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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Forever Homes


When it is sunny out, Bow enjoys lounging in the sun. But this morning, it is quite foggy.


So Bow is napping on his blanket.


Wherever he is, Bow is secure in the knowledge that he is loved and protected.


However, this does not mean that I can never leave him. I have periodically taken a week off and gone someplace else and left him in the care of interns he knew or of  Lawrence, and he was still secure in the knowledge that he was cared for and loved and that I would be back.

Ezooz eating raw meat on his birthday
Behind him: myself and my friend Haya

I have been thinking about the recent dogma that has surrounded what exactly owners owe their dogs, and it reminded me of Ezooz, a dog I knew in my childhood, but who was not ours. He belonged to an academician who lived in Jerusalem, but when his owner went on sabbatical to the United States for a year, he left Ezooz in our care. We lived in Rehovoth, and my father worked at the Weizmann Institute, and we could not commit to a dog full time, because we traveled, too. But it just so happened that we were able to provide Ezooz with a temporary home for a year, until his master returned and reclaimed him and took him back to Jerusalem, where he lived with his first family until he died of old age.


Two of Ezooz's offspring and myself


Is that all right, by current standards about what a dog is owed by a family? I'm not sure. Because while Ezooz was with us he had many adventures, and he did things that maybe current standards of dog care would not allow:


  • He was not fixed, and he roamed free, and when a female went into heat anywhere in Rehovoth, he would be gone for a few days and then come back.
  • He fathered at least one litter of puppies that we know of, while with us. It was with a stray female that lived on the property adjoining the house where we lived.
  • He ate a diet of raw chicken heads and other uncooked bones and discards of meat that we got at the butcher shop. Today, Americans are convinced that dogs should not eat bones -- and especially not raw chicken bones.
  • We let him have chocolate, because nobody told us that was poison for dogs, and it did not kill him.
  • He hated dogs that looked or smelled like poodles, and he did attack one such dog, fatally wounding him,
  • He hated religious Jews (dressed in black clothing from a different era and with side curls and long beards), and when any of them came around, he chased them away.
  • He barked at horses and donkeys. There were still wagons drawn by such animals that occasionally passed by in the street.
We did not teach him any of these behaviors, and when we found out about them, we tried to moderate his behavior so he would not hurt anyone. But we were not overly protective, and we did not chain him in our unfenced yard or require him to stay in the house all day, taking him out on walks on a lead. In fact, I don't ever remember him being on a lead. He was always free, and he always came home to us because he wanted to, even though he knew we were not his masters, and that his real owner was away.

                                            Ezooz at my friend's house: he was not on a leash
                                                                   and neither was I


My father took Ezooz to work with him, and Ezooz was even listed as a co-author on a physics paper that my father wrote during that period. 

I also was allowed to roam without supervision. I sometimes think that in order to have free range children, you also need to have free range dogs. Today, though, my dogs do not roam. They are fenced in. And Bow and Sword also do not roam, because we would get in trouble if they did.

We visited Ezooz in Jerusalem in his forever home once, and we brought him butter to eat, because he really liked butter. He remembered us, but he was clearly happy with his real owner. I think we all did right by Ezooz, and he had a good life.

In contrast, Ezooz's master had three children, all of them adults. His two daughters we met, but the son was mentally retarded and institutionalized. Ezooz had a forever home in his master's house, but his son, a human, did not.

It's really strange the way things turn out, and how society's standards are different in different eras and locales. In those days, you never saw mentally retarded children in school, not in Israel, anyway, and today, they are not even called that, anymore. It is very possible that Ezooz's human brother would have been diagnosed as autistic if he were born today, and his treatment would be very different. But if Ezooz were born today in the US, would he have been allowed to roam? Become a father? Author a physics paper? Eat raw chicken bones and chocolate? And would his master be considered a bad person for leaving Ezooz with someone else for a year or institutionalizing his son?

I think we judge people too harshly. Standards that change all the time cannot be moral absolutes. We have to let people make their own decisions, and in order to live free in a free world or a free country, we should not dictate to others. This does not mean that mistakes will not be made. It just means that people have a chance to make their own mistakes, instead of those dictated by society's shifting social norms.


Sunday, March 22, 2015

What Flowers Are For

While Bow does not find the daffodil flower appetizing, there are others who do.


