Sunday, 14 April 2013

and 'dress down, get up'

“Every day people straighten up the hair, why not the heart?” - wise words Ernesto Guevera. Lets make things clear - hair straightening would be one of the least interesting blog topics that I could ever hope to not read - but matters of the heart always get my attention - especially when it steers away from candelight and roses and veers towards trying a little tenderness charitably. The thing is, their are so many causes out there, and more being created all the time, that it most definitely isn't a one size fits all situations - and should be more of a customised personal activity. 

Some charities will hit us more than others - thank goodness or there'd be some causes seriously lacking in funding and support - i must admit that despite my feelings of empathy towards (most) people - my chosen charities are more often than not animal based. Now for a pet peeve - my hackles tend to begin rising when i hear 'people come first' - hmm I think that statement perhaps is evolutionary and religiously not actually the case.

My happiest moments involve Wellies, a rescue dog and - thanks to England's all year round abysmal climate - a rain mac. My most insecure, unhappy moments often involve hair appliances, going out gear and overdone make-up - oh and fake tan just depresses me - au natural is the way to be (except when it comes to hygiene I might add). The reason why? Being close to nature and focusing on things other than ourselves is not only humbling but necessary - fresh air + giving something back = total lack of insomnia.

  Can you think of anything more boring than being surrounded by people who have nothing else to talk about other than their clothes and what clothes they may buy next week, and what clothes they will definitely not be buying next week, next year and so on until you fall asleep at the table.


One of the things I love about giving something back to society is the sense of community you achieve - where fellow charity givers become firm friends - all walks of life - differing day jobs, financial brackets and life experiences - but a mutual goal in common - to do something good without getting anything back. Selflessness is underrated. Sure - you get that warm fuzzy feeling and an ego boost for being so charitable - and so what - it's well deserved and is likely to help to conjure up a repeat performance of said 'altruistic' actions.

So whether it's trekking through Peru - campaigning for better safe sleeping venues for your local homeless community - or getting knee deep in mud whilst giving a rescue dog a much needed break from kennel life coupled with much desired human contact - risk your hair falling out of place - take off your glad rags and allow your emotions to be stretched to the limit - dress down and get up.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

and...fight for flight

'Be like the bird, who, pausing in her flight awhile on a boughts too slight, feels them give way beneath her, and yet sings, knowing she hath wings.' -

These uplifting words from Victor Hugo would be certain to taste sour on his lips if he were to have known in his lifetime the somewhat medieval practice of pinioning.

Pinioning involves 'the amputation of the end of one wing of a newborn bird with a sharp pair of scissors – usually without any pain relief. As the birds grow they will be lop-sided and, as a result, will never be able to fly' - state ' - an admirable organisation dedicated to ending the use of animals in entertainment - with their latest campaign focused on bringing an end to pinioning and in its place pioneering a society where we treat animals with the respect they deserve, but so rarely receive. 

What is the purpose of pinioning you most likely wonder? Well, disturbingly, it is to ensure the birds remain in captivity and don't fly away - in essence they have an animals most basic decision of 'fight or flight' stripped from them along with their feathers and mobility.

But these birds do have food, water and shelter - surely that's enough some may argue? Well sure, it ensures the survival of their body, and fulfills some primary needs - a few boxes ticked and a few points scored on the animal welfare front - however let me ask you - would to merely 'exist' be enough for you?

If someone took away your mobility - therefore restricting your life and freedom entirely - yet brought you basic things you needed to continue living - would you view this as a good quality of life? Or would you view this as a complete disrespect and deprivation of your basic human rights?

Now what about animal rights? Well think of it like this - if I told you to close your eyes and picture a bird - what would you see? Most likely a bird flying above in the sky to some destination that only it knows. Not a bird trapped in inner turmoil of wanting so desperately to do what comes naturally but being deprived of this without having any idea why. The urge must be overwhelming and the distress unimaginable.

And the worst part? This practice is carried out so that we have something to view in the zoos - so that the birds are there all year round and cannot fly away to pastures new - therefore interfering completely with their natural cycle.

