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Give Us This Day Our Daily Strange

by on January 28, 2019

Give Us This Day Our Daily Strange

by Marco M. Pardi

All comments are welcome and will receive a reply.

Do you wonder what your dog thinks when you enter a darkened room and turn on the light? I do. Is he thinking, My Two-Legs has super powers!? Is there some basal religious component in his thoughts of me, He Who Lets There Be Light. He who gives me my daily bread. He who forgives my trespass when I vomit on the carpet.? Or, is he thinking, Humans are so lame. The planet has been cycling from light to dark and back again for billions of years and humans have been here in some form for millions of those years. Yet, change the scenery a bit and they still haven’t learned to use their other senses. We should never have befriended them and helped them develop.

I just don’t know. Do you? I do know my dog’s hearing is diminishing so I’ve been showing him a few hand signals. For a 13 year old he learns very quickly. Most dog trainers stress repetition and reward. I suspect most dogs just draw it out for the treats; they got it the second time, if not the first. I had an attack dog in Africa who learned dozens of verbal and silent commands. One very hot evening I was walking around with him on base and discerned he was thirsty. I knew where a chilled water machine fountain was and we walked there, making sure no one else was around. It was a standard height machine with a foot lever at the bottom.

I walked up to the fountain, put both hands on the basin, leaned over the spout and placed my right foot on the lever. My dog watched the water come out. I then stood back and motioned him to the machine. He hesitated so I did the drink again. As I stepped back and motioned again he duplicated what I had done and had himself a good long drink. Maybe he was ready the first time and was concerned I would drink all the water. In any case, from then on he was attuned to any water fountains, but we were rarely on base.

He taught me some things. Out on the scrub desert he was apparently pleased when I smashed several desert scorpions that came scuttling at us. He seemed to understand that I had the boots and he didn’t. Why these scorpions launched a kamikaze attack is still a mystery to me. But when we came across a mob of big black beetles and I started stomping some of them he gave me a very disapproving look. It then occurred to me the beetles were no threat to us. But he knew that.

Years later I realized a behavior in my horses. A friend would occasionally meet me at the ranch for an afternoon ride. She was a three martini lunch lady, often without the lunch. Even when she approached my horses from downwind they would not let her near them if she had been drinking, even if, to me, she showed no outward signs of it. I could only surmise that the horses were somehow aware her mind was altered. True, horses are incredibly more perceptive than most people realize, but I felt this was exceptional, even strange.

My tri-color Persian cat also displayed interesting behavior. Since I adopted him from a newly divorced woman who had let him run free outside he was adamantly not a house cat, which worried me a lot but I could not hold out against his yowling to go out. During those years I had occasional crushing migraines, best treated by simply lying on my bed sometimes for hours. Then I noticed that when these happened he would jump onto the bed, settle beside me with his paw on my forehead and stay there for the duration. Although I’ve never read a cat book I’m betting there are no accounts of cats practicing Shiatsu on their humans.

Long a supporter of ethology, the study of animal behavior (I and others include humans in this) I strive to keep an appropriate distinction between the behaviors of non-human animals and human animals. The easy trap for many is anthropomorphizing – projecting human intentions on non-human behavior. But it is also easily possible to identify commonalities if one looks at fundamental levels and the context within which they manifest.

For example, I’ve long thought that salient markers of intelligence are the ability and willingness to play and a pronounced sense of humor. We could well add ability to interact cooperatively with other species. The attack dogs I mentioned earlier were never given a chance to truly play. We took them out of their kennels for training with tight, strong muzzles and ran them through repetitive drills which may have appeared playful in the first parts but quickly turned to bruising scrambles over 9 foot high barriers and fighting with a helmeted, face-masked man in a heavily padded attack suit. Worst of all was the fact this was done during the heat of the day, year-round, on the edge of the Sahara Desert. To say I didn’t see much in the way of intelligent life among the handlers is an understatement. But then, it was a rough time in a rough place.

Of course, I broke the rules. I smuggled cans of dog food to him and, when supplies were dropped to us I gave him all I could spare – of what was good for him. All but one of our patrol areas were solitary assignments; we had just each other. So, I took him off leash, told him to Stay, went and hid and then whistled for him. He found me every time, and got lots of hugs and praise. Those were the few times I saw his tail wag. It benefited both of us.

We’ve all seen videos of dogs soliciting help for injured canine companions. I have directly had that sad experience. But what about other species?

A few years ago I was standing quietly on my deck watching the birds come to the feeders and wait their turn. Since I also put seed in a tray for the bigger, ground feeders I routinely had as many as ten doves walking about only a few feet from me. But this afternoon a pair of doves landed on the railing near me. One dove sat perfectly still while the other alternately nudged (her? Him?) and looked at me. Something wasn’t right. I slowly went into the house, got a saucer of water, and returned slowly to the deck. As I slowly approached, the active dove stepped a few inches to one side but kept looking from me to the mate. I actually walked up to the mate and put the water in front of it, watched all the while by the other one.

