I’m a bit late in honoring the anniversary of an incredible act by an incredible dog.
Backstory: As described in Lance: A Spirit Unbroken, Lance was a border collie that my wife Clara and I rescued. He had lived outside for over 10 years, at the mercy of bad people, bad weather, and wild animals. He turned out to be semi-feral and untrustworthy around people, my wife and I included. He bit both Clara and me on the day he moved in with us. Sporadic attacks occurred, often without warning, until the day he died. Clara was the victim of the worst of Lance's attacks, and she has scars on her face, hand, and leg as reminders. I also personally witnessed Lance kill a woodchuck and a deer, both brutal events but ones I could not stop.
We utilized a dog obedience trainer who was impressed with Lance’s rapid learning of basic commands. However, she was concerned about his threatening and lunging behavior. She referred us to a school for herding and obedience. The director rejected Lance’s “application” because she felt his wires had been irreparably crossed. It wasn't that he was an unintelligent dog—in fact, he was extremely bright and alert. He had simply lived outside too long and been assaulted too often, making him unsuitable for domesticity. At one point, we actively searched for someone or some organization more qualified to deal with him but even the Border Collie Rescue Association said that if they took Lance, most likely he would be euthanized. That left it up to us to pull the switch ourselves and we couldn’t. We wound up living with Lance for the duration of his life. During that time one event in particular occurred that Clara and I still marvel at.
On February 7, 2006 in the early a.m., Clara and I were preparing to go to the airport and fly to Florida. We were planning to visit Clara's brother, Eddie, who had recently turned his life around after battling with drug addiction for decades. We were minutes from leaving the house when Clara got a phone call from her sister-in-law Toni who was screaming, "Eddie's dead. He died from a heart attack. He's gone." Clara was instantly overcome with grief and, sobbing uncontrollably, threw herself into the recliner in our living room. I picked up the phone, not really knowing what to say in such a situation. At the same time, Lance rushed over to Clara, propped himself up with his front paws on her legs and began staring intently at her. Clara was now literally shuddering in tears. My immediate thought was that Lance was about to attack at the very worst possible time. Before I could even think how to prevent such a disaster, Lance leaned towards Clara and began washing away her tears. She burst out, "Look at what this dog is doing!" That’s all I could do, because the whole scene had frozen me in place and left me speechless. Both Clara and I both started crying harder, not only for the passing of Eddie but for this show of empathy by an animal, one who had himself been so brutally treated for over a decade.
They say dogs like the salt in our tears. But it's also safe to say that having lived outside all his life, Lance had never seen a human’s tears. Since salt is odorless, he would not have been attracted to its scent in Clara’s tears. I know what I saw and believe Lance sensed Clara was in deep pain and he reacted as he saw fit.
How would you interpret Lance’s actions?
By Walter Stoffel, author
The following is a recounting of an experience my dog Buddy and I endured two years ago around this time of year:
March 1, 2018—Canadensis, Pennsylvania. The nor’easter started as rain during the late afternoon and continued into the following day with ever increasing winds. Still, nothing to be alarmed about as far as I was concerned.
March 2—My wife Clara had weeks earlier booked a flight to Jacksonville, Florida to see her sisters. Her plane was to depart from Allentown, Pennsylvania at 4 a.m. on March 3rd. With the bad weather we were having, she’d originally planned to stay overnight at the house of a friend who lives further south of us in Easton, Pa. and closer to the airport. The winds were now howling, reaching sixty mile-per-hour gusts, and around noontime the rain changed over to heavy snow. That hastened Clara's departure from our house. She high-tailed it for Easton, earlier than previously planned, leaving Buddy, our poodle/beagle mix, and me to fend for ourselves.
Still not particularly troubled by the bad weather, I decided to work out on my elliptical machine in the garage. While huffing and puffing, I occasionally glanced through the garage door windows at the rapidly accumulating snow, appreciating the winter wonderland look to it all. I wouldn't be appreciating it much longer.
