing the republication of the Mother Nature Network photographs originally presented here.

The first set was a week ago.

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These prize-winning images of dogs will steal your heart

10th annual Dog Photographer of the Year competition drew entries from photographers in 90 countries.

Jaymi Heimbuch June 30, 2016.

Winner of the ‘I Love Dogs Because…’ category (Photo: Jade Hudson/Dog Photographer of the Year Competition.

Hugo the puppy is the subject of this winning image by 16-year-old Jade Hudson.

Winner of the Oldies category (Photo: Kevin Smith/Dog Photographer of the Year Competition)

The gray faces of old dogs speak to all the love and friendship they’ve provided over the years as Lizzie, a 12-year-old mixed breed dog, shows us. Curling up with a cracking fire and your four-legged BFF is one of life’s great joys.

Winner of the Dog Portrait category (Photo: Jamie Morgan/Dog Photographer of the Year Competition)

This portrait of two Afghan hounds named Ozzie and Elvis took first place for the Dog Portrait category. The setting is the idyllic Ashdown Forest in Sussex.

Winner of the Puppy category (Photo: Linda Storm/Dog Photographer of the Year Competition)

And finally, the winner of the Puppy category is little rescue puppy Buddy enjoying a bowl of milk. The photo was taken by Colorado-based photographer Linda Storm.

“The entries for this year’s Dog Photographer of the Year competition were some of the best we have ever seen,” says Rosemary Smart, Kennel Club chief executive. “Choosing the winners was an incredibly challenging task and we commend every photographer who entered. Each of the winning photographers beautifully captured the essence of their canine subjects on camera, demonstrating how important dogs are to us in every walk of life.”

If you’re a photographer who loves dogs as your subject, keep an eye on the opening date for next year’s competition!

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I should say so! These photographs are the very best of pictures taken by very talented photographers.

 

Picture Parade Three Hundred and Fifteen.

Another copy of an earlier Picture Parade.

I don’t know. What with wood splitting ahead of the rain and snow, and working hard at editing the completed book, I didn’t seem to have the creative urge to publish a new Picture Parade.

So I’m once again republishing one that was first published on July 17th, 2016.

Enjoy!

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Incredible, prize-winning, images of dogs.

The following was read over on Mother Nature News on June 30th. The item, and especially the photographs, just had to be shared with you.

However, to ensure the integrity of republication and the identity of the photographers, I’m going to include the photographs and the words of the original MNN piece, and split it across today and next Sunday.

Trust me you will adore these photographs.

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These prize-winning images of dogs will steal your heart.

10th annual Dog Photographer of the Year competition drew entries from photographers in 90 countries.

Jaymi Heimbuch June 30, 2016.

Winner of the Man’s Best Friend category (Photo: Fiona Sami/Dog Photographer of the Year Competition)
Winner of the Man’s Best Friend category (Photo: Fiona Sami/Dog Photographer of the Year Competition)

The love of a dog is a universal joy, as the latest photography competition from The Kennel Club illustrates. The 10th annual competition drew over 13,000 entries from photographers in 90 countries. The photographs show the beauty, loyalty, companionship, dignity and, of course, the adorableness of dogs around the world.

The competition features eight categories, including Puppies, Oldies, Dogs at Work, Dogs at Play, Man’s Best Friend (winner pictured above), Assistance Dogs and Dog Charities, Dog Portraits and I Love Dogs Because.

Winner of the Dogs At Work category as well as overall winner of the competition (Photo: Anastasia Vetkovskaya/Dog Photographer of the Year Competition)
Winner of the Dogs At Work category as well as overall winner of the competition (Photo: Anastasia Vetkovskaya/Dog Photographer of the Year Competition)

This image of Sheldon the English springer spaniel enjoying a mist-shrouded pond early one morning is the work of Anastasia Vetkovskaya from Russia. Not only did it win for the Dogs At Work category, but it also placed as the overall winner of the competition.

Vetkovskaya states, “I have loved animals from an early age, which is why I went to Moscow Veterinary Academy and became a veterinary surgeon in 2007. Around this period of time, my husband gave me my first SLR camera, and since then I have devoted all of my free time to photography. My specialty is pets, and I am inspired most by horses and dogs.”

Winner of the Dogs at Play category (Photo: Tom Lowe/Dog Photographer of the Year Competition)
Winner of the Dogs at Play category (Photo: Tom Lowe/Dog Photographer of the Year Competition)

Baxter the Westie inspired his photography-loving human, Tom Lowe, to snap this image of Baxter playing in the water of Loch Lomond in Scotland.

