Tag: Oliver

Our incredible dogs!

Serendipity hard at work!

Why that sub-heading?

Simply because yesterday Anita from Anitashope blog left the following comment:

This article popped up after I responded to todays post but I also have to respond to this one as I need to tell you about Mimi. Mimi is my coon hound black lab mix and she will NOT make eye contact with you when a treat is involved. She will come sit by you and look off in the distance like “I am not looking at you”, then she will cut her eyes sideways just to make sure the treat is still there. Its hilarious.

The post where her comment was left was one that I published back on March 13th, 2017. It included the most beautiful photograph of Oliver’s eyes. I had forgotten that picture.

So for that reason alone, it is being republished today.

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The love and admiration for this beautiful animal goes on and on!

It seems as though it is almost on a weekly basis that new and incredible facts about our dear, dear dogs come to the surface.

So what prompted this from me today!

Only a wonderful article that was originally published in New Scientist but then was carried by The Smithsonian. I am hoping that by fully linking this post to both the New Scientist article and the essay in The Smithsonian I am at liberty to republish it for all you good people.

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Dogs Use Deception to Get Treats, Study Shows

When a human partner withheld tasty snacks, the dogs got sneaky

Would these eyes deceive you? New study says yes. (johan63/iStock)

By Brigit Katz     smithsonian.com
March 10, 2017
There is plenty of evidence to suggest that dogs, in addition to looking adorable in sweaters, possess fairly sophisticated cognitive abilities. They recognize emotion, for example, and respond negatively to antisocial behavior between humans. Man’s best friend can also get pretty tricksy when it comes to scoring snacks. As Brian Owens reports for New Scientist, a recent study found that dogs are capable of using deceptive tactics to get their favorite treats.

The study, published in the journal Animal Cognition, was led by Marianne Heberlein of the Department of Evolutionary Biology and Experimental Studies at the University of Zürich. Heberlein told Owens that the idea for the study was born when she observed her pet pooches engaging in deceptive behavior; one sometimes pretends to see something interesting outside, prompting the other to give up his sleeping spot.

To find out if dogs engage in similar shenanigans with humans, Heberlein and a team of researchers paired 27 dogs with two different partners, Stanley Coren explains in Psychology Today. One of these partners would repeatedly go to the bowl of a given dog, fish out a treat, and give it to the pup. The other would show the treat to the dog, and then put it in her pocket. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the dogs began to show a preference for the more generous partners, and would approach them spontaneously.

Once one partner had been established as co-operative, the other as competitive, the dogs were taught to lead their partners to one of two boxes, both containing food, with the command “Show me the food.” And the same pattern was repeated: when the dogs led the co-operative partner to a treat, they got to eat it. The competitive partner withheld the treat.

Researchers then showed the dogs three covered boxes. One contained a sausage, the second contained a less-yummy dry biscuit, and the third was empty. Once again, the process of treat giving and withholding was repeated, but this time with a twist: when the dog was reunited with its owner, the owner asked it to choose one of the boxes. If there was a treat inside the box, the dog was allowed to eat it. But “if the dog chose the box which had been opened before,” Coren explains, “the owner just showed the empty box to the dog.”

Over the course of a two-day testing period, the dogs were repeatedly presented with this conundrum. They had been trained to lead both partners to boxes containing food, but they knew that the competitive partner would not let them eat the snacks. They also knew that if any snacks remained inside the boxes once they were reunited with their owners, they would get a chance to eat them. So the dogs got a little devious.

Researchers observed the pooches leading the co-operative partner to the box containing the sausage more often than expected by chance. They led the competitive partner to the sausage less often than expected by chance. And here’s where things get really interesting: the dogs took the competitive partner to the empty box more frequently than the co-operative partner, suggesting that they were working through their options and engaging in deliberate deception to maximize their chances of getting both treats.

“It is as though the dog is thinking, ‘Why should I tell that selfish person where the best treat [is] if it means that I will never get it?’,” writes Coren.

“These results show that dogs distinguished between the co-operative and the competitive partner,” the authors of the study write, “and indicate the flexibility of dogs to adjust their behaviour and that they are able to use tactical deception.”

Rest assured, dog lovers: your pooches may be sneaky, but they still love you more than cats.

Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/dogs-use-deception-get-treats-study-shows-180962492/#5r1vc6gkyLQoIQaL.99
Give the gift of Smithsonian magazine for only $12! http://bit.ly/1cGUiGv
Follow us: @SmithsonianMag on Twitter

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The article from Brigit opened up with a picture of a pair of eyes; a pair of dog’s eyes.

I don’t know about you but some dogs have eyes that reach out and seem to illuminate one’s soul.

Our Oliver has just that set of eyes. I will close today’s post with a photograph of Oliver’s eyes that was taken yesterday afternoon.

Talk about the power of non-verbal communication!