After exercising, I took a shower, had some lunch and sat down at my computer, the lifeline for a self- published author like myself. No sooner had I begun to go through my e-mails then the electric power got shaky. Lights flickered off and then came back on; the computer began to shut down and then revived itself. Finally, all things electric in the house stopped dead in their tracks. I got up from the computer and went out into the living room, finding Buddy, as was his custom, comfortably sacked out on the sofa, oblivious to what had just happened. I optimistically assumed power would be back on in a relatively short period of time so I set up the Keurig to make a cup of coffee the minute it did. Coffee—another lifeline for an author. Switching from optimism to realism, as a precautionary measure I ran the water faucets to get as much water out of the pipes as possible.
5:00 p.m. Still no electricity, heat or water and now it was getting late and the house ever darker and colder. I bundled up and trudged out to the garage to bring in the kerosene heater. I set the heater up in the living room and checked the gauge—the unit was only half full. Back out to the garage I trudged, only to find that the two containers we use to purchase and store kerosene in were bone dry. Since driving anywhere was now out of the question, I decided to start a wood fire in the fireplace and save the kerosene heater for the next day, if needed. In the midst of now blizzard conditions, I brought in firewood stored alongside the garage, making several uncomfortable trips.
By the time I had the fireplace roaring, the only light in the house was coming from the fire itself and a dim flashlight featuring well-worn batteries. I sat in my recliner, determined to let the inefficient warmth of the fireplace make me feel better. It didn't. Quickly concluding there was absolutely nothing to do in a cold, dark house, I decided to go to bed. I checked my home’s sole operating timepiece—a battery-operated clock—and realized I was hitting the sack at the ungodly hour of 5:45 p.m. Addicts use drugs to escape from reality; in this case, sleep would be my drug. Buddy hunkered down in bed with me and wasted no time getting underneath all the blankets. Disturbed sleep came quickly—disturbed because the intense cold had me waking up on a regular basis, wiggling my toes in an attempt to keep them limber and unfrozen.
In the dead middle of night, I was rousted out of sleep by a dog’s slobbering tongue planted all over my face. Buddy had decided he had to go outside. I grudgingly got up, fumbled in the dark for the flashlight, and stumbled groggily through a pitch black house to the side door. Out my dog went into the freezing cold, while I waited inside where it was only ever-so-slightly warmer. Some five or ten minutes later, Buddy came rushing back to the door, happy to have concluded his business. I was happy too, happy to get back under the covers that were providing me a small yet precious measure of warmth.
March 3—I got up from bed about 4:30 a.m. It was dark outside—and inside—the house, immediately letting me know I was still without electricity. The god-awful chill enveloping every corner of my home compelled me to start another fire. Once I got it blazing, I sat in my recliner and Buddy immediately hopped onto my lap. He yawned and I could see his breath, unexpected and somewhat startling proof as to just how cold the house was.
It didn’t take long before I realized how inefficient a fireplace without an insert is. I cranked up the kerosene heater and again “relaxed” in my recliner with Buddy. Ah, the precious warmth! Unfortunately, there would be no accompanying cup of coffee, breakfast, shower or access to the computer. March 3rd promised to be as dismal as March 2d had been.
7a.m-The sun was up and, despite an overcast sky, the weather much improved. The snow had stopped except for the occasional flurry. More importantly, the wind had subsided to half the force of the previous day’s gale-like outbursts. Things looked good outside, much better than they did inside.
At this point, my only contact with the outside world resided in my Smartphone. I’d lose that lifeline soon enough. There was no way to charge it in the house and, weeks ago, I had lent my car charger to a friend. Using the phone while I still could, I surmised from news reports that, like much of the northeastern United States, my local area had been devastated. The local electric company had issued an electronic form letter on its website announcing power would be out, at worst, for twenty-four hours. In view of that company’s track record, I found this form letter less than inspiring. Unfortunately, my lack of faith would prove justified.
I got a text message from Rick, my daughter Gina’s fiancé. They lived in the next town over, had no power and were going to stay at a hotel some thirty miles away. Would I join them? Not without Buddy, I wouldn’t. One thing I was certain of—by now, kerosene, firewood and bottled water and pet-friendly lodging were in short supply throughout the region. Buddy and I were in this together for the long haul.
