Dogs Are People, Too



From TheNewYorkTimes-SundayReview:

FOR the past two years, my colleagues and I have been training dogs to go in an M.R.I. scanner — completely awake and unrestrained. Our goal has been to determine how dogs’ brains work and, even more important, what they think of us humans.

Now, after training and scanning a dozen dogs, my one inescapable conclusion is this: dogs are people, too.

Because dogs can’t speak, scientists have relied on behavioral observations to infer what dogs are thinking. It is a tricky business. You can’t ask a dog why he does something. And you certainly can’t ask him how he feels. The prospect of ferreting out animal emotions scares many scientists. After all, animal research is big business. It has been easy to sidestep the difficult questions about animal sentience and emotions because they have been unanswerable.

Until now.

By looking directly at their brains and bypassing the constraints of behaviorism, M.R.I.’s can tell us about dogs’ internal states. M.R.I.’s are conducted in loud, confined spaces. People don’t like them, and you have to hold absolutely still during the procedure. Conventional veterinary practice says you have to anesthetize animals so they don’t move during a scan. But you can’t study brain function in an anesthetized animal. At least not anything interesting like perception or emotion.

From the beginning, we treated the dogs as persons. We had a consent form, which was modeled after a child’s consent form but signed by the dog’s owner. We emphasized that participation was voluntary, and that the dog had the right to quit the study. We used only positive training methods. No sedation. No restraints. If the dogs didn’t want to be in the M.R.I. scanner, they could leave. Same as any human volunteer.

My dog Callie was the first. Rescued from a shelter, Callie was a skinny black terrier mix, what is called a feist in the southern Appalachians, from where she came. True to her roots, she preferred hunting squirrels and rabbits in the backyard to curling up in my lap. She had a natural inquisitiveness, which probably landed her in the shelter in the first place, but also made training a breeze.

With the help of my friend Mark Spivak, a dog trainer, we started teaching Callie to go into an M.R.I. simulator that I built in my living room. She learned to walk up steps into a tube, place her head in a custom-fitted chin rest, and hold rock-still for periods of up to 30 seconds. Oh, and she had to learn to wear earmuffs to protect her sensitive hearing from the 95 decibels of noise the scanner makes.

After months of training and some trial-and-error at the real M.R.I. scanner, we were rewarded with the first maps of brain activity. For our first tests, we measured Callie’s brain response to two hand signals in the scanner. In later experiments, not yet published, we determined which parts of her brain distinguished the scents of familiar and unfamiliar dogs and humans.

Soon, the local dog community learned of our quest to determine what dogs are thinking. Within a year, we had assembled a team of a dozen dogs who were all “M.R.I.-certified.”

Although we are just beginning to answer basic questions about the canine brain, we cannot ignore the striking similarity between dogs and humans in both the structure and function of a key brain region: the caudate nucleus.

To read more click link up top.



Mister Big Child.

Magic Is a Child

Magic Is a Child (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

No, at the risk of annoying you, I shall never relent in my praise of Marlo Morgan’s book: Mutant Message Down Under. Among the many Aboriginal customs she describes there, is one where people change their names, whenever they themselves feel that they have learned an important life lesson, which therefore makes them better human beings.

To honour this custom I have decided that I shall henceforth be known as Mister Big Child, the king-less jester to a court of none, but you can call me MBC for short. I realise that I am utterly human and my faults are still legion, but my childlike wonder is still undiminished. Where I thought I had lost the capability to rejoice in the simple things that life so generously provides us with, I had merely misplaced it. Reading the above-mentioned book has restored my belief completely. My faith in the existence of magic has been revitalized and I am bubbling over with glee, simply because I am alive.

I had lost sight of the prime directive of magic: “When you ask, you shall receive what is correct for you and for the good of all living beings.” In other words, you get what you need, but not necessarily what you want, because it must be for the greater good. Karma is particular about that!

Ladies and gentlemen, I have personally lived and breathed magic, during my last years on the streets in Spain. It took a harsh school and some rather strange encounters to get me there, but I did it and I was never without what I really needed. I shall reveal to you some of the methods that I used, so that you may try them out for yourselves.

1. Ask and ye shall receive (, under the condition that you really need it!) You can ask out loud or silently, but it works even better if you visualise it and send it up to Karma, for her to deliver. However…, it is extremely important that you let go of it completely, because if you keep the desire, then there is no room for the real thing to materialise.

