Tag: Pets

The Power of the Dog

An incredible moving account of man’s special relationship with the dog.

(Reproduced in full with the very kind written permission of the author, Laban T. where it was first published on UK Commentators.)

The Power of the Dog

Ross’s dog is gravely ill.

 I suppose if you don’t have a dog it is hard to understand why anyone would be so upset (that isn’t an insult or a judgement just a statement of fact) and if you do there isn’t much need to explain.

 As so often he’s spot-on. I remember in my teens a girlfriend walking through the door one Saturday morning and bursting into floods of tears – and it wasn’t the state of my room.

What’s the matter ?

They’ve taken her to the vet to be put down!” – ‘her’ being the companion of her childhood, a thousand walks and a hundred days out in the country with parents. But I didn’t think like that at the time – I was properly sympathetic and held her till my shoulders were soaked in tears – but it was only a dog, a nice enough dog, but still a dog. At this distance memory fails, but I probably assumed it was just a girl thing, what with being more emotionally open and all that.

The same blindness afflicted me with regard to the effect of children, although I think I wasn’t alone in this. Our single lives were so endlessly fascinating, what friends were doing, who was with whom, the places to go, the people, the parties, that we looked on people who’d got children slightly pityingly, as if they’d been afflicted with a crippling disease (and it IS crippling to a wild social life, although I know a few exceptional people and couples who have just carried on – I’m just not exceptional) which not only curtailed their social life but made them talk about children an awful lot – as if that topic was of any interest at all compared to the important things.

You live and learn. Hopefully. Now I feel more that becoming a parent is gaining access to the secret heart of life and the long chain of familial links down the generations. Not that it doesn’t have its many, many drawbacks. Susan and I looked at each other one day after #2 had arrived and said “whatever did we do with all that time we had?”.

I digress. So I finally learned about why parents are interested in kids, but still didn’t get the dog thing. Our neighbours were childless but treated their dogs like their children – they slept upstairs and their doings were part of our everyday chats. Most odd, we thought.

Dog lovers …

I’d taken my firstborn up to visit his grandpa, and grandpa and I were out walking with grandpa’s dog and the pushchair plus baby. I loved that new dad bit, with bonny boy getting cooed over by all and sundry … the checkout queue turning into a little love fest … and he WAS a beautiful baby – he’s 21 now and six foot.

Lady approaching on the pavement, breaks into happy smile :

Oh, what a beautiful …

(Dad smiles modestly… he’s getting used to this …)


(Smile vanishes instantly)

Then our youngest went off to Big School, and it left a bit of a gap in Susan’s life. Suddenly there were no babies to care for – and she likes caring for things. One day she went off and returned with this chap (and promptly had him snipped, to my horror). Apparently Labradors were very even tempered, good with children and an all round ideal first dog for a family with no dog-owning history on either side, at least since our great-grandparents were on the farm. What’s impressive is that AFAIK, apparently all dogs are descended from domesticated wolves. Just shows what breeding will do.

The dog.

The kids were thrilled, promised to walk him etc., etc., – didn’t last and soon Mum and Dad were doing most of the walks. But the exercise is great – he and we usually get about three miles a day in – it’s good for an ageing chap with a desk job. I’ve learned most of the footpaths and circular routes round the house.

Labradors seem to eat anything – three week old bird carcases, stones, deer poo, sheep poo, horse poo – and they roll in fox poo, which is not a nice smell and means an hour shampooing him in the garden (then a shower and complete change of clothes). On the good side they love apples, blackberries, plums, the farmer’s turnips – healthy eaters.

He once found a rotting, rank dead rabbit inside a plastic bag, scoffed it, then sat in his crate in the kitchen and disgorged the lot some hours later. Not a nice clean-up job – the smell at close quarters was truly evil.

They’re meant to have more acid in their stomachs than humans to enable digestion of bad food – but ours pushes that way beyond the limits. The Muslims are right enough when they consider dogs unclean. They’re filthy, dirty creatures.

But they have a way of wrapping themselves round the heart. Always pleased to have human company, playful, cheery.  All the family quickly grew to love him – even grandma, very much a non-dog person, has a soft spot.

October last year, grandma is round for Sunday tea/dinner, I’m just out in the garden using the last of the light at ten to six.

Can he stay out here with you? ”


The call for tea. I call him – he’s not anywhere in the garden. Round the house – no sign.

Has he come in?”