A few minutes later Rick texted me a question: “What did the settlers do without electricity? I know they drank.” I texted back: “Yeah, they all drank and died of hypothermia. That’s why there are no settlers today.”
4:30 p.m. A combination of curiosity and cabin fever (the freezing kind) drove me out of the house and into my car. I wanted to see firsthand just what Mother Nature had done the past forty-eight hours. I couldn't take Buddy because he tends to get car sick, so I wrapped him up in blankets on the sofa and left him in the house. I started the car, pulled out of the driveway, drove to the end of my road and turned right onto northbound Route 447. The devastation was everywhere. Collapsed trees and tree limbs were draped over power lines, the latter now sagging under such ponderous weight. Trees and other debris scattered on the road created an obstacle course for drivers. Speaking of drivers, there weren't any on the road other than yours truly. There had been numerous motor vehicle accidents involving both cars and trucks—some landing in ditches, some smashed against guard rails, and others simply sitting in the middle of the road. I got as far as the intersection of Route 447 and Route 390. Not one place of business was open and I got the feeling they wouldn't be for quite some time. There was nothing else to do but turn around and head back home.
When I got there, I again started up a fire that only slightly warmed the living room. I gave Clara a call. Her flight had taken off as planned and she was now in the sunny state of Florida. She happily reported the temperature in Jacksonville was 74°F. I didn’t know what the temperature was in Canadensis and didn’t want to know. Clara had timed her exit from Pennsylvania perfectly and for that she had my grudging admiration. I was envious of her comfortable living conditions in Jacksonville compared to mine here in Canadensis, but the thought of asking her to end her vacation and come home to suffer with me never gained traction in my mind. The dice had been rolled and Clara was the winner. Our conversation was brief as I had nothing positive to talk about.
By 5:30 I was in bed with Buddy—extended sleeping hours were becoming a habit.
During the night, there was good news and bad news. Buddy slept through, so there was no need for me to let him outside at some ungodly hour. The bad news was that I woke up every fifteen minutes due to the intense cold. Again, I found myself wiggling my toes on a regular basis just to maintain circulation in them. During one of my waking spells, I pictured Lance (a border collie I rescued) spending ten consecutive winters struggling to endure weather like this—outside. Just because he was a dog didn’t make his fight to survive any easier. How the hell did he do it? I went back to sleep harboring evil thoughts about the Schmidts (his original owners).
To be continued…
Blayze was a very shy border collie.
We worked many years to bring this boy out of his shell. He was funny, loyal and eventually became leader of our small pack. It took a lot of confidence for him to assume the role of leader to our little pack.
Blayze thrived on fetch, was off-leash trained and a joy to own. He blossomed into a lovely companion for our family.
One day, at the age of 14, our boy was not eating. Now Blayze never refused food.
Initially, I thought he was attention seeking, which is something he did on occasion, to illicit cuddles and hugs. Today however, Blayze did not even want to move. With some encouragement he managed to get outside to do his business but collapsed on the way back in.
Alarmed, I arranged for a trip to the emergency vet. After some time the doctor came into the room and asked if Blayze had been hit by a car or if anything traumatic had happened to him.
I explained that he hadn't been feeling well and collapsed at home.
The verdict: Blayze had massive internal bleeding, a ruptured organ that was most likely caused by cancer. My world went from helping my precious boy to losing him in that one moment.
Now Blayze was "a perfect gentleman", said the vet. He allowed the exam, despite tremendous pain, and gave kisses throughout. (Blayze had always feared the vet.) I think he knew what was coming.
Once the reality of saying goodbye hit, Blayze was carried in to me (he was unable to walk due to the loss of blood) his tail wagging furiously when he saw me.
The room was cozy: a desk, an end table, leather sofa, soft lighting, very calming. The vet placed Blayze beside me, wrapped in a towel, on the sofa.
I cradled his head in my lap and talked softly to him, a natural thing to do even though at 14 he was completely deaf. I think we snuggled for about 2 hours together. Sharing our secrets and telling Blayze about the Rainbow Bridge.
