Posts Tagged ‘Animals’

Lessons From My Dog

Posted: October 18, 2013 in Pets
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Callie helping me form a dog beard

For years I’ve kept a tall poster hanging beside my favorite chair. The poster is titled “All I Need to Know About Life I Learned From my Dog.” It contains the following advice which makes perfect sense for dogs and to some extent for people, although I can’t vouch for the effectiveness of all the suggestions from a human standpoint:

  • If you stare at someone long enough, eventually you will get what you want.
  • Be direct with people; let them know exactly how you feel by piddling on their shoes.
  • When it comes to having sex, if at first you don’t succeed, beg.
  • Be aware of when to hold your tongue and when to use it.
  • Leave room in your schedule for a good nap.
  • Always give people a friendly greeting; a cold nose in the crotch is effective.
  • Don’t go out without I.D.
  • When you do something wrong, always take responsibility (as soon as you’re dragged out from under the bed).
  • If it’s not wet and sloppy, it’s not a real kiss.
  • When you go out into the world, remember: always take time to smell the roses…and the trees, the grass, the rocks, the street, the fire hydrants…

We learn a lot about life from the magnificent creatures and creation around us. I marvel every day at the simple fact that another species lives contentedly in our home as a member of the family. I’m amazed that we seem to understand each other perfectly. The joy the relationship brings is satisfying and consistent – a source of comfort every day. I shake my head in wonder at the depth of love we share, and the unlikeliness of how it all came to pass walking past a Humane Society location in a pet supply store over three years ago.

There is much more to life and this universe than what we humans sometimes imagine in our self-centered, human-centered perspective. This day and every day I am thankful to be part of a larger story – one that involves the mystery, joy, and unconditional love of a sweet little canine friend, Callie, who is such a big part of my world. I’m an even bigger part of her world. I don’t understand how it all works, but it does, and I am thankful.

Abby and Gorilla

Abby watching a gorilla at a distance

Apart from the observation that some children appear to be animals, this post is a commentary on how well children and animals go together.

I had the chance over the past few days to witness this fact again for the millionth time, first when my wife and I took our granddaughter to the zoo on Tuesday, and then in watching children around animals at the state fair on Wednesday.  Of course, every day’s walk with my dog to a nearby park also reinforces the attraction of kids to animals and vice versa.

On Tuesday’s trip to the Louisville Zoo, my granddaughter was most anxious to see the giraffes.  We headed in that general direction and soon saw the giraffes as part of our 2.5 hours of strolling around all kinds of animals.  Fortunately, we caught her before she crawled under a barrier that would’ve allowed her right next to an indoor stall where a baby giraffe was feeding.  (Shhhhh… don’t tell her parents.)  There is a natural curiosity of children toward animals as well as a lack of fear, even when a healthy dose of fear (or at least respect from a distance) is in order.

This was my first trip to the zoo with Abby, and as animal lovers, we felt right at home.  It won’t be our last.

Kids watching ducks at the state fair

Kids watching ducks at the state fair

Then Wednesday at the state fair we witnessed many, many animals.  I couldn’t help but notice some of the small children who were members of the families who owned the farm animals and cared for them.  They were right at home pulling up a chair and sitting next to their animals, walking them, grooming them, showing them, leading them, talking to them, etc.  It was just as natural to those children as could be.

We also sat and watched a little bit of a horse show while at the fair, the first competition being with riders who were eight years old on their huge show horses.  On a return trip later in the day, I noticed a small petting zoo area I had missed earlier.  Petting zoos are child magnets as little hands reach out to touch whichever animals they are allowed to pet.

Last night while walking my dog at the park near our home, two young boys chased me down to ask if they could pet Callie.  The answer to that question will always be, “Sure!”  Callie knows no strangers and will befriend anyone interested in her.

Younger Abby riding Callie

Younger Abby riding Callie

It didn’t take experiences from this week, though, to teach me about kids and animals.  I grew up with pets nearly all my life.  My parents and grandparents owned farms with horses and cattle.  I’ve almost always had a dog or two as well as a variety of other pets.  Life just doesn’t feel right for me unless I have a canine companion nearby.

I think it’s important for children to have pets.  So many life lessons can be taught through such a relationship.  It is through having a pet that many children first learn to take care of another creature who depends on them for food and drink.  The companionship of a loving pet provides joy, satisfaction and unconditional love that is not always felt in human relationships.  Some of life’s toughest lessons such as dealing with grief are taught through the tears of losing a beloved pet.  Respect for all of God’s creation is best taught through actual interaction with that creation rather than as a philosophical concept we hope carries over should the opportunity arise.

