But the single most important lesson is integrity.
Again, another post from previous times. Albeit just a couple of years ago.
Another tribute to dear Pharaoh.
The most profound thing that I learned from Pharaoh is that dogs are creatures of integrity. That goes back to a day in June, 2007. Some six months before I met Jeannie in Mexico in December, 2007. I was sitting in Jon’s home office just a few miles from where Pharaoh and I were then living in South Devon.
It was a key chapter in Part Four of my book where I examine all the qualities that we humans need to learn from our dogs.
In the Introduction to this book I mentioned how the notion of “learning from dogs” went back to 2007 and me learning that dogs were creatures of integrity. Let me now elaborate on that.
It is a Friday morning in June in the year 2007. I am sitting with Jon at his place with Pharaoh sleeping soundly on the beige carpet behind my chair. I didn’t know it at the time but it was to become one of those rare moments when we gain an awareness of life that forever changes how we view the world, both the world within and the world without.
“Paul, I know there’s more for me to listen to and I sense that we have established a relationship in which you feel safe to reveal your feelings. However, today I want to talk about consciousness. Because I would like to give you an awareness of this aspect of what we might describe under the overall heading of mindfulness.”
I sat quietly fascinated by what was a new area for me.
“During the years that I have been a psychotherapist, I’ve seen an amazing range of personalities, probably explored every human emotion known. In a sense, explored the consciousness of a person. But what is clear to me now is that one can distil those different personalities and emotions into two broad camps: those who embrace truth and those who do not.”
Jon paused, sensing correctly that I was uncertain as to what to make of this. I made it clear that I wanted him to continue.
“Yes, fundamentally, there are people who deny the truth about themselves, who actively resist that pathway of better self-awareness, and then there are those people who want to know the truth of whom they are and seek it out when the opportunity arises. The former group could be described as false, lacking in integrity and unsupportive of life, while the latter group are diametrically opposite: truthful, behaving with integrity and supportive of life.”
It was then that Jon lit a fire inside me that is still burning bright to this day. For he paused, quietly looking at Pharaoh sleeping so soundly on the carpet, and went on to add, “And when I look at dogs, I have no question that they have a consciousness that is predominantly truthful: that they are creatures of integrity and supportive of life.”
That brought me immediately to the edge of my seat, literally, with the suddenness of my reaction causing Pharaoh to open his eyes and lift up his head. I knew in that instant that something very profound had just occurred. I slipped out of my chair, got down on my hands and knees and gave Pharaoh the most loving hug of his life. Dogs are creatures of integrity. Wow!
Later, when driving home, I couldn’t take my mind off the idea that dogs were creatures of integrity. What were those other values that Jon had mentioned? It came to me in a moment: truthful and supportive of life. Dogs have a consciousness that is truthful, that they are creatures of integrity and supportive of life: what a remarkable perception of our long-time companions.
I had no doubt that all nature’s animals could be judged in the same manner but what made it such an incredibly powerful concept, in terms of dogs, was the unique relationship between dogs and humans, a relationship that went back for thousands upon thousands of years. I realised that despite me knowing I would never have worked it out on my own, Jon’s revelation about dogs being creatures of integrity was so utterly and profoundly obvious.
As I made myself my usual light lunch of a couple of peanut butter sandwiches and some fruit and then sat enjoying a mug of hot tea, I still couldn’t take my mind off what Jon had revealed: dogs are examples of integrity and truth. I then thought that the word “examples” was not the right word and just let my mind play with alternatives. Then up popped: Dogs are beacons of integrity and truth. Yes, that’s it! Soon after, I recognised that what had just taken place was an incredible opening of my mind, an opening of my mind that didn’t just embrace this aspect of dogs but extended to me thinking deeply about integrity for the first time in my life.
Considering that this chapter is titled “Integrity”, so far all you have been presented with is a somewhat parochial account of how for the first time in my life the word “integrity” took on real meaning. That until that moment in 2007 the word had not had any extra significance for me over the thousands of other words in the English language. Time, therefore, to focus directly on integrity.
“If goodness is to win, it has to be smarter than the enemy.”
That was a comment written on my blog some years ago, left by someone who writes their own blog under the nom-de-plume of Patrice Ayme. It strikes me as beautifully relevant to these times, times where huge numbers of decent, law-abiding folk are concerned about the future. Simply because those sectors of society that have much control over all our lives do not subscribe to integrity, let alone giving it the highest political and commercial focus that would flow from seeing integrity as an “adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.” To quote my American edition of Roget’s Thesaurus.
Let me borrow an old pilot’s saying from the world of aviation: “If there’s any doubt, there’s no doubt!”
That embracing, cautious attitude is part of the reason why commercial air transport is one of the safest forms of transport in the world today. If you had the slightest doubt about the safety of a flight, you wouldn’t board the aircraft. If you had the slightest doubt about the future for civilisation on this planet, likewise you would do something! Remember, that dry word civilisation means family, children, grandchildren, friends, and loved ones. The last thing you would do is to carry on as before!