Finally, it was time to let him go. I stood up from the sofa and walked slowly to the door to usher the vet in to the room.
At that moment Blayze summoned all his strength and leapt up from the sofa and ran after me. I could hardly believe it. I'm not staying here without YOU. Mom, don't leave me behind! he seemed to say.
I motioned for the vet to come and guided Blayze back to the sofa. I gently sat with him as he lay on a towel on the floor and held him close.
Blayze watched quietly as the vet prepared the injection to help him sleep. Then, he lay his head on my lap as the needle slipped into his leg seamlessly.
He was sleeping, breathing quietly, as I kissed him one more time. Then came the final injection and his final breath.
There was my boy lying on a plush towel lifeless, trusting, gone. In his final moments he showed his incredible love for our family by summoning his last bit of strength to follow me, his mommy, home.
Loved and remembered always. We love you "Bubba." You will always be our "Little One."
The love of one dog. xoxo. Claudia Crosier and Blayze.
Ginger and Linda
I saw you on the day you were born. A beautiful soul entered my life. Two days after my Bonnie left me and after my 16-month battle with Lymphoma, Ginger was there to put my heart back together. My brother’s Maggie had a litter. I knew nothing about border collies, but I hit the jackpot. Endless games of fetch and wonderful days of training were in store. Ginger had all the best qualities you could ever ask for in a dog and not a bad habit ever. She was free in the house before she was one and was house-trained in less than a week.
Ginger was my pride and joy. She was an angel from day one. Her temperament was amazing but her health—that was a challenge. We saw a specialist to correct her bite. I never knew to check for that. Luckily after removing two baby teeth, her adult teeth came in and didn't create more problems. Puppy kindergarten, Manners One, Manners 2, CGC prep class, Pre Agility, Tricks, Agility... all were the best days! How smart she was. Talking to Ginger was like speaking to a human, but much better!
New Year’s Day 2010. As I sat exactly where I am seated right now, Ginger within eyesight from the desk chair. I witnessed the most horrific thing I've ever seen. My Ginger began to convulse and shake and twitch. Little did I know I would witness this over and over and over until I was almost insane. Many nights were spent in the hospital, but Ginger always pulled through. She was my miracle dog. God granted her this life to teach me about faith. She had a seizure in every room of my house before we finally got the right combination of medicine to gain control of this wretched disease. I was terrified to leave her alone. Epilepsy is relentless.
I was always there for her. I could anticipate a seizure and kept her safe countless times. When we added Potassium Bromide the grand mal seizures
finally stopped in 2011. God knew I couldn't take much more. After that, a focal seizure once in a while was nothing compared to what we had endured. Sure, they were still frightening, but I was always one step ahead of her and caught her every time before she fell down the stairs, ran into a wall, or crashed into the furniture. My life changed and I made sure she got her medication on time. I never left her for more than 4 hours and never left her at night. Every hour of every day revolved around when Ginger was spunky and ready to PLAY BALL. My life was hers. I beamed with pride as we set out every day on our countless walks through the neighborhood. Ginger, never on a leash, under my total voice control. People would comment, "That's the best-trained dog I've ever seen". My heart would soar with joy. I never regretted a single sacrifice. We had a wonderful life. I knew deep down she would not live as long as most border collies. Ginger had so many friends. She loved everyone and had not a single mean bone in her body. She was pure love.
Four months before she died, a feeling came over me. I knew she was going to leave me. I kept telling my friend. I could see her aging before my eyes and could detect the slightest hind end weakness. A blood test to check her medication levels revealed she was in the therapeutic range.
The Christmas of 2016, Ginger was so lively and so much fun. It was as if she was giving me one last Holiday to savor forever. New Year's Day 2017 I snapped a photo of my best girl that captured the gray and old age in my perfect puppy.
The week leading up to her death was like a slow-motion nightmare, yet I remained calm and serene. Every day was spent taking her back and forth to the vet and then to specialists, including a neurologist. One morning Ginger had a bloody nose and the next morning she could not walk. There was no improvement and she progressively became worse. I carried her and she slept next to me like she had her entire life. At first it was thought Ginger had Lyme disease but eventually the neurologist concluded my dog suffered from cervical and possibly brain disease. I brought her home for one more night. Her friends came by to say so long. She feasted on organic chicken tenders. I stayed by her side, never leaving her for a second.
