Dogs have a knack for helping us accomplish our goals. Somehow, they seem to know what those goals are without ever being told. Maybe, they know our goals better than we do.
With no apparent effort, they can help us accomplish our missions … whatever the mission … even missions that are completely opposite from one another.
Dogs, for instance, can help us stick to a routine, or get us out of a rut. (Ace has done both for me.)
They can enlarge our circles of friends, and — at those times solitude might be best — keep it from getting too lonely. (Ace has done both of those, too.)
And they can both keep us young and show us how to grow old.
That last trick, I think, is particularly impressive.
Dogs, when you think about it, show us how to live our lives (in the moment, with abandon), cope with our maladies (with brave perseverance) and die our deaths (with grace and dignity).
Between the examples they offer, the similarities between our species and the uncovered secrets dogs may still hold, it’s no surprise that science and medicine and more than a few other fields of study are increasingly turning to them for answers.
What dogs have to teach us about living a healthy life — some of it obvious (if we pay attention), some of it suspected and undergoing research — was the subject of an article last month in AARP Magazine.
As it noted, dogs, as they continue to evolve alongside us, are increasingly mirroring us, right down to getting the same diseases and disorders.
“… This evolution is ongoing, a process scientists call convergence: Human and canine genes, shaped by the environment we share, are evolving in lockstep. Today, along with home security and leftover disposal, dogs confer a host of wellness benefits, especially to kids and older people,” the article’s author, David Dudley, wrote. “People with dogs sleep better, weigh less and get more exercise than dog-free peers.”
“And there are the less tangible perks, the ones cataloged in Marley & Me–style books. This burgeoning “dogoir” literary genre revolves around the reductive but basically correct idea that a dog is foremost an instrument of personal growth: It exists to ease your existential anxieties, impart lessons about love and friendship, and teach you how to be a better person.”
But as noted by Dudley, who weaves the lessons his dog Foghat taught him into the article, that’s just the beginning of what dogs might have to share.
He cites a couple of research projects as examples of the possible answers dogs may hold when it comes to aging.
Neuroscientist Elizabeth Head is studying elderly beagles at the University of Kentucky in an attempt to determine why, by age 6 or 7, they start showing signs of the microscopic beta-amyloid plaques that are the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease.
About a third of the beagles will succumb to canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome, about the same percentage of Americans over 85 who will get Alzheimer’s.
“It could be that living in our environment — our food, our water, our homes — has made dogs more vulnerable,” she says.
Head thinks dogs might hold the key to defeating it. Past studies, she notes, have demonstrated that an antioxidant-rich diet and “behavioral enrichment” — a course of memory drills and new-skills training — can significantly delay or diminish plaque development and memory impairments.
At the University of Washington, Daniel Promislow, an aging researcher (in both meanings of the phrase), has assembled a team to join in a Canine Longevity Consortium. Through a a grant from the National Institute on Aging, they’re working on the first national longitudinal study on aging in dogs, which will include looking at how dogs stay so seemingly happy and carefree as they advance in years.
On the downside, as we all know, they can relatively suddenly become frail, forgetful and sick — as was the case with Dudley’s dog, Foghat.
“…He entered his dotage in roaring good health. Around his 18th birthday, I Googled “oldest dog in the world,” because I started to wonder if he was closing in on a record. He was what gerontologists would call a successful ager.
“And then, seemingly overnight, he wasn’t. If you have to go — and you do — a swift slide into decrepitude is the preferred way. The phrase is “compression of morbidity,” when the infirmities of age are delayed until the bitter end. Still, it’s no picnic. The joints went first. He started limping after a vigorous bouncing-a-soccer-ball-off-his-nose session. Then he needed help climbing into the car or crawling under the bed, his favorite sleeping spot.”
As Foghat declined, Dudley wrote, his “senescence appeared as both a comfort and a warning of what awaits: Some fears and eccentricities will lift with the years; others will only deepen. One by one, the things you love to do become too difficult and slip out of your life.”
With his death, Dudley says, “I was struck by the strange new stillness — the foreign silence of a household without a dog. It was as if a machine that had been humming in the background for a long time had suddenly been switched off.”
Amid that silence, Dudley, like many other grieving dog owners, started quantifying what he learned from Foghat.
” …And now that I’m no longer young, and he’s dead, I’ll do my best to follow the path Foghat blazed into my life’s last half…” he wrote.
“So eat the best food you can afford. Go for a walk, even if it’s raining. Take a lot of naps. Keep your teeth clean and your breath fresh, so that the people you lick will not flinch. And when someone you love walks in through the door, even if it happens five times a day, go totally insane with joy.”
