Man's Best Friend Is a Thief
The more one comes to know men, the more one comes to admire the dog.
Scratch a dog and you'll find a permanent job.
- Franklin P Jones
Dogs can tell when they are being watched and plan their mischief accordingly, new research has found.
The findings indicate that man's best friend may be brighter than was previously thought. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, did tests to see if dogs behaved differently when they were being looked at. The researchers first placed edible treats on the floor in front of several dogs who underwent the test in turn. In each case the dog was forbidden to eat the treat, and as long as a person stayed in the room, most obeyed the command. As soon as the experimenter left, the treat was snapped up within five seconds.
The dogs' behaviour was then tested in greater detail, with someone either looking directly at the dog, playing a computer game, shutting his eyes, or turning his back. In tests on six dogs it was found that twice as much food was stolen when the onlooker was distracted or looking away. The dogs also altered their thieving strategy according to whether or not they were being watched.
In 75% of cases when food was taken from under the nose of a watching person, the dog wandered around the room before going for the treat. If the person was distracted by a game this figure dropped to 24%. This may mean that dogs are able to figure out what humans can see, the scientists say. Chief researcher Joseph Call told New Scientist magazine: "They are very attuned to the eyes of the person." Rather than being governed by automatic, learned responses, dogs may have flexible minds that can piece together past experiences and rules to produce solutions to new problems, he said. - PA
Source: The Dominion Friday 15 December 2000
Taken from my journal in April 1993 while we were moored at the Tradewinds Hotel just outside Suva
While Wolf and Cody [my sons] were island-hopping with Hugh [our crewman], I looked out the window and saw a dog swimming around. I went out on deck; Jeff was there, talking to a yachtie. We all watched the dog for a while and decided he was getting tired. He seemed to be swimming lower and lower in the water. There was no place for him to heave himself out except maybe our swim step. Yet he seemed afraid of us - he wouldn't come close enough to grab. We feared the exhausted animal would drown in front of our eyes.
Another man joined us. He agreed the dog seemed in distress and needed help. We didn't have our launch because Hugh and the kids had it. Our dinghy was on deck, but full of rain water. All the onlookers were fully dressed. No one relished the idea of diving into the water (not altogether clean at low tide) and trying to nab a frightened and unwilling dog.
The yachtie to whom Jeff had been speaking and the new man who had recently joined them went to borrow a dinghy (without permission since the owner wasn't around to ask) tied to the seawall. They planned to row to the dog and attempt a rescue. On the way to the boat, I saw they had a conversation with a man in the swimming pool. Then, the first man came back and told us that both the dinghy and the dog belonged to the man in the pool. The swimming man said the dog spent several hours in the water every day - he loved to swim. I found this quite curious. I watched the dog intermittently through my window. He swam from place to place over the next couple of hours. Odd dog!
Sunday morning Hugh left early (before noon is early for Hugh) to go fishing with David for the next two days. Jeff, Cody, Wolf and I went out in the launch for a cruise. We saw the swimming dog again, and I could understand why he liked swimming so well. He lives with his owner in a cute boat house. It has a front porch and a back deck but no yard. When we motored by in our launch, Swimming Dog and his canine roommate came out on the porch, barked at us, then jumped in the water to chase us (swimming futilely), like any dogs might leave their porch to chase a car...
Maungati farmer Ian McDonald has something rare on his farm
by Stu Piddington
"A 2-legged dog walks into a sheep-yard..."
Heard that one before? You should drop out to Maungati and see Meg the 2-legged heading dog in action. Ian McDonald agrees the 6-year-old may not be as quick as she was with all 4 legs but still does an admirable job, with no wheels attached. Meg, a border collie, seems to have had the 9 lives of a cat - 3 years ago she was hit by a car and had her front left leg amputated. She quickly recovered but 6 months later collided with a 4-wheel farm bike. Her crushed ankle was operated on and her leg was split. Two further operations failed to save her right rear leg and it was amputated in October.