That morning, Friday, January 13, 2017, I carried Ginger one last time to my car. Alone with my dog, to the vet I drove. I danced around the waiting room singing to her. The love of my life, how can you go? "Get well, get well soon, I want you to get well" (the song from an old Seinfeld episode). I give myself credit for actually being able to find humor in the most horrific day of my life. I had lost my dad, brother, mother and my Bonnie all before this. The days, weeks, months and years since Ginger left turned out to be worse. I felt lost and alone without any purpose. EMPTY and BROKEN.
The day Ginger left the earth, part of me left with her. There were times I thought I might have to be committed, that's how much it hurt. I would walk in the door and my life was no more.
Somehow the gift of empathy gets me through the day. To reach out and console others when they are suffering in pain, to let them know they are not alone. Losing my Ginger broke me in two, but made me more loving, more caring and maybe someday, stronger. She made me better. She was my love. Love never dies. And Ginger lives forever in my perfectly broken heart.
Lindy and Maggie
Can you relate to Lindy and Maggie's story?
By: Val Muller
I had the honor of speaking at the rescue picnic for the Pembroke Welsh Corgi Club of the Potomac (www.PWCCP.org) last month. One of the club's objectives is "to maintain an organized rescue service" to help homeless or displaced Pembroke Welsh Corgis find a good home. The picnic, an annual tradition, was held to honor those who had rescued such corgis.
While I was invited to speak about my own corgis, Leia and Yoda, and their inspiration in my mystery series Corgi Capers, in preparing for the picnic I reflected on what my dogs truly mean to me. A highlight of the picnic—aside from the barbecue (thanks, Kathy and Stephon!)—was hearing the stories of rescuers adopting their dogs. The sacrifices, the time and energy, the love poured into the bond between human and canine. More than that, it was seeing all the corgis and the joy they brought and bring their people—and vice versa--even in the summer heat.
My daughter, who came along, loved going around and asking to pet all the dogs. I wasn't sure who was happier—her or the corgis. For the three-year-old, there was no pouting at this picnic. And that's what I really think matters about dogs in our lives. It's the mutual joy--the way they bring out the best in us. They make us slow down and appreciate details we might otherwise miss in life.
Talking to her grandkids, my grandmother always lamented the fact that we would one day grow up, that kids make everything more fun. While this may be the case, I say one of the secrets to prolonged youth is having an animal to care for--and to care for you.
In my own experience, my corgis have helped me to see other perspectives. It could be as simple as looking at a thunderstorm from two inches off the ground (it's terrifying!), or learning that I need to dig out snow tunnels in the winter (check out the snow Olympics here: https://corgicapers.com/2014/02/16/corgi-lympics/)
In early morning walks around the yard with my dogs, I've seen sunlight streaming through a dew-speckled spider web, felt mole tunnels collapse under my feet, caught dozens of winter sunrises blazing through the white landscape, and relaxed to summer sunsets kissing the world to sleep. These are things I would likely have missed, relegated instead to the comforts of air conditioning and heat, if not for Leia and Yoda prancing and dancing and "Aroooing" at me to join them.
Once, in the dead quiet of winter, I heard the sound of complete silence. No bird, plane, car, human, or canine. Leia and Yoda, normally barkers, froze as if entranced by the same winter magic that captivated me.
And it goes further back.
Growing up, the family dog, a bichon frise named Chip, made every day an adventure with daily walks and playtime. My sister and I peeked into sewers, checking out the tunnel systems with him. I walked in total darkness while listening to rustling leaves, sparking my imagination and strengthening my courage. We kept track of changing scenes around the neighborhood, and introduced ourselves to those we would not otherwise know. Scenes from my canine adventures have certainly made their way into my Corgi Capers novels, and for good reason.
To me, dogs bring me perpetual childhood. They splash in puddles, they run through bushes. Heck, they stop and smell the roses. I think my grandmother was onto something when she said that we all lose a little something when the children in our lives grow up. But she didn't have dogs. I suspect that if she did, she might have felt a bit differently.