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I will never, ever get tired of looking at the face of such a gorgeous, loving dog as our dearest Oliver. Never; Ever!

The eyes of our dogs!

Science confirms what we instinctively understand!

That the way a dog looks deep into our eyes is more than emotional froth!

Follower of this blog, Anita, left a comment to yesterday’s post. This is what she wrote (my emphasis):

This has been a wonderful compilation of awesome photos. You must do it again sometime. Dogs are so wonderful and such great companions. They do have eyes that see straight through our very souls and ready to love us at the drop of a hat.

One of our dogs here at home, Oliver, has those eyes. When he stares into my own eyes it feels as though at some mystical level Oliver and I are connected.

Young Oliver and those eyes! (Taken 1st March, 2018.)

So imagine my surprise when reading yesterday the lead essay in The Smithsonian about the evolution of the domesticated dog and me coming across this:

The relationship has become so close that even our brains are in sync. Witness a study showing that dogs hijack the human brain’s maternal bonding system. When humans and dogs gaze lovingly into one another’s eyes, each of their brains secretes oxytocin, a hormone linked to maternal bonding and trust.

In other words, science confirms what I experience as being real!! (Undoubtedly shared by many of you!)

I have pleasure in republishing the full article.

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How Accurate Is Alpha’s Theory of Dog Domestication?

The ‘boy and his dog’ tale is a piece of prehistoric fiction, but scientists are uncovering the true origins of our incredible relationship with dogs.

smithsonian.com

Long ago, before your four-legged best friend learned to fetch tennis balls or watch football from the couch, his ancestors were purely wild animals in competition—sometimes violent—with our own. So how did this relationship change? How did dogs go from being our bitter rivals to our snuggly, fluffy pooch pals?

The new drama Alpha answers that question with a Hollywood “tail” of the very first human/dog partnership.

Europe is a cold and dangerous place 20,000 years ago when the film’s hero, a young hunter named Keda, is injured and left for dead. Fighting to survive, he forgoes killing an injured wolf and instead befriends the animal, forging an unlikely partnership that—according to the film—launches our long and intimate bond with dogs.

Just how many nuggets of fact might be sprinkled throughout this prehistoric fiction?

We’ll never know the gritty details of how humans and dogs first began to come together. But beyond the theater the true story is slowly taking shape, as scientists explore the real origins of our oldest domestic relationship and learn how both species have changed along canines’ evolutionary journey from wolves to dogs.

When and where were dogs domesticated?

Pugs and poodles may not look the part, but if you trace their lineages far enough back in time all dogs are descended from wolves. Gray wolves and dogs diverged from an extinct wolf species some 15,000 to 40,000 years ago. There’s general scientific agreement on that point, and also with evolutionary anthropologist Brian Hare’s characterization of what happened next. ’The domestication of dogs was one of the most extraordinary events in human history,” Hare says.

But controversies abound concerning where a long-feared animal first became our closest domestic partner. Genetic studies have pinpointed everywhere from southern China to Mongolia to Europe.

Scientists cannot agree on the timing, either. Last summer, research reported in Nature Communications pushed likely dates for domestication further back into the past, suggesting that dogs were domesticated just once at least 20,000 but likely closer to 40,000 years ago. Evolutionary ecologist Krishna R. Veeramah, of Stony Brook University, and colleagues sampled DNA from two Neolithic German dog fossils, 7,000 and 4,700 years old respectively. Tracing genetic mutation rates in these genomes yielded the new date estimates.

“We found that our ancient dogs from the same time period were very similar to modern European dogs, including the majority of breed dogs people keep as pets,” explained Dr. Veeramah in a release accompanying the study. This suggests, he adds, “that there was likely only a single domestication event for the dogs observed in the fossil record from the Stone Age and that we also see and live with today.”

End of story? Not even close.

In fact, at least one study has suggested that dogs could have been domesticated more than once. Researchers analyzed mitochondrial DNA sequences from remains of 59 European dogs (aged 3,000 to 14,000 years), and the full genome of a 4,800-year-old dog that was buried beneath the prehistoric mound monument at Newgrange, Ireland.

Comparing these genomes with many wolves and modern dog breeds suggested that dogs were domesticated in Asia, at least 14,000 years ago, and their lineages split some 14,000 to 6,400 years ago into East Asian and Western Eurasian dogs .

But because dog fossils apparently older than these dates have been found in Europe, the authors theorize that wolves may have been domesticated twice, though the European branch didn’t survive to contribute much to today’s dogs. Greger Larson, director of the Wellcome Trust Palaeogenomics & Bio-Archaeology Research Network at Oxford University, suggests that the presence of older fossils in both Europe and Asia, and the lack of dogs older than 8,000 years in between those regions, supports such a scenario.