2. Be specific and for heaven’s sake be careful with the wording! Someone asked for an open heart, meaning empathy and such, but got surgery instead.

3. Have complete and utter faith. In fact, thank Karma or your god for what you are about to receive, before you get it, instead of afterwards. Even though giving thanks twice can never hurt. Many were the times that I worried, only to mentally kick myself afterwards for having doubted. It was only after I told myself to stop worrying, that Karma obliged.

4. Always stay positive. The more you fret, the more trouble you attract, by force of this negativity. The more upbeat you are, the more good things come to you.

5. Do not ask for luxury, for you do not ‘need’ it. Karma is not the lottery! You will not get it, period.

6. Also very important to keep in mind is the old maxim: Be careful what you wish for…

7. Constantly re-evaluate your situation and ask yourself what is important for you and for the good of all.

Thus far my humble contribution in the teachings of magic. By the way, by no means did I invent these. They came my way through sometimes unorthodox channels, from being far more enlightened than I.

I will just elaborate on this last bit. When you are open to magic, spirituality, call it what you will, then you are emitting on a certain frequency and the answers will come to you through any and all mediums at the disposal of Karma or your God. It is important to be receptive and never to give a second thought to the cover of the book, person, movie, etcetera that is sent your way.

A last severe admonishment: Do not under any circumstance wish somebody harm, for it will come back at you a hundredfold!!!

An Indian legend.

When a human dies, there is a bridge,
they must cross to enter into heaven.
At the head of the bridge waits every animal
that human encountered during their lifetime. …
The animals, based on what they know of this person,
decide, which humans may cross the bridge….
and which are turned away.

A Love-Light.


ANDROMEDA (Photo credit: xn44)

I’d like to be a quantum man,
a human being squared,
an entity of so-much-more-then,
an element of sorts.

I’d consort with sprites and faeries
and I’d travel on the winds.
Water-whispers ‘d hold no secrets
from yours truly in spirit form.

I’d listen to a seed grow
and scratch a mountain’s itch.
Transporting to Andromeda
would go off without a hitch.

Creating a new species though
might prove to be a bitch,
for however much one’s squared
or tripled, no-one could equal God.

Not that I aspire to such a lofty station.

To just be a twinkling love-light,
that would do me fine;
to bring bliss and happiness
to yours and theirs and mine…

Empathy, a Blessing and a Curse.

Human after all

Human after all (Photo credit: - tsumi -)

Empathy: a Blessing and a Curse.

Empathy: the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

While it may be beneficial to have the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, it can be invasive if it comes on a willy-nilly basis. Learning to properly deal with these invasive onslaughts is a must, if one is to retain one’s sanity. The moment you become conscious of what is happening, for this does not come out of the bleu and late in life as far as I have heard, you simply have to develop a filter and a blocking system to keep your life bearable.

Imagine a young child that is surrounded by pubescent adolescents with their hormonal surges and by adults, who also have their passions, whether they wear them on their sleeves or not, being constantly subjected to a barrage of feelings and who is not yet equipped to understand, much less deal with them. How would this child feel, do you think?

First of all this child would feel very, very frightened and secondly, when he can not get good answers to explain what is happening from his parents, he would feel as if he were totally and utterly alien. Fortunately, the child’s system would shut down automatically by itself and leave him numb and disoriented, but which is better than the turmoil that he went through before, for a while at least. And then the whole rigmarole would start again, until he learned to block and/or filter. In a very real sense this is a question of adapt or perish and at an extremely tender age.

I imagine that this is somewhat like a search engine on the web that lets through relevant information and discards nonsense(or SPAM), only here we are dealing with feelings that may or may not be justified. How many times have any of us felt an all-encompassing rage at some perceived slight, only to rationalise it later on? The empathic child can not differentiate between what is perceived hurt and real hurt and even an adult can really only guess, for though everyone’s feelings are definitely real, the reasons for having them are totally subjective and may be flawed. An empath is not a mind-reader and does not know what went on before meeting a person that he feels!

When I somehow found the mental switch to turn it off, I felt the bliss of tranquil silence and vowed never to let that happen again. I broke my view, of course, as vows often are… Sometimes my family or friends would catch me unawares, when my guard was down and sometimes I felt so drawn to a kind soul that it happened naturally, or maybe I just let it happen. I was also cursed with hyperactiveness that made me very accident prone. Again at a very early age, I took the conscious decision to always think first and act later, which of course caused my spontaneity to disappear. This thinking first and acting later became such an automatism that later on I could almost, but not quite, convince myself that I was letting nature take its course, without any assistance.