The great challenge for this civilisation, for each and every one of us, is translating that sense of wanting to change into practical, effective behaviours. I sense, however, that this might be looking down the wrong end of the telescope. That it is not a case of learning to behave in myriad different ways but looking at one’s life from a deeper, more fundamental perspective: living as a person of integrity. So perfectly expressed in the Zen Buddhist quote: “Be master of mind rather than mastered by mind.” Seeing integrity as the key foundation of everything we do. Even more fundamental than that. Seeing integrity as everything you and I are.
It makes no difference that society in general doesn’t seem to value integrity in such a core manner. For what is society other than the aggregate of each and every one of us? If we all embrace living a life of integrity then society will reflect that.
Integrity equates to being truthful, to being honest. It doesn’t mean being right all the time, of course not, but integrity does mean accepting responsibility for all our actions, for feeling remorse and apologising when we make mistakes. Integrity means learning, being reliable, and being a builder rather than a destroyer. It means being authentic. That authenticity is precisely and exactly what we see in our dogs.
The starting point for what we must learn from our dogs is integrity.
Continuing the theme of revisiting earlier posts this week!
More on Pharaoh’s life
What a wonderful relationship it has been.
Years ago if I was ever to own a dog, it had to be one breed and one breed only: a German Shepherd Dog.
The reason for this was that back in 1955 my father and mother looked after a German Shepherd dog called Boy. Boy belonged to a lovely couple, Maurice and Marie Davies. They were in the process of taking over a new Public House (Pub); the Jack & Jill in Coulsdon, Surrey. My father had been the architect of the Jack & Jill.
As publicans have a tough time taking holidays, it was agreed that the move from their old pub to the Jack & Jill represented a brilliant opportunity to have that vacation. My parents offered to look after Boy for the 6 weeks that Maurice and Marie were going to be away.
Boy was the most gentle loveable dog one could imagine and I quickly became devoted to him; I was 11 years old at the time. So when years later it seemed the right time to have a dog, there was no question about the breed. Boy’s memory lived on all those years, and, as this post reveals, still does!
Pharaoh was born June 3rd, 2003 at Jutone Kennels up at Bovey Tracy, Devon, on the edge of Dartmoor. As the home page of the Jutone website pronounces,
The Kennel was established in 1964 and it has always been the aim to breed the best German Shepherd Dogs for type and temperament. To this end the very finest German bloodlines are used to continue a modern breeding programme.
and elsewhere on that website one learns:
Jutone was established by Tony Trant who was joined by Sandra Tucker in 1976. Sandra continues to run Jutone since Tony passed away in 2004. Both Tony and Sandra qualified as Championship Show judges and Sandra continues to judge regularly. Sandra is the Secretary and a Life Member of the German Shepherd Dog Club of Devon.
Turning to Pharaoh, here are a few more pictures over the years.
The next picture of Pharaoh requires a little background information.
For many years I was a private pilot and in later days had the pleasure, the huge pleasure, of flying a Piper Super Cub, a group-owned aircraft based at Watchford Farm in South Devon. The aircraft, a Piper PA-18-135 Super Cub, was originally supplied to the Dutch Air Force in 1954 and was permitted by the British CAA to carry her original military markings including her Dutch military registration, R-151, although there was a British registration, G-BIYR, ‘underneath’ the Dutch R-151. (I wrote more fully about the history of the aircraft on Learning from Dogsback in August 2009.)
Anyway, every time I went to the airfield with Pharaoh he always tried to climb into the cockpit. So one day, I decided to see if he would sit in the rear seat and be strapped in. Absolutely no problem with that!
My idea had been to fly a gentle circuit in the aircraft. First I did some taxying around the large grass airfield that is Watchford to see how Pharaoh reacted. He was perfectly behaved.
Then I thought long and hard about taking Pharaoh for a flight. In the Cub there is no autopilot so if Pharaoh struggled or worse it would have been almost impossible to fly the aircraft and cope with Pharaoh. So, in the end, I abandoned taking him for a flight. The chances are that it would have been fine. But if something had gone wrong, the outcome just didn’t bear thinking about.
So we ended up motoring for 30 minutes all around the airfield which, as the next picture shows, met with doggie approval. The date was July 2006.
What a dear dog he has been over all the years and, thankfully, still is!
As if to reinforce the fabulous dog he still is, yesterday it was almost as though he knew he had to show how youthful he still was.
Because, when I took his group of dogs out around 7.30am armed with my camera, Pharaoh was brimming over with energy.
First up was a swim in the pond.
Then in a way he has not done before, Pharaoh wanted to play ‘King of my Island’, which is in the middle of the pond.
Then a while later, when back on dry land, so to speak, it was time to dry off in the morning sunshine.
Long may he have an enjoyable and comfortable life.
Pharaoh died of old age on June 19th, 2017. He was 14!
Despite the fact that we have six wonderful dogs including Cleo there is still a twinge of sadness when Pharaoh is mentioned. And now you know the origins of Pharaoh!
To my utter surprise Leaning from Dogs has been going out for 10 years.
Thank you, all 3,881 followers.
How many recall the very first post? I guess hardly any one of you.
Well here it is again!
