Tag: The Washington Post

It’s not all hugs and smiles.

A sobering article about the unacceptable face of dogs!

Jim Goodbrod recently sent me an email that included a copy of a recent article in the Washington Post.

Here’s what Jim wrote:

Hey Paul…..

I read this article in the Washington Post a couple weeks ago: it’s not something we want to hear or admit to, but I thought you’d find it interesting nonetheless.
Regards,  Jim

Jim got it in one when he said that it’s not something we want to admit to.

But it deserves sharing with you.

ooOOoo

The dog is one of the world’s most destructive mammals. Brazil proves it.

Surveillance cameras placed by researchers in Brazil’s Tijuca National Park capture a pair of dogs. (Courtesy of Katyucha Silva)

By Terrence McCoy

August 20

RIO DE JANEIRO — High above this Brazilian city, in a jungle blanketing a mountain, the turtles were out, and the scene was hopeful.

Scientists were reintroducing 15 mud-caked tortoises to this urban forest where they had once been plentiful. Children were running around. People were oohing and aahing. A stern-looking security guard appeared to briefly smile.

But not government biologist Katyucha Silva. She was thinking about dogs.

What would they do to these turtles? What were they doing to Brazil?

It’s a question more researchers are beginning to ask in a country where there are more dogs than children — and where dogs are quickly becoming the most destructive predator. They’re invading nature preserves and national parks. They’re forming packs, some 15 dogs strong, and are hunting wild prey. They’ve muscled out native predators such as foxes and big cats in nature preserves, outnumbering pumas 25 to 1 and ocelots 85 to 1.

Every year, they become still more plentiful, spreading diseases, disrupting natural environments, goosing scientists who set up elaborate camera systems to photograph wild animals, only to come away with pictures of curious canines.

“It’s a difficult thing for people to hear,” said Isadora Lessa, a Rio de Janeiro biologist who wrote her doctoral dissertation on domestic dogs causing environmental mayhem. “They love dogs too much.”

How the dog became one of the world’s most harmful invasive mammalian predators is as much a global story as a Brazilian one. Over the last century, as the human population exploded, so did the dog population, growing to an estimated 1 billion.

That has been great for people — and even better for dogs — but less so for nature, according to a growing body of academic research implicating canines, particularly the free-roaming ones, in environmental destruction.

“The global impacts of domestic dogs on wildlife are grossly underestimated,” researchers concluded in a 2017 study published in the journal Biological Conservation. The researchers, based in Australia, convicted dogs in the extinction of 11 species and declared them the third-most-damaging mammal, behind only cats and rodents.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature maintains a list of animals whose numbers dogs are culling. There are 191, and more than half are classified as either endangered or vulnerable. They range from lowly iguanas to the famed Tasmanian devil, from doves to monkeys, a diversity of animals with nothing in common beyond the fact that dogs enjoy killing them. In New Zealand, the organization reported, a single German shepherd once did in as many as 500 kiwis — and that was the conservative estimate.

“Unfortunately, we have a big problem,” said Piero Genovesi, chair of the agency’s invasive species unit. “There is a growing number of dogs.”

People all over the world are — begrudgingly — beginning to take note.

In Chile, stray dogs were the top concern among city dwellers surveyed this year, topping deteriorating sidewalks and theft. In New Zealand, some communities moved last year to restrict the movement of dogs in a gambit to save little blue penguins. In India, farmers are complaining about stray dogs killing their livestock, just as other predators once had.

And in Brazil, atop a mountain outside of Rio de Janeiro, 15 tortoises were nestling into the forest floor, oblivious to the danger of the forest’s leading predator.

‘A complex problem’

And in Brazil, atop a mountain outside of Rio de Janeiro, 15 tortoises were nestling into the forest floor, oblivious to the danger of the forest’s leading predator.

Researchers estimate there are more than 100 dogs in Tijuca National Park outside Rio de Janeiro, where they hunt and kill wild animals in packs. (Courtesy of Katyucha Silva)

Brazil is home to an estimated 52 million dogs, according to the most recent government statistics — more than anywhere in Latin America — but their lives vary widely. In a nation defined by inequality, where the rich fly in helicopters over the poor in the favelas below, the dog has become one more way of understanding the divide.

In wealthy cities, the dog is everywhere, strolling through fancy shopping malls, sitting in the laps of restaurant patrons, even riding paddle boards out on the surf. Some people wheel their dogs around in little strollers.

“The dog brings to Brazilians some things that Brazilians appreciate in themselves,” said Alexandre Rossi, a television personality more commonly known as Dr. Pet. “To be friendly, to want to socialize with everyone . . . and be there and be close to your family. These are perceived as very good Brazilian qualities.”

On the streets of trendy Ipanema one recent afternoon, few people could believe that a dog — or at least their dog — could be much of predator.

“The dog is a friend!” sputtered Philipe Soares, the furball Bobby at his feet. “No, I’ve never thought of him that way.”

“Difficult to imagine,” said Carlos Alberto Vicente, peering down at his own pooch.

“In her case,” said Flavio Vilela, a shirtless man striding through a park with a small mutt named Nicoli, “they’d hunt her.”

The problem, researchers say, isn’t these dogs, who lead the coddled lives of European or American pets.