Val Muller is the author of the Corgi Capers kidlit mystery series. Find out about the books at corgicapers.com.
Muller poses with husband Eric at the PWCCP's rescue picnic. She was honored to receive a "superstar rescue award." She auctioned off a chance to name a character in the upcoming Corgi Capers book 4 to raise money for corgi rescue.
The Anatomy Of Seduction: Raised Brow Puppy Dog Eyes
New research shows that domestication has altered dogs' facial musculature.
By Marc Bekoff, June 2019
Dogs and humans communicate quite well. We're pretty good at reading what they want and what they're feeling, and they're very good at reading us. This reciprocal understanding of shared emotions, many of which function as "social glue," isn't all that surprising given the close association of dogs and humans during the process of domestication. (See "Dogs Mirror Our Stress and We Know More About How and Why," "Dogs Watch Us Carefully and Read Our Faces Very Well," "How Dogs See the World: Some Facts About the Canine Cosmos," "Can Dogs Tell Us We're Angry When We Don't Know We Are?," "Dogs Smell Human Fear and Mirror Our Mood When They Do," and references therein.)
Researchers and non-researchers alike are very interested in how different behavior patterns have evolved in our canine companions. And now, due to new research by Dr. Juliane Kaminski and her colleagues, we know more about how domestication has altered the facial musculature of dogs so that they, but not wolves, have a unique muscle called AU101 that controls their seductive, sad-looking, puppy dog eyes. In an essay called "Evolution of facial muscle anatomy in dogs," Dr. Kaminski and her colleagues note that humans shaped dog behavior and anatomical features during domestication. They write, "Here we show that domestication transformed the facial muscle anatomy of dogs specifically for facial communication with humans. A muscle responsible for raising the inner eyebrow intensely is uniformly present in dogs but not in wolves." Their essay, published in the prestigious journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), is available online along with pictures of the facial musculature of dogs and wolves and informative videos. What's especially appealing about this research paper is that it's a pretty easy read, even for people who aren't researchers themselves. There are also a good number of discussions in popular media for those who want more.
Dr. Kaminski and her team made their very interesting discovery by dissecting the faces of four gray wolves and six domestic dogs (cadavers, of course) and also by measuring the intensity of facial movements associated with a unique muscle called AU101 during social interactions with humans by nine wolves and 27 dogs. They discovered that dogs had a greater ability than wolves to raise the inner corner of their eyebrows without squinting due to the action of AU101.
How and why did puppy dog eyes evolve? The anatomy of seduction
The results of this study are very interesting and important. We now have a better understanding of how and why large, sad-looking puppy dog eyes, have evolved, and it's most likely because humans preferred them and selected for them during domestication. We also know from previous research by Dr. Kaminski and her colleagues that dogs display more facial expressions when we pay attention to them. (See "Dogs Are More Expressive When We're Looking at Them.")
Puppy dog eyes are often referred to as being "paedomorphic" (infant or juvenile-like). These traits are characterized as being "cute" and often attract attention and care from those who see them. So, it's interesting and relevant that another study titled "Paedomorphic facial expressions give dogs a selective advantage" showed that dogs who display these puppy dog eyes are rehomed more quickly from shelters than those who don't. While we really don't know the details, perhaps this is a way that muscle AU101 evolved, because dogs who displayed seductive puppy dog eyes gained a selective advantage over those who didn't do it as frequently because humans were attracted to this facial expression. The data on rehoming support the idea that it's likely that the presence of AU101 is important for forming and maintaining close relationships between dogs and humans, and they also provide an interesting window into how AU101 might have evolved. Consistent with the rehoming pattern of dogs who do and do not display puppy dog eyes, Dr Kaminski and her colleagues conclude, "Overall, the data suggest that selection—perhaps mainly unconscious—during social interactions can create selection pressures on the facial muscle anatomy in dogs strong enough for additional muscles to evolve."
Are puppy dog eyes used to manipulate humans?
