Wandering Universe

The hue and the wing beat
Bound by the laws of Physics.

The eye and the nebula
Too wonderful to be accidental?

The paradigm shifts upon takeoff
The paradigm shifts upon implosion.

What a journey it must be when your feet
Barely touch the ground
To kiss the wind of the sea and the sound

of the stars.

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#DogHeroes – Four-Legged Heroes

#DogHeroes is back for another addition, and this one’s a little bit different. This time, I’m going to share some of my favourite four-legged heroes.

From service dogs for the blind, the deaf, the disabled to bomb-sniffers, drug-busters, cancer seeking dogs and everything in between, dogs are more than just man’s best friend. Their intelligence and human intuition is second to none, and is the reason that dogs are able to take on such diverse roles far beyond that of the family pet.

The 9/11 Heroes

Of the almost 10,000 emergency service and rescue personnel that rushed to the aid of the World Trade Center attacks, 300 of them were dogs. Alongside their tireless handlers, Bretagne, Riley, Coby, Guiness, Apollo, Thunder and others went far beyond their normal line of duty, searching for both the deceased and survivors, working 12 hour shifts and pushing themselves to the absolute limit. Sadly, the last four-legged 9/11 hero Bretagne passed away in 2016, after enjoying her retirement until age 17.

Dog Hero 9/11 Dog
Image: smithsonianmag.com

Lucy – Better Than Lab Tests

Lucy simply wasn’t cut out for guide dog school, as her Labrador-Irish Water Spaniel drive to smell got in her way. Excitable and curious, her nose led her to distraction and eventually to the end of her guide dog career. However, her owners didn’t give up, and knew that they could put her skills to good use. Lucy became part of Medical Detection Dogs,  and for 7 years she trained, sniffing out various types of cancer from bladder cancer to kidney and prostate cancer. Her success rate is measured to be around 95% accurate, which is considered equal or better than many of the best laboratory tests. Way to go, Lucy.

Kelsey Wouldn’t Leave Her Owner’s Side

A trip to go and get firewood nearly ended in tragedy for Bob from Michigan. It was a bitterly cold New Year’s Eve when he popped out to collect some logs, but fell and broke his neck, falling into the snow. With his nearest neighbour almost a kilometre away, Bob’s cries for help were pretty futile. But his Golden Retreviver Kelsey found him, curled up on top of him and kept him warm ovenight, licking him so he didn’t fall unconsious, and barking until help finally arrived. Bob and Kelsey are both now doing just fine.

 

Veterans

Dogs have probably been used in combat ever since we domesticated them. From sentries to scouts, dogs have been documented since 7th Century BC as leading the way in cavalry charges and battles. Dogs are known for their fearlesslness, and no doubt their close connection to humans made them highly suited for their role of leiutenant.

In the 16th Century the Conquistadors used the bulky breeds such as mastiffs to intimidate and subdue the native Americans.

In the First World War, the role of dogs was of critical importance, and canines were enlisted to carry messages across enemy lines (along with carrier pigeons) and struggle through the desperate front lines. It’s estimated that over 1 million dogs died alongside the human casualities, but their bravery and assistance was greatly revered.

More recently, a Belgian Malinois was on the team of Operation Neptune Spear, that successfully assinatedn Osama bin Laden.

Image result for dogs in war
Image: theatlantic.com

 

Whether it is ethical to use dogs in warfare is another matter, and one I won’t go in to here. The use of millions of dogs, horses, pigeons, donkeys and others was vital in ending (and probably starting) many of history’s great wars. Perhaps with improvements in Drones and other technology, such use of animals will be in decline.

What Is #DogHeroes?

#DogHeroes – highlighting the tireless work of dedicated individuals, groups and charities who rescue and rehabilitate dogs, and showcasing the difference that they make, very often relying on their own pocket and the donations of animal lovers like ourselves. Be aware, read the stories, if you see an abandoned or injured dog, pick it up, and if you can’t, give it what you can and pick up the phone. More importantly, understand that even the smallest donation can go a long way.

You can also help by sharing your own #DogHeroes. Use the hashtag, please! Share this blog, nominate your own heroes in the comments, and feel free to talk about this on social media. If you know a worthy cause, shout about it. If you adopted a senior dog, share your story. And stay tuned for the next blog where I’ll introduce the next #DogHero.

Additional reading:

https://edition.cnn.com/2015/11/20/health/cancer-smelling-dogs/index.html

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/01/15/hero-dog-saves-life-freezing-owner-broke-neck-fall/

 

Discovering Dinosaurs With Mary Anning

It’s Women’s Day today, a day where we celebrate the women in our lives: a daughter, a mother, a friend. A day where we celebrate the achievements of women throughout history and in our times.