The problem is the dogs in poorer and more rural communities, where the life of the dog is more frequently the life of hunger. They prowl the streets day and night with neither a collar nor an owner, looking for food wherever it can be found — in trash heaps, alongside roads, and in forests and fields, where they form packs to hunt and kill.

“It’s a very complex problem,” said Silva, the government biologist.

A stunning discovery

Katyucha Silva, a government researcher, has discovered dozens of dogs in Tijuca National Park. (Terrence McCoy/The Washington Post)

Ana Maria Paschoal, a researcher at the Federal University of Minas Gerais, remembers when she first started thinking about the dog differently. She was out in the Atlantic Forest in Southeast Brazil around a decade ago when she noticed there were an awful lot of them.

She wondered: How many dogs are using the protected areas? Are these feral or domestic dogs? Is their presence changing the occurrence of wild species?

So she set up cameras across 2,400 acres of forest to find out. What she discovered, published in 2012 in the scientific journal Mammalia, stunned her.

The dog wasn’t just the most-recorded carnivore; it was the most-recorded animal of the 17 mammals the cameras captured.

“The presence of the domestic dog is a threat,” Paschoal and her co-authors concluded.

The research, subsequently confirmed in a larger survey, laid the groundwork for a growing field of study here. One researcher linked Brazil’s dogs to the spread of diseases. Another accused the dogs in the National Park of Brasilia, where they hunted in massive packs, of scaring off natural predators. It was found that the closer humans lived to a nature preserve, the more likely dogs had penetrated it.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature has counted 191 species whose numbers dogs are culling. More than half are endangered or vulnerable. (Courtesy of Katyucha Silva)

But perhaps most striking? The dogs were neither feral nor domestic — but somewhere in between.

“All the dogs we detected had an ‘owner’ or a person that the animal has a bond with,” Paschoal said. “The species population increases following human populations, exacerbating their potential impact on wildlife.”

It was something Fernando Fernandez, an ecology professor at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, learned the hard way. For the last decade, he has been reintroducing native animals to the Tijuca forest, one of the world’s largest urban woodlands, which spills across Rio de Janeiro’s mountains.

First came the agouti, a squirrel-like rodent. Then followed a problem: “Dogs.”

They started killing the agouti, and not for food. It was just for fun.

Fernandez and Silva wanted to learn more. They set up cameras and discovered dozens of dogs in the forest. They estimated more than 100 dogs were in the park — not residents, it turned out, so much as frequent visitors, tracking in from nearby favelas.

“These are people who are very poor,” said Silva, who has six dogs at home. “They don’t have money to build walls. . . . When the owners leave for work, the dog leaves, too, and only returns when the owner comes back to the house from work.”

The owners often have no idea what their dogs are up to. Even if they were told, Rob Young said, they almost certainly wouldn’t believe it.

Young, chairman of wildlife conservation at the University of Salford in Britain, witnessed the psychology at work after seeing dogs kill flightless birds in the state of Minas Gerais.

“We’d do interviews with the farmers: ‘Have you seen these dogs?’

“And they’d say, ‘Yeah, but my dogs aren’t the problem; it’s my neighbor’s dogs.’

“Every farmer would say the same thing.”

These factors — inability to see aggression in dogs, in­trac­table inequality, the rapid expansion of humanity — left Silva feeling apprehensive as she watched the tortoises being reintroduced into the Tijuca forest.

In the long term, she didn’t know how the problem of dogs laying waste to the world’s environments would realistically improve.

And in the short term: Could dogs kill these tortoises, just as they’d dispatched a few agouti?

“Yes,” she said. “They could.”

Silva worries that tortoises reintroduced in the park could fall prey to dogs. (Terrence McCoy/The Washington Post)

ooOOoo

It’s a tough read and there doesn’t appear to be a solution, not in the short-term at least.

As was reported in the article it is as much a global problem with something of the order of a billion dogs roaming the planet.

Does anyone have any ideas for a solution?

32,000 years ago!

A wolf became buried.

This is a wonderful story and one that I shall go straight into. Reason I have software problems that I’m trying to fix today!

This article was first published by The Smithsonian magazine.

ooOOoo

A Perfectly Preserved 32,000-Year-Old Wolf Head Was Found in Siberian Permafrost

Given the head’s state of preservation, researchers are hopeful that they can extract viable DNA and use it to sequence the wolf’s genome.

Screen Shot 2019-06-14 at 11.38.50 AM.png
The specimen is the first (partial) carcass of an adult Pleistocene steppe wolf—an extinct lineage distinct from modern wolves—ever found (Courtesy of Dr. Tori Herridge)
smithsonian.com

Last summer, a mammoth tusk hunter exploring the shores of the Tirekhtyak River in Siberia’s Yakutia region unearthed the fully intact head of a prehistoric wolf. Preserved by the region’s permafrost, or permanently frozen ground, for some 32,000 years, the specimen is the first partial carcass of an adult Pleistocene steppe wolf—an extinct lineage distinct from modern wolves—ever found.

The discovery, first reported by the Siberian Times, is poised to help researchers better understand how steppe wolves compared with their contemporary counterparts, as well as why the species eventually died out.