Ian agrees many other farmers may not have kept her but there was something about her personality that made him spend several thousand dollars. "She's a bloody dear dog but she is strong-eyed and does the job." Putting Meg through her paces, she moves with ease around a small flock of sheep responding to Ian's instructions and whistles - the only difference from a 4-legged version is she drops down the moment she stops running.
The McDonalds run mainly deer on their 80 hectares but have enough sheep to keep Meg busy. Joy McDonald, Ian's wife, said Meg was also great with her grandchildren. "I guess she's a semi-retired family farm dog as she has a seat to sleep on at the back door." Meg also gets pride of place in the cab of Ian's truck as while she can run she has trouble jumping up on the deck, Joy said. "I'm sometimes relegated to the deck."
Joy said since Meg had had her second leg amputation she moved a lot easier and seemed happier. "I think she struggled with the third leg as it wouldn't function properly but has been really happy over the last 6 months."
Ashbury vet Marnie Crilly said Meg was quite an amazing dog. "She's very healthy and from what I've heard, back out rounding up the sheep." If a 2-legged dog was one obstacle, Ian's hands are full as his other working dog Sam is 16 and deaf, but relief is in sight. "I've just ordered a pup." The other 2 you could say are on their last legs.
Source: www.stuff.co.nz 23 January 2004 photo credit John Bisset, The Timaru Herald
The following two articles were taken from my journal in August 93; we were still in Fiji.
I read an interesting article in the Sydney Morning Herald today: a psychologist, Stanley Coren, has recently written a book called, The Intelligence of Dogs: Canine Consciousness and Capabilities, wherein he characterises the personalities of different breeds of dogs and ranks 133 breeds from the smartest to the dumbest. (He ranks border collies as the best, Afghans as worst.) Many dog owners, breeders, and trainers strongly disagree with his opinions.
According to Wendye Slatyer, a "prominent Afghan Breeder":
Trainer Vicki Etherington says:
Mathilde Kearny-Kibble, who manages the Fox Valley Animal Hospital in Wahroonga, offers a warning:
I read in Fred Gardner's column in the 20 July 93 Anderson Valley Advertiser that a 24 June 93 Wall St Journal ran a feature story about people giving Prozac to their pets. Veterinarians are being urged by Eli Lilly to prescribe Prozac for dogs with personality and appetite disorders.
Kearny-Kibble says that living with an intelligent dog may be a trial:
The compromise might be two dogs, one bright and one not so.
Our dog Zeke was possessed of the perfect "hound" personality of independent action (and we had thought him unique!) and our other dog, Hobo (setter, now deceased) was the border collie-type who kept eye-contact with humans because he needed direction. I always thought Zeke was the smarter dog (since I don't think trainability is the same as intelligence), though it was impossible to make him behave.
In humans, why wouldn't I see it the same way? I guess I do. I'll always be attracted to the independent thinker, the person who is unconventional, unique, who flaunts custom, who is self-confident without being overstated, who is, well, extraordinary. I assumed everybody was alike in that regard or else - or else what? Well, that they were defective, that they lacked something. (Aha! My own brand of prejudice.) I didn't respect Hobo. Now, which dog do I miss more?
Canberra - A 26-year-old mongrel living with an Aboriginal family in Australia's Outback has the potential to become the world's oldest living dog, a newspaper reported Sunday. Jerry, a red heeler-bull terrier cross, will next month turn 27 - the equivalent of 189 years for a human - said Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals veterinarian Honey Nelson in Sydney's Daily Telegraph. "He will be 27 ... years in August - I have no doubt at all," Nelson reportedly said after examining Jerry. "I think it's partly genetic, but also because he's a fit, roo-hunting dog who used to catch a lot of emu and roo. He could push on to 28, going by his good body condition. Dogs rarely live past their 15th birthday, but Jerry shows little sign of fragility beyond some arthritis and worn teeth. He is a remarkably solid dog for his age and has not got that wasted look that animals and old people get."