“Our ancient DNA evidence, combined with the archaeological record of early dogs, suggests that we need to reconsider the number of times dogs were domesticated independently. Maybe the reason there hasn’t yet been a consensus about where dogs were domesticated is because everyone has been a little bit right,′ Larson said in a statement accompanying the study.

The many interbreedings of dogs and wolves also muddy the genetic waters, of course. Such events happen to the present day—even when the dogs in question are supposed to be stopping the wolves from eating livestock.

How did dogs become man’s best friend?

Perhaps more intriguing than exactly when or where dogs became domesticated is the question of how. Was it really the result of a solitary hunter befriending an injured wolf? That theory hasn’t enjoyed much scientific support.

One similar theory argues that early humans somehow captured wolf pups, kept them as pets, and gradually domesticated them. This could have happened around the same time as the rise of agriculture, about 10,000 years ago. The oldest fossils generally agreed to be domestic dogs date to about 14,000 years, but several disputed fossils more than twice that age may also be dogs or at least their no longer entirely wolf ancestors.

Since more recent genetic studies suggest that the date of domestication occurred far earlier, a different theory has gained the support of many scientists. “Survival of the friendliest” suggests that wolves largely domesticated themselves among hunter-gatherer people.

“That the first domesticated animal was a large carnivore, who would have been a competitor for food—anyone who has spent time with wild wolves would see how unlikely it was that we somehow tamed them in a way that led to domestication,” says Brian Hare, director of the Duke University Canine Cognition Center.

But, Hare notes, the physical changes that appeared in dogs over time, including splotchy coats, curly tails, and floppy ears, follow a pattern of a process known as self-domestication. It’s what happens when the friendliest animals of a species somehow gain an advantage. Friendliness somehow drives these physical changes, which can begin to appear as visible byproducts of this selection in only a few generations.

“Evidence for this comes from another process of domestication, one involving the famous case of domesticated foxes in Russia. This experiment bred foxes who were comfortable getting close to humans, but researchers learned that these comfortable foxes were also good at picking up on human social cues,” explains Laurie Santos, director of the Canine Cognition Center at Yale University. The selection of social foxes also had the unintended consequence of making them look increasingly adorable—like dogs.

Hare adds that most wolves would have been fearful and aggressive towards humans—because that’s the way most wolves behave. But some would have been friendlier, which may have given them access to human hunter-gatherer foodstuffs..

“These wolves would have had an advantage over other wolves, and the strong selection pressure on friendliness had a whole lot of byproducts, like the physical differences we see in dogs,” he says. “This is self-domestication. We did not domesticate dogs. Dogs domesticated themselves.”

A study last year provided some possible genetic support for this theory. Evolutionary biologist Bridgette von Holdt, of Princeton University, and colleagues suggest that hypersocial behavior may have linked our two species and zero in on a few genes that may drive that behavior.

“Generally speaking, dogs display a higher level of motivation than wolves to seek out prolonged interactions with humans. This is the behavior I’m interested in,” she says.

Von Holdt’s research shows that the social dogs she tested have disruption to a genomic region that remains intact in more aloof wolves. Interestingly, in humans genetic variation in the same stretch of DNA causes Williams-Beuren syndrome, a condition characterized by exceptionally trusting and friendly behaviors. Mice also become more social if changes occur to these genes, previous studies have discovered.

The results suggest that random variations to these genes, with others yet unknown, may have played a role in causing some dogs to first cozy up with humans.

“We were able to identify one of the many molecular features that likely shape behavior,” she adds.

How have dogs changed since becoming our best friends?

Though the origins of the dog/human partnership remain unknown, it’s becoming increasingly clear that each species has changed during our long years together. The physical differences between a basset hound and wolf are obvious, but dogs have also changed in ways that are more than skin (or fur) deep.

One recent study shows how by bonding with us and learning to work together with humans, dogs may have actually become worse at working together as a species. Their pack lifestyle and mentality appear to be reduced and is far less prevalent even in wild dogs than it is in wolves.

But, Yale’s Laurie Santos says, dogs may have compensated in other interesting ways. They’ve learned to use humans to solve problems.

“Several researchers have presented dogs and wolves with an impossible problem (e.g., a puzzle box that can’t be opened or a pulling tool that stops working) and have asked how these different species react,” Santos explains. “Researchers have found that wolves try lots of different trial and error tactics to solve the problem— they get at it physically. But at the first sign of trouble, dogs do something different. They look back to their human companion for help. This work hints that dogs may have lost some of their physical problem-solving abilities in favor of more social strategies, ones that rely on the unique sort of cooperation domesticated dogs have with humans. This also matches the work showing that dogs are especially good at using human social cues.”

The relationship has become so close that even our brains are in sync. Witness a study showing that dogs hijack the human brain’s maternal bonding system. When humans and dogs gaze lovingly into one another’s eyes, each of their brains secretes oxytocin, a hormone linked to maternal bonding and trust. Other mammal relationships, including those between mom and child, or between mates, feature oxytocin bonding, but the human/dog example is the only case in which it has been observed at work between two different species.