No water was touched while I watched from either the deck or inside the house. After a while they were both gone. But I’ve long wondered what the problem was.

Again on the deck, I was watching squirrels scurrying about in the small woods out back when I heard something nearby. My yard is part of what long ago was a farm and the ground is still terraced as it slopes toward my house. On the side of a nearby slope a yearling female squirrel was rolling around in the fallen leaves. I thought she was hurt or ill. But then she gathered herself into a tuck and rolled heels over head for another descent down the slope. All by herself she was having fun. I’ve seen videos of crows and ravens body skiing down snow covered slopes then going up for another run. But I had never seen a squirrel do this. Maybe I could join her.

The point of all these examples, and the many more each of us could cite, is that there are wonders around us seven days (and nights) a week. Some people are more surprised than others, not being habitually observant or, as we find so many of us in America and throughout the world today, absorbed, shocked, and withdrawn as the United States circles the drain leading to a sewer of extreme oligarch driven de-regulation, greed, dishonesty, economic disparity, subjugation of women’s reproductive choices, and wanton destruction of the planet. A long term survey compiled from several international sources has documented a worldwide drop in wildlife from 1970 to 2010 of a minimum of 60%. As anyone with an I.Q. even approaching any of the species mentioned above knows, the policies under our current regime, even after it is deposed, will project their momentum far into the future, degrading our planet, causing massive displacement of human and non-human populations alike, and leaving a wasteland habitable only for those who would quickly and amorally take lethal action against others in order to survive.

I know some people who refuse to follow the news or read significant books, saying “politics are not my thing. They disturb my peace.” I continue to announce “Breaking News” nonetheless simply because very soon there will be no distraction powerful enough to return a sense of peace to those who did not speak up in time.

At the same time, having lived through protracted periods of life threatening stress, I firmly recognize the value of mental balance, the occasional respite. I suggest to those who are feeling the now very rational stirrings of true dread that they take a moment to look around, to see with new eyes, the “daily strange” around them. It can be far more effective than a fleeting You Tube video. And it can even give new support as one turns back again to participate in the daily struggle to stop the ongoing damage and to try to undo some of its effects. A timeworn saying is, “Stop and smell the flowers.” We might want to take heed. The suicidal overuse of “pesticides” is causing our pollinator species to plummet in numbers below critical levels.  We could modify an old military saying about cigarettes, “Smell ’em if you got ’em.”  

How about you, Dear Reader? What Daily Strange have you encountered today?

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18 Comments
  1. Michael E. Stamm permalink

    Excellent, as always. I need to get out more to see and be involved with what’s left of the natural world ’round here–since I’m just downhill from a largish city park, and we have a fair amount of wildlife in the area (particularly deer and wild turkeys), there’s a fair amount to see. As for our involvement with other species, well, I’ve probably mentioned before my nightmare vision of what will happen to humanity if there is an afterlife, considering how we’ve treated the other inhabitants of our home world…and we’re not going to like it at all. Thanks for writing this.

    Like

    • Thank you, Mike. I hope you do go to the park. Quite possibly the deer are used to humans and will allow you to see some interesting behaviors. I don’t know much about wild turkeys.

      Yes, looking at the dozens of sites concerning mistreatment of non-human animals makes me deeply sick at heart. Signing petitions, etc seems like trying to throw the ocean back with a bucket. But I keep trying. Let us know what you experience.

      Like

  2. Julie permalink

    I never really liked dogs very much, due to some bad experiences as a child and also allergy problems. Then one day after hearing several colleagues talk about their love for their dogs repeatedly, and hearing about the new allergy friendly breeds, I was inspired to get a labradoodle. One of the best decisions I’ve ever made! The amount of love, learning and joy Sally brought into our home from that moment on was phenomenal, my whole family became connected in a way we never had before – especially with my children entering the teenage years at that time. I never would have predicted the positive effect she has had, so much so we got another one. The two of them work so well together, thd most gentle, kind and loyal dogs.
    As for your comment about “don’t disturb my peace”, I have to admit I’m one of those people, although I often feel guilty about not being more proactive, I also have the feeling that the increasing population of humans on this planet is having a huge impact on the planet generally with waste, resources etc. Thanks for another great entry Marco 🤗

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    • Thank you, Julie. I can understand your early reticence about dogs and am so glad you found ways around that. There is so much to learn from broadening our engagements while on this planet.

      And, I understand your desire for a peaceful life. But as you point out, conditions are rapidly changing for the worse and we are the ones with the most effective voices.

      Like

  3. When I read of your time in Africa, I am transported back to our early conversations, some 40 years ago. While I am sure there was a lot you didn’t (or couldn’t) tell me, it was the beginning of me understanding who you were. All these years later, you continue to impress me with your intelligence and compassion.