He’s not in the garden

Poor grandma. She was left alone in the house while everyone emptied into the darkening garden, calling, then after a quick conference and grabbing of mobiles, two cars head slowly in opposite directions, and the boys are in the local wood with torches. Daughter and I take the car across rough farm tracks, along the routes of his favourite walks, stopping, scanning the gloomy fields, calling him, on again, repeat.

Forty minutes later it’s pitch black and the cars are back. The boys have been right through the woods to the fields on the other side, which we’ve also scanned from the cars as best we could, then back again. Up and down the village – again – half expecting to see a limp form in the headlights. Not a sight or sound.

Tea at seven in almost total silence. The only thing I can compare it with was the first family Christmas without my grandmother.

Eight o’clock. He’s been gone two hours. We’ve been out in the garden and around the house again. Nothing. The feeling that he’s gone for good starts to solidify.

Nine o’clock. My daughter’s standing at the back door, calling his name. Nothing. I feel she’s wasting her time, but in solidarity I go to the side door to call. Open it – he’s standing on the step.

God knows where he’d been. One moment of tremendous pleasure – calling my daughter into the kitchen, without telling her who was there, then watching the ecstatic reunion – the boys hearing the noise and tumbling in, happy uproar. “For he was lost, and is found“.

Once again Mr Kipling has the words :

There is sorrow enough in the natural way
From men and women to fill our day;
And when we are certain of sorrow in store,
Why do we always arrange for more?
Brothers and sisters, I bid you beware
Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.

Buy a pup and your money will buy
Love unflinching that cannot lie
Perfect passion and worship fed
By a kick in the ribs or a pat on the head.
Nevertheless it is hardly fair
To risk your heart to a dog to tear.

When the fourteen years which Nature permits
Are closing in asthma, or tumour, or fits,
And the vet’s unspoken prescription runs
To lethal chambers or loaded guns,
Then you will find – it’s your own affair
But … you’ve given your heart to a dog to tear.

When the body that lived at your single will,
With its whimper of welcome, is stilled (how still!)
When the spirit that answered your every mood
Is gone – wherever it goes – for good,
You will discover how much you care,
And will give your heart to a dog to tear.

We’ve sorrow enough in the natural way,
When it comes to burying Christian clay.
Our loves are not given, but only lent,
At compound interest of cent per cent.
Though it is not always the case, I believe,
That the longer we’ve kept ’em, the more do we grieve:
For, when debts are payable, right or wrong,
A short-term loan is as bad as a long
So why in Heaven (before we are there)
Should we give our hearts to a dog to tear?

Paws of love

They are such wonderful, amazing creatures – man’s longest and best friend, the dog.

A couple of events caused me to be reminded about the preciousness of our relationship with the dog.  The first was coming across this article in The Boston Globe.  It is entitled, A friendly paw to a veteran and is all about how therapy dogs bring relief and joy to veterans.  Incidentally, the story was written by good friend to Learning from Dogs, Daniela Caride who has her own blog, The Daily Tail.  Here’s how that article opens,

NORTHAMPTON — Carter the Chesapeake Bay retriever, Sassy the Pomeranian, and Spyder the German shepherd spend most of their time playing, begging for treats, and getting belly rubs just like other pet dogs. But their unconditional love gains a purpose every time their owners take them to the hospital to visit veterans.

They are therapy dogs — canines trained to give affection to strangers — and they are becoming more popular in veteran facilities. An increasing number of dog owners are willing to volunteer at VA homes and hospices, where 6 million veterans get treated for acute and chronic health conditions. The service they provide is invaluable, health care specialists say.

Read the rest of it here.

The second event was coming across something that I wrote nearly three years ago.  Here it is in full.

The knowing eyes of your best friend


(Based on an article sent to me, unfortunately from an unknown author, and modified to reflect the special relationship that I have with my 4 year old German Shepherd, Pharaoh. Paul Handover, 14 September, 2007.)

I am your dog and have something I would love to whisper in your ear. I know that you humans lead very busy lives. Some have to work, some have children to raise, some have to do this alone. It always seems like you are running here and there, often too fast, never noticing the truly grand things in life.

Look down at me now. While you sit at your computer. See the way my dark, brown eyes look at yours.

You smile at me. I see love in your eyes. What do you see in mine? Do you see a spirit? A soul inside who loves you as no other could in the world? A spirit that would forgive all trespasses of prior wrong doing for just a single moment of your time?  That is all I ask.  To slow down, if even for a few minutes, to be with me.