As Marisa Iati writes for the Washington Post, the wolf in question was fully grown, likely aged 2 to 4 years old, at the time of its death. Although photographs of the severed head, still boasting clumps of fur, fangs and a well-preserved snout, place its size at 15.7 inches long—the modern gray wolf’s head, in comparison, measures 9.1 to 11 inchesLove Dalén, an evolutionary geneticist at the Swedish Museum of Natural History who was filming a documentary in Siberia when the tusk hunter arrived on the scene with the head in tow, says that media reports touting the find as a “giant wolf” are inaccurate.

“It is not that much bigger than a modern wolf if you discount the frozen clump of permafrost stuck to where the neck would [normally] have been,” Dalén explains to Smithsonian.com.

According to CNN, a Russian team led by Albert Protopopov of the Republic of Sakha’s Academy of Sciences is currently building a digital model of the animal’s brain and the interior of its skull.

David Stanton, a researcher at the Swedish Museum of Natural History who is leading genetic analysis of the remains, tells Smithsonian.com that given the head’s state of preservation, he and his colleagues are hopeful that they can extract viable DNA and use it to sequence the wolf’s genome. This work, expected to last at least another year, will eventually be published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.

A Russian team is currently building a digital model of the animal’s brain and the interior of its skull
A Russian team is currently building a digital model of the animal’s brain and the interior of its skull (Albert Protopopov)

For now, it remains unclear exactly how the wolf’s head became separated from the rest of its body. Speaking with Smithsonian.com, Tori Herridge, an evolutionary biologist at London’s Natural History Museum who was part of the team filming in Siberia at the time of the discovery, says that a colleague, Dan Fisher of the University of Michigan, thinks scans of the animal’s head may reveal evidence of it being deliberately severed by humans—perhaps “contemporaneously with the wolf dying.” If so, Herridge notes, the find would offer “a unique example of human interaction with carnivores.” Still, she concludes in a post on Twitter, “I am reserving judgment until more investigation [is] done.”

Dalén echoes Herridge’s hesitancy, saying that he has “seen no evidence convincing” him that humans cut off the head. After all, it’s not uncommon to find partial sets of remains in the Siberian permafrost. If an animal was only partially buried and subsequently frozen, for example, the rest of its body could have decomposed or been eaten by scavengers. Alternatively, it’s possible that shifts within the permafrost over thousands of years led the carcass to break into multiple pieces.

According to Stanton, steppe wolves were “probably slightly larger and more robust than modern wolves.” The animals had a strong, wide jaw equipped for hunting large herbivores such as woolly mammoths and rhinos, and as Stanton tells USA Today’s N’dea Yancey-Bragg, went extinct between 20,000 to 30,000 years ago, or roughly the time when modern wolves first arrived on the scene. If the researchers successfully extract DNA from the wolf’s head, they will attempt to use it to determine whether the ancient wolves mated with modern ones, how inbred the older species was, and if the lineage had—or lacked—any genetic adaptations that contributed to its demise.

To date, the Siberian permafrost has yielded an array of well-preserved prehistoric creatures: among others, a 42,000-year-old foal, a cave lion cub, an “exquisite ice bird complete with feathers,” as Herridge notes, and “even a delicate Ice Age moth.” According to Dalén, these finds can largely be attributed to a surge in mammoth tusk hunting and increased melting of permafrost linked with global warming.

Speaking with Smithsonian.com, Stanton concludes, “The warming climate … means that more and more of these specimens are likely to be found in the future.”

At the same time, he points out, “It is also likely that many of [them] will thaw out and decompose (and therefore be lost) before anyone can find … and study them.”

ooOOoo

It’s an ill wind that blows no-one any good. That saying comes to mind when I read about the warming climate and more specimens being found.

Fascinating!

Offering a clue

A republication of an earlier post from The Smithsonian

Those who read yesterday’s post will find today’s post highly interesting.

A copy of an article from two years ago in The Smithsonian.

ooOOoo

New Study Has a Bone to Pick With Dog Domestication Findings

Contrary to past research, a new DNA study suggests fido was only tamed once

One wave of domestication or two? The debate rages on. (Dageldog/iStock)

By Jason Daley
smithsonian.com
July 19, 2017

Though dogs are humanity’s oldest and most consistent animal friend, scientists have long struggled to figure out just how Canis familiaris came to be. Though researchers agree dogs are descended from wild wolves, they aren’t sure when and where domestication occurred. And as Tina Hesman Saey at Science News reports, a new study has revived the debate, suggesting that dogs were domesticated one time between 20,000 and 40,000 years ago.

Dog domestication has gotten a lot of attention in recent years. In 2016, researchers looked at the mitochondrial DNA of modern and ancient dog species, determining that dogs come from two different wolf populations, one found in Europe and one found in Asia. That means that wolves would have been domesticated in two different places, with the two lineages eventually mixing in modern dogs.

But this latest research contradicts the double-domestication hypothesis. According to Ben Guarino at the Washington Post, researchers looked at the well-preserved DNA of two ancient dogs found in Germany, one 7,000 years old and one 4,700 years old, as well as the complete genomes of 100 modern dogs and snippets of DNA from 5,600 other wolves and dogs.