Parenting Lessons From Dogs!
Much too late to make me realise the inadequacies of my own parenting skills, I learnt an important lesson when training my GSD (who is called Pharaoh, by the way). That is that putting more emphasis into praise and reward for getting it right ‘trains’ the dog much quicker than telling it off. The classic example is scolding a dog for running off when it should be lots of hugs and praise for returning home. The scolding simply teaches the dog that returning home isn’t pleasant whereas praise reinforces that home is the place to be. Like so many things in life, very obvious once understood!
Absolutely certain that it works with youngsters just the same way.
Despite being a very dominant dog, Pharaoh showed his teaching ability when working with other dogs. In the UK there is an amazing woman, Angela Stockdale, who has proved that dogs (and horses) learn most effectively when being taught by other dogs (and horses). Pharaoh was revealed to be a Beta Dog, (i.e. second in status below the Alpha Dog) and, therefore, was able to use his natural pack instinct to teach puppy dogs their social skills and to break up squabbles within a pack.
When you think about it, don’t kids learn much more (often to our chagrin!) from other kids than they do from their parents. Still focusing on giving more praise than punishment seems like a much more effective strategy.
As was read somewhere, Catch them in the act of doing Right!
By Paul Handover.
Despite all our dogs being our very dear family, I still miss Pharaoh.
This story has been carried by numerous magazines and journals and well it should.
It reveals that the eyes that dogs have are an evolution as a result of their long association with humans.
But let me shut up and let The Atlantic carry on with the account.
Dogs’ Eyes Have Changed Since Humans Befriended Them
Two specialized muscles give them a range of expression that wolves’ eyes lack.
JUN 17, 2019
Dogs, more so than almost any other domesticated species, are desperate for human eye contact. When raised around people, they begin fighting for our attention when they’re as young as four weeks old. It’s hard for most people to resist a petulant flash of puppy-dog eyes—and according to a new study, that pull on the heartstrings might be exactly why dogs can give us those looks at all.
A paper published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that dogs’ faces are structured for complex expression in a way that wolves’ aren’t, thanks to a special pair of muscles framing their eyes. These muscles are responsible for that “adopt me” look that dogs can pull by raising their inner eyebrows. It’s the first biological evidence scientists have found that domesticated dogs might have evolved a specialized ability used expressly to communicate better with humans.
For the study, a team at the University of Portsmouth’s Dog Cognition Centre looked at two muscles that work together to widen and open a dog’s eyes, causing them to appear bigger, droopier, and objectively cuter. The retractor anguli oculi lateralis muscle and the levator anguli oculi medialis muscle (mercifully known as RAOL and LAOM) form two short, straight lines, which connect the ring of muscle around a dog’s eye to either end of the brow above.
These researchers have long been interested in the ways dogs make eye contact with humans and, in particular, how they move their eyebrows. In 2017, Juliane Kaminski, the lead author of the new paper, found that dogs moved their eyebrows more often while a human paid attention to them, and less often when they were ignored or given food (which, sorry to say, is a more exciting stimulus for them than human love). That suggested the movement is to some degree voluntary. On our side of these longing glances, research has also shown that when dogs work these muscles, humans respond more positively. And both man and mutt benefit from a jolt of oxytocin when locked in on each other.
This isn’t simply a fortuitous love story, in which the eyes of two species just so happen to meet across a crowded planet. Like all the best partnerships, this one is more likely the result of years of evolution and growth. If dogs developed their skill for eyebrow manipulation because of their connection to humans, one way to tell would be to look for the same capacity in wolves. Because dogs split off from their wolf relatives—specifically, gray wolves—as many as 33,000 years ago, studying the two animals is a bit like cracking open a four-legged time capsule. Divergence between the two species marked the start of dogs’ domestication, a long evolutionary process influenced—and often directly driven by—humans. Today, researchers can identify and study differences between the species to gain an understanding of exactly how dogs have changed over time.
In this case, those eyebrow-raising muscles do appear to be an addition to dogs’ anatomy. In the four gray wolves the researchers looked at, neither muscle was present. (They did find bundles of fibers that could be the precursors to the RAOL and LAOM.) In five of the six breeds of dogs the researchers looked at, both muscles were fully formed and strong; in the Siberian husky, the wolflike, oldest breed of the group, the researchers were unable to locate a RAOL.
Sometimes, the origins of changes like these aren’t immediately apparent. Certain physical dog traits—including floppy ears and short snouts—likely originate from the same set of developmental cells that code for tameness, a preferable trait in household pets, for instance. In the case of this new research, though, the connection between the physical trait and the related behavior is a bit more direct. “Previous work—and much of it by these same authors—had shown that these muscles were responsible for enhancing positive responses in humans,” Brian Hare, the director of Duke University’s Canine Cognition Center and the editor of the paper, told The Atlantic via email, “but the current suggests the origin of these facial expressions is after dogs split from wolves.”
By evolutionary standards, the time since this split has been remarkably short for two new facial muscles to have developed. For a species to change that quickly, a pretty powerful force must be acting on it. And that’s where humans come in. We connect profoundly with animals capable of exaggerating the size and width of their eyes, which makes them look like our own human babies and “hijacks” our nurturing instincts.