Flowers are not usually meant to be eaten. They offer nectar in return for cross-pollination.


It's the fruit that is made to be eaten, and even then, there is an ulterior reproductive motive behind all that generosity. But this is not the season of fruit. This is the season of flowers.



The forsythia is just now starting to blossom. And even those little evergreen scrub trees that sprang up in my pasture unbidden are doing their part to contribute to the pollen count.


Nobody planted these trees, and no one will cry when they die, but while they live, they are doing their best to reproduce, because that is the nature of life. Living things strive to live and to leave behind heirs when they die. Because even trees of the longest lifespan do eventually die. And before they die, they try their best to make sure they are not the last of their kind.

However, when human beings interfere with the process of reproduction, things do not always manage to reproduce before they die. Take the old apple trees that I used to have on my property.


When I first bought this place in 2001, it came complete with a full orchard, which had growing in it, among other fruit trees, two messy apple trees that gave tiny little green apples. I did not think the apples were edible at first, so my daughter and I used to feed them to the horses across the fence.



Then one day, long before 2007, when I was mowing the grass, an old man drove by and asked me if I would sell him some of my apples. He quoted me a price by the bushel that sounded pretty good, but that's just because I didn't actually know what a bushel was. A bushel of apples is a lot more than a pound!

The man who bought the apples was called Mr. Wantland. The name stayed in my mind, because it reminded me of Verity Lackland, a character in my novel, Vacuum County.

The next year, Mr. Wantland did not come back. The apples just lay on the ground, and nobody ate them. We shared them with some of our neighbors, who told us about a recipe for fried apples.

Then a few years later there arose a great storm, and both apple trees were uprooted. There were no more apples. There was also no more Mr. Wantland. I visited the cemetery this year and found out that he had been buried there next to his wife in 2012.


I hope that Mr. and Mrs, Wantland had many children, and grandchildren and great grandchildren before they died, because a name like Wantland deserves to be conserved. But, as for my apple trees are concerned, I am pretty sure they never reproduced. Not on my property, anyhow.  I suspect that the fruit bearing portion of the tree had been grafted onto another tree and that the whole process was so artificial that trees like that could never reproduce or thrive without human assistance. And that is not ultimately a good idea,

Many people think that planting a tree is an act of conservation, but the most conservative and therefore the most conservationist,  thing to do is to let the trees plant themselves. That way, nature will make sure to weed out what cannot survive on its own, and it will reward good health and fecundity.

But what does this have to do with chimpanzees, you may ask?

Well, there are conservationists who limit the reproductive lives of chimpanzees, because they see that resources are scarce. They may do this in very humane ways and for seemingly humane reasons, but they are still dooming chimpanzees to extinction.

This morning, Bow and I watched a video about a sanctuary for chimpanzees where all the males get vasectomies, However, one such operation must have failed, because an unexpected baby was born to an eight year old female chimpanzee. However, the new mother, never having seen an example of how a mother should behave, did not care for her baby. The baby was then bottle fed by humans, but eventually adopted by a childless couple of chimpanzees who did like babies. The narration explained that this was the best possible outcome, but with a fifty year commitment for each chimpanzee, the sanctuary will try to make sure that no more babies will ever be born.

They see a chimpanzee as a fifty year commitment, all debit and no credit, because they don't think that chimpanzees could help contribute to their own keep. They would frown on a chimpanzee working in entertainment or language research as inhumane. They would also frown on a chimpanzee living as a human's companion or caretaker or pet in a regular household. That would be inhumane. But dooming all the chimpanzees not in the wild to extinction is not inhumane!

These people are not conservationists. They don't care about the species, and to the extent that they care about the individual members of the species, they do not appreciate the natural role in improving the quality of living that having babies can play, not only in the life of a female, but also of an entire community.

Those are the sanctuary people. And then there are others who believe that all non-human apes should be "returned" to the wild, even if they were captive bred and cannot return to a place where they have never been. Damien Aspinall is an example of that.

http://awesomeocean.com/2015/03/18/the-horrifying-60-minutes-story-activists-beg-you-not-to-see/

But what else could we do to help endangered species to reproduce and to thrive?

http://www.wsj.com/articles/a-new-idea-for-saving-tigers-keep-them-as-pets-1426285276

A minister in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh has asked state forest officials to allow individuals to keep lions and tigers in their homes. This would be a way to fund and boost a resurgence in the population of the big cats.