There are a great many women that I admire, from Ayaan Hirsi Ali for her advocacy of the rights of Muslim women, to Georgia O’Keeffe for changing the face of American art forever, to Frida Kahlo and her struggle with chronic pain and her deeply complex, unstable life as an artist.

One woman I truly admire is one that might not be quite as well known as the women above, and certainly not as well-known as say the Kardashians or Rihanna. She was born in the tiny coastal town of Lyme Regis in Dorset, England. It was her great passion and pleasure to spend winters trawling the crumbling cliffs searching for newly exposed fossils. Having a rudimentary Sunday school education, Mary Anning would accompany her family as they sought to supplement their income with fossils; fossil-hunting had become a source of tourism and prestige for the area, and tourists were eager to purchase these unique relics.

Mary Anning was a pioneer; she was the one who discovered the first ichthyosaur skeleton – a large marine reptile that lived alongside the dinosaurs – and then went on to discover several more revolutionary finds in natural history. She uncovered two complete plesiosaurs and even a pterosaur – the flying dinosaur.

If all these discoveries weren’t impressive enough on their own right (David Attenborough and the Sea Dragon), we have to consider that this all happened back in the first half of the 19th Century, when the world of science was dominated by gentlemen, and women were rarely more than mothers and housewives.

That Mary was able to take her love of fossil-hunting and became quite an influential voice in geological circles is endlessly inspiring. But, as a woman, unfortunately, she did not get the acclaim and the respect that she truly deserved. Thanks to Mary Anning we were able to piece together great swathes of mystery surrounding the evolution and ultimately, the demise of the dinosaurs. But, as a woman, there was only so much she could do.

I like to think that we’ve moved on from this, and I know we have. Though she never got the credit for her contribution to the scientific world, after her death she finally started to be taken seriously, as is often sadly the case.

In her own words: “The world has used me so unkindly, I fear it has made me suspicious of everyone.”

The world needs to stop treating women scientists and pioneers unkindly. We don’t need to be suspicious of them – rather, we should celebrate them! Trail-blazing women, modern-day Mary Annings should be on top of the pantheon of role-models. Scientists like Emily Levesque, Katherine Freese and Maryam Mirzakhani. If you haven’t heard about these stars of modern science then you’re missing the big picture.

Birdbrain!

“Birdbrain”: we’ve all heard the term, bandied it around, perhaps even referred to another person as one. But where does this come from, and does it have any merit?

The common notion is that birds are, to put in bluntly, dumb.

But birds aren’t stupid at all. By proportion, they have pretty tiny brains (a macaw’s brain is about the size of a walnut), so it was wrongly associated that a small brain meant small intellect (how very birdbrained of us to suggest this) but recent studies are proving quite the opposite.

Birds have a vast number of neurons located in their forebrains: the area that is responsible for intelligence. In fact, some species have as many neurons as primates!

So what does this mean for the expression, birdbrain? Take it as a compliment. Birds are amazingly complex and varied species. Crows and corvids demonstrate self-awareness in mirror tests and can use twigs to fish out grubs.

18118508_1339144796152445_5519276018420062722_n
‘A Home Under the Stars’, Oils on Canvas – €350 – enquiries may come to me

Arctic terns have amazing navigational skills, circumnavigating the globe from the Arctic to the Antarctic every year.

borealis
‘Borealis’ Oils on Canvas – €500 for the set of three

New Zealand’s alpine parrot, the Kea can break into locked cars, sealed backpacks and lunchboxes, all in the name of mischief. They can even solve complex puzzles as seen in the highly-recommended documentary ‘Beak and Brain – Genius Birds from Down Under

So next time someone calls you a birdbrain, do some research! Watch some videos, or, just paint them!

#DogHeroes – Susie’s Senior Dogs

The next star of my #DogHeroes series has to be the charity Susie’s Senior Dogs, and not just the charity itself but also the many individuals that have adopted one of their dogs.

Susie’s Senior Dogs is a non-profit that specialises in offering older dogs a second chance at life, featuring dogs that are up for adoption that, for whatever reason, have been shunted from home to home, found themselves homeless in their senior years, or  perhaps never found their ‘Goldilocks’ home. This wonderful charity in it’s own words: “works to shine a spotlight on senior dogs looking for their home and the shelter or rescue caring for them.”

Why Should You Adopt An Older Dog?