Research has already demonstrated that humans prefer pets with more infantlike facial features, and two years ago, the authors of this latest study showed that dogs who made the facial movement enabled by the RAOL and LAOM muscles—an expression we read as distinctly humanlike—were more likely to be selected for adoption from a shelter than those who didn’t. We might not have bred dogs for this trait knowingly, but they gained so much from having it that it became a widespread facial feature. “These muscles evolved during domestication, but almost certainly due to an advantage they gave dogs during interactions with humans that we humans have been all but unaware of,” Hare explained.
“It’s such a classically human system that we have, the ways we interact with our own infants,” says Angie Johnston, an assistant professor at Boston College who studies canine cognition and was not involved with the study. “A big theme that’s come out again and again in canine cognition and looking at the domestication of dogs is that it seems like they really just kind of dove right into our society in the role of being an infant or a small child in a lot of ways. They’re co-opting existing systems we have.”
The same humanlike facial gestures could also be a dog’s way of simply securing attention in the first place. Eyebrow raising is one of the most well-understood examples of what researchers call ostensive cues, a family of nonverbal signals (often facial movements and expressions) humans send one another to convey their intention to directly communicate. Dogs’ uncanny ability to mimic this human expression likely leads us to project certain human emotions onto them in ways we don’t with other animals, regardless of what they might actually be feeling.
The movement of the RAOL and LAOM muscles is particularly open to interpretation. “In different contexts we’ll call that something different,” says Alexandra Horowitz, a senior research fellow at the Barnard College Dog Cognition Lab. “In one case, I might say it’s sad, but in another case I’ll say, He’s really paying attention. It can look wry, like a questioning or unbelieving look.” According to Horowitz, dogs are the only animals aside from our primate cousins that are expressive in this eerily familiar way. Horses alone share the ability to twist their eyes into the same doleful shape, but their overall expressions don’t strike us as humanlike in the same way that dogs’ do. With dogs, Horowitz points out, we’re so driven to connect that we often search for “smiles” in the shapes of dogs’ mouths. The new research, she says, “makes me think it’s more about being able to move the face in a way that humans move the face. We don’t like unexpressive faces.”
Both Horowitz and Johnston suggested that similar studies looking at populations of dingoes (which Johnston researches) and Siberian foxes could provide yet another time capsule of sorts for understanding eyebrow movements and other evolutionary traits. Both species live near humans and are some of the closest living relatives to the earliest dogs. Why did they stay wild while dogs drifted into domestication? “Anything to do with getting to the bottom of why we as a species picked out this one animal can carry a huge amount of information,” Horowitz says. “In some ways, it’s discovering something about ourselves.”
I was sorting out some stuff the other day and came across the following. It is the record of a talk I gave some time ago in connection with the publication of my book Learning from Dogs.
As much as I would have expected to have previously published this on the blog I cannot find an entry. So here you are!
The concept of attributing dogs with human traits is nothing new. In fact the ancient Greeks came up with a fancy word for it around two thousand years ago: anthropomorphism.
As ever, the truth of the matter is not a case of black and white but subtle shades of grey. No doubt in another two thousand years as science advances and we discover more about DNA and the mysteries of the human and canine brains the picture will develop into sharper focus. In the meantime, we must satisfy ourselves with some basic observations.
Let’s start off on common ground. One thing that we all seem to agree on is that humans are at the top of the pile in terms of evolutionary sophistication. For obvious reasons we view ourselves as the being the highest life form (although there is increasing alarm that we have totally lost touch with our basic instincts, if not totally lost the plot, by endangering the very planet that sustains life as we know it).
But I digress – back to common ground. We agree that as children our mental capacity is not fully developed. We survive by our instincts and the basic needs to be fed, watered, sheltered and bonded in a family group where we defer to a natural hierarchy. When you think about it this is precisely how dogs survive.
Like children, dogs display the most basic instincts to rough and tumble, compete for toys and establish a natural pecking order. Inherent in this is the need for a parent or pack leader to set down boundaries and create order and stability out of chaos. Without this both child and dog feel insecure and may well grow to display anti-social behaviour.
You would responsibly bring a child up with love and discipline, have consistent boundaries, teach them what is safe and what is dangerous, what is sociable and what is unsociable.
Dogs too need love and discipline, consistent boundaries, and to learn what is safe and what is dangerous, what is sociable and what is unsociable.
Communicating with a child is not so very different from communicating with a dog. Young children, like dogs, do not have the power of speech so you have to work out alternative strategies to speech in order to get through to them. You will find that if you approach a dog in much the same way as you approach a child, life will be a whole lot easier for you. And the dog! Hopefully you will have realised that praise is a far stronger motivator that punishment.
A positive approach.
Take the example of the puppy that makes a puddle on the floor and the child that wets its bed. Each one of them have not learnt control of their bladder and are simply responding to the call of nature. Neither are being naughty nor are in the wrong.
Yelling at the child will only make it more stressed and, therefore, more likely to continue wetting the bed. In exactly the same way if a puppy has an accident on the carpet being harsh will make matters worse.