But when I look at it now, at a riper age, I realise that I have always been the spectator in my own life, the on-looker that watches carefully to see that nothing goes awry and paradoxically failing most if not all of the time! Because, although you can control your body and your mind to a great degree, the heart follows its own rules and will under no circumstance let itself be shackled. I could just as easily try to order a hurricane or an earth-quake about, for all the good it would do.

For an empath who has his in-built filter and blocking system on board, it is easy to deflect an actual demonstrable outburst of emotion, but the snake who would obfuscate his feelings, the liar, the deceiver is more perplexing in his insidious efforts to show one face, while feeling something totally different. At times it can be almost comical, when it is too obvious. The most horrible spectre to witness is a person who was lively and after some calamity emits no emotion at all.

When I was a child, the result of all this cacophony of emotions that invaded my privacy had the result that I suffered from nightmares, where I was always minute in comparison to my surroundings. A speck of dust blowing around in a blizzard would be a good way to describe the feeling. I did not dream so much of monsters, but of ordinary things that were out of all proportion to myself. This should have taught me humility, but failed.

I had furthermore been taught by my grandfather to always think for myself and never to blindly follow anyone or anything, which caused me to discard all institutionalised religions. I sincerely thought for a long time that religion was opium for the masses, like Karl Marx thought. I still believe that we should take responsibility for our own actions and not hide behind a deity to first sin and then be absolved, without proper thought of the consequences to others. But oh, how I longed for some form of magic to come my way that would allow me to right all wrongs and let justice be served to those who endlessly seemed to get away with bloody murder, without having to face the piper!

I have witnessed travesties of human behaviour that left me dizzy with incomprehension, like a PC’s failure to compute. Because I could witness at first hand (through empathy) the ravages that inhuman treatment causes to the victims This left me impotent and confused, with no frame to relate some actions to that I saw other people perpetrate. For how could I conceivably hurt anyone deliberately, when I could feel the hurt that I caused, for myself? I should mention, for completeness’ sake, that during a fit of passion nothing seems to filter through from others. I am far from being a saint!

And ever I carry the hope that something bigger and better shall manifest itself, because it could be, it SHOULD be, should it not? I find solace in appreciating the little acts of kindness and mercy that I witness on occasion, which bring me to welcome tears that there might be hope for humanity after all! Why can not the spirits, angels or elves come to our rescue? Is this not a kind wish of an adult , who still has not forgotten the wonder and the longing of a child for all things magical?

As I approached middle age, I did start to wrestle with the concept of a deity, but not adhering to conventional dogma you understand, for I am ever the rebel. The notion that we all carry a divine spark within ourselves appeals to me. I admire the Buddha, but I lack his patience! If a divinity is omnipresent, does this not carry with it the implication that every man, woman and child is part of it? Could our collective connectivity constitute a godliness? I am far from done wrestling with my doubts and hopes.

I did experience a phenomenon that left me humbled and more confused than ever. I was visiting Israel, where I later went to live for a couple of years, when I had to stop my rental car on the way up to Nazareth, to answer a call of nature. After finishing I turned around and saw a big building( a school, I think) surrounded by a lot of poplars. What was strange was that from these poplars were emanating spirals of energy that rose towards the heavens! I should mention that I did not drink then and I don’t do drugs, so was I hallucinating?

The result of this event was that the feeling of being infinitesimally small came back in force. I felt as if the weight of the whole cosmos were pressing down upon me, but at the same time I felt connected to it all. This is the closest I have come to having a meeting with… what? God, the universe? From then on I have not discarded the possibility that God might exist, but I can not place that belief in my mental house, for I still refuse to attribute human characteristics to a God or the All! As you can tell by my narrative, I am and always will be a seeker, who is slightly obtuse. But is the quest not a wondrous one?

I ask nobody to agree with me. If you do, fine and if you don’t, let us agree to disagree then!



I was slumped on my sister’s sofa one day and happy thoughts were the furthest thing from my mind. I thought that a visit there might possibly lift my spirits a bit and it would make a change from going to the pub and getting plastered. It was one of those periods in my life, when nothing seemed to go right and the tunnel, far from having a light at the end of it, seemed to have caved in.

