I confess, I click a lot of animal video links when I’m strolling through Facebook and Wimp. Usually they are simply cute or funny. Yesterday I found one that was truly inspiring.
Prisoners and puppies for the blind? The pilot program was a big risk. Give a puppy to an inmate serving life and ask him to train the dog in basic service work? Hmmm. You don’t become imprisoned for life because you exude love and compassion in your life. Puppies are vulnerable, no less in a place with a reputation for having a very violent undercurrent. But the outcome was far better than anyone expected. And for everyone involved. Continue Reading →
April 2, 2015
by Liz Gaige Comments Off on More Animals Using Tools
I’ve written several times before about animals using tools, it’s one of my favourite ways to discount the long-held theory that animals are stupid. For centuries years the idea that only humans have the smarts to use tools was used to subtly justify humans’ frequently awful treatment of animals. Now here’s another nail in that coffin, proof captured on film that even lowly invertebrates are clever enough to surpass that criteria of intelligence based on tool use.
“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” – Albert Einstein
I still encounter people who believe that animals are “just stupid animals” and I can’t figure it out.
You can try to argue with those humans, in the past I’ve tried, but humans aren’t the brightest in the animal kingdom. They will oddly use their glorious prefrontal cortex for ignoble pursuits such as insisting that long-held, outdated beliefs are true, even in light of a plethora of YouTube evidence (not to mention, actual scientific evidence) to the contrary. Humans are funny that way. Well, not so much funny as sad.
Jane Goodall is a hero of mine. She was a woman doing a job not many women did. Wow. In a field where few women gained prominence. Wow. And she refused to let “the right way to do things” get in the way of what she knew in her heart: animals are individuals, sentient beings.
Do you really get what a big WOW that is, especially considering the era she was in while doing it, how against the flow her approach was? Jane Goodall danced to a drum only she could hear, counter to the entire culture and training of science at the time (I am in awe) and in so doing has had a profound impact on how we see and understand both animals and ourselves.
One of the things I love about the Internet is the way we can so easily share our experiences, especially the curious things we’ve witnessed. If you told someone what you saw they might not believe you but with the Internet, video technology embedded in all manner of handheld technology, and the likes of YouTube, you can now easily prove that you aren’t making stuff up. Continue Reading →
July 21, 2014
by Liz Gaige Comments Off on The Power of Animal Connections
In my work with equine facilitated learning, a form of therapeutic work with horses, I’ve seen first hand how life-changing our connection with animals can be. I’ve also personally experienced how much cuddling a kitty, hugging a horse, or romping with a dog can lift my mood. The brain turns off and the heart opens up.
Well, the brain doesn’t turn of completely, but it does shift gears. Much research is being done on just how being around animals has such a therapeutic effect and while there are some clues, there is no definitive answer just yet.
That’s okay with me, I’m still an advocate of nurturing the human/animal connection in any way we can. Continue Reading →
July 20, 2014
by Liz Gaige Comments Off on Clever Dog Toy
I came across this clever way someone came up with to keep their dog occupied. I love it for its simplicity and for the joy the dog so clearly gets out of trying to figure out how to reach the treats. What fun!
July 20, 2014
by Liz Gaige Comments Off on Fun at the SALI Dog Wash Fundraiser
We had fun today at the SALI (Semiahmoo Animal League Inc.) dog wash fundraiser. After over a week of hot, sunny weather we somehow managed to get a cool, blustery, overcast day, but that didn’t stop folks from coming out to support the great work SALI does in the community.
I’m very excited to have just completed the first week’s assignments of a FREE 5 week online course on Animal Behaviour and Welfare from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. I am very interested in animal behaviour and want to understand more fully what truly constitutes animal welfare from their perspective, so coming across this course was a great find. Continue Reading →
July 6, 2014
by Liz Gaige Comments Off on Bird Brained Behaviour
It’s hard to say if it’s serendipity or just Facebook serving up info because I’ve recently posted about it, but one of my Facebook Friends just posted about the animal enrichment at the Smithsonian National Zoo, complete with adorable video clip. Please, when are otters not adorable?!
“The keyboard session is one among many activities that fall under animal enrichment — a program that provides physically and mentally stimulating activities and environments for the zoo’s residents,” zoo spokeswoman Jennifer Zoon tells HuffPost. “The animals have the opportunity not only to choose how to behave, but also to use their natural abilities and behaviors in new and exciting ways.”
May 31st is Animal Enrichment Day at the zoo, which we should celebrate every day, everywhere, with any animal we encounter when that lovely critter isn’t able to engage in the activities that would keep it mentally and physically fit as in it’s natural habitat.
We give our dogs and cats their own enrichment activities too, when we allow and even invite them to engage in their natural way of being. What a great way to honour their innate needs and give them truly excellent quality of life. (Note: Booties and dresses on “pocket puppies” are not a natural occurring phenomenon.)
May 27, 2014
by Liz Gaige Comments Off on Feline Enrichment Programs
The other day I wrote about dogs and my personal version of animal enrichment programs. Cats, because of their natural curiosity and hunting drive need little encouragement when it comes to enticing them to play. Unlike dogs, who often need food as motivation, cats will make a game out of just about anything. A string, a ball, a bit of crumpled up paper, a sock, lint, imaginary monsters chasing them down a hallway…
Dogs get bored, just like people, so our non-human animal companions benefit from the occasional mental challenge to keep them on their toes just like we do. Giving your Fuzzy Buddy a mental challenge can mean teaching them new behaviours like tricks and commands. It can also mean giving them other kinds of challenges.
To keep life interesting for captive animals, zoos have come up with what they call “enrichment” programs, challenges to keep the animals in their care engaged in searching for their food as they would in their natural habitat. That’s also what I call it when I give my Fuzzy Buddies a similar challenge. Continue Reading →
April 7, 2014
by Liz Gaige Comments Off on Dogs Are Amazing
We all appreciate the dogs in our lives for their loyalty and unconditional love, their affection and entertaining antics. But dogs are amazing in other ways, too. I’ve been fascinated since I was a child with the ability dogs have to understand the needs of and aid humans, as guide dogs for the blind and service dogs for the hearing impaired as well as those who are physically disabled. Now we’re beginning to understand just how highly skilled dogs are in many other areas as well.
Watch this and be prepared to be amazed…
April 4, 2014
by Liz Gaige Comments Off on Learning to “Sit” in Costa Rica
I just can’t seem to help myself. No matter where I go I meet wonderful, clever dogs. My latest little Fuzzy Buddy was Tini (pronounced “Teenie”), a Costa Rican stray rescued by Isa and Milton. Isa and Milton travelled to a beach town with visiting family for three days and left Tini with my amiga (friend) Patsy who I’m staying with at Finca Las Alturas. When I mentioned to Isa that I’ve been doing some training she asked if I would teach Tini to sit. In German. Continue Reading →