So many times you are saddened by others of my kind passing on. Sometimes we die young and oh so quickly, so suddenly that it wrenches your heart out of your throat. Sometimes, we age slowly before your eyes that you may not even seem to know until the very end, when we look at you with grizzled muzzles and cataract-clouded eyes. Still the love is always there even when we must take that last, long sleep dreaming of running free in a distant, open land.

I may not be here tomorrow. I may not be here next week. Someday you will shed the water from your eyes, that humans have when grief fills their souls, and you will mourn the loss of just ‘one more day’ with me. Because I love you so, this future sorrow even now touches my spirit and grieves me. I read you in so many ways that you cannot even start to contemplate.

We have now together. So come and sit next to me here on the floor and look deep into my eyes. What do you see? Do you see how if you look deeply at me we can talk, you and I, heart to heart. Come not to me as my owner but as a living soul. Stroke my fur and let us look deep into the other’s eyes and talk with our hearts.

I may tell you something about the fun of working the scents in the woods where you and I go. Or I may tell you something profound about myself or how we dogs see life in general. I know you decided to have me in your life because you wanted a soul to share things with. I know how much you have cared for me and always stood up for me even when others have been against me. I know how hard you have worked to help me be the teacher that I was born to be. That gift from you has been very precious to me. I know too that you have been through troubled times and I have been there to guard you, to protect you and to be there always for you. I am very different to you but here I am. I am a dog but just as alive as you.

I feel emotion. I feel physical senses. I can revel in the differences of our spirits and souls. I do not think of you as a dog on two feet; I know what you are. You are human, in all your quirkiness, and I love you still.

So, come and sit with me. Enter my world and let time slow down if only for a few minutes. Look deep into my eyes and whisper in my ears. Speak with your heart and I will know your true self. We may not have tomorrow but we do have now.

There is no question that one of the important aspects of life that we can surely learn from dogs is the ability to stay in the present as much as we can.  Easier to write than accomplish, of course.  But letting go of the past (because it’s gone) and making the best of today as opposed to worrying about the future (because that interferes in the joy of today) is still a powerful reminder of that we would do well to keep close to our heart.

Postscript on dear Corrie

Even in death, there is goodness.

Learning from Dogs has been running since July 15th, 2009. Between all of the authors and contributors there have been 813 Posts presented.  None has had more comments than the Post published on the 12th January, 2010 about the loss of our dear Mexican rescue dog, Corrie.  So for all our sakes, I just wanted to highlight the love that Corrie’s death has mirrored by reproducing the comments added to that article.


Corrie in Winter snow - January 2nd 2011


From Rosemarie and Joe (see the poem later on).

We are so sorry to hear of your loss of beloved Corrie. This is a beautiful picture of Jeannie with her girl! Our thoughts are with you both!

From Dogkisses.

Corrie… so beautiful. I’m very sorry for your loss. Bless your hearts with peace.

From Gloria and Barry.

Sorry you lost your darling dog – today has been full of tears for us Australians so much lost in so short a time can only be thankful our family is all safe – our thoughts are with you.

From Sue Dreamwalker.

I know only too well the grief of losing such a beloved friend of our most loyal of animal kingdoms.. My heartfelt thoughts are with you both. Her soul goes on, and she will be forever faithfuland stay close to those who gave her back the unconditional love she gave you.

From Becky Bains.

Our love and thoughts go out you guys. When we lost Susie we were heartbroken. One of our friends posted this to us. I hope it brings some comfort. Love to you. xx

Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.

When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.

All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor. Those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.

They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent. His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.

You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.

Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together….

From Dogkisses.

Dear Paul,
I just wanted to say my girl Free is there, running in the meadows and playing with her cousin.
I saw her many times after she left this earth. She was happy in my very clear visions until one day when I was so sad. I was crying over missing her. I saw her that day in my living room. Her head was leaning to one side, as if to say she didn’t understand, and I heard her spirit questioning me. I didn’t hear words out loud, but I heard her message –”I thought you promised you would be okay.”
That day, I met my girl Ruthie. I’ve never seen Free again, not so clearly, not like I did in those weeks before I found Ruthie. I know it sounds off the wall, and it is, but it sure happened.
Sometimes, I still see a picture of Free in my mind. She is always smiling and happy. I promised her I would remember our good times and as hard as I imagined that would be, every time I think of her, I nearly laugh, just like I am as I write about her.
She continues to give, even though she had to cross that bridge.