(Photo: Foghat, the author’s dog, in 1995 at age 1, left, and in 2012 at age 18; courtesy of David Dudley / AARP Magazine)
Posted by John Woestendiek February 16th, 2015 under Muttsblog.
Tags: aarp, acceptance, aging, alzheimers, animals, answers, cognition, david dudley, dignity, dogs, dogs as teachers, elderly, enjoy, examples, learning, learning from dogs, life, old, pets, research, secrets, solutions
Nobody knows how Sissy did it, but we’d guess it was with her nose.
The miniature schnauzer ran away from home last Saturday, and showed up about four hours later and 20 blocks away — inside the Iowa hospital where her owner was recovering from cancer surgery.
Nancy Franck has been recovering at Mercy Medical Center in Cedar Rapids for two weeks, and apparently Sissy got tired of waiting for her to come home.
“She missed mom, that’s all I can tell you. She missed mom,” Franck said.
Hospital security snagged the dog after she entered through the automatic doors and began wandering through the lobby.
They called the number on Sissy’s ID tags and only then learned, from Franck’s husband, that Nancy was a patient in the hospital.
“I thought she just wanted to go someplace, but I didn’t know where. She’d never run away before,” said Dale Franck.
Hospital surveillance tapes show the dog entering, and making her way to the elevators, where — momentarily puzzled — she paused.
“She wanted to see her mom. She was on a mission, but she didn’t know which elevator to take,” Dale Franck told ABC 7 in Chicago.
Family members arrived at the hospital, and they were allowed to take Sissy to Nancy’s room for a visit.
According to the family, their home is about 15 to 20 blocks from the hospital. Sissy had never been there before, they said.
Posted by John Woestendiek February 13th, 2015 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, bond, cedar rapids, dogs, finds, found, hospital, iowa, locates, mission, nancy franck, nose, owner, patient, pets, schnauzer, security, sissy, sniffs, surveillance
Here we have proof, on video, that a Google-owned company is abusing dogs.
Robot dogs, that is.
Boston Dynamics, a company Google purchased two years ago, designs robots for the U.S. military and others. Here, in its own video, it’s showing off “Spot,” a robot dog that can traverse all sorts of terrains and withstand being kicked by employees without toppling over.
My first question is: Why, given it’s a heartless metal gizmo, does it still bother me to watch Spot get kicked? Why, given the kicks are part of testing the machine’s balance, is my first response to seeing an employee kick Spot, “What an asshole?”
Likely it’s because the machine, with its four legs, ever so slightly resembles, and is being called, a dog.
Likely too, it’s because seeing the machine take a violent blow brings to mind how dogs are often mistreated in our society — and how our response to that falls so far short of what we invest in machines that can be used for spying and warfare.
My gut reaction is illogical, and perhaps I shouldn’t be droning on about it. Perhaps it’s silly to get even mildly worked up over robot abuse.
But considering how robots may someday be in as many homes as dogs — and how often I already want to kick my computer — robot abuse may someday become an issue. Maybe, as we did with dogs, we will first create them then abuse them.
As a society, rather than spending all our money on creating new monsters, we should be spending more on looking at those that already exist inside us, and lead us to exhibit violence and so many other undesirable behaviors.
Boston Dynamics released the latest video this week, showing the electrically powered and “hydraulically actuated” robot dog climbing stairs, jogging alongside a human and generally exhibiting its agility. Spot has a sensor head that helps it navigate rough terrain. Spot weighs about 160 lbs. See Spot run.
Watching it — even knowing full well it was a heartless machine — I found myself assigning canine traits to robots (canidaepomorphization?) “Look out. Don’t get so close to the road,” I said to myself. “There should be a fence for those robot dogs.”
What if one was to get run over, say by one of those Google mapping vehicles?
Google Car Hits Google Dog, the headline might say, assuming the story ever got out.
The disclaimer at the end of the video did little to put me at ease: “No robots,” it says, “were harmed in the making of this video.”
This man was having a pretty good chuckle as he took video of his dog slipping and sliding on the ice at Brooklyn’s McGolrick Park
Mere seconds later, he took a dive himself.
We love it when karma works quickly.
In the dog owner’s defense, he apparently cared about his dog enough to equip him with booties. He chuckled again after he took his own fall.
And he had enough humility to post himself getting his comeuppance (or in this case, comedownance) on YouTube.
Posted by John Woestendiek February 11th, 2015 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, dog, dogs, falling, falls, funny, ice, karma, mcgolrick park, new york, owner, pets, slide, slip, video, walker
The newest member of the KOLR 10 news team in Springfield, Mo., is making the weather report much more interesting.