The intimacy of this relationship means that, by studying dogs, we may also learn much about human cognition.

“Overall, the story of dog cognitive evolution seems to be one about cognitive capacities shaped for a close cooperative relationship with humans,” Santos says. “Because dogs were shaped to pick up on human cues, our lab uses dogs as a comparison group to test what’s unique about human social learning.” For example, a recent Yale study found that while dogs and children react to the same social cues, dogs were actually better at determining which actions were strictly necessary to solve a problem, like retrieving food from a container, and ignoring extraneous “bad advice.” Human kids tended to mimic all of their elders’ actions, suggesting that their learning had a different goal than their canine companions’.

We may never know the exact story of how the first dogs and humans joined forces, but dogs have undoubtedly helped us in countless ways over the years. Still, only now may we be realizing that by studying them, they can help us to better understand ourselves.

Read more: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/how-wolves-really-became-dogs-180970014/#UzuFaQFSdpuBPHmO.99
Give the gift of Smithsonian magazine for only $12! http://bit.ly/1cGUiGv
Follow us: @SmithsonianMag on Twitter

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I can do no better than to repeat those last two sentences of the essay by Brian Handwerk:

We may never know the exact story of how the first dogs and humans joined forces, but dogs have undoubtedly helped us in countless ways over the years. Still, only now may we be realizing that by studying them, they can help us to better understand ourselves.

For, boy of boy, do we humans need help when it comes to better understanding ourselves!

The loving rescue: so far, so good!

Staying with the beautiful story of a stray dog rescued from a beach in Greece to home in the United Kingdom

The footnote will explain why there is a pause in the story.

The fourth part of the story is a republication, with permission, of this.

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Day Four: Saturday 24th June

by Charlotte Hargreaves

Day Four…I’m calling it this when in reality, it’s actually Day Seven. We needed a few days to adjust back into life in the UK, recover from the early morning flight followed by subsequent early get-ups (tomorrow will be my first full day of doing absolutely nothing and I CANNOT wait) and also, to spread the news of Luna throughout both of our families. Writing this one feels different, it’s the first blog about Luna…but without Luna.

Although we know she is having the time of her life right now; regular walks, a paddling pool to splash in, being pampered and pedicured, spending time with an abundance of four-legged friends and overrun with all kinds of toys, we can’t help but miss her, a dog we have known for one week. It’s funny how quickly you can fall in love.

We also can’t help but feeling like a pair of anxious parents who have sent their only child off to their first day of school. This little lady was now whole-heartedly ours, our responsibility, our family member, our precious girl. I found myself texting Olga in the same way I might a teacher, ‘Is she settling in? Has she made friends? Has she eaten all of her dinner? It’s ridiculous, and yet we can’t help but laugh at ourselves. The reality is she’s most likely sunbathing, with a full belly and waggy tail, and harbouring no bother in the world for our wellbeing, thoughts such as ‘Did they get home okay? Did the plane take off on time? Are they well rested?’, never occurring or simply overtaken by ‘When’s dinner?’ Olga did however tend to the needs of the soppy Brits, and on Thursday, we received a lovely message to say that she had settled in well. Yay! This was followed by an email from Ally on Friday with the below picture, stating ‘this was Luna minutes after you left’.

Confirmed, she is now a carefree, lady of luxury. Ally also added that she would try to send some more pictures today so fingers crossed we will receive some (which I will post the second they come through).

We also learned that her veterinary appointment had been postponed after an emergency came up at the Vets and has been rescheduled to Monday. In a way, this could be seen as a blessing in disguise because it gives her a few more days to really get comfortable before they start with the prodding and poking, although based on her unconditional love of people, I imagine she’ll be the vet’s best friend in no time.

So, now that we’ve covered the latest from across the waters, what’s been happening at home? Well, my mum has already begun to accumulate items for ‘Luna’s Bag’ including pink poo bags, treats and toys, and the general feeling across both sides of our families is one of excitement. On Sunday, I posted the blog to Facebook and we were overwhelmed with such lovely messages of support. It seems that she is going to have bred a fully-fledged fan club by the time she arrives. Through the blog, we have also begun to make a whole bunch of new friends who are keen to follow Luna’s story. Our first new pals include, Tails Around the Ranch (who gave our blog its first ever like – thanks guys!) and also Paul Handover, of Learning from Dogs, whom we have received several emails of encouragement, advice and support from, along with his lovely wife Jean. We highly recommend you check both of their blogs out at https://tailsaroundtheranch.blog and https://learningfromdogs.com

Finally, I’d like to end on a high by saying that we are now officially one day past the ‘under three weeks to go’ marker until Luni arrives (Luni – a nickname we’ve already coined for her). My part-time job covers Saturdays and Sundays and I find myself looking forward to my shifts even more so now, in that each weekend, each shift signifies another passing of a marker, another week which has come and gone, and brings us that little closer to our very exciting delivery.

