There Comes a Time

All over my house I have beautiful photographs. there are dogs, collies and terriers mostly, people smiling who have grey hair, people smiling who have long hair, kids and friends. The people are wearing clothes long since out of fashion and the dogs on occasions are also dressed-up just for the fun of it. I was always aware that even when taking the happiness I was also preparing myself for the fact that one day, all these people would be ghosts and all I would have left was the photographs.

That day finally fell in 2016 when my mother died. Then even the oil painting of her became the painting of a ghost.

I cannot part with any of these images, I cannot bear to see them for long either. I think I am the only member of the family to even have a picture of my grandfather on display. It is easier when you didn’t actually know the people personally.

Most of all I miss voices. The doggie voices and the people I love. All the faces I will never see again but in these photographs.

They Eat Dogs Don’t They?

I signed a petition about the killing of dogs. I have always had dogs in my house, from collie’s and Labradors to Jack Russells and mongrels.

The worst word in the English language, and whatever its equivalents are in other languages, is ‘they’. Human beings eat anything and everything. There is no difference in eating a sheep, who are very like dogs if you have one from birth, than a dog. Pigs are brilliantly clever. There is no need to kill any of them but don’t think because you don’t eat a pig, or a dog and ‘they’ do that you are better than ‘they’ are. You are not.

‘They’ allows you to believe there is a ‘other’, a lower, different kind of behaviour. It can allow you to cut yourself off from other people with their ‘odd’ cultural takes on society. If you eat meat you are part of the entire process of thinking that uses and abuses animals all over the world. Even if you don’t, you live in a society and make it stronger that does do just that. We are all the same. There is no ‘they’.

Humans and Dogs

My dog, a rough collie, has been for many years of her life perfectly happy and very sanguine. In the past two years, for reasons unfathomable, she suddenly will go for another dog with serious intent. Why she chooses the dogs she chooses is hard to define but it has to do with access to me, enclosed spaces and certain times of the day.

I think human beings are much the same. A friend’s daughter befriended in Truro, the county capital, a Syrian refugee family and the people in her road have belittled her, abused her, even attacked her to the point the police have been called for the threats made. It seems strangely easy to make people into attack dogs as if just below the surface the desire to attack is always there.

I have bought a muzzle for my dog for peace of mind and to be used at those times I have learned she is most likely to become a problem. would we had the same for people.

Bling Or Animal?

My friend and I were discussing dogs and she said in her opinion they are the ultimate bling. For the most part dogs today should not exist as we have bred them to look the way they do and in nature there are only three wild dog types from which we have over-bred so many dogs. On one level I could not argue with her, in that over breeding is the cause of a great many diseases and ailments that no healthy animals should ever suffer.

Equally she is right that the styles and breeds are all our creations and we continue to breed as in America where they are now breeding domestic cats into bigger and bigger animals.  This is all to do with fashion and eye candy. Then as she says the cost of producing the food to feed the animals is very high – typically the produce one dog’s food for a year emits more carbon than to run a family car. And I have to say I have always thought zoos, whilst not bling, a sign of the decadent way in which we view the animal kingdom.

This doesn’t detract from the few ways – seeing dogs, working dogs – in which we harness their innate abilities. Nor does it detract from the love and affection companionships create. But it finally explains for me why we are so easily able to kill off healthy dogs that are not being looked after by individuals.

Bling is, after all, something to throw away after a while.

Relationship Issues

I have often thought it was easier to get on with my dogs than anyone else. For a start my dogs can easily out-think me so they don’t have any dominance issues. They also have few requests and those they do have have specified times to which they adhere throughout their lives. It isn’t the sameness that’s boring but more the necessities of living and keeping the home clean which I have to do anyway. Its also comforting that no matter what happens in life the moment I sit down with something to eat four brown eyes are sitting next to me looking for their share. They are one of the best unknown diet tips.

Then again if I feel anxious I am supposed to brush them and by so doing relieve my blood pressure, which accomplishes two important things at the same time. There are few downsides with relating to dogs. They can learn a limited vocabulary but every word of it is cause for much joy, they are constant company and never want to be alone, they make sure everyone who comes near the house knows they are there and in winter I don’t need hot water bottles.

On the grounds of communal empathy and warmth of spirit, they go a long way to making life bearable.