Jerry's owner, Waddie Harris - an Aboriginal tribal leader in New South Wales state's Wilcannia town, put Jerry's longevity down to his high-protein diet of Outback wildlife. "Jerry has grown up on kangaroo, rabbit and emu as well as scraps off the table," the newspaper quoted Harris as saying. Waddie and his wife Aileen, said Jerry was a gentle creature who had never fathered pups. "Everyone in Wilcannia knows him because he's never hurt anyone, although he does not like cats in the yard - they're his one enemy," said Mr Smith. "He means a lot to me. He still comes for a bush walk with me. I take him nearly every night and he jumps up and wants to grab me on the arm like when he was younger."
The oldest living dog in the 2004 edition of Guinness World Records is Butch, a 27-year-old beagle in the US state of Virginia. An Australian cattle dog named Bluey, who died in 1939 at age 29, is thought to have been the world's oldest dog, the newspaper said.
Bay Kitty spent the entire trip beside the single sideband radio (in the port stern corner of the bridge) with his head resting on the top, like a dog. Maybe different breeds of cat have been bred to develop different aspects of potential feline intelligence in much the same way that breeds of dogs have different personalities. If so, the kind of personality or intelligence (whatever label seems most appropriate) that Bay has is far removed from the kind possessed by our prior cat, Big Kitty.
Big Kitty was a small, delicate, immaculately clean, domestic short-haired cat; he was a mighty hunter. He attacked everything that moved, even the hand that stroked him and people's butts as they walked past his chair or the table top where he lay.
Bay Kitty is his opposite in every way. Maybe there's a left brain/right brain relationship involved here, although I'd prefer to think of it as a dichotomy between conscious processes and unconscious processes. I think "intuition" can be due to hormone-induced yearnings but can also be due to an unconscious thinking-through that for some people is consciously directed and therefore named something else: logic if the name caller agrees with the conclusion, and something more negative (perhaps rationalising) otherwise.
The next day, we went with another couple, Cherie and Glenn Goodhue off Sulali, and Barry and Maureen and all the kids for a walk to the other side of Naviti Island. We met a Fijian couple who live in a small hut on the other side. They have a beautiful, expansive, park-like yard, on which they've been working for about two years, claiming it from the dense forest undergrowth.
On the way back, we met two Fijian ladies and their children coming back from a fishing expedition. One lady, named Kelivisi, had a bag of octopi which she said she had caught by impaling them on sticks stuck into their holes. We shared our water with the 5 of them, since they had a long walk back to their village - where their only well is located. The ladies said they would be selling shells back in their village later in the day when the cruise ship arrives. They invited us to come if we like shells. (And we do.)
Kelivisi said there are about 1,000 people living on this island in 7 small villages. Her village (where the island chief lives) has about 200 inhabitants. There are 3 primary schools, one high school, and a small clinic on the island. There're a few cows, one horse, some wild goats, many dogs, and a few chickens. (Also a type of harmless snake and a few deadly poisonous but reclusive sea snakes. No mice. Many lizards.)
The coconuts, pawpaws (papaya), bananas, and cassava (tapioca) which grow wild on the island are important components of the villagers' diet. These they supplement with garden crops: dalo (taro root), rourou (taro leaves), kumala (sweet potato) and a generous supply of seafood (fish, shellfish, seaweed, crustaceans, cephalopods). The sea also freely provides limitless shells to be gathered, cleaned, buffed, oiled, waxed, dyed, and/or strung and offered for sale to visitors.
The ladies had a dog with them (a black dog on an unusually hot day who gratefully drank several handfuls of our fresh water). I asked if there were many dogs on the island. Kelivisi said, "Too many." Maureen asked if anyone on the island ate dogs. The other lady (whose name was very complex and difficult to remember and I haven't) quickly answered, "No!" while Kelivisi hesitated a moment and said, "Yes."
I do realise, though, that attitudes toward what constitutes "food" are largely culturally determined. I've heard that the Vietnamese regard dog as food and pig as pet. (Our dog Zeke's best friend, Wilbur the Vietnamese pot-bellied pig, is grateful for that.) As China has recently entered the Year of the Dog, many northerners are developing a taste for stewed, fried, or baked dog, formerly eaten only by the omnivorous Cantonese. This luxury is now available on Beijing restaurant menus.