How many human ‘sports’ involve chasing a moving object? How many of these games also involve people working as a team to ‘catch’ these objects? Football, rugby, basketball, tennis, badminton, etc. I could go on but you get the idea.
Why do we enjoy these games? Is it not because we too are instinctively striving for a pecking order within the pack and following our predatory instincts.
“No, no no!’ I hear you say. ‘We are a civilised, sophisticated race who have created these games for our enjoyment. They are so different to the throw and fetch games our canine friends mindlessly enjoy.’
Don’t kid yourself. Look also how football supporters revert to uninhibited childlike behaviour. At worst becoming hooligans and behaving, almost literally, like savage animals when they find themselves challenged or threatened by an opposing pack.
Or on a much more positive note how hundreds of fans, unrehearsed, suddenly find one voice and break into a prefect, heart-stopping rendition of “You’ll Never Walk Alone”. Now that’s a perfect example of the ‘pack call’.
We all enjoy the close relationship we have with our dogs. Maybe sometimes we don’t realise quite how close we are.
The following article looks deeply into the dog’s life. Or rather the end of the dog’s life.
For the fact of the matter is that we all have this coming to us. Some turn to religion; some know that we are on our own. Every living creature shares the same fate as us humans.
Yet there is something very special about the dog. Something that sets the dog apart. Something that elevates the dog into more than an animal, despite how silly that is to write. But you know what I mean.
Enough from me. Let me turn to the following article that was published on The Conversation website and is republished within the terms of that site.
Why losing a dog can be harder than losing a relative or friend
Recently, my wife and I went through one of the more excruciating experiences of our lives – the euthanasia of our beloved dog, Murphy. I remember making eye contact with Murphy moments before she took her last breath – she flashed me a look that was an endearing blend of confusion and the reassurance that everyone was ok because we were both by her side.
When people who have never had a dog see their dog-owning friends mourn the loss of a pet, they probably think it’s all a bit of an overreaction; after all, it’s “just a dog.”
However, those who have loved a dog know the truth: Your own pet is never “just a dog.”
Many times, I’ve had friends guiltily confide to me that they grieved more over the loss of a dog than over the loss of friends or relatives. Research has confirmed that for most people, the loss of a dog is, in almost every way, comparable to the loss of a human loved one. Unfortunately, there’s little in our cultural playbook – no grief rituals, no obituary in the local newspaper, no religious service – to help us get through the loss of a pet, which can make us feel more than a bit embarrassed to show too much public grief over our dead dogs.
Perhaps if people realized just how strong and intense the bond is between people and their dogs, such grief would become more widely accepted. This would greatly help dog owners to integrate the death into their lives and help them move forward.
An interspecies bond like no other
What is it about dogs, exactly, that make humans bond so closely with them?
For starters, dogs have had to adapt to living with humans over the past 10,000 years. And they’ve done it very well: They’re the only animal to have evolved specifically to be our companions and friends. Anthropologist Brian Hare has developed the “Domestication Hypothesis” to explain how dogs morphed from their grey wolf ancestors into the socially skilled animals that we now interact with in very much the same way as we interact with other people.
Perhaps one reason our relationships with dogs can be even more satisfying than our human relationships is that dogs provide us with such unconditional, uncritical positive feedback. (As the old saying goes, “May I become the kind of person that my dog thinks I already am.”)
This is no accident. They have been selectively bred through generations to pay attention to people, and MRI scans show that dog brains respond to praise from their owners just as strongly as they do to food (and for some dogs, praise is an even more effective incentive than food). Dogs recognize people and can learn to interpret human emotional states from facial expression alone. Scientific studies also indicate that dogs can understand human intentions, try to help their owners and even avoid people who don’t cooperate with their owners or treat them well.
Our strong attachment to dogs was subtly revealed in a recent study of “misnaming.” Misnaming happens when you call someone by the wrong name, like when parents mistakenly calls one of their kids by a sibling’s name. It turns out that the name of the family dog also gets confused with human family members, indicating that the dog’s name is being pulled from the same cognitive pool that contains other members of the family. (Curiously, the same thing rarely happens with cat names.)
It’s no wonder dog owners miss them so much when they’re gone.
Psychologist Julie Axelrod has pointed out that the loss of a dog is so painful because owners aren’t just losing the pet. It could mean the loss of a source of unconditional love, a primary companion who provides security and comfort, and maybe even a protégé that’s been mentored like a child.
The loss of a dog can also seriously disrupt an owner’s daily routine more profoundly than the loss of most friends and relatives. For owners, their daily schedules – even their vacation plans – can revolve around the needs of their pets. Changes in lifestyle and routine are some of the primary sources of stress.
According to a recent survey, many bereaved pet owners will even mistakenly interpret ambiguous sights and sounds as the movements, pants and whimpers of the deceased pet. This is most likely to happen shortly after the death of the pet, especially among owners who had very high levels of attachment to their pets.
While the death of a dog is horrible, dog owners have become so accustomed to the reassuring and nonjudgmental presence of their canine companions that, more often than not, they’ll eventually get a new one.