They traced the rate of mutations in the over time in the dog genomes. This technique, which creates a “molecular clock,” indicates that dogs diverged from wolves 36,900 years ago to 41,500 years ago in a single domestication event. But they can’t determine exactly where the split occurred. About 20,000 years later, the molecular clock indicates dogs split into European and Asian groups. They published their results in the journal Nature Communications

Not everyone is convinced by the study. Greger Larson, Oxford evolutionary biologist and author of the earlier domestication study, tells Guarino that the latest research does not explain the “ridiculously deep split” between the genetics of ancient European and Asian dogs. He also points out that while ancient dog bones have been found in far eastern Asia and western Europe, the middle of Eurasia seems to be empty of dog bones, suggesting that there were two ancient populations, separated by vast distances.

Krishna Veeramah, a palaeogeneticist at Stony Brook University and author of the new study says he doesn’t anticipate that the paper will put the issue to rest. “More ancient dog DNA from genomes will ultimately solve the problem,” he tells Rachael Lallensack at Nature. Researchers are hoping to find more geographically diverse DNA from dogs as well as samples from different time periods.

Whether it happened once or twice, how and why did domestication occur?

As Veeramah​ tells Helen Briggs at the BBC that it’s likely dogs evolved from wolves that began hanging around human camps, scavenging their scraps. ”Those wolves that were tamer and less aggressive would have been more successful at this,” he says. “While the humans did not initially gain any kind of benefit from this process, over time they would have developed some kind of symbiotic relationship with these animals, eventually evolving into the dogs we see today.”

One early benefit of domesticated dogs may have been that they could help transport meat from carcasses or hunt dangerous game like cave bears and cave lions, Saey writes in an earlier Science News article.

For now, however, exactly when and where Fido first approached humans will remain a mastiff question.

ooOOoo

For my money the origins of the domestic dog are as Krishna Veeramah puts it: ”Those wolves that were tamer and less aggressive would have been more successful at this,” he says. “While the humans did not initially gain any kind of benefit from this process, over time they would have developed some kind of symbiotic relationship with these animals, eventually evolving into the dogs we see today.

Pure, unconditional love.

Giving from the heart; in this case a dog’s heart.

As many readers know we have nine dogs here at home, divided into the ‘kitchen’ group (Paloma, Casey and Ruby) and the ‘bedroom’ group (Pharaoh, Brandy, Cleo, Sweeny, Pedy and Oliver). Inevitably the latter group are closer to us because they share the bulk of the home with Jeannie and me, and sleep in our bedroom. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that the kitchen group are any less affectionate than the bedroom group it’s just that, for me especially, I am able to be emotionally and physically closer to our bedroom group because for most of the hours of each day they are close to me.

Brandy, Cleo and Oliver seem to be incredibly sensitive to Jeannie’s and my feelings. If something makes me cry then one of them will be next to me in seconds. When Jeannie and I hug, Oliver will stand on his rear legs, place his front legs on our bodies above our waists and act as if he is hugging us. Even the mention of the word “out” has Cleo running to the front door.

So many more examples but you get the drift!

Last Friday The Washington Post published a heart-breaking story. It concerned a young man, just 33-years-old, who was dying from a brain hemorrhage. Here’s an extract from that story:

Ryan Thomas Jessen had gone to the hospital for what he thought was a migraine, but it turned out to be a brain hemorrhage, his sister, Michelle Jessen, wrote on Facebook earlier this month.

The hemorrhage, which doctors believe may have been brought on by high blood pressure, would prove fatal.

But before Jessen died, the 33-year-old Californian’s family wanted to let his dog, Mollie, see him one last time.

Michelle Jessen filmed that last visit by Mollie and, as one might expect, the video has been shared right across the world.

So very often words come so difficult when one wants to reflect on what we have just watched.

Which is why I’m allowing Jimmy Stewart to make it easier.

He never came to me when I would call

Unless I had a tennis ball,

Or he felt like it,

But mostly he didn’t come at all.

When he was young

He never learned to heel

Or sit or stay,

He did things his way.

Discipline was not his bag

But when you were with him things sure didn’t drag.

He’d dig up a rosebush just to spite me,

And when I’d grab him, he’d turn and bite me.

He bit lots of folks from day to day,

The delivery boy was his favorite prey.

The gas man wouldn’t read our meter,

He said we owned a real man-eater.

He set the house on fire

But the story’s long to tell.

Suffice it to say that he survived

And the house survived as well.

On the evening walks, and Gloria took him,

He was always first out the door.

The Old One and I brought up the rear

Because our bones were sore.

He would charge up the street with Mom hanging on,

What a beautiful pair they were!

And if it was still light and the tourists were out,

They created a bit of a stir.

But every once in a while, he would stop in his tracks

And with a frown on his face look around.

It was just to make sure that the Old One was there

And would follow him where he was bound.

We are early-to-bedders at our house — I guess I’m the first to retire.

And as I’d leave the room he’d look at me

And get up from his place by the fire.

He knew where the tennis balls were upstairs,

And I’d give him one for a while.

He would push it under the bed with his nose

And I’d fish it out with a smile.

And before very long He’d tire of the ball

And be asleep in his corner In no time at all.

And there were nights when I’d feel him Climb upon our bed

And lie between us,

And I’d pat his head.