The Wonderful Mind

I cannot really think in three dimensions. At least I find it hard sometimes to clearly visualise something that could be placed into the real world. I know some people can and even more I know some people have such an accurate visual memory they clearly recall images in all their colour. Not me, I have to recreate it from impressions.

I am told by people who think they know, that dogs cannot see in colour and therefore if they possess memories they are in black and white. I think this is probably  incorrect as higher animals need to be able to differentiate the real world on several levels of sense even if one sense functions to a greater degree than the others. Perhaps even some animals have perfectly adequate brains but their way of realising the world in them is not our way – after all language is but one form of communication.

I think in the future one of the surprises we are going to be given by research is just how the brain understands anything, and what if anything, it truly understands.  I will be surprised (if I am around to know) if it proves the brain can only comprehend the world by creating a language to discuss the world. I am sure that the brain uses language as a form of communication with other brains, but understands on several levels.

Which is why of course, I think animals are far more intelligent than most people do. There are after all, different ways of being intelligent.

Grooming

My rough collie loves to be brushed. If we are playing and I pick up her brush she knows exactly how it feels and though she will wag her tail and shake her head she enjoys every minute of it. I like to think she feels the way I do when someone does something nice for me and there is a pleasant feeling that flows through my body, probably from a series of chemicals released into my muscles. Much the same as having someone massage your head.

I know people are supposed to feel the same who are massaged so I think that it is obviously a lovely thing for human beings to stroke animals and each other but why? Are these things, which may be broadly considered, acts of peacefulness, made to make us feel good so we aspire to peace? When someone does something for us without regard to anything but how we feel, are we supposed to be enthused with such gentleness and delight that we seek out these feelings more often?

I actually wonder if this is the reason some people love Christianity because the ‘feel good’ factor can be so high knowing a divinity loves you.

Voice Overs

It is perfectly normal for people to have sounds and voices in their heads – we all have someone reading away when we read and some of us read novels and even have different voices for different characters. I am not sure if this is a natural facility or one we learn from our parents who tend to enjoy acting out our first, early-read books when we learn how trains sound when they talk English and what a big elephant sounds like as opposed to a baby elephant.

Whatever the roots this voice or series of voices follows us in our lives and since we know ‘things’ have voices what we also tend to do is ascribe characteristics to them to associate them with kinds of voices. Done so silently we don’t even think about it. And have you ever thought of yourself in a movie or a play or somewhere at work doing what you really want and the kinds of things you would say and how people would react to you? Is it your voice and are those really the things you would say?

It would be interesting if human beings has less made-up voices in their heads and more of the real voices of the world, the real animals and the real sounds and better still, if we had an innate understanding of the kinds of things they are saying.

I want to know if dogs have egos.

Autumn Mornings

Painters have often loved this time of year; the bright reddish-pink nights and silver moon mornings. Here in Cornwall if you go out early the air is crisp and you remember after a warm summer that your fingers have bones and your bones feel the chill. I remember my great uncle visiting from Australia in the summer looking at the countryside and sunshine and saying that everyone in Australia talks about foggy,foggy England. He couldn’t believe it was all so beautiful.

The wood pigeon was talking this morning and a few birds – a sad few – they levelled the forests here hundreds of years ago and the subsistence farming on the moor’s edge means ground cover is scarce. Then the Council’s made the farmers responsible for clearing the hedgerows along the minor roads so the farmers did the most obvious thing – they cut them right down so nothing would grow unexpectedly and where there were once shady places on roads there is now open sky.

Of course this means hedgerows are not knitted together by the roots of trees and do fall, but what is clearing up a road on which there is a ton of soil compared to being sued because a tree fell on a car?  The animals have suffered a Depression for hundreds of years but no one cares enough to think about them.

Except for those like me, on chilly mornings who watch as my dogs listen to other dogs barking in the distance and I wonder what it would be like to understand what they know of the world.

Wet Dogs And Sleepless Nights

Yesterday it really rained for the first time in weeks and my rough collie, ever the eighteen month old  lady, sat in the garden playing pull the garden hose (the lovely roll I make is now a squiggly mess around the flower beds) and was thoroughly drenched. Even after a hearty rub with the large towels she remained damp because of all that fur,  and she looked offended that I wouldn’t have her in the bedroom.

Just as well I didn’t because my mother, who suffers from agitated depression, spent every moment from midnight calling out so I didn’t get that much sleep. The third night in four days. I find myself longing for some respite care so I can get some rest and get out to see some friends.