Winner of the Assistance Dogs and Dog Charities category (Photo: Michael Higginson/Dog Photographer of the Year Competition
Winner of the Assistance Dogs and Dog Charities category (Photo: Michael Higginson/Dog Photographer of the Year Competition)

This poignant image was taken by Michael Higginson, and features his brother Dale with Esta the dog. The win not only benefits the photographer but also a charity of his choice. The Kennel Club is making a donation to Higginson’s favorite charity, Dogs for Good.

Higginson states, “Winning the Assistance Dog category has made it even more special. It’s an honor to be able to show the world what a difference a dog can make to someone else’s life.”

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Aren’t they breath-takingly beautiful!

The rest of these fabulous photographs in a week’s time.

How service dogs are helping veterans heal.

Time for a break.

I’m well up on my second book so thought that I should offer a post for the day.

It’s a documentary on how dogs are helping the veterans heal.

Here’s how it goes:

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Documentary shines a light on how service dogs are helping veterans heal

By MARY JO DILONARDO
November 7, 2019

Greg Kolodziejczy snuggles with his service dog, Valor, in a scene from the documentary ‘To Be of Service.’ (Photo: ‘To Be of Service’)

When veterans return from combat, many can’t leave behind the terrors they witnessed. In the U.S., roughly 22 veterans commit suicide every day — or one every 65 minutes — according to a report by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The psychological pain of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) breaks up relationships, ends jobs and causes depression and other issues. To help manage the haunting memories and pain, some veterans have found respite in four-legged treatment. Trained service dogs have helped some veterans return to their lives after combat.

The documentary “To Be of Service” follows several American veterans of wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Vietnam and the dogs that help them cope with PTSD. The film was directed by Josh Aronson, known for the Oscar-nominated documentary “Sound and Fury” about deaf families.

Many of the veterans in the documentary had turned to medications, alcohol or illegal drugs to try to cope with life after combat. But the film shows how having to care for a dog gave them a sense of a purpose and an ever-present friend.

‘I had to tell these stories’

Glen Moody rarely left his house before being paired with Indy. (Photo: ‘To Be of Service’)

The documentary follows nearly a dozen veterans including Glen Moody, who was a Navy Corpsman stationed with the Marines in Iraq. He never got into a fight in his life before he was deployed, but he returned an adrenaline junkie. He would get into bar brawls and ride his motorcycle drunk at 100 mph. He was heavily meditated to treat his PTSD, but never went out, eventually losing all his friends.

“They spend millions to make us warriors but not near enough to teach us to return home,” Moody says.

After being paired with service dog Indy, his rage and anxiety has started to subside. He has made friends again and he rides his motorcycle “like an adult,” he says.

It’s stories like this that prompted producer Julie Sayres to get involved. She has been writing about and working with veterans for the past several years.

“I began to imagine how unsafe a veteran struggling with physical and emotional trauma must feel upon returning from war, to a world that doesn’t have a clue what he or she has endured. It’s isolating and terrifying, leading to never leaving the house, excessive drinking or drug use and in many cases, suicide. I began to explore what these amazing service dogs do to mitigate this kind of anguish,” said Sayres.

“I’ve seen men and women come back to life after letting a dog into their life. I’ve seen families come together after the black cloud of despair is lifted from their father, mother, daughter or son. I had to tell these stories.”

Currently, the film is scheduled for screenings in about a dozen cities, but more will likely be added. To find a screening near you or to find out how to schedule a community or educational screening, check out the film’s website.

Here’s a tissue-worthy peek at what to expect:

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I have said it before and no doubt that I will say it again many times: A dog is without doubt man’s best friend!

Dancers and Dogs

I know it’s highlighting a book launch but still …

Here’s a YouTube video about the book:

Plus here’s an extract from Mother Nature Network:

Photographers Kelly Pratt and Ian Kreidich frequently work with professional dancers, capturing their gorgeous movements and their breathtaking abilities. But in a random moment, Pratt suggested to her husband, Kreidich, that they throw a few dogs into the mix for an unusual collaboration.

“We definitely didn’t fully know what to expect with this project,” Pratt tells MNN. “We started very small — at first we worked with our friends at the St. Louis Ballet — and just slowly tried to figure out what worked and what didn’t, when it came to working with dogs. No one had ever done this before, so it was all trial and error.”

They posted a behind-the-scenes video on social media and it vaulted into the stratosphere. It has been viewed more than 41 million times on YouTube, Facebook and Instagram.

Pratt and Kreidich spent more than two years photographing 100 dancers and 100 dogs in more than 10 cities across the U.S. Now the images of graceful dancers and furry companions are in the book “Dancers & Dogs.”

I also notice that there’s a calendar for sale.

Anyway, thought you would like to know!