So yes, I miss my dog. But I’m sure that I’ll be putting myself through this ordeal again in the years to come.
I don’t want to think of losing any more of our family but it will surely happen. As night follows day!
To be honest, dear friends, I really agonised over whether or not to republish an item that I saw on The Conversation blogsite last Friday. For it has nothing to do with dogs, nothing to do with learning from dogs, and everything to do with being the ‘wrong’ side of 65 years old.
But then one day last week I was out watching some tree cutting being undertaken by Jimmy Gonzales and his crew and heard the phoning ringing in the house.
I ran for the steps leading up to the deck and missed the bottom step.
I fell but luckily managed to grab the handrails seconds before I could have smacked my head into the steps. However, it did scare me especially when I reflected that it wasn’t even 9 months since my medical emergency following my fall from my bicycle.
It confirmed the sense in republishing the item. Republished within the terms of The Conversation site.
Before the fall: How oldsters can avoid one of old age’s most dangerous events
September 21, 2018
By four authors:
Matthew Lee SmithCo-Director of Texas A&M Center for Population Health and Aging, Texas A&M University
Ellen SchneiderResearch Scientist, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Marcia G. OryRegents and Distinguished Professor, Associate Vice President for Strategic Partnerships and Initiatives, Texas A&M University
Tiffany ShubertAdjunct Assistant Professor, Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Baby boomers, who once viewed themselves as the coolest generation in history, are now turning their thoughts away from such things as partying and touring alongside rock bands to how to they can stay healthy as they age. And, one of the most important parts of healthy aging is avoiding a fall, the number one cause of accidental death among people 65 and older.
The issue is growing more pressing each day. More adults than ever – 46 million – are 65 and older, and their numbers are increasing rapidly.
People who fall can lose their physical mobility for life, go into a hospital never to be discharged, require skilled nursing or other caregiver support, or become so fearful about falling again that they dramatically limit their daily activities.
The good news is that most falls are preventable, research has identified many modifiable risk factors for falls, and older adults can empower themselves to reduce their falls risks. This means there are opportunities to intervene in clinical and community settings to promote protective behaviors and improve safety.
A life-changing event
Falls can cause fractures, traumatic brain injuries and other conditions that require an emergency room visit or hospitalization. An older adult dies from a fall every 19 minutes, and every 11 seconds an older adult is treated in an emergency room for a fall-related injury. About one in four falls results in needed medical attention, and falls are responsible for about 95 percent of all hip fractures. In addition to the physical and mental trauma associated with the fall itself, falls often result in fear of falling, reduced quality of life, loss of independence and social isolation.
There is no single cause for falling. Falls can result from issues related to biological aging, such as balance problems, loss of muscle strength, changes in vision, arthritis or diabetes. Taking a combination of several prescription drugs can also contribute to falls. Lifestyle behaviors such as physical inactivity, poor nutrition and poor sleep quality can also increase the risk for falling. Environmental hazards inside the home, such as poor lighting and throw rugs, and outside, such as bad weather, standing water and uneven sidewalks, can create situations where falls are more likely to occur.
It takes a careful village
Because falls can be caused by many things, the solutions must also include a diverse set of systems, organizations and professionals. Toward that end, 42 active or developing state fall prevention coalitions, which coordinate initiatives and serve as advocates for policy development and community action, are in place. Their activities foster collaboration across the aging services network, public health and health care system. They do such things as host health fairs and fall risk screening events, fall prevention programs, and awareness-raising events to inform decision-makers and legislators about ways to make communities safer for older adults.
Here are some of the key objectives that the coalitions are working on to reduce hazards from falling:
Enhance clinical-community collaboration for programming.
There are many fall prevention programs offered in communities to promote healthful behaviors and to reinforce positive mental perspectives about falls being preventable.
People concerned about falling should contact their local Area Agency on Aging to find out where these programs are offered and which can be most beneficial. Also, seniors should ask their doctors about fall-related risk factors and what they can do to reduce risk. Communicate your concerns about falls with your health care team and social network, tell them about what you learn during your fall prevention programs, and report back about how they are making a difference in your life.
While health care access and utilization are important for chronic disease diagnosis and management, 90 percent of health care happens outside the health care setting. Therefore, older adults need to manage their diseases better. To do this, however, they often need help. For starters, they should discuss the side effects of all medications with their doctors and also how best to adhere to prescribed treatment regimens, such as when to take medications, whether to take with food and whether there are possible interactions of one medication with another. Seniors also can consider enrolling in evidence-based disease self-management programs to improve their knowledge and confidence to manage their conditions as well as enhance lasting skills for goal setting and action planning, such as being physically active for 30 minutes a day for five days a week.
Alter the physical environment.
About 44 percent of falls occur inside the home. In-home risk factors for falls can include dim lighting, clutter on floors, throw rugs and ottomans, missing railings, uncovered wires and extension cords, children and pets underfoot and unsafe bathrooms. A unsafe bathroom is one with an inappropriate toilet height, high shower or bathtub walls and no grab rails.