Raised brow eyes often evoke a caregiving response from humans, but there really isn't any solid evidence that dogs use them to manipulate us despite a few catchy headlines that claim they do. That dogs manipulate and "use us" is among many different myths that need to be put to rest once and for all. Suffice it to say, while some dogs might occasionally use puppy dog eyes or other behavior patterns deceptively to get something from us, there's no evidence at all that this is "canine business as usual" and that it would have resulted in the evolution of muscle AU101, other physical or morphological traits, or behavior patterns. (See "Do Dogs Really Manipulate Us? Beware Misleading Headlines," "'If Dogs Truly Were Human They Would Be Jerks'," "Dogs Live in the Present and Other Harmful Myths," "Let's Give Dogs a Break by Distinguishing Myths From Facts," Canine Confidential, Unleashing Your Dog, and links therein.)
Human, or artificial selection, clearly influences the evolution of a wide variety of canine traits so that they express themselves in certain ways and in a single direction. Some of these traits benefit dogs, whereas others clearly do not. (See "'Why in the World do People Make These Types of Dogs?'" and links therein). The presence of muscle AU101 made me think of the fascinating fact that dogs' ears are controlled by 18 difference muscles, but we don't know much about how wolves' ears are controlled. (See "How Dogs Hear and Speak With the World Around Them.") Perhaps human selection also played a role in the muscles that control dogs' ear movements.
Where to from here?
I really enjoyed reading Dr. Kaminski and her colleagues' essay and most, but not all, of the popular accounts. Just like cute puppy dogs eyes, some of the discussions were a bit too cute and fast for me given what we know about dogs and the nature of dog-human interactions. There's still a lot to learn about the many ways in which domestication changed wolves as they became dogs, and who would have thought that humans could have played a significant role in the evolution of a single, unique muscle that is used in dog-human social exchanges? (See "Dumping the Dog Domestication Dump Theory Once and For All.") Its extremely important for us to understand just how influential we have been in consciously and unconsciously designing dogs for our preferences, including traits that serve them well or appear to be neutral in terms of their health and survival and those that clearly don't serve them well and severely compromise their well-being, fecundity (ability to reproduce), and longevity. Many ethical questions loom.
The discovery of muscle AU101—the anatomy of seduction—shows that we need to go below the surface, dig deeper if you will, to learn about the hidden causes of what happened in the past as wolves became dogs, or, as author Mark Derr aptly puts it, as dogs became dogs, and what happens now when we interact with our canine companions. (See "Dogs Mirror Our Stress and We Know More About How and Why.") Stay tuned for further discussions of dog behavior, dog-human interactions, and the various ways in which we and our canine companions connect in different social situations. I'm sure there will be many fascinating discoveries and conversations in the future.
This story was originally published by psychologytoday.com.
I rescued a semi-feral border collie named Lance that showed no signs of slowing down until late in his 16th year. The downhill slide for him started almost imperceptibly but then picked up speed after he entered his 17th year.
This was a dog that had been indefatigable on hikes and now came back home exhausted after much shorter walks. My wife got on me for over-exercising Lance and, in hindsight, maybe I was because I didn’t want to face the fact that the end was near. He also began having trouble getting up from a lying position.
After rescuing Lance, we had found Dr. McKinley Gordon, a traveling vet who handled Lance better than any of the more sophisticated veterinary operations we’d taken him to. One day we came home and found Lance lying in his own pee. I called Dr. Gordon and remember to this day how I choked up asking him, “How will I know when it’s time?” Dr. Gordon said, “Lance will let you know.” Only a few days later, Lance fell down when coming out to visit us on the porch. He had let us know.
When a dog’s time on this planet is running down, the question for the owner becomes “Am I helping or hurting my dog by not letting him go?” Ultimately, it’s the owner’s call and the dog can only hope that, under the circumstances, his owner makes the best decision—or should I say the better of two agonizing choices? .
I don’t envy anyone going through those final days with a loved one, two-legged or four-legged. In the case of losing a dog, it’s the price paid for loving a man’s—or a woman’s—best friend.
Can you relate?
Meet Cosmo. He’s a Greater Swiss Mountain dog.