#HurryHomeLuna

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Footnote:

This is part of an email sent to me by Charlotte on June 26th.

All is okay – we had some slightly bad news today. Luna’s vaccinations, micropchipping and blood tests all went well however she could not be neutered due to her being in season. As a result we are left with two options-

1. She stays in Greece for another 6-8 weeks until she can be neutered.
2. She comes to the UK on the same date however we would need to arrange different travel to the ferry as she won’t be able to go in the van with the other dogs.

It’s been a tough decision, and disappointing for us both, but you cannot control nature and we must do what is right for her.

With that in mind, we are 90% sure that we are going to ask Olga to hold her in Greece for the treatment to be carried out there as planned. For several reasons,

  1. She can recover under Olga’s 24/7 supervision and then come to the UK and start a fresh, rather than one of her first experiences over here being a more negative one.
  2. We won’t have to make alternative arrangements for transport which may prove complicated and costly.
  3. She is already settled with Olga and so it involves less upset for her, as we want to make her transition as smooth as possible.
  4. Also, the cost of neutering in the UK is much higher, and therefore even with paying for the extra boarding, it will most likely work out more cost effective. Although money is no concern in regards to her, we must also remember that we are saving for a house for the three us.

So potentially, we are looking at a longer wait, although good things come to those who are patient! We did think things were running far too smoothly so there was bound to be a bump in the road. Nevertheless, she is safe, healthy and happy and we could not ask for more.

Many thanks

P.S. If there are others who like Jean thought the 6-8 weeks seemed like a long time, a relevant article over on the Australian VetWest website included the following: [my italics]

How soon after an oestrous cycle can a bitch be desexed?

When an animal is in season, there is an increased blood supply to both the uterus and the ovaries. Dogs can be desexed whilst they are in season, but generally we try to do the surgery 8 weeks after the start of their last oestrous cycle.

Rest assured that I will share the rest of Luna’s story with you just as soon as it is published over on Loving Luna.

The loving rescue continues with Part Three.

The continuing beautiful story of a stray dog rescued from a beach in Greece to home in the United Kingdom

This third part is kindly republished from here.

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Day Three: Wednesday 20th June

by Charlotte Hargreaves

Of Luna, I am quickly learning one thing – she is full of surprises. She walked on the lead like it came naturally and spent the night, confined within four walls, sleeping blissfully. At the same time, I am surprising myself. My new-dog-mum instincts are becoming more refined. During the night, I couldn’t help but keep peering over the sheets to make sure she was content and in the morning, I awoke literally seconds before she did, as if we were already in sync with one another.

At 6:10am, minutes after we had woken, I could tell that she was eager to stretch her legs and so we ventured out together on an early walk. This allowed Oliver some well-deserved rest for he had so patiently waited up throughout most of the night while she drifted into a deep sleep. We managed to trek through the complex, up to the mountain and back without seeing a single soul. The sky was awash with an orange hue and we walked under it in silence, perfectly peaceful

At approximately 7:00am, us three amigos hit the road to Ouranoupolis on foot. We figured that getting Luna away from the hotel was a smart move and a refreshing one at that, it felt good not to be watching over our shoulders. We were just a couple of tourists and their pet. Yes I said it, ‘pet’ (this still doesn’t feel real).

Once in Ouranoupolis, I waited on the beach with Luna while Oliver arranged the rental car and boy did she have a good time. She splashed in the ocean, rolled in the sand and played, or more accurately, flirted with a new canine friend and it was so heart-warming to see. She also made time for a little cuddle on the towel I had laid down for us. It’s the little things that get you.

Oliver returned with a Ford Focus and things had almost gone off without a hitch…until the rental car lady spotted the dog. After some pleading, we convinced her to take an extra 20€ and agreed to keep Luna in the passenger footwell on a towel…which we didn’t…but needs must! She is far too big a pooch to spend two and a half hours between my feet. This was the first leg of Luna’s big journey and we were not going to be defeated at the first hurdle.

After some coaxing into the back seat, Luna soon settled down for the journey and was content to watch the world rushing by past the window. I wondered if her mind could associate the inside of the car with the outside of which she so regularly avoided. Besides the odd speed bump and a few three-point turns which knocked her balance to and fro, the journey went better than we ever could have hoped. I would go as far to say she enjoyed it.

When we arrived at the meeting point, Olga was waiting. She guided us to the Better Dogs Hotel and my first thought was, ‘she’s going to love it here’. The complex has large pens, with thick grass and paddling pools, and the kennels were plentiful. We released Luna into one of the pens, and no surprise, she headed straight for the paddling pool. This dog is most definitely a water baby.