To identify possible risks in the home, the CDC created a user-friendly safety checklist that can safeguard older adults by eliminating environmental hazards.
Maintain healthful behaviors.
Daily lifestyle behaviors such as physical activity, nutrition and sleep quality can influence fall risk, and these are never too late to change. Interventions can be successful for people of all ages. Among the most important is physical activity, namely safely performing lower-body exercises to increase strength, balance and flexibility. Additionally, seniors should work with their health care team to have medications reviewed and eyes checked regularly. Also, they should ask about their vitamin D levels and possible nutritional supplementation.
Yes, when it comes to being more careful on our feet once again our dear dogs offer us a much better way: Have four of them!!
Just look at the ease of our dear Brandy scampering through the woods yesterday morning!
Our dear, sorely-missed Pharaoh demonstrating the advantages of four feet!
Pharaoh, who is still so badly missed by Jeannie and me, died on June 19th, 2017.
I published my thoughts The Day After on mid-summer’s day 2017. I cannot think of a more apt article to publish today than what was shared a year ago.
Here it is. If you recall this from a year ago then my apologies – please come back tomorrow!
The Day After.
By Paul Handover, June 21st. 2017
Trying to cope.
This is a very personal, possibly rather mixed-up, set of reflections of how the day after Pharaoh died felt for me. Some of you may prefer not to read this or view the photos.
I sat down to write this, late morning Tuesday, as it was becoming too hot to stay outside. I felt inspired to be 100% honest about my feelings and the photographs are, in essence, copies of the pictures that are in my head.
I woke early yesterday, a little after 4am, and started listening to BBC Radio Four using ear-phones plugged into my tablet while Jeannie slept on.
But I couldn’t get the images of Monday out of my head. Such that it seemed unreal to think that less than thirty-six hours previously Pharaoh was sleeping quietly near his bed, albeit unable to walk on his own.
Then, in what seemed like the flick of a finger, Jeannie was offering Pharaoh my dinner plate Monday evening.
For every evening, unless we had eaten a very spicy meal, Pharaoh always licked my plate clean.
A routine that had gone on for years.
I lay there in bed as 1pm arrived in England (5am PDT) and BBC Radio 4 was broadcasting The World At One. Despite the gloomy headlines still focusing on that terrible fire at the Grenfell Tower in London (not three miles from where I was born in 1944), the images of Monday kept thundering into my consciousness.
How dear friend, Jim Goodbrod, and I had driven into Allen Creek Veterinary Hospital, where Jim is a visiting DVM each week, to collect the required amount of euthanasia drug (apparently just 1 c.c. for every 10 lbs of animal weight – looking at it in the syringe it seemed such a small amount of fluid to bring an end to Pharaoh’s life.)
Then over breakfast, as in Tuesday morning, Jean said how difficult it was watching Pharaoh yesterday (Monday) when Jim and I were away getting the meds because it seemed to her that Pharaoh sensed something was happening outside the run of a normal morning.
Continuing with Monday. When Jim returned, accompanied by his wife, Janet, and knelt down to examine Pharaoh his analysis was that the time was right. Pharaoh had lost massive amounts of muscle tissue from his rear legs and hips.
It was time. Jean and I settled down sitting on the floor alongside Pharaoh’s bed. Pharaoh shifted his body and placed his wonderful, furry head across my outstretched legs. It was time.
Jim injected Pharaoh with an anesthetic. Slowly, gently Pharaoh fell fast asleep. Jim shaved a patch of fur from Pharaoh’s front, right lower leg. Janet pinched a vein in Pharaoh’s leg and moments later, Jim injected the euthanasia drug. Jean and I continued to stroke Pharaoh’s forehead but frequently looked down to where the rise and fall of Pharaoh’s lungs was visible.
Then at 11:57 PDT Monday, June 19th., there was no more breathing. Jim took out a stethoscope and confirmed that there was no heart-beat. Jim closed Pharaoh’s eyelids while Jean and I sat quietly just holding on to Pharaoh. A few minutes later, Jean and I had wriggled out from under Pharaoh and then Jim slipped a plastic sack over the rear half of Pharaoh’s still body.
Pharaoh had died without pain and in the most gentle way imaginable.
Back to Tuesday, as in early yesterday morning, and now Jean and I were awake and I was reading every comment and response to the post Adieu, Mon Brave.
I must tell you that the love and compassion extended by every single one of you, including the numerous emails sent to me, is the most precious, special recognition of what Pharaoh meant to me, to my Jeannie, and to you all.
Thank you! Thank you so much!
Time then for a call into England and to let Sandra Tucker know that Pharaoh had died. For Pharaoh had been born at Jutone, the GSD breeding kennels run by Sandra Tucker, and Jim, in Hennock, Devon.
Pharaoh’s legacy will live on forever. What he stood for. What he represented. What I learned from Pharaoh. What he inspired in me. That inspiration that will live with me until it’s my turn to take my last breath.
Then it was time, as in yesterday, to get up and try and stay occupied. But I didn’t warrant for seeing Pharaoh’s empty bed as I walked out of the bedroom into the living-room.
It looked so empty, so lonely.
I burst into tears.