And there were nights when I’d feel this stare

And I’d wake up and he’d be sitting there

And I reach out my hand and stroke his hair.

And sometimes I’d feel him sigh and I think I know the reason why.

He would wake up at night

And he would have this fear

Of the dark, of life, of lots of things,

And he’d be glad to have me near.

And now he’s dead.

And there are nights when I think I feel him

Climb upon our bed and lie between us,

And I pat his head.

And there are nights when I think I feel that stare

And I reach out my hand to stroke his hair,

But he’s not there.

Oh, how I wish that wasn’t so,

I’ll always love a dog named Beau.

There is no love without pain,

But to have lived without the love of a dog in one’s life would be not to have lived at all.

Our dear, dear dogs!

Our healing dogs!

Is it me or is the world becoming crazier each new day!

What with the ‘Remain/Leave’ EU referendum coming up in my old country and Presidential politics in my new country it seems these days as though the need for healing is growing in leaps and bounds. Thank goodness for being able to hug a dog or two (and Jean) to be reminded of what matters most of all.

I was reminded of the incredible healing power of our dogs in a recent article published by author Deborah Taylor-French. That will be republished tomorrow, with Deborah’s kind permission. However, I wanted to make this message last for more than a single post and to achieve that I’m republishing a guest post that appeared in this place towards the end of last year.

But first my introduction to that guest post.

Forget about the big world out there, be loved by our dogs.

Monday’s post about the precariousness of man’s future on this planet if we don’t prevent the melting of the Antarctic ice sheet was a bit gloomy, however true it might be. The gloom continued with yesterday’s post about the VW scandal illustrating the “unethical culture endemic in business”.

So what a nice change to think about the way that our pets keep us bright, cheerful and healthy.

All of which is my way of introducing a guest post from Vee Cecil. Now I am fairly cautious about guest posts from those who want to promote their businesses, for obvious reasons. But Vee’s essay is so lovely that it truly deserves to be shared.

Firstly, here is the email that Vee sent me back in August,

Hi!

In the U.S., 91 percent of pet owners say they consider their pet to be a member of the family. And for good reason! Our pets are constant sources of comfort and companionship.

What many pet owners may not realize is how great their furry family members are for their physical and mental health. For example, studies have shown that pet owners have lower blood pressure than people who don’t have pets and that being around pets also makes us “less anxious and less stressed.” And that’s just the beginning. There are many other wonderful health benefits that result from owning a pet.

May I write an article for learningfromdogs.com on this topic? The article will be approximately 500 words, unique to your site, and complete with resources.

Please let me know – I am always looking to spread the word about how we can be healthier and happier and having a pet is a great way to achieve both!

Best,
Vee

Here then is that article.

ooOOoo

Feeling Under the Weather? Learn More About the Amazing Healing Powers of Pets

HappyTailsAsk any dog owner and you’ll find out just how remarkable a dog can be. They can turn a terrible day into an amazing one with one lick of the face or wag of the tail. But more and more studies are showing that our four-legged friends might be even more awesome than we previously thought.

As The Washington Post explains, research is showing that being around dogs can help us feel better and less stressed, while also improving our physical health. For example, the article cites studies which found that our pets can lead to “lower blood pressure, lower resting heart rates and less risk of hypertension.”

And that’s not all. Here are four other health issues and how dogs help their human companions:

Cancer. As this CBSNews.com article explains, a recent study at Mount Sinai Beth Israel found that therapy dogs had a very positive impact on patients receiving chemo therapy. The patients showed improvements in “emotional well-being and quality of life.” The director of the program that provided the therapy dogs also noted that patients felt less stressed and anxious. The article notes that this was a ground-breaking study as the impact of therapy dogs on cancer patients hadn’t been examined before.

Alzheimer’s Disease. Therapy dogs are also proving to be extremely helpful for patients with Alzheimer’s. In this article, a man with early on-set Alzheimer’s explains how his therapy dog helps him with daily tasks. Through the help of his therapy dog, the man says his stress and anxiety levels have significantly reduced.

Surgery recovery. Chances are if you were recovering from a painful surgery you wouldn’t turn down a snuggle from a pet. But, as The Telegraph shows, researchers have found that pets can do more than just provide you with a little tender loving care. A study led by a researcher from Loyola University found that pet therapy can reduce the amount of pain patients experience after surgery. In fact, according to the article, the patients in the study, who had had joint replacement surgery, “needed 50 per cent less pain medication if they used pet therapy.”

Diabetes. And perhaps most remarkable of all is what therapy dogs can be trained to do for diabetics. In this case, dogs put their acute sense of smell to good use. As this article explains, dogs exhibiting a better-than-average sense of smell can be trained to help diabetics. Once trained these dogs use their sense of smell to detect signs of hypoglycemia and low blood sugar (based on their human companion’s breath). They’re also trained to get a sugary food for their diabetic, get help if the person goes into diabetic shock, and more.

As more research is conducted to see the benefits of not only service dogs, but pets too, it will be interesting to see how dogs are woven into more medical treatments. They are truly amazing creatures, who can help us mind, body, and soul.