Griffey belongs to KOLR meteorologist John Ziegler and, as you can see from last Thursday’s weather segment, the beagle’s not shy about getting some time on the air.
He seems to have trained Ziegler to master delivering the weather and playing fetch at the same time.
Griffey joined the news team last month, and is quickly becoming a local celebrity, with his own Griffey the Weather Dog Facebook page.
We think he makes the weather reports, which can get a little depressing and repetitious in the winter months, more entertaining for viewers; and we’re sure Griffey is making KOLR a warmer place to work.
Here’s a video of him on his second day on the job.
Posted by John Woestendiek February 9th, 2015 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, dog, dogs, forecas, griffey, griffey the weather dog, john ziegler, kolr, meteorologist, missouri, news, pets, springfield, television, weather, work
A new study has a bone to pick with earlier researchers who concluded the domesticated dog has been around for 30,000 years.
New 3D analysis of skulls that had been identified as two of the earliest dogs shows they were actually wolves, a research team writes in the Nature journal Scientific Reports.
Fossilized remains that scientists said showed dogs date back at least 31,680 years — specifically those remains unearthed at Goyet Cave in Belgium — actually belonged to a wolf, according to a new study. So too, the new study says, did a 13,905-year-old fossil that was identified as belonging to a dog after it was found at a site called Eliseevichi in Russia.
The new study concludes that the the domestication of dogs happened during the Neolithic era (10,200 B.C.-2,000 B.C.) as opposed to the Paleolithic era (2.6 million years ago to 10,200 B.C.)
“Scientists have been eager to put a collar on the earliest domesticated dog,” lead author Abby Grace Drake said. “Unfortunately, their analyses weren’t sensitive enough to accurately determine the identity of these fossils.”
“Previous research has claimed that dogs emerged in the Paleolithic but this claim is based on inaccurate analyses,” Drake told Discovery News. “We reanalyzed some of the fossil canids from the Paleolithic and show that they are, in fact, wolves.”
“We did confirm that the Neolithic specimens Shamanka II (around 7,372 years old) and Ust’-Belaia (about 6,817 years old) are dogs, and therefore domestication took place by this time period or earlier,” added Drake, an assistant professor of biology at Skidmore College.
That means the wolves — who are generally (but not unanimously) believed to have evolved into dogs, possibly as a result of their interacting with humans — first appeared on earth after humans were farming and living in settlements, as opposed to when they were living in caves and hunting and gathering.
Drake and colleagues Michael Coquerelle and Guillaume Colombeau used scans and 3D visualization software to study the shape and size of the two oldest skulls and compare the data with measurements from the skulls of other dogs and wolves, according to a report on Phys.org.
That technique allowed the team to identify subtle morphological differences between dogs and wolves, such as the direction of the eye cavity and the angle between the muzzle and forehead.
(Photo: Abby Grace Drake, Skidmore College)
Posted by John Woestendiek February 6th, 2015 under Muttsblog.
Tags: analysis, animals, dog, dogs, domestication, evolution, fossilized, fossils, neolithic, origin, paleolithic, pets, remains, research, science, skidmore college, wolf, wolves
A non-profit organization has launched a campaign to sell dog collars and leashes to raise money to place therapy dogs in homes and shelters serving sex trafficking victims.
Eye Heart World, an organization that creates products to raise funds and awareness for social causes, is launching a campaign called “Walk the Cause” this week.
The sale of every leash and collar set will go toward purchasing therapy dogs to help victims of human trafficking.
The dogs will be placed in aftercare homes for victims and used in court during the interview process.
“These wonderful pups provide a sense of security, comfort, and something these girls will desperately need in this time of restoration,” the organization said in a press release.
It’s similar to a project the organization started in January of 2010 — called “Carry the Cause” — which sold handbags. All American made, each handbag bears an orange rose, the color representing human trafficking awareness.
Under the “Walk the Cause” project, $100 from the sale of every leather leash and collar set goes toward placing therapy dogs in homes and facilities to help victims of human trafficking.
The first dogs will likely placed at facilities in Atlanta and Denver, according to Eye Heart World founder Season Russo. The dogs will be purchased from Smeraglia, a dog breeding company, and will be trained by Teddy Bear Goldendoodles.
Posted by John Woestendiek February 4th, 2015 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: aftercare, animals, collars, counseling, court, dogs, eye heart world, goldendoodles, homes, human trafficking, leashes, leather, pets, sale, sex, sex trade, sex trafficking, shelters, smeraglia, support, teddy bear goldendoodles, therapy, therapy dogs, trafficking, walk the cause