I turned on my heels and went out to feed the horses and the wild deer. As is done every morning.
Walking back to the house, I stepped up on to the rear deck and looked up at the line where the tops of the forest trees on the hills to the East meet the morning sky. It was a clear, cloudless sky.
The sun was within seconds of rising above that skyline. I took a photograph and then the sun had risen. It was 06:24 am. Fifteen hours to the minute before the exact moment of the Summer Solstice this evening (21:24 PDT).
I don’t know what it all means other than in some mysterious, natural fashion, everything is connected.
Science shows that animals, including dogs, do dream!
I wanted to republish a recent and serious article written by George Monbiot but couldn’t bear to push back against the wonderful video of yesterday. Those loving ripples are still spreading across my consciousness and, I’m sure, that’s the same for you.
Consciousness, sleep, and dreaming are fascinating states of the mind. Previously thought exclusively the states of human minds. But not so!
The electric eel exhibit at the New England Aquarium has a feature that makes it a favorite. Whenever the eel is hunting or stunning prey, the charge powers a voltmeter above his tank. It lights up when the eel is using his electricity, and allows you to see the invisible—like magic.
One day I saw another magical thing happen in the tank. Thanks to the voltmeter, I was able to watch the eel dream.
It happened when I was standing in front of the exhibit with Scott Dowd, the lead aquarist for the freshwater gallery, watching the eel resting motionless at the bottom of the tank. “I think he’s asleep,” I said to my companion.
“Yes, that eel is catching some serious z’s,” he agreed.
Being hard-core fish enthusiasts, we continued to watch transfixed while the electric eel slept. And that’s when it happened: A big flash shot across the voltmeter display—and another and another.
Electric eels hunt while swimming forward, wagging their heads to and fro, sending out electric signals that bounce back to them, sort of like a dolphin’s echolocation. But he was still motionless. So what was the flash for?
“I thought the eel was asleep!” I said to Dowd.
“He is asleep,” he replied.
We realized at once what we were almost surely witnessing. The electric eel was dreaming.
“It would appear that not only do men dream,” Aristotle wrote in History of Animals, “but horses also, and dogs, and oxen; aye, and sheep and goats. . . .”
It was obvious: Like most of us, Aristotle had watched sleeping dogs twitch their ears, paddle their paws, and bark in their sleep. Surely other animals dreamed as well.
But since Aristotle’s day, more “modern” thinkers denied that animals could dream. Complex and mysterious, dreams were considered the exclusive province of so-called higher minds.
As brain research advanced, however, researchers were forced to concede that Aristotle was right. Animals do dream.
And now we are even able to glimpse what they dream about.
Since the 1960s scientists have understood that our dreams happen during the rapid eye movement (REM) phase of the sleep cycle. During this time our muscles are normally paralyzed by the pons of the brain stem, so that we don’t act out our dreams. In 1965 researchers removed the pons from the brain stems of cats.* They discovered the cats would get up and walk around, move the head as if to follow prey, and pounce as if on invisible mice—all
By 2007 we would get an even more vivid picture of animals’ dreams. Massachusetts Institute of Technology scientists Matthew Wilson and graduate student Kenway Louie recorded the activity of rats’ brains while the animals were running a maze. Neurons fire in distinct patterns while a rat in a maze performs particular tasks. The researchers repeatedly saw the exact same patterns reproduced while the rats slept—and they saw this so clearly they could tell what point in the maze the rat was dreaming about and whether an individual rat was running or walking in his dreams.
The rats’ dreams arose from the hippocampus, the same area in the brain that seems to drive humans’ dreams. It’s an area known to record and store memories, and that supports the notion that one important function of dreams is to help us remember what we have learned. Of course, it’s important to a lab rat to remember the right way to run a maze.
So if rats dream of running mazes, what do birds dream about? Singing.
University of Chicago professor Daniel Margoliash conducted experiments on zebra finches. Like most birds, zebra finches aren’t born knowing their songs; they learn them, and young birds spend much of their days learning and rehearsing the song of their species. While awake, neurons in the forebrain known as the robustus archistrialis fire when the bird sings particular notes. The researcher was able to determine the individual notes based on the firing pattern of the neurons. While the birds were asleep, their neurons fired in the same order—as if they were singing in their dreams.
Much less work has been done on fish than on mammals and birds. No one has found REM sleep in fish—yet. But that does not mean they don’t dream. Interestingly, no one has discovered REM sleep in whales, either. But whales almost surely dream. They are long-lived, social animals with very big brains much like our own, and for whom long-term memory consolidation is crucial.
And if you were looking for rapid eye movement in sleeping owls, you’d never see it—because owls’ eyes are fixed in their sockets. That’s why they need to turn their heads around, Exorcist-style. Yet owls’ brain waves show they dream, too.
Fish do sleep, however—that much is well known. It’s been carefully documented that if zebra fish are deprived of sleep (because pesky researchers keep waking them up), they have trouble swimming the next day—just as a person would have trouble concentrating after a dreamless night.
What might an electric eel dream about? The voltmeter at the New England Aquarium showed us the answer: hunting and shocking prey.