My son, Jason, at age 3 covered with cicadas

My son, Jason, at age 3 in 1987 covered with cicadas

So parents, I encourage you to endure the inconvenience of having pets when the children don’t keep their promise of taking care of them as they said they would when you got the pet.  Allow them the chance to have some strange creatures in your home that you’d be quite content to never have inside your walls (like the tarantula I had in high school).  Accept the added expense of pet food, cages, supplies and vet bills as a childhood rite of passage even though you have other things you’d rather spend your money on.  Don’t freak out when kids come in the door with a shoe box or a jar saying, “Look what we caught!”

By allowing and encouraging your children to live life harmoniously with animals, you are teaching your children about some of the most fascinating and mysterious aspects of our world.  You are teaching them to respect life in all of its forms.  You are teaching them compassion that leads them to care for others who can’t always care for themselves.  You are teaching them that the world doesn’t revolve around them, but that we are part of an amazing planet made richer through frequent interaction with other species.

We need our children to grow up with a healthy respect and love for nature and all forms of life.  That is most likely to happen through actual participation with nature in all its fantastic variety of plant and animal life.

Parents, grandparents, and guardians, please make sure that the children in your life have the chance to grow up with and interact with animals along the way.  It has the possibility of making them better people and contributing to a better world.

Dog Owners, Please Do This

Posted: August 15, 2013 in Pets
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Callie eager for our walk

From the very day we got our Border Collie/Lab mix Callie a little over three years ago at the age of two months, we socialized her.  I took her on walks and intentionally headed toward places where other people and dogs would be found.  She has a sweet disposition, anyway, but it was still important to give her as many opportunities as possible to be around other dogs and people so that she would be easy to get along with.  As a lifetime dog owner and lover, it bothers me when people allow their dogs to be unsocialized, always barking at other people and unfriendly toward other dogs.

With tonight being an unseasonably cool August night here in Louisville, Kentucky, there were far more people and dogs at the nearby park than normal.  Everyone had the same idea of taking advantage of the weather.  Unfortunately, Callie and I ran into more than our share of very unsocialized dogs along the way.  In one case, the owner had to pick up and hold her little yappy mutt as we walked past.  Another one allowed Callie to get close enough to sniff noses but then snapped at her in an instant.  The other owner and I both pulled the leashes quickly to separate them.  Such incidents always take Callie by surprise because she assumes other dogs are friends until they prove otherwise.  A few other owners made sure their dogs weren’t allowed to get close to Callie as we passed each other.

Unfortunately, having one episode after another like the above made the walk far less enjoyable than our normal 2.5-mile evening stroll.  Sadly, it is all very preventable if the owners do their job.

While dogs certainly have their own dispositions and personalities, I believe any can be trained if they are in the hands of good dog owners.  And, yes, you can teach an old dog new tricks, even if the “trick” is getting along with others.

Dog owners, please socialize your dogs.  The world will be a happier place for you, your dog, and others you meet along the way.

p.s. –  If you need some sound advice for dog training, I highly recommend the resources – some free, some available for purchase – from Eric Letendre at

Dogs That Know BookSometimes you get a lot more than you bargained for in a book – in a good way – and that’s what happened to me in reading Rupert Sheldrake’s Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home (And Other Unexplained Powers of Animals).  As a dog lover, and given the title of the book, I was expecting a series of warm, fuzzy stories about the connection many dogs have with their owners and the ways that relationship and intelligence plays out.  Boy, did I underestimate the contents of this 400-page book!

Sheldrake has been a serious researcher in the field of animal-human connections for many years and has written extensively on the subject in peer-reviewed journals and in books such as this one.  The book does, of course, contain many amazing stories, but also includes a wealth of research results that give much weight to the conclusions he draws on the subject.  For animal lovers who would like to know if their “inexplicable” experiences with animals have been shared by others, this will be a great book to take your time with, enjoy, and to learn from as you absorb its contents.

By the way, this is certainly not just for dog owners.  There are chapters and stories devoted to several other animals – cats, horses, rabbits, birds, and more.