Meanwhile, Olga invited us to her office where we met Ally and Savvas.  We had refreshments and spoke for a couple of hours about the incredible work that Olga and the team do. Currently, she has 42 animals boarding with her but during the summer months, she told us it could rise to as many as 60. I will be publishing another blog which will include more information as to the incredible  work that Olga and her team do because I cannot simply express in so little words the passion, care and dedication which goes into everything they do.

Olga estimated that Luna was aged between 1-2 years. This surprised us for although she played (and in play, occasionally nipped) like a puppy, she had a few grey hairs within her coat. Olga told us this was most likely her natural colouring and that once she had been properly bathed, they would most likely come up more white.

Olga then brought Luna into the office and she was as happy and lively as ever, exploring the office, playing with the toys, assessing the people. She already looked at home.

She weighed in at 18kg and Olga explained to us that she did not look skinny which reinforced the theory that she is well fed by tourists. This will be interesting to compare with her weight when she leaves as I’m sure she will fatten up some from the genuine dog food (and not hot dogs or mini market ham).

Finally, she collapsed in a ball by the front door, probably exhausted from her big adventure. Then came the hardest part of this whole experience… saying goodbye. We approached her and she rolled straight onto her back, tail wagging, big brown eyes staring up. I told her, ‘be good’, and that was enough to set me off. Soppy Brit.

As we drove away, with promises to keep in touch with Olga for regular updates, I felt happy. I knew in my heart that she would be so loved by Olga and the team, that she was the safest she had probably ever been and hopefully, the happiest. She seemed so at ease, adapting so easily as she has already shown, to new people and new places. I knew we had made the right decision. It was going to be a long wait until July 14th and lots of worries raced round my mind….What if she doesn’t recognise us? What if she’s happier with Olga? What if something goes wrong with the transport? But those worries could wait another day, for now, she is safe and sound, and already so loved by so many. 

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Speaking of waiting for another day, I am afraid that all of you lovely people will have to wait another day in order to read Day Four!

Part Two of a Loving Rescue

A stray dog rescue story, from a beach in Greece to home in the United Kingdom.

Part One was yesterday.

Part Two is kindly republished from here.

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Day Two: Tuesday 19th June 2018

by Charlotte Hargreaves

I awoke at 6:15am and immediately checked Luna’s spot beneath the balcony but of course she had already gone. She was undoubtedly an early riser, a being who rose and set with the sun. I wondered what her life must be like, a nomad who roams freely, a life so alien to that which we know. 

The plan for the day began with a trip into Ouranoupolis for supplies for the journey ahead. After a LOT of being re-directed from mini market to mini market like some deluded scavenger hunt, we finally managed to acquire a small brown leather collar, a variety of meats and a small bowl for water and lead.

On route back to the apartment, I also managed to sneak a purse full of some of the restaurant’s hotdogs which I know she likes.

Before we began to climb Mount Everest aka the path to our apartment (although we can’t complain, the views of the bay were spectacular), we decided it was worthwhile to check in with the barman at the beach who was familiar with our hunt for Luna. Unfortunately, we were disappointed to learn that she had not shown up down there all day. This made me anxious. We thought we had figured out a rough idea of her routine; beach/main road/village in the daytime, retreat to the hotel and mountains when it gets dark so this seemed out of character.

After another call with Olga, who by this point is saved in my contacts with a dog emoji besides her name, we had agreed to bring Luna to Thessaloniki on Thursday in an animal-friendly taxi. Luckily, Better Dogs is situated by the airport and so we could drop Luna and head straight for the flight. With this potential journey only days away, we needed to be sure we could track and locate her when needed and so this irregularity in her routine had me concerned. But, after all, a stray is called a stray for good reason, they are wanderers, governed by their individual desires. Although, I must admit that I secretly hoped that as we begun the ascent to our apartment, we might find her relaxing in the pool on a lilo…no luck.

Later that evening, things went from bad to worse as we learnt that the animal-friendly taxi had cancelled on us after having second-thoughts about transporting a stray without a travel box. This left us with two options…

  1. Olga sends transport to collect Luna.
  2. We hire a car and drive to Thessaloniki ourselves

Option 2 won, primarily because we wanted to meet Olga personally, visit the kennels for ourselves and rather selfishly, prolong our time with her.

Hiring the car would need to happen on Wednesday which meant we would need Luna in the apartment THIS evening to ensure a smooth, early and most importantly, undetected departure in the morning. We needed to find her and fast!

After roughly half an hour of searching across the complex, from the beach to the hills, lead and hotdog in hand, we finally spotted our Luna trotting along down the main road behind some fellow tourists. She crossed the road confidently and once on the same side, we called out to her. Instantly she recognised us and came bounding over, back in the dirt, legs in the air and that tongue lolling out of the mouth, such a comedic pose.