Some Chinese still consider man's best friend a delicious main course, with dark-coloured pups tasting best. Here, at a Cantonese market, a customer shops for dog food for dinner.
I've decided that consciousness is nothing more than the effect of some ubiquitous hallucinogenic influence. Maybe it's water, sunlight, or oxygen that are hallucinogenic and everything that respires (stage one of living) is conscious. Or maybe the hallucinogenic influence is something more sophisticated - like chlorophyll. (Perhaps the chlorophyll must be heat-treated as in cooking?) Maybe that's why dogs and cats are domesticated - normally meat eaters aren't conscious. Dogs and cats usually eat only meat, but occasionally get green plants (or cooked green plants, if that's what's necessary) as a part of their kibble or table scraps. The animals don't know where the hallucinogenic stuff comes from - only that it seems to be associated with humans, so they hang around them.
Since carnivores aren't conscious, that would explain why steak-eating rednecks don't seem too discerning and maybe why non-baleen, carnivorous (odontoceti) whales such as orcas haven't achieved more, despite having brains larger than homo sapiens. (Then why aren't baleen whales high achievers? Why aren't they the top executives of the sea? Maybe it's just because they have other interests...)
Source: Photo from Time magazine 2 October 1989 special edition "A Day in the Life of China" - a pictorial presentation of China on one day, 15 April 1989, by 90 photographers
In January lawmakers in Taiwan banned the butchering or selling of "fragrant meat," otherwise known as dog meat. The Taiwanese believe that dog strengthens the body against cold weather. The new law also prohibits the slaughter of cats.
Source: Maxim May 2001
Eleven Hospitalised after Eating Dog Meat in Kazakhstan
Almaty, Kazakhstan - Eleven youngsters were hospitalised after eating kebabs made of dog meat in the former Soviet republic of Kazakhstan, doctors said Thursday. The youngsters, residents of the Pavlodar region in Kazakhstan, were taken to hospital suffering from a parasitical worm after eating dog meat kebabs during a picnic last month, said Yury Kalinin, deputy head doctor of the regional sanitary office. "They ate kebabs. I think they knew they were eating dog meat," Kalinin said. The young men and women were only hospitalised this month as the disease tends to incubate over several weeks, he added.
Source: NandoTimes 18 May 2001 from the Associated Press © Nando Media
Man Bites Dog in Thailand
Bangkok - They eat dogs in Thailand. Not so much in Bangkok, the capital, but in the rural north-east dog meat remains a traditional treat. Now the Thai government and local authorities have started a campaign to save man's best friend - as westerners view the dog - from the dinner table. Try eating fish instead, they say.
It may not be easy. Some Thais believe eating dog makes you live longer, always a good selling point. A cafe in Nakhon Phanom, in the north-east, is celebrated for its dog soups and stir-fries. It reckons to get through up to 16 dogs a day. Slaughterhouses in Tha Pae, a village in the region, kill about 400 dogs a week. Nothing is thrown away. The skins are used to make leather. In the north-eastern province of Sakon Nakhon, many an open-air market boasts its dog meat stall. Under a new law being drafted by the Democrat-Ied national government, many slaughterhouses and dog butchers would be judged inhumane and closed down.
The Thais point out that dog meat is prized not just in their country but elsewhere in Asia, particularly in China, the Koreas and Vietnam. Hanoi's Tayho Street is lined with restaurants serving sashimi-like slices of raw dog meat. However, Thailand has become the target for animal-rights groups. Apart from the ethics of eating an animal many regard as a pet, the dogs are said to be kept in filthy cages. Several New Zealand groups are claiming that some dog slaughterhouses are even importing dogs from New Zealand.
In their defence, dog-eaters note that their critics are content to eat other intelligent animals, such as pigs and horses. It just depends what the custom is in your country. In Thailand, though, the issue looks like becoming political. Politicians seeking votes in the rural north in the coming general election may find that the voters too can bite.