The good news? Yes their is some - you can help Captive to end the pinioning of birds. If you disagree with this practice then make it known - use your voice - because these birds can't. Sign the petition - and share it with those you know - take delight in clogging up their 'News Feeds' with a cause you know is so worth supporting.

If I can't convince you - then perhaps Leonardo Da Vinci can:
'For once you have tasted flight - you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards for there you have been - and there you will long to return.'

Saturday, 23 March 2013

for....the power of pipe dreams

So here he is -  the new dog for you to work your magic on and transform from shaky heart breaky wreck of a hound into a PAT worthy pooch. You look at the dog in front of you and see a past of uncertainty and confusion, possibly (god forbid) cruelty, and a well earnt lack of trust of humans. Once again we pat ourselves on the back as a species for ruining another beautiful perfect creature that we ourselves aided the domestication of to serve a higher purpose than being our punching bag. But regardless, as behaviorists it is up to us to do all we can to try - to restore at least part of the innocent natural trust that canines for some strange and humbling reason still honour us with - and attempt to get this wayward friend back on track. this scenario their are different paths we can take - we can attempt to bribe the friendship with nice tasting titbits, toys and so on - and don't get me wrong - with your less terrified dogs these can work a treat (scuse the pun) - or we can simply 'be' with the dog and attempt to create a deeper emotional connection by simply 'being' around the dog - sharing energy (no i haven't inhaled too much incense and maxed out on dailyinspirationalquotes) - and working out some kind of relationship. With some dogs it can feel almost like bargaining at times with 'look I'm trusting you here - please don't bite me' and with other less confident yet just as fearful souls it's more of a 'I'll sit here till you decide to creep a little closer to me and sniff and see that whilst yes I stink of coffee and too much perfume I actually smell like a non threatening individual.'

So a few sessions in and perhaps you're now at the stage where aggressive displays have disappeared and replacing them are brief but all important offerings of the olive branch - increasingly relaxed body posture and softer expressions from mr wasbarkyandsnarlyafewhoursago -begins to approach you in a more inviting manner - or remains quivering but allows you to get closer because it secretly kinda wants to be pals but is on the fence for now. Are our thoughts of full rehabilitation really just a pipe dream?

At the stage where sitting and waiting turns into talking and walking/dog regarding us as insane for blabbering endlessly at them in an overly cheerly voice and praising them repeatedly for peeing, pooping, sniffing and just 'being a dog' in a helpless attempt to further deepen our bond by verbal encouragement - we feel a sense of achievement - and so we should - even if the dog ignores us the entire walk and seems desperate to pretend we're not there - 'where's the human? i don't see a human?' It's all in those the brief sceptical looks towards us when we are (rather cunningly i might add) gazing out into a distant field (whilst secretly watching them from the corner of our beedy all seeing eye the whole time), or the slight momentary lean into us when we pause marching for a seemingly random and non thought out minute to reconsider route, or even that precious interlude when they forget their a scared non welcoming pooch and can't resist lunging slightly after a stick you've thrown before remembering themselves and swiftly re-building their walls before we notice their accidental lapse and mistake it for a breakthrough - which of course it is - however small.

And that's my point. When it comes to the behaviour of dogs and the 'successes' of the behaviourist their can be no deadline time wise, nor should we focus on achieving a 'tumblr' of  homeward bound 'runintoownersarms' photographic moments because despite our hard work, some dogs never get to turn back time into that irresistible happy pup 'stealandchewonyourshoesthengiveyoukisses' stage they once had - some cuts are too deep and jagged to fully heal. But - much like the potter who moulds clay into desirable entities, we must accept that once broken some creations cannot resume their natural selves - they can however be stuck back together to the best of the handlers ability, and great things can still shine through even if not as vibrant as before or as appealing to the average  customer. Each re-built item though, with its overcompensated sanded down edges, overload of shiny new colours painted on to cover the cracks and each re-moulded segment, much like the half wag of a dogs now almost neutral tail, may never be quite what it was - and our ideal finished result a mere pipe dream - but it is still a thing of beauty in its own right.