Getting the lead on was relatively easy, her nose fixated on her favourite treat – hotdogs. Once on, she had a momentary panic but was soon trotting along beside us, the perfect image of domestication…if strays are anything, it’s adaptable!

Then, stealth mode was activated. The three of us sticking to the shadows as we ventured across the complex towards our room. Other than a few passers by, we got to the room pretty much unnoticed and with some encouragement (and more hotdogs), she was safely inside.

After a few minutes of stationary uncertainty, her curiosity got the better of her and she began her  exploration.

Long black legs tip-toeing into the shower, a twitching nose tracing every surface, wide eyed and reassuringly, waggy-tailed. Her only reservation was the other dog in the room who got a little growl…aka her own reflection in the mirror.

Soon enough, she was settled on her makeshift bed of towels, cushions and with her collar, water bowl and hotdog beside her, she was beginning to look the part and our family felt complete.

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Part Three of this wonderful story of love and caring for a stray dog appears tomorrow.

A story of a loving rescue

A stray dog rescue story, from a beach in Greece to home in the United Kingdom.

So many times this world of blogging creates special connections.

Just a few days ago there was an email, automatically generated by WordPress, to inform me that there had been a new subscriber, or follower, of Learning from Dogs. As I always do if that new subscriber has, in turn, their own blog-site, I go across to their place and leave a ‘thank you’ note.

In this recent case the blog-site that I went to was one under the title of Loving Luna. If you go to that home page you will read this:

Hey! My name is Charlotte Hargreaves.

On 11th June 2018, my partner Oliver and I arrived in Halkidiki, Greece for our third holiday together.

With Oliver recently starting a new job as a Sales Executive and myself finishing University two weeks prior, we were more than ready for the ten day break!

The trip started out like any other – sand, sea, sun, tequila. However on Monday 18th June, just three days before we were scheduled to depart back home, we came across a stray who was to steal our hearts and set us off on a wild adventure to #bringLunahome.

This is her story.

Charlotte has very kindly given me permission to republish her four posts that go into the details of getting Luna back to England.

Here is her first one.

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Day One: Monday 18th June 2018

We first spotted Luna on the private beach of our hotel. Dehydrated and drained, she appeared out of nowhere and desperately tried to wriggle her body underneath the occupied sun lounger in front of us, for shade from the blistering mid-day sun. Her eyes rolled in the back of her head, half-closed and she panted heavily, her tongue lolling clumsily to one side. Oliver fetched some water and she lapped it quickly from the cup. In return, she was incredibly affectionate and offered strokes and belly rubs in between sips, her loving nature at the forefront of her character.

After a short while, she ventured to a vacant sun lounger and fell asleep underneath its accompanying parasol. When the sun lounger behind this one also became vacant, we quickly moved to observe her more closely. For a stray dog, we were taken aback by how gentle and friendly she was. She took slices of ham which we had salvaged from the all inclusive sandwiches so delicately and always with that wagging tail. Some she ate, some she buried, demonstrating that deeply engrained survival instinct. It broke our hearts. We knew we had fallen in love and never wanted her to have to plan for her next meal again.

She remained on the beach for the most part of the day before retreating up the mountain and out of sight. After speaking to some of the locals, two things became clear. Firstly, we learned that she had a wide roaming ground, from the beach to the top of the mountains, from Ouranoupolis town right down to the opposite end of the main road. In total, she most likely covered a distance of 5-10km per day, sparking a fear in us that with only three days left in Halkidiki, we might never see her again. Secondly, and most notably, we learnt that Luna was loved. Rather than scavenging dustbins, her main tactic for acquiring food seemed to be earning it from tourists through her approachability. As a result, the locals said many people across the Island knew Luna and recognised her as she her passed through.

Back home in the United Kingdom, my family has always owned and loved dogs.  At the moment, we have a Schipperke called Koko and three Lhasa Apso’s, Jussy, Lucy and Phoebe, who live with my Nan across the road. We also regularly dog-sit for two cheeky Staffie’s called Boss and Jet.

When I retold Luna’s tale to them, they were incredibly supportive and this motivated me to reach out to several charities including PAWS (Pelion Animal Welfare Society). PAWS contacted us with wonderful news – there was a lady called Olga in Thessaloniki who would take Luna in her boarding kennels, Better Dogs. Olga could assist with arranging the necessary veterinary procedures for travel including micro-chipping, anti-rabies injection, de-worming and acquiring a pet passport. After that, PAWS informed us, they had a place for Luna on their next ferry trip to the UK, scheduled to arrive in Maidstone, Kent on Saturday 14th July.                                                        Suddenly, things became very real.
Could we actually be bringing this little dog home? Could we pull this all together just three days before our departure?

We set to work like two mad men, the bed covered with scribbled notes, plans of actions, contact numbers and (premature, I know) …suggestions for names. We were attached, well and truly. But pivotally, it had become doable. This crazy idea now had structure, logisitics, possibility! We knew there would be costs, extensive planning required and still a hell of a lot of uncertainty but PAWS had made this dream transition into a reality. It was then we decided… she was coming home.