Source: The Economist 16 December 2000
A Dog's Life
Sir - As you imply, eating dogs is just as disgusting as eating pigs, who are equally intelligent and sensitive ("Man Bites Dog in Thailand", 16 December). However, in Vietnam there is another twist: before they are eaten, the dogs might be beaten to death over several hours, or have their fur burnt off with a blowtorch while they are still alive. Insecure Vietnamese men believe that the adrenaline in the animal's body increases their sexual prowess.
Source: The Economist "Letters" 6 January 2001
On the other hand, we have:
Human Flesh Dog Tucker
Moldavia - Two people have been arrested in Chisinau on suspicion of selling human remains from a hospital as dog meat, officials said today. State television reported that prosecutors had launched an investigation after two beggars were detained at a market with two bags of "suspicious" meat which tests later proved to be human remains. "The question is how human body parts left over from operations at a cancer clinic somehow ended up being sold on the street," said Tudor Suveica, a Chisinau prosecutor. - Reuters
Source: The Evening Post Wednesday 4 April 2001
Taken from my journal for Feb 97
Speaking of domesticated personal pets - two of which have cost us thousands of dollars in the last two years in fees of various kinds - what does it mean when we say we think Zeke or Bay Kitty have the "right" to live out their natural lives? Do pets really have any more rights than trees? (See Do Trees Have Rights?) Do they have intrinsic value?
Is there some karmic benefit to be gained from upholding commitments, though the commitment may have been ill-considered? Is it possible that Jeff and I are paying Animals Keepers and MAF mostly so we can still consider ourselves to be people who are nice to animals because that's an image we've learned to value? We had a tumour cut off Zeke's gum, yes - but we wouldn't give him a heart transplant or chemotherapy or cosmetic surgery. (We didn't have his ears or tail clipped, but that choice wasn't ours, really, since we didn't acquire Zeke until he was almost a year old.)
Maybe it isn't pets that we think have rights, anyway - it's THIS dog, THIS cat, in THIS situation. I would've paid MAF to come and inspect my Norfolk pine every 48 hours the same as I pay them to inspect Bay Kitty but that wasn't an option. (Would I have agreed to board the tree in a retirement nursery somewhere like we do Zeke?) What fee would be the cutoff for either animals or plants beyond which Jeff and/or I would say, "Too much! I can't do that!"?
Animal Keepers is the nicest kennel I've ever seen. (Sure, almost any home is nicer, but a dog, even one with bad habits, represents money IN to a kennel and money OUT to a home.) Guilt-avoidance is seldom cheap. And we could NOT have brought a very large old dog with us on the boat.
February 97: we got word that our main dog, Zeke, just died at the age of 17. Zeke was half greyhound, half Doberman, with Doberman markings. (He looked like a sleek dobie except he still had his ears and tail - a rarity for Dobermans in the US.) Zeke had been living at Animal Keepers in Poway (sunny Southern California) since we left the US to come to New Zealand for the first time in 1993. I'm sorry he died, but he lived a full life for a dog: long and interesting. We spent the evening reminiscing about our favourite memories of Zeke. Mine included these:
Jeff and I adopted Zeke from an animal haven in Southern California the first week we were married. (He was sort of our wedding present to each other.) Two days later, a fat Irish setter adopted us. We named the setter Hobo because he seemed to have been one. From that day until the day Hobo died of cancer more than a dozen years later, he and Zeke were inseparable buddies.
We soon moved to the San Francisco area and both Jeff and I worked for Bank of America in the city. We lived in Alamo (east across the bay) and usually rode BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) in to work. Soon, Hobo discovered he could leap to the top of the six-foot-tall cedar fence around the backyard of our suburban home, hop down on the other side, throw himself repeatedly against the fence, and knock loose at least one of the ageing fence boards. If Zeke could just get his teeth on it, nothing made of wood was safe. Soon, Zeke could manage a hole large enough to wriggle through and they'd both be out roaming the Las Trampas recreational area.