***

Vee Cecil keeps busy by being a wellness coach, personal trainer and bootcamp instructor in Kentucky. She also recently launched a blog where she shares her passion for health by writing about her favorite tips, activities and recipes.

ooOOoo

If proof was needed of the quality of a relationship that can exist between a person and a dog then just look at the following photograph.

Theo11It has healing power stamped all over it; for the young boy and the Shepherd Dog!

The book! Part Five: Play

So what can we learn from dogs from the way that they play?

It’s a fair question yet one where it might be perfectly reasonable to wonder if we humans have anything to learn from the playing of dogs. The answers may surprise.

But first, let’s examine what is known about the playing of dogs.

Marc Bekoff, Professor Emeritus of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder, is referred to extensively in The Washington Post; May 19th, 2014, in an article written by David Grimm, author of a new book: Citizen Canine.

David Grimm writes about the research undertaken by Marc Bekoff, who studies dog play and that, “studying dog play reveals more than the animals’ emotional lives. It could ultimately shed light on the evolution of human emotions and how we came to build a civilisation based on laws and co-operation, empathy and altruism.

Now that is a fascinating idea; that understanding why dogs play might help our understanding of how our emotions evolved. Up until this point, it had never occurred to me that our emotions evolved in just the same way that the rest of who we are today evolved. Sort of common-sense, I guess!

David Grimm goes on to write in that Washington Post article: “All of this suggests that dogs have a kind of moral code — one long hidden to humans until a cognitive ethologist named Marc Bekoff began to crack it.

As I read the article it started to dawn on me that possibly the reason that we humans devote so much time, energy, and frequently money, in playing, may have much deeper roots, as with our dogs.

Few people had studied animal play, but Bekoff was intrigued. “Play is a major expenditure of energy, and it can be dangerous,” he says. “You can twist a shoulder or break a leg, and it can increase your chances of being preyed upon. So why do they do it? It has to feel good.

Suddenly, Bekoff wasn’t interested just in behaviour; he was interested also in emotions and, fundamentally, what was going on inside these animals’ heads.

As the article reveals, Professor Bekoff, “wasn’t the first scientist to become intrigued by the canine mind”, reminding us that Charles Darwin was sure that dogs could engage in abstract thought, owned a sense of morality and used language. In Darwin’s lifetime he had thirteen dogs so had plenty of opportunity to become aware of what most of today’s dog owners know: that we humans and dogs can communicate with each other.

But back to emotions.

Back to David Grimm’s article:

Even morality hints at something deeper, however. To enforce moral conduct, dogs must be able to experience a spectrum of emotions, from joy to indignation, guilt to jealousy. They must also be able to read these emotions in others, distinguishing accident from intent, honesty from deceit. And indeed, recent studies by other scientists have shown evidence of these abilities (confirming what many dog owners already feel about their pets).

Scientists have found, for example, that dogs trained to shake hands with humans will stop shaking if they notice that they aren’t being rewarded for the trick although a nearby dog is — a sign, the researchers suggested, that dogs can sense inequity.

Thus from the playing of dogs (and wolves) comes great insight into the emotions and social conduct of humans. I will return to that idea at the end of the chapter.

Like millions of other dog lovers, I know from strong personal experience that dogs have a great sensitivity to how I am behaving and feeling. Even almost taking it for granted that when I yawn, the chances are that one of our dogs will yawn. Or believing, without any doubt, that dogs show empathy for us humans; I can easily recall my Pharaoh licking tears from my face. What I didn’t realise until reading the Washington Post article is that empathy is a rarely documented trait in the animal kingdom.

We know what our dogs are feeling from their behaviour and their vocal sounds. Know instinctively that when a dog nudges me awake in the early hours of the morning, it is because it needs to go outside for a ‘call of nature’ and can’t wait until the normal waking hour.

Our dogs know what we are feeling from our behaviours, our body ‘language’ and our vocal sounds.

We all, all of us dog owners that is, know this and take it for granted. Perhaps not quite in the clarity of Professor Bekoff’s recent work that “suggests another remarkable canine skill: the ability to know what another animal is thinking — a so-called “theory of mind.””

Back to play. Science is suggesting that play, as initially researched with dogs, is very important, incredibly so, to our species. That without play, us humans would have had an impossible task of learning or interacting with the world around us. That our insight into our human emotions and the way we conduct ourselves, in a social context, flows down from learning from dogs.

Leaving one inescapable conclusion, one that so perfectly links to community: never stop playing. Never stop playing with others; humans and dogs alike.

872 words Copyright © 2014 Paul Handover

Whoops!

Yesterday, I published a chapter from ‘the book’ under the title of The Power of Negativity.

However, as I contemplated a number of chapters coming along that, taken collectively, might seem out of place in a book that, essentially, offers a positive message, I decided an introduction was called for.

Thus in thirty minutes time that introduction is published.

I also realised that this introduction should have come before yesterday’s chapter on negativity.

So for those of you that might be following my draft, you poor souls, try and come at the Introduction as if it had been presented before The Power of Negativity.

Now for a complete change of topic!

Neighbour Dordie recently sent me the following.  Here’s Part One.

ooOOoo

The Washington Post’s Mensa Invitational once again invited readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply a new definition.

Here are the winners:

1. Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period of time.