Peace to you and your family.

A poem sent in the mail to us from Rosemarie and Joe.

When God had made the earth and the sky,

The flowers and the trees,

He then made all the animals

And all the birds and bees.

And when His work was finished,

Not one was quite the same.

He said, “I’ll walk this Earth of mine,

And give each one a name”,

And so He travelled land and sea,

And everywhere He went,

A little creature followed Him,

Until its strength was spent.

When all were named upon the earth,

And in the sky and sea,

The little creature said, “Dear Lord,

There’s not one left for me.”

The Father smiled and softly said,

“I’ve left you to the end,

I’ve turned my own name back to front,

And called you Dog my friend.” Author unknown.

That’s all for today, but tomorrow I want to add a further thought about the power of love that has come out of Corrie’s sad but meaningful death.

A “Rogue” Killer Whale?

Animals as Pets?  Do we ever really know what they are thinking?

Do we really ever know what is going on in an animal’s mind?  Some people believe that they do, but when they are wrong, disastrous consequences can result.  Sometimes. Many of these same people would tell you, before the fact, that the risks are worth it.

Unidentified trainer with Killer Whale

This subject has come up a number of times recently, both in my life and in the news from across the world.   Just recently, a seasoned trainer at Florida’s SeaWorld was killed by a killer whale that she had worked with for years.  She was very fond of the whale; there are many photos of her hugging the whale, playing, and working with the whale.  She obviously loved her job, and felt strongly about the whale conservation efforts that Seaworld claims to promote. Witnesses to the mauling have said that the whale seemed angry just before the attack, and concluded that the whale was stressed by being kept in a small tank with little to do.  Essentially, they theorized that the whale “lost it.”  Since then, however, I’ve heard statements made by whale trainers who theorize that the whale was simply playing; that the trainer has been in the water shortly before the incident, playing with the whale.  When she got out of the water, the whale might have wanted to continue to play, and grabbed her pony tail and thrashed her about without any understanding that he was causing her death.  This same whale has been involved in at least two previous deaths.

So can we tell what an animal is thinking?

Continue reading “A “Rogue” Killer Whale?”

Learning from Horses

This guest post is contributed by someone very different to the profile of the rest of the LfD authors.  AJ is a young American girl.  It’s a pleasure to publish her Post.  I am told that almost every little girl goes through the ‘horse phase,’ but very few actually take it to the next level. The few who do generally end up competing, but for many different reasons. Most kids are doing it for the title. But then there is a small group of them who compete for the love of the sport and the relationship you form with your horse.

AJ (age 13) jumping Penny 3 ft 6

My name is AJ Easton and I have been riding since I was five, in other words for eight years now. I have been around some pretty incredible horses, one of whom became my best friend. Her name is Heads Up Penny (more fondly known as Penny) and she is my life. She is a 14.2 hand (a hand is four inches, so she is 4’10” tall), red dun Grade Pony. My father purchased her for me in 2005, just before I turned nine. She cost only $2,650, but to us, her disposition alone is worth millions.

AJ (age 6 ) riding Chip

My first horse, Chocolate Chip, died a year before we bought Penny. Chip and Penny taught me almost everything I know about horses, but that isn’t all I have learned from them.  Chip taught me about letting go, and how important it is to show the special people and pets in your life how much you love them.  Penny has taught me how to be responsible, patient, understanding, and so much more. She has also given me endless amounts of love; she always has a look on her face that can melt your heart. Penny always tries her hardest to please and has gone way beyond our highest expectations.

We bought her to help me perfect the basics of riding to see where I might want to go with my riding career, but she has turned out to be one of the most incredible pony jumpers I have ever seen. I still remember being excited about jumping 2’6” in my first year of showing, but now we are sailing over 4′ fences together.   Remember, she is only 4’ 10” tall!  We have so many new goals for her this year, now that she is going consistently over 3’3”, which is what she needs to be able to do to compete successfully in the top Pony Jumper shows.

This year we are trying to qualify for the 2011 USEF [United States Equestrian Foundation. Ed.] National Pony Jumper Finals, the show where all of the top jumpers come together and compete to be the best. We don’t expect to win, or even place, but being able to show in it would be one of the greatest honors ever, especially if I was able to do it with my best friend, Heads Up Penny!

By AJ Easton