My third living companion, the small terrier like dog who came to us eight years ago as a stray, drank our milk, wagged her docked tail and fell asleep,, not only doesn’t go out in the rain for even a second, she sleeps very soundly. Which has all lead me to a conclusion:

No matter how dysfunctional the people are around you, or how eccentric, or how weird, try to have one character in your life that let’s it all go by so you can too.

Travelling With Four Legs

The first dog I ever remember was a Labrador/Boxer cross who lived with us until I was nine years old. She had two puppies and the father visited to see how they were the day they were born.

The fastest dog I ever knew was Bella a terrier cross who outran a Whippet in our local park. I used to throw sticks for her and run the the opposite direction. I never got away. She was with us until I was fourteen and illness and the sadness of my mother’s life lost her to us.

We had a long period of time without any dogs but when we came back to live in the countryside we started by buying a collie who was over bred and was put down when he was three. The second collie we bought from a farmer and he was the cleverest animal I have ever know. I used to hide behind trees expecting him to seek me out but after doing this a few times I noticed he did not come to find me. When I peered to the side of the tree he was looking at me from three trees away… from behind the one he was hiding behind!

We rescued a little girl Welsh Collie who lived with us for five years and was as gentle as a lamb. Momo who is downstairs as I write has hurt her foot, she is some kind of terrier  abandoned on our hill eight years ago. And our newest family member Queenie who is mum’s gift to herself, a rough collie to remind her of Scottie who used to greet her off the school bus when she was a child in the fishing village of Porthtowan in Cornwall.

Personally, living without dogs would feel unnatural to me now and walking in the fields strangely lonely.

Blackbird’s Song

A friend told me that she would kill her dogs in a crisis to feed her children. I once heard this said by another woman on the radio and have wondered what sort of crisis they mean. It reminded me of the Andean air crash where the survivors ate the dead to keep alive before they were rescued. One of the survivors refused to do so. He died.

In most crises, earthquake or flood, if the dogs themselves survived it would be good luck. But one’s own survival could well depend upon the dogs’ ability to smell out and catch food. I think this supposed ‘crisis’ is really no more than an expression of the importance of the child or oneself or other human, over animals.

So it comes down to what would you sacrifice to survive. If it were your own child dead would you eat it to survive high in the mountains? If it were an earthquake would you kill a dog rather than accept it as part of the group to work together to get through?

We are so used to seeing ourselves as the preeminently superior animal in the world we forget the kind of things that make us so: wisdom.  Sometimes it is better to strive for the ‘all’ and fail than to survive as a human being who would sacrifice anything to live.

This is not about rights, not even about Ethics, it is about heart. If you get through a crisis with the dog intact you will be a better human being, and a better family for it.

China

I see that China is considering a new law to be discussed this April to outlaw the killing and eating of cats and dogs.

“We are proposing that all dog and cat eating should be banned because it is causing many social problems,” said Chang Jiwen, a law professor at the Chinese Academy.

I have always had a desire to visit the far East and China because some of their philosophy is fascinating but I have never gone because of their intense abuse of animals. It isn’t a judgmental thing; Europe intensely abuses animals and those it doesn’t abuse it has already wiped out. It was just because I could not bear to see the animals in the markets or pass the restaurants advertising them to eat.

If this does become law because the middle classes are becoming owners of dogs and can see all that people lose by slaughtering mindlessly, if will be a remarkable turn-around. Now all we have to wait for, is people not killing animals because the animals are precious in and of themselves and not just because they are of use to people.

Dogs

respond to love. My mother has often asked what do we do with our dogs, they come to us as puppies or rescued adult dogs all quiet and well trained and after a while we have a bunch of characters walking around with us. And they are all different. Our terrier who was abandoned on the hill, guards the house with great gusto and loves being wrapped up and warm. Our collie knows everyone who walks their dogs in the village and greets them all summer, and even visits their houses.

She doesn’t I am glad to say, steal socks as one other neighbour’s dog has done.

The fact is given space and respect dogs learn how to communicate with us. From asking to go out, to telling us someone is around.  And there are few animals in this world that would not do the same.

The whole of Nature communicates with us but just as with animal, you have to be open to hearing them and give them space to be with you, so with Nature you have to do the same. you have to learn it is communication and not just interference in your way of doing things.

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