That night, England was playing their first World Cup match and the hotel bar was filled to brim. I sat amongst the crowd with my phone in hand, anxiously awaiting my first call with Olga. At 9:24pm, it rang. One of the first things she said to me was, ‘Charlotte, I am going to help you and your dog’ and the relief that we were not alone in this came flooding in. People wanted to help. My family were behind us, PAWS were behind us and now Olga was behind us. I wondered if this pup had any idea of the support she was rallying and the love she was already spreading.

It was beginning to grow dark and conscious that we hadn’t seen Luna in a few hours, our hearts began to ache for her. By this point, news had spread through the hotel of our quest and opinions of us were divided between those idiotic, soppy Brits or genuinely, good-hearted people. I like to think the latter. Suddenly, in the midst of the game and, ironically, whilst I was continuing to jot down ideas for names, a lady hurried through the crowd towards us, gesturing and calling ‘She’s here! She’s in the hotel!’. Oliver and I darted from our seats but unfortunately when we came to the place where she had been spotted, she had vanished. Her coat acting as a perfect camouflage against the night. Disheartened, and with a feeling that she was somehow mocking us, we returned to the game.

The employees of the hotel had told us that she was often seen at the very top of the complex, close to the employee housing and so I felt more hopeful when the whistle blew and we headed up the hill, desperate to catch another glimpse of her. By some stroke of luck, we turned the corner and saw a young couple petting a small, black silhouette. We dashed over, probably giving them a fright as we fell about the floor, stroking her and telling her how beautiful she was and how we’d missed her. To avoid coming off as completely crazy, we explained the story to the couple who seemed amazed and it began to sink in that what we were doing was something very out of the ordinary but something very special. All the while, she lay on her back in the undergrowth, letting Oliver rub her belly, play with her ears, and scratch her nose, content to be part of the action-filled plot.

We attempted to lure her to our apartment with leftover takeaway, wanting her to be comfortable and familiar with the surroundings. If we were to transport her to Olga’s, she would need to spend the night in the apartment for we couldn’t risk not being able to track her on the day of the trip. She was as playful as ever but metres from the front door, her skittishness took a hold of her and uncertain, she trotted away into the darkness. An old adage rang in my head that you should never chase a stray and so we retreated to our apartment balcony and talked about how we were going to make it work, how badly we wanted her and to psychologically assess ourselves…just to confirm that we were not actually just a pair of idiotic, soppy Brits.

An hour or so passed when all of a sudden, as if she had overheard, a little black shadow appeared below our balcony with its signature head tilt and inquisitive ears. Like two rabbits caught in the headlights, we were dared not breathe, partly to avoid scaring her off and also to discourage unwanted attention. ‘Where’ve you been girl?’, we began to call to her in hushed tones. Her tail began to wag continuously until pitifully, she began to cry, unable to work out how she could reach us. Like a bullet, Oliver was out the door, round to the front and straight into her affections. A few minutes later, she climbed the mounted verge directly underneath our balcony, out of sight and laid down for the night. We wished her goodnight and returned to the apartment. Knowing that she recognised our voices in the darkness, that she was excited to see us and that she felt safe enough to sleep directly below us filled our hearts with hope and we felt positive about what the next day would bring.

On a side note, we would like to thank everyone who may appear in this article unnamed. Whether you alerted us to her whereabouts or told us we weren’t crazy….we three are so grateful for your time, support and belief in us.

*I will be writing a separate blog on both Better Dogs and PAWS and the incredible work they do. For more information in the meantime you can visit their websites below:

https://m.facebook.com/betterdogshotel/

http://www.paws-peliongreece.com

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The second episode will be republished tomorrow!

Distracted by Happiness!

Dear Ruby joins the crowd.

When Paloma died on the 16th, a little over a week ago, and, in turn, just a couple weeks after the sad loss of Casey, she was the last of the ‘kitchen’ group. To explain to newcomers, ever since we moved to Oregon in 2012 we had our dogs divided into two groups: the ‘kitchen’ and ‘bedroom’ groups. Primarily to ensure the minimum of any tensions between what at times has been 12 dogs.

There is a gate between the living room and the kitchen area and we have been leaving that open hoping that Ruby would work out when it was the right time to join the others.

That right time was yesterday afternoon around 4:30.

I grabbed my camera and quickly took a few flash photographs. They weren’t very good because Ruby is upset by camera flashguns. But the following is the best of the set and Jean and I wanted to share the lovely occasion with you.

From the foreground: Oliver, Sweeny, Ruby and to the right little Pedy.

Why did I choose the title I did?

Because a few moments before Ruby jumped up on to the settee Jean and I had been giggling about something silly.

Dogs know!