When you hear the term ‘senior dog’ you often imagine a greying, deaf, semi-continent and achy old pooch. But that’s so far from the truth. A senior dog is really any dog over around the age of 8 (sometimes older or younger depending on the breed and size), and most dogs at this age might be showing a little wear and tear, but they’re still happy, active, eager to please and  loving family members.

Some senior dogs haven’t had all the luck. They find themselves cast out of their long-term home because their owner has had a baby, a new job or simply a change of heart. For some, the signs of ageing: stiff joints, greying muzzle, sleeping more often, more minor ailments and vets visits, are too much to handle. And so often it’s the senior dogs that find themselves sent to a shelter or back on the adoption line, at a time when they should be enjoying their home comforts the most.

Senior dogs are also, unfortunately, so often overlooked when there are shelters and rescues crammed full of eager, clambering puppies.

But senior dogs have so much to offer. Just take a look at Susie’s Senior Dogs’ Facebook Page and you can see for yourself the love and appreciation that comes from adopting a senior dog. It seems that the older dogs appreciate their second chances, and are so thrilled to be in a warm and comfortable home once again. I think it’s all about them feeling safe in their twilight years, and we owe them that.

Susies Senior Dogs #DogHeroes
Simon: 16 but still going strong!


Is It Difficult To Care  For An Older Dog?

Yes, it can be. Of course it can. As dogs age they go through the natural ageing process that almost all organisms do: their cells start to deteriorate. They might start to lose their sight, their hearing, they might not be able to get to the toilet in time. As they get older, they won’t always tell you they’re in pain, but if your dog is suddenly a little more snappy or sensitive, it could be that they’re bones are hurting, or that there’s something going on inside.

Of course, some senior dogs have far more serious health problems, through neglect, genetics or simply just as the years tick on. These senior dogs need, and deserve extra love and care, extra medical attention,  perhaps even round the clock care. But surely, the satisfaction you receive from knowing that you helped an old lady in her final months, days, even hours, is one of the best gifts you can ask for?

Many dog owners are nervous about adopting a senior dog, but take a look at the heartwarming stories of those that have welcomed a senior into their lives, even if it was for a very short time.

“Will I rescue another senior knowing how much it hurts to love one so much and spend so little time with them?? Absolutely, without a doubt! I am in so much pain right now, but still I can say, senior dogs have so much to give, and are such a joy. In their short time, they bring more love than can be put into mere words. In addition, the feeling I got from rescuing a senior and giving her a family, good care and so much love is THE MOST AMAZING feeling in the world. It’s the ultimate high!”

What Is #DogHeroes?

#DogHeroes – highlighting the tireless work of dedicated individuals, groups and charities who rescue and rehabilitate dogs, and showcasing the difference that they make, very often relying on their own pocket and the donations of animal lovers like ourselves. Be aware, read the stories, if you see an abandoned or injured dog, pick it up, and if you can’t, give it what you can and pick up the phone. More importantly, understand that even the smallest donation can go a long way.

You can also help by sharing your own #DogHeroes. Use the hashtag, please! Share this blog, nominate your own heroes in the comments,  and feel free to talk about this on social media. If you know a worthy cause, shout about it. If you adopted a senior dog, share your story. And stay tuned for the next blog where I’ll introduce the next #DogHero.

Additional reading:

http://susiesseniordogs.com/about/

https://www.petmd.com/dog/care/evr_dg_caring_for_older_dogs_with_health_problems

#DogHeroes – Galgos del Sol

I have to start my first #DogHeroes post in Spain. I love Spain, I love the people, their attitude to life and the arts, and have found my trips to Madrid and Valencia to be among my most inspiring. However, and please forgive me for generalising for the moment, I do not love their attitude towards animal rights.

Bullfighting aside, as I could write whole blog posts about it, there are areas of great improvement needed in Spain’s animal welfare laws and regulations. Currently in Spain, the punishment for “cruelly mistreating pets or unjustifiably causing death or serious physical impairment” is three months to a year. And this only extends to pets.

You may or may not have heard of the Galgo, otherwise known as the Spanish Greyhound. Whether this dog is classified as a pet in the law is hard to tell, but in the eyes of many Spanish hunters, or galgueros, these dogs are not pets, but working animals, commodities. Much like greyhounds in the UK that have passed their racing peak, many Galgos find themselves neglected, abused or tossed out onto the street once they’re considered “no longer useful”. As many as 50,000 Galgos suffer every single year.