2. Ignoranus: A person who’s both stupid and an asshole.

3. Intaxicaton: Euphoria at getting a tax refund, which lasts until you realize it was your money to start with.

4. Reintarnation: Coming back to life as a hillbilly.

5. Bozone (n.): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.

6. Foreploy: Any misrepresentation about yourself for the purpose of getting laid

7. Giraffiti: Vandalism spray-painted very, very high.

8. Sarchasm: The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn’t get it.

9. Inoculatte: To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.

10. Osteopornosis: A degenerate disease. (This one got extra credit)

11. Karmageddon: It’s like, when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes, right? And then, like, the Earth explodes and it’s like, a serious bummer.

12. Decafalon (n):The grueling event of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you.

13. Glibido: All talk and no action.

14. Dopeler Effect: The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.

15. Arachnoleptic Fit (n.): The frantic dance performed just after you’ve accidentally walked through a spider web.

16. Beelzebug (n.): Satan in the form of a mosquito, that gets into your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out.

17. Caterpallor (n.): The color you turn after finding half a worm in the fruit you’re eating.

ooOOoo

Weren’t they fun?!

Part Two later on this week.

Back to dogs and play

A range of ideas that elevate our understanding of dogs.

Last Thursday, I wrote the opening to what became a two-part essay.  The essence of that first part was the conclusion by Marc Bekoff, Professor Emeritus of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder, that, “Clearly dogs and many other animals can truly teach us about traits such as trust, friendship, forgiveness, love, and hope.

You will recall that the reference to Marc Bekoff came from an article written by David Grimm (1) in The Washington Post.  Let me refer back to that article:

In the wild, coyotes ostracize pack members that don’t play by the rules. Something similar happens in dog parks: If three dogs are playing and one bites or tackles too hard, the other two are likely to give him the cold shoulder and stop playing with him, Bekoff says. Such behavior, he says, suggests that dogs are capable of morality, a mind-set once thought to be uniquely human.

Even morality hints at something deeper, however. To enforce moral conduct, dogs must be able to experience a spectrum of emotions, from joy to indignation, guilt to jealousy. They must also be able to read these emotions in others, distinguishing accident from intent, honesty from deceit. And indeed, recent studies by other scientists have shown evidence of these abilities (confirming what many dog owners already feel about their pets).

Scientists have found, for example, that dogs trained to shake hands with humans will stop shaking if they notice that they aren’t being rewarded for the trick although a nearby dog is — a sign, the researchers suggested, that dogs can sense inequity.

Other studies have revealed that dogs yawn when they see humans yawning and that they nuzzle and lick people who are crying; scientists consider both behaviors displays of empathy, a rarely documented trait in the animal kingdom. Dogs have even been shown to be pessimistic: When a group of canines in one study learned that a bowl placed on one side of the room contained a treat and a bowl on the other side contained nothing, some of the dogs just sat there when the empty bowl was placed in the center of the room; they figured it was empty and didn’t waste their time. These same dogs evinced what researchers said was a similar pessimistic attitude when their masters left for work: They were more likely to howl and tear up the couch when their owner disappeared, possibly because they didn’t believe their master would return.

Most, if not all, dog owners would be very familiar with many of the behavioural traits that Marc Bekoff covers.  Take this next aspect, for instance:

Bekoff’s recent work suggests another remarkable canine skill: the ability to know what another animal is thinking — a so-called “theory of mind.”

Dogs seem to display a rudimentary form of this skill during play. He has noticed, for example, that one dog won’t begin trying to play with another dog until he has her attention. To get her to notice, he may nip the other dog or run into her field of view. That, Bekoff says, shows that the one wanting to play knows that she’s not paying attention to him. Though this may seem like a simple skill, it’s incredibly important to our species. Without it, we can have a hard time learning or interacting with the world around us.

From the above, it was but a short step, in web-search terms, to discover the Duke Canine Cognition Center at Duke University.

dogs-playing-2.718.360

Duke Canine Cognition Center

The Duke Canine Cognition Center (DCCC) is dedicated to the study of dog psychology. Our goal is to understand the flexibility and limitations of dog cognition. In doing so, we gain a window into the mind of animals as well as the evolution of our own species. We can also apply our knowledge of dog cognition to improving programs in which dogs are bred and trained to help humans (i.e. service dogs for the disabled, etc.).

We study dog cognition by inviting dog owners living in the vicinity of Duke University (Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill) to volunteer their pet dog(s) to play fun problem solving games where they can win treats (food or toys). The Duke Canine Cognition Center has the highest acceptance rate and cheapest tuition at Duke! So join hundreds of others and sign up today so that your dog can help us gain an even better understanding of our very best friends.

Then from there, the discovery of Brian Hare:

brianhare_home

Brian Hare is the director of the above Duke Canine Cognition Center, the co-author of The Genius of Dogs, and co-founder of Dognition.

So will leave it there for today but all this clearly offers us much to browse and learn about our truly best friend!

Reference:

1. David Grimm is a deputy news editor at Science and the author of the new book “Citizen Canine: Our Evolving Relationship With Cats and Dogs.

http://www.amazon.com/Citizen-Canine-Evolving-Relationship-Cats/dp/1610391330/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1400593725&sr=8-1&keywords=david+grimm

Learning from the play of dogs.