I was living outside of myself and feeling lost and utterly alone. A spectator looking at a miserable heap of misery, which only I could fully see or grasp, because I had built a perimeter wall around me of feigned indifference that nobody could pierce(or so I thought!) I was definitely out of balance, my yang had booted my yin up the behind and my soul felt sore all over.

I was staring mindlessly at the telly, when it somehow registered that some other human beings had entered the premises. I was my father’s second wife’s daughter and her little girl, come to pay a visit. I grunted a hello and continued to stare into space, annoyed at the interruption. Basically, I did not want to be disturbed and believe me when I tell you that you’d rather mess with an angry grizzly than with me, when I want to be left alone. This is because of the fear of letting up my defenses for even a fraction, because then all the repressed emotions would come tumbling out and I would have no way of stopping them, you understand?

Moderately annoyed grizzly bear - from


After about an hour, the little girl scrambled up the couch and cuddled up next to me, putting her head against my chest. My “Do not disturb!” face had not fazed her in the least. She must have seen right through me! She stayed there immobile and I didn’t move either. At first I was startled, but then a warm glow started to infuse me and I thought: “Whow! There is one person on this planet that seems to care about me.” This precious child reconnected me with the world, without conscious thought, merely by being there. I felt reborn and invigorated and ever so slowly a smile began to form on my countenance.

Thank the universe for the little ones, who in their selfless way give us a reason to go on struggling and to swim against the current, when times are tough. This one act of kindness meant more to me than anything else that anyone could have thought of. I kissed her head and swept her up in my arms and started dancing around the living room with her, to her infinite delight. My sister was dumbfounded at the change in me.

I still did not understand what on Earth my task was on this planet, but it gave me the strength to go on and at least spread some joy for other people. I shall hold her sweet face in fond remembrance till the day I die. Thank you Melissa! Providence does seem to give us a helping hand, when we need it most and in the most unlikely of forms!!

Shout Out Your Love.

Human eye

Have you ever felt that you were in fact an alien, not a member of the human race? I have, for decades. When I was but a little boy, I used to think: why are people being cruel to each other? I was sure, even then, that it wasn´t suppused to be that way! I took my troubled, innocent heart to the adults (or is it sadults?) and tried, with my insufficient words, to explain my predicament.

They told me that everything would become clear, when I grew up. And to just be patient, for one day I would understand. I had to adapt, perforce, or be trampled into the dust. So I tried to find a middle ground, where I could at least coexist, trying not to hurt anyone. Just to be allowed to be, there, and try to be friendly with everyone, without getting crushed.

But they could tell or maybe they could feel, instinctively, that I was a bit strange, a bit alien. Others fell by the wayside, a few that were not so dissimilar to myself and many others. But I, who always felt deep down that I wouldn´t last long in this strange place, I endured, amazingly. I thought some mistake must have been made somewhere. Maybe there exists some alternate universe, that had inadvertently misplaced me.

Finally, there came a day, when a woman came up to me and spoke those four seemingly innocuous words, that would change everything. I didn´t even know the woman´s name. She said: “I am like you!”, nothing more and nothing less. When I heard this and looked into her eyes, the world seemed to shake and the foundations of my disbelief crumbled and came tumbling down around me.

When prodded, she explained that we´d been born too late: the generation of the gentle people had passed us by. They´re still here, she said, but they seem to have lost hope. They may have given up the dream. I would like to assure them, that NOT all is lost! For their message was passed on and is still being carried in the hearts if some people, myself being just one example.

Two years ago, I was speaking with a friend. This lady told me, that in her middle age, she was still wondering what she´d do, when she grew up. She asked me if I knew. I hadn´t a clue. I´m still waiting for that very special day, when things will finally make sense. A couple of months ago, she came to visit me. I asked her, if she´d found the answer yet. To my surprise, she said yes. She said that she would be, whatever she needed to be. I admire her for her courage and am happy for her.

In the meantime, I have shouted out to the world, my plea for love. Because I know, instinctively, that it´s worthwhile to share this invaluable commodity with everyone. You can call me a dreamer and you can call me an idealist. If you do, you honour me. I thank you for that. I would ask that you shout out your love for the entire human race and for all living things, mutely, to the heavens, for I believe that the positive force of this act will resonate in the hearts of anyone who’s listening with their inner ear and we might actually wake up some of the sleeping ones!