A look at the sections and chapter titles will give you a good idea of the depth of content:

  • Part I: Human-Animal Bonds
    • The Domestication of Animals
  • Part II: Animals That Know When Their People Are Coming Home
    • Dogs
    • Cats
    • Parrots, Horses, and Other Animals
  • Part III: Animal Empathy
    • Animals That Comfort and Heal
    • Distant Deaths and Accidents
  • Part IV: Intentions, Calls, and Telepathy
    • Picking Up Intentions
    • Telepathic Calls and Commands
    • Animal-to-Animal Telepathy
  • Part V: The Sense of Direction
    • Incredible Journeys
    • Migrations and Memory
    • Animals That Know When They Are Nearing Home
    • Pets Finding Their People Far Away
  • Part VI: Animal Premonitions
    • Premonitions of Fits, Comas, and Sudden Deaths
    • Forebodings of Earthquakes and Other Disasters
  • Part VII: Conclusions
    • Animal Powers and the Human Mind
  • Appendix: Controversies and Inquiries

How many times have you and your pet looked at each other at the same time without any verbal, physical, or audible cue?  Has your pet shown unusual compassion when you were ill?  Can you tell that some weather event is about to happen because of the actions of your pets rather than any meteorological signs visible to you?  Does your pet seem to know your intentions or your whereabouts or your imminent return home apart from any routine schedule that might easily explain such behavior?  Do you recall hearing remarkable stories of pets traveling hundreds or thousands of miles to find their owners in places the pets have never been to before?  Many pet owners share such experiences, yet there are few resources devoted to relevant and serious studies, partly because of an inherent bias against the notion from many scientists, according to the author.

Callie Asleep

My sweet Callie – never too far away from me

That’s where the value of the research data comes into play in the book – not just random anecdotal stories.  It also makes even the appendix of this book very interesting because it is devoted to sharing a number of details where the author has been challenged or misrepresented, and includes his convincing rebuttal to such attempts.

Sheldrake admits that there is much yet to learn and that not all such interesting animal behavior can be explained by him or anyone at this time, but that is why genuine scientific inquiry is needed.  Those who respect science are not afraid of controlled experiments and replication of them and whatever data results from them.  Yet, there is an underlying bias of skeptics that dismisses the idea of any kind of animal telepathy or related phenomenon as a bit kooky or unnatural, when it may in fact be quite natural.

I was intrigued by the author’s discussion of morphic fields as possible explanations of some of the phenomena related to animals’ seeming awareness of their owners and familiar places from afar.  The image he presents is one of a giant invisible rubber band mentally connecting the pet with the owner or place that somehow draws one to the other.  You’ll have to read it throughout the book to appreciate the author’s explanation far more than my couple of sentences.

There may be sections that some readers aren’t too interested in if their goal is to focus on the warm, fuzzy stories of pets and their owners.  That’s fine.  Read what interests you from the book.  But I dare you to read it and not come away with the distinct notion that there are some wonderful, albeit inexplicable, things that happen between many animals and their owners as well as animals and other animals.

My two cents: I believe our Creator has built far more into His creation than we come close to understanding, and more than some are willing to open their minds to considering.  We should never mistake our lack of understanding as proof that something doesn’t exist.

The book is worth the time to read.  You’ll be fascinated by the stories, and you’ll learn some things along the way.  Enjoy!

Animals lovers everywhere feel pain when their pets hurt.  That’s how it is for me tonight as I watch my 2.5 year old Border Collie/Lab mix Callie following minor surgery today to remove her front dewclaws.

For the last couple of weeks, she has repeatedly torn one after snagging it on carpet or something else playing and diving for balls and other toys.  I’d go for days without testing it in hopes that it would heal, but as soon as we started playing again it would get injured.  We had no choice but to make the call to have them removed for her own good.

She didn’t understand why we removed her water dish late last night or why we didn’t feed her this morning or why we started the day with a ride in the car and me leaving her behind at the vet.  I was like the parent of a child at day care as I sneaked out of the vet’s office when she turned her head for a second, only to hear the whimpering when she realized I was leaving.

Callie is a wonderfully sweet dog and we love on each other a lot every day.  Even with the cone around her head and her legs bandaged, she pulled the veterinarian assistant down the hall once she saw me, eager to reunite after I got off work.  She’s not quite herself yet, timid when it comes to steps and getting up on the sofa beside me because it most likely hurts, although she’d never complain about it if it did.

So tonight she gets some special attention.  I’ll stay away from the computer after writing this, let her curl up with me on the couch, probably stay there all night with her, and show some extra kindness.  Tomorrow the feeding schedule returns to normal.  Wednesday the bandages come off.  She’s on the mend even if she doesn’t realize it.  Meanwhile, my little girl needs some lovin’.

I have a special place in my heart for most kinds of animals, especially dogs, and for others who feel the same.

While not technically true, leap year lesson #324 still often feels true: Animals are people, too.