A recent newspaper article offers yet more learning from dogs.

I can’t recall how I came across the article but so what!  What I do recall was reading a recent item in The Washington Post and thinking that has to be reported here on Learning from Dogs.

The article, written by David Grimm, was entitled: In dogs’ play, researchers see honesty and deceit, perhaps something like morality. Here’s how it opened:

A shaggy brown terrier approaches a large chocolate Labrador in a city park. When the terrier gets close, he adopts a yogalike pose, crouching on his forepaws and hiking his butt into the air. The Lab gives an excited bark, and soon the two dogs are somersaulting and tugging on each other’s ears. Then the terrier takes off and the Lab gives chase, his tail wagging wildly. When the two meet once more, the whole thing begins again.

Watch a couple of dogs play, and you’ll probably see seemingly random gestures, lots of frenetic activity and a whole lot of energy being expended. But decades of research suggest that beneath this apparently frivolous fun lies a hidden language of honesty and deceit, empathy and perhaps even a humanlike morality.

Now I don’t have permission to reproduce the entire article but will draw your attention to this further piece:

All of this suggests that dogs have a kind of moral code — one long hidden to humans until a cognitive ethologist named Marc Bekoff began to crack it.

A wiry 68-year-old with reddish-gray hair tied back in a long ponytail, Bekoff is a professor emeritus at the University of Colorado at Boulder, where he taught for 32 years. He began studying animal behavior in the early 1970s, spending four years videotaping groups of dogs, wolves and coyotes in large enclosures and slowly playing back the tapes, jotting down every nip, yip and lick. “Twenty minutes of film could take a week to analyze,” he says.

The data revealed insights into how the animals maintained their tight social bonds — by grooming each other, for example. But what changed Bekoff’s life was watching them play. The wolves would chase each other, run, jump and roll over for seemingly no other reason than to have fun.

Few people had studied animal play, but Bekoff was intrigued. “Play is a major expenditure of energy, and it can be dangerous,” he says. “You can twist a shoulder or break a leg, and it can increase your chances of being preyed upon. So why do they do it? It has to feel good.”

Suddenly, Bekoff wasn’t interested just in behavior; he was interested also in emotions and, fundamentally, what was going on inside these animals’ heads.

Marc Bekoff’s name rang a bell with me and, sure enough, I found that previously he was mentioned here.  It was a post called Daisy offers a lesson for all,:

Animal Emotions

Do animals think and feel?
by Marc Bekoff – Professor Emeritus of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

Daisy: The Injured Dog Who Believed She’d Walk Again and Did

Anthrozoology, also called human-animal studies (HAS), is a rapidly growing and expanding interdisciplinary field. A recent and comprehensive review of this wide-ranging discipline can be found in Paul Waldau’s book titled Animal Studies: An IntroductionMany of the essays I write for Psychology Today have something to do with anthrozoology in that they focus on the wide variety of relationships that humans establish with nonhuman animals (animals). Some essays also discuss what we can learn from other animals, including traits such as trust, friendship, forgiveness, love, and hope.

Often, a simple video captures the essence of the deep nature of the incredibly close and enduring bonds we form with other animals and they with us. As a case in point, my recent essay called “A Dog and His Man” showed a dog exuberantly expressing his deep feelings for a human companion he hadn’t seen for six months. Another essay titled “My Dog Always Eats First: Homeless People and Their Animals” dealt with the relationship between homeless people and the animals with whom they share their lives.

Daisy: An unforgettable and inspirational symbol of dedication and hope

I just saw another video called “Daisy – the Little Pup Who Believed” that is well-worth sharing widely with others of all ages. There is no way I can summarize the depth of five-month old Daisy’s resolve to walk again after she was injured or of the devotion of the woman, Jolene, who found her on the side of a road – scared, malnourished, unable to walk or wag her tail, the people who contributed money to help her along, or the wonderful veterinarians and staff at Barrie Veterinary Hospital in Ontario, Canada, who took care of her. You can also read about Daisy’s remarkable and inspirational journey here.

Please take five minutes out of your day to watch this video, read the text, listen to the song that accompanies it, and share it widely. I am sure you will get teary as you watch Daisy go from an injured little ball of fur living in a ditch on the side of a road with a broken spine to learning to walk in water to romping around wildly as if life had been that proverbial pail of cherries from the start.

I’ve watched Daisy’s journey many times and every single time my eyes get watery. Among the many lessons in this wonderful video is “stay strong and never give up”. Clearly dogs and many other animals can truly teach us about traits such as trust, friendshipforgiveness, love, and hope.

Back to that Washington Post article.

Bekoff’s recent work suggests another remarkable canine skill: the ability to know what another animal is thinking — a so-called “theory of mind.”

Dogs seem to display a rudimentary form of this skill during play. He has noticed, for example, that one dog won’t begin trying to play with another dog until he has her attention. To get her to notice, he may nip the other dog or run into her field of view. That, Bekoff says, shows that the one wanting to play knows that she’s not paying attention to him. Though this may seem like a simple skill, it’s incredibly important to our species. Without it, we can have a hard time learning or interacting with the world around us.

So will leave you with this video and return to the theme tomorrow.