Meanwhile, here in the United States everything is being done to take such animals away from people who keep them at their own expense and to put them into institutions funded by the state -- institutions that will see their care and feeding as all loss and no gain.

http://www.thenews-messenger.com/story/news/local/2015/03/17/volunteers-band-together-save-tiger-ridge-exotics/24934387/

What is the difference between the state that confiscates exotic animals and the people who keep them at their own expense? The state sees no value in the animals, only the danger they pose and the expense of feeding them. But the people who keep them value them enough to invest in their care. Yet it is the very act of caring that makes private individuals suspect in the eyes of the public. There must be some profit in this, and profit is bad. But profit is what makes the world go round!

Flowers are for spreading pollen. They are not mere decorations. Fruit is for spreading seeds. It is not a free handout given by charitable plants to hapless animals. Babies are for the maintenance of populations. They are not just a fifty year commitment -- they are the future for all of us, until the end of time.

Flowers are beautiful for a reason

The way nature works to preserve species is not through "unselfish" efforts by individuals working against their own self interest. Nature works by offering enticements. Flowers are pretty for a reason. Nectar is sweet to draw bees in. Babies are cute to make us cherish them. And every living thing has its own beauty and its special allure. Let those who do it because they love the baby adopt, not those who see the baby only as a fifty year commitment. Let those who love the nectar keep the flowers planted, those who eat of the fruit of the tree plant more trees with their droppings. Don't punish people for loving what they do. Self-interest is the only thing that keeps the cycle of life in play. Let's embrace it, rather than expecting that we can find some other, better way.



We are a part of nature. We are not exempt from its rules. Let's not think we can get anywhere by playing holier than thou.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Spring and Daffodils

It's spring. One way to tell is that the daffodils are blooming.


And then there's this other flower.


I don't know what is is called, but it looks so frail and small and rare, that when picking a flower to bring home to Bow, I decided to leave this one alone. Instead, I picked a daffodil, as we have plenty.


I normally don't pick flowers, but I wanted to bring a bit of the spring back to Bow.


Bow was happy to receive this gift, but right from the start I felt that he was sniffing the wrong end of the daffodil. The flower held no fascination for him. It was the stem that he wanted.




He took a bite and yet another bite of the green stem.


All the while, the blossom was still there.


Finally, when he had eaten all the stem and all that remained was the bloom, he handed the yellow flower back to me.


At first, I thought this was a generous impulse, so I gave it back to him, saying it was his flower. But he gave it right back to me. Finally, after several repetitions of handing the flower back and forth, Bow took the flower and deliberately threw it into his potty. Then he took my hand and spelled that he wanted to go outside.


Bow always throws things that have no value into the potty. It is his trash can. I was stunned. Who knew that the stem was the most valuable part of the daffodil?



Thursday, March 19, 2015

Throwback Thursday: What to do when your young charge....

Before I ever started this blog, I was writing on Hubpages. I liked it there, and I got tens of thousands of comments, and all was good. I was also starting to earn money there, and I thought it would be a good way to supplement the income for Project Bow.

The good thing about Hubpages was that it was an article site, so you could write about anything and did not need to limit yourself to any particular topic, as you might on a niche site, and you did not have to write serially or chronologically, like keeping a diary, as you normally would on a personal blog.

The other very good thing was that Hubpages gave a boost to your standing on Google, so that what you wrote would be found by anyone who was looking for your keywords. So even though Hubpages had "low prestige" I liked writing there, and I enjoyed the readers, the fellowship and the earnings.

But one day Google changed its rules, and they went and down-ranked Hubpages, and in response to this, Hubpages changed its own rules and did all sorts of crazy things to get into Google's good graces. And little by little, I have been moving my old articles away from there, except that there are so many of them that it takes a while.

Bear in mind: it's not because of what Google did to Hubpages that I am moving my articles. It's because of what Hubpages did in response: they started making all sorts of perfectly fine articles invisible in search by de-indexing them.

Below, I am sharing an old story about Bow that has been de-indexed. It was from when he was much younger, much more naughty, but also more talkative! (Note: This article is from about five years ago.)

What to Do if your Young Charge Poops into the Lock