The adventuresome life of a Great Pyrenees/Newfoundland dog in Northwestern Ontario

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Tail Thumper of the Week #21

Today I found out that while I’ve been off chasing dangerous predatory Northwestern Ontario Scatterbrained Red Squirrels (there’s nothing else to chase these days, so I need to make it look like an important job), Elizabeth has been reading and reviewing A DOG BOOK! That’s my job! We had a discussion last night, let me tell you! End result: She said I could post it on my blog, too. So I am. I think you, my loyal fans (as opposed to what my not so loyal scribe seems to think) will find this book extremely interesting. Well… maybe not as interesting as chasing killer squirrels in the Great White North… but, apparently, I’m biassed.

How Dogs Love Us – Gregory Berns

I have always loved dogs. Since I turned five, there has been a dog in my home. My relationship with each one has been different, though, and it wasn’t until my dad died in 2005 that I realised just how deeply I could bond with a dog. Cocoa, our Chesapeake Bay Retriever, was my dad’s favourite of all our family dogs. I sensed that she felt his loss, and I felt a sympathy develop between us as we shared our grief and grew out of it.

Then we lost Cocoa in the fall of 2009. I was heartbroken. It was the kind of hole that I could only fill with love for and from another dog. Enter Stella the Great Newfenees and Bookshop Dog.

Those of you who follow her blog will know that Stella and I also share a deep bond. Because of what I learned in those four years with Cocoa after Dad died, and because of the many serious health issues that have arisen with Stella, I’ve spent more time with her than any dog I’ve known. As a result, I’ve become very interested in the human-dog relationship. I know there is a lot more to it than many believe. And I am certain that there is much more that we could learn and share with our dogs, and vice versa, if only we could figure out how.

How DogsWhen I heard about How Dogs Love Us, I had to read it. In it, Berns explains the development of an experiment to determine first whether a functional MRI (fMRI) could be taken to map the responses of an awake dog’s brain to various stimulae and, if successful, what those scans might reveal about the thought processes of dogs and how they correspond to what we know of human responses as revealed by fMRIs of their brains.

The book follows the experiment from its inception, through the many challenges of finding an MRI lab willing to allow dogs to be scanned, training and recruiting of dogs – family pets, designing of tests that would yield visible results, the challenge of scanning non-human subjects using equipment designed for use on humans, and the effects of the project on the people, the dogs and their relationships as preparations proceeded and the results began to accumulate.

Impatient as I was to read about what, exactly, the tests proved or what conclusions the scientists arrived at, the journey Berns takes through the process is also very intriguing. His story illustrates the knowledge gained in going through the process is just as, if not more important than the end result, and he illustrates this with humour and sensitivity.

The results of the fMRIs are very exciting, too. While he is careful to point out that and explain why they cannot be used as absolute proof of how a dog thinks relative to humans, they do expand our understanding of how the dog’s mind works. The fMRIs provide some very interesting and potentially ground-shaking scientific indications which may startle even some dog owners. They could very likely lead to some interesting developments in law surrounding animal rights.

Bottom line: I’m on the right track with Stella and in my conviction that deeper, more mutually rewarding relationships are possible with our dogs. Berns’ research offers compelling indications that this is so. If you love your dog, you will undoubtedly find How Dogs Love Us is an entertaining and satisfying read.

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Tail Thumper of the Week #20

Work, work, work! That’s all Elizabeth is doing this week. I think the only reason she’s helping me with my post today is because, well, it’s work!

Even so, she told me I’m going to have to make it snappy.  ~:o/=

Click on the picture to buy your copy and help a homeless dog in Kenora!

Click on the picture to buy your copy and help a homeless dog in Kenora!

So, I found something with both a dog AND an elastic on it! You can’t get much snappier than that!

This week’s Tail Thumper is for all you dog-lovers that also love to write. Each page of this medium-sized journal has a tiny picture of a dog in the bottom corner. You can stick your pen in an elastic holder right beside the pocket attached to the rear cover. You can use the book to plan your next dog-caper, take notes when you’re visiting the vet with your canine friend, you can write your next dog story in it… the possibilities are endless! And when you are finished writing, you put an elastic on the back cover around the front to keep the journal closed. Very clever!

And, like all my Tail Thumpers, if you buy the book through the link here, my sales commission will go to help the homeless dogs of Kenora through Kenora’s dog fostering network, It’s a Dog’s Life.

Happy Easter everybody!

Tail Thumper of the Week #19

Elizabeth tells me that Easter is coming up fast. When I asked her what Easter is, she said, “I think I have a dog book about it!”

We went downstairs to the Children’s book room and found it: Clifford’s Happy Easter by Norman Bridwell. It’s a book for little two-leggers!

As with all Tail Thumper books, I donate my commission on sales to help Kenora's homeless dogs. Click on the picture to buy your copy and help!

As with all Tail Thumper books, I donate my commission on sales to help Kenora’s homeless dogs. Click on the picture to buy your copy and help!

Clifford is a big red dog. When I say he’s big, I mean he’s really BIG. Just look at the cover photo… See the little girl hiding behind his ear? That’s REALLY REALLY BIG!

“I’ve never seen a dog that big,” I said to Elizabeth. “Is the illustrator using what you call artistic license?” Apparently that is nothing like a dog’s license, which I have rattling about on my collar with my rabies and name tags. Artistic license is where an artist fudges the facts to emphasize his or her point. I think….

“No, I think he’s real. He lives in Alaska. I thought it was just a story until I saw his footprint on the side of the highway going to Tok. It was huge… about twelve feet across!” I looked at her in disbelief. “I know, Stella. But it’s true! It could only have belonged to Clifford the Big Red Dog.” She says her brother didn’t stop so she could take a photograph.

I don’t believe her. Two-leggers see something in a book and they seem suddenly to become the most gullible creatures on the face of the planet.

Anyway… Clifford’s Happy Easter. It’s a silly book for little two-leggers up to about six years of age. It’s all about how, after a busy day painting Easter Eggs (What’s that all about? Eggs are for eating, not painting! Unless they’re peeping, like some I found on the shore one day. Then you leave them alone and very soon, little swimming flappers break out of them! It’s amazing!), Clifford’s very little two-legger (maybe she’s just so tiny that she makes Clifford look bigger), ends up dreaming about painting Clifford when she falls asleep that night.

Poor Clifford!

But the story will make your little two-leggers laugh.

And, if you buy the book through the links on this blog before March 31, it will make a homeless dog in Kenora happy, too! Remember, I’m giving my commission on this and all my previous Tail Thumper sales to It’s a Dog’s Life, Kenora’s dog fostering network to help look after all my homeless dog friends here. Get them while we still have stock at my Elizabeth’s bookshop!

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