My wife Clara and I are not particularly wealthy people. Just recently we took out a debt consolidation loan which helped us pay off several bills featuring high interest rates that had been nagging us for a long time. We obtained a fairly low interest rate on the consolidation loan and were looking forward to being able to having a little money at the end of the month instead of having too much month at the end of the money. That all changed over a weekend two months ago.
Late on a Saturday evening, my granddaughter Aryanna and her fiancée Andy posted on Facebook asking people to pray for Cosmo, their dog. Clara gave Aryanna a call and found out that Cosmo had swallowed a sock and was currently in an animal hospital awaiting emergency surgery. The vets were looking for $5000. Then the fee dropped to $4500, which they wanted before they proceeded. The good news? The doctors were prepared to perform the operation even in lieu of getting paid. The bad news? If my granddaughter didn’t pay the tab in full the dog might very well be re-homed. The additional bad news? Aryanna and her fiancé were completely cash-strapped.
Another family member offered to pay $3000 worth of the veterinary fee. That left a $1500 balance. Over the years, my wife and I have gone through quite a bit of money bailing out various family members. My wife is the generous one and I just go along with her generosity. Over the past few years we have stood firm letting others know we simply are no longer (I’m not sure we ever were!) in a financial position that makes gift giving feasible.
Then, I started thinking about the message I try to convey in Lance: A Spirit Unbroken—that of stepping up to the plate when a canine is in need. I also give a PowerPoint presentation to public groups entitled In Defense of Dogs in which I ask people to do what they can to help dogs in need. Cosmo was totally dependent on humans to bail him out of his life-threatening situation (there was talk of having to remove part of his intestine). I was faced with a situation demanding me to literally put my money where my mouth is.
I made up my mind. I called Care Credit and then the vet, promising to pay the $1500 as soon as I obtained a new card (I’d lost the old one).
The operation was performed and was a complete success—Cosmo even still has his original intestine!
Yesterday I blurted out to Clara: “If it had been money for rent or a car payment, no way! A dog is another matter!”
P.S. In the photos clockwise from top left, Cosmo prior to the” incident”, then Cosmo post-op. The third photo shows Cosmo with my granddaughter’s son. He suffers from autism and Cosmo has been invaluable in helping him get out of his shell. I can only imagine how the sudden disappearance of Cosmo would have negatively impacted my grandson.
Early in the process of writing Lance: A Spirit Unbroken, I joined a critiquing group. It was the single best thing I could have done to improve the final product. Subjecting my work to others’ criticism wasn’t easy for me, but better to learn from fellow writers before publishing, than learn the hard way from readers after publishing. In those early critiquing sessions, I was told to do two things: get rid of the big words and write less formally. The former was relatively easy to accomplish; the latter required a leap of faith on my part but I'm confident the book became a lot more conversational by the time it got published.
Along the way, one of my fellow critiquers suggested that I make Lance a talking dog. Other members of the group rolled their eyes, but he was dead serious. I thought about his suggestion, but not for too long. To do such a thing would have changed the trajectory and the mood of Lance’s story and, in my mind, diminished the serious purpose I had for writing the book. That purpose was to raise awareness re: animal maltreatment and, hopefully, inspire the reader to action.
Though Lance and I did not have oral conversations (except for the occasional bite!), I feel there were times when he and I communicated mentally, beyond his obeying a command or understanding words like “treat” or “hike.” For example, not once, but twice, he escaped from his abusive owners’ property and showed up on my doorstep. Wasn’t that a silent cry for help?
In the book, Lance occasionally "talks" to me, not in quotes but in italics. I’ve wondered at times if a reader might find my communication with Lance a stretch, but so far no one has commented to that effect.
How about you? Do you have “conversations” with your dog? What has your dog “told” you?
Walter Stoffel is a substance abuse counselor and GED teacher in correctional facilities. When not behind bars, he likes to read, travel, work out and watch bad movies. Major accomplishment : He entered a 26.2-mile marathon following hip replacement surgery and finished—dead last. The author currently lives with his wife Clara, their dog Buddy (another rescue), and cat Winky (yet another rescue).
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