Usually after these jaunts, they'd be on the front porch waiting for us when we got home, exhausted and ravenous. But unfortunately, by accident, they discovered the elementary school playground at lunchtime. The little kids were happy to share their lunches with two big, friendly dogs. The dogs began visiting often. The school principal wasn't pleased at all. He read our phone number on their nametags. That particular day, expecting a personal call, I had routed our home calls to my number at work. The principal called and demanded I come get my dogs at once. The trip home was an hour each way, but I could hardly ask the principal to put them back in our yard and block up the hole in the fence, so I hopped on the next BART headed east.
Thereafter, Jeff and I had a constant clash of wills with our determined pair of canines. We tried everything to keep them home, finally resorting to chaining them to steel stakes that screwed into the ground. Thereafter, as long as they didn't get too tangled, they were fine - until Hobo figured out how to dig his stake out of the ground. He made it over the fence and several houses away before getting the huge steel screw he was dragging caught on a tree root. He sat down, and he and Zeke barked and howled at each other (to the ire of the neighbours) until we got home.
We lived in San Antonio, Texas when Cody was born. One day, our neighbour across the street called and asked if I knew there was a dog on our garage roof. I said no and went to look. Zeke had pushed out the screen on the upstairs bedroom window and jumped onto the garage roof, which had a pitch of about 30º. He was loping back and forth, having the time of his life. If he lost his footing and fell to the concrete below, it would mean a broken leg and a trip to the vet at the very least. A couple of dog biscuits thrown on the roof stopped him long enough for Jeff to get a ladder out and to somehow wrangle him down.
We lived for several years in Huntersville, a small rural community within commuting distance of Charlotte, North Carolina. We had a fence completely surrounding our house that enclosed about half an acre. The dogs had a dog door and the run of the yard, but were they satisfied? No! They continued to escape at every opportunity. Whenever Hobo managed to get loose, he would immediately return when called and could be recaptured easily - unless he was with Zeke. Then, they both became deaf. There were only two phrases they could hear after that: "Do you want to go for a ride?" (said while opening the car door after grabbing the car keys, leaping in the car, and - if lucky - overtaking them if they ran away alongside the road) and, "Do you want a dog biscuit?" (said after grabbing a pocketful, stalking them for half an hour if they ran away through the neighbouring forest - they were careful to keep a safe distance between themselves and their pursuers but usually didn't get too far away because they enjoyed the game - until, if they were distracted by some good smell or another dog, one of us could sneak up close enough for the dog biscuit smell to register, at which point they would usually come and sit within our reach).
Zeke was violently allergic to fleas. We tried everything imaginable to keep fleas at bay. Pesticides worked for a while, but we ceased their use after we became concerned about detrimental side effects on our small children and on Jeff's worsening asthma. No natural remedies seemed to have the slightest impact. Zeke even underwent a series of allergy shots, but that didn't help. The only thing that seemed to calm him was cortisone. But protracted use of that caused Zeke's personality to change markedly - he put on considerable weight because he ate everything he could find - garbage out of all the bins he could overturn and examine, shoes, Christmas presents under the tree, anything. We tried giving him daily baths, but that had little effect. This state of affairs persisted for 13 years. Once, we boarded the dogs at a nearby kennel for three months (I visited them occasionally) so they could be completely cleansed of critters. Meanwhile, we fumigated the house and grounds. Fleas were back within 3 days, though the pesticide residue hung around far longer. (The frogs and dragonflies didn't return for 3 years. We vowed never to do that again.) Zeke finally achieved relief when he went to live in the dog retirement home in Poway, a place somehow kept flea free. Zeke was in heaven long before he died. (Without pesticides, and absent his flea allergy, perhaps he'd have lived to be 21?)
Australian photographer Linda Pottage's picture of the burial of beloved family pet Leo in Menzies Creek, Victoria
Source: Sunday Star Times 25 March 2001 from the book Family (part of the Milk series) edited by Geoff Blackwell, Hodder Moa Beckett 2001
The nights are worse.
He faces the drive.
He won't move.
The pain! Which of us hurts more?
My tears bring neither of us relief.
For an opposing viewpoint on whether or not to euthanise a dying pet, see also:
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