This is not a blog about shaming or blaming. Spain is aware of the issue, and there are processes in place to improve the welfare of these dogs. Cruelty can be a cultural thing, but it’s also about the individual. One galguero may love his dog, treat it like a member of the family, another may not. Another may send his dog to the “perrera” or the pound, with the best of intentions, but chances are these dogs will be killed within a short space of time.

There are people in Spain and across the world hoping for change, and they are working actively for it. The first of the #DogHeroes must surely be Galgos del Sol.

Who Are Galgos del Sol?

British ex-pat Tina Solera and her dedicated team run Galgos del Sol in Murcia, the heartland of Spain and hunting, where they keep over 150 Galgos, Podencos and other hunting dogs in need of everything from a bit of TLC to major operations and round the clock care.

guapo_galgos-del-sol

This registered charity picks up Galgos dying on the streets, collects  them from perreras and works 24/7 to give these dogs all the medical care, love and attention they so desperately need. There are stories of great tragedy, and there are also stories filled with hope. They also run an educational program on their premises and in local schools, to educate the next generation about the Galgo’s mistreatment.

Visit their Facebook Page and you’ll see just how much time and effort goes into every single dog that passes through their care. The needs of many of these dogs do not come cheap: many are horrifically injured, and some have deep emotional scars which take far longer to heal.

Every single Galgo deserves a second chance, and Galgos del Sol is making this possible. I urge you to visit their page, watch the stories, donate, and if you can, adopt! If you can’t then spread your thanks to these people, as I am sure they will appreciate every kind word, as what they do is emotionally draining at the best of times. And please share their work with the hashtag #DogHeroes.

kaylee_galgos_del_sol
This beautiful little girl is Kaylee, and sadly, she didn’t make it. But thanks to Galgos del Sol, she was rescued from the streets and able to have plenty of love and cuddles before she passed away.

What Is #DogHeroes?

#DogHeroes – highlighting the tireless work of dedicated individuals, groups and charities who rescue and rehabilitate dogs, and showcasing the difference that they make, very often relying on their own pocket and the donations of animal lovers like ourselves. Be aware, read the stories, if you see an abandoned or injured dog, pick it up, and if you can’t, give it what you can and pick up the phone. More importantly, understand that even the smallest donation can go a long way.

You can also help by sharing your own #DogHeroes. Use the hashtag, please! Share this blog, nominate your own heroes in the comments,  and feel free to talk about this on social media. If you know a worthy cause, shout about it. If you adopted a dog from one of these angels, tell the world about it. And stay tuned for the next blog where I’ll introduce the next #DogHero.

Additional reading:

https://www.facebook.com/Galgos-del-Sol-175718192447988/

https://www.thinkspain.com/news-spain/29625/european-pet-protection-and-animal-welfare-law-passed-in-spain

https://www.thedodo.com/the-pain-in-spain-the-saving-of-the-galgos-1102421730.html

https://www.galgosethiqueeurope.eu/

Year of the Dog – #DogHeroes

We’ve just welcomed in the Chinese New Year, and as most of you know or have heard, 2018 is Year of the Dog. In Chinese astrology, every  year is related to a different zodiac animal in a twelve year cycle, and this year happens to be Fido’s turn.

But I’m not going to talk about moons, houses, fortune and other nonsense. If you know anything about me from reading my blog, you’ll know that I’m an astronomy lover, which makes me anti-astrology by proxy. But enough of that.

Year of the Dog should be a time for us to reflect upon important issues, to show some extra love and affection to our companions, our working dogs, our protectors, our children…and this also means paying close attention to the dogs that don’t get this same treatment.

All over the world, unfortunately, dogs are abandoned, abused, neglected and tossed away, when they’ve served their useful purpose, or they’ve grown from cute puppy into 40kg of fun. Whilst there are rudimentary laws in place to stop such acts, mostly  it’s down to the work of handfuls of caring individuals, organisations and charities to pick up the mess, and start down the long road to rehabilitation and re-homing.

In the next blogs, I’ll be focusing on some #DogHeroes – highlighting the tireless work of these people, and showing the difference that they make, very often relying on their own pocket and the donations of animal lovers like ourselves. Be aware, read the stories, if you see an abandoned or injured dog, pick it up, and if you can’t, give it what you can and pick up the phone. More importantly, understand that even the smallest donation can go a long way.

You can also help by sharing your own #DogHeroes. Use the hashtag, please! Share this blog, nominate your own heroes in the comments,  and feel free to talk about this on social media. If you know a worthy cause, shout about it. If you adopted a dog from one of these angels, tell the world about it. And stay tuned for the next blog where I’ll introduce the first #DogHero.

#DogHeroes