    As for intelligence in non-human animals, you will certainly get no arguments from me. My dog George and I have had each other for nearly five years already, and I can’t imagine my life without him. He’s the smartest puppy I’ve ever known; although he doesn’t “play”, he interacts well with our older dog, and communicates better than any non-human I’ve ever known. Shadow has watched him “talking” with his humans, and now copies his behaviors. I’ll admit it’s fairly basic, but if he can’t seem to get his point across with my husband, he will look as me as if to say, “will you tell him?”

    Sometimes, when we take our walks, we watch the other animals interacting with others of their own species. It’s a lot of fun watching squirrels chasing each other up and down the trees, and the birds seem to be aware of our presence in their world. More than once, I have seen a single bird block traffic so that the others can pass.

    Until this latest fiasco of an election, I admit that I had little interest in politics. This is no longer an intelligent or safe position to take. You can’t fix it if you are unaware it’s broken, and, man, are things ever broken. I just read that it will take hundreds of years for the Joshua trees to recover from damage done to them during the shutdown. I question whether society will ever recover from the losses we have sustained during the current regime. It’s not okay to normalize the prejudice and hateful behaviors by saying they have always been there. Sixty years of social progress have been destroyed in the past two years, and goodness only knows how long it will take to heal the wounds caused to humanity.

    Like

    • Thank you, Rose. I do enjoy recalling my interactions with other species. Humans, not so much. I agree that Shadow and George belong together. I’ve always held that a single member of a species kept alone (even with humans) experiences a kind of insanity.

      Watch a murder of crows as they settle for feeding. They will post a sentinel who will keep a watch on you and report your movements to the others. I always talk back to the sentinel and sometimes he looks a bit startled that I’m in on the game.

      Your courage and your deeply intelligent insights drive your WordPress web site. I often think you accomplish far more than those of us who sign petitions all day.

      Like

      • Would that were true; while I know I am here to help others, I long ago abandoned the delusion that my mark on this world would be a deep one. Once D3 is finished, perhaps I will try thinking again. Maybe I can even live up to your opinion of me. Rose

        Like

  4. foodfaerie | A topnotch WordPress.com site

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  5. The site posted above is Rose’s website. I very highly recommend it to all readers. Marco

    Like

  6. You consistently exceed expectations. I only wish your work would gain greater currency.

    Like

  7. Dana permalink

    This is a wonderful post, Marco. I really enjoy hearing stories related to your life, and when they include non-human animals, even better.

    As you know, I go through my “no news/no politics” periods. I have to at times, in order to keep my stress level in check.

    I never want to grow complacent, however. The countless stories and petitions filling my email inbox won’t permit that.

    This piece made me think of Billie’s terrific sense of humor – what a mind!

    Like

    • Thank you, Dana. I know you miss Billie terribly, and I hope you can find him in the “strange” all around you daily. I felt I knew him even though I had only our conversations and the pictures you took of him.

      We must not grow complacent. That is exactly what this regime wants.

      Like

  8. jkent33 permalink

    Marco, I truly enjoyed this particular post. I love all creatures never having trouble making friends by not showing anything but trust and love. My creature pals run a large gambit from rats to cats to dogs to birds to horses and so forth. I love to discover each day how easy it is to develop a trust in wild creatures.

    My daily strange encounters involve mostly politics and the growing division among people. The feelings are over the top with constant finger pointing with strong violent vitriol on both sides. It was either better hidden or it now takes traction with the followers of Trump spewing hate and threats. I’m a great user of Face Book nearing 1000 friends whose politics match mine. Its a study in how people react to the practice of lying and the spreading of outright falsehoods in the news. It does surprise me when people of all ages are revolting against the current info coming out of the WH sparing no words to describe their lack of trust. I exist believing this will all go away soon and things may go back to treating each other with more respect. We all have discussed the changes since 2015 with similar hopes this will pass. Sometimes, I look in the mirror to learn if my face is getting blue from holding my breath in waiting for stronger signs of positive change…

    Please continue to share your blog because it makes me feel more normal

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    • Thank you, Jerry. Especially now, in the bitter cold you have been experiencing, building trust with all manner of life is vitally important. Sadly, I do not see a return to a more trusting and comfortable climate, social or ecological, as the momentum from this horrendous regime carries on even long after they are gone. But you and I keep trying, and that’s important far beyond just us.

      Like

      • jkent33 permalink

        Its easy to simply back and watch as the trains of life leave the station and return with the same disgusting thoughts on board. I find comfort sharing it with you and others of our ilk. That satisfaction, as small as it appears, feeds my desire to keep pushing back. Furthermore, by pulling along the creatures without voices keeps me grounded in reality. Soon I will be giving in to my desire to carve out a spot in my heart to have a furry coated companion. Yesterday, I met with my chiro doctor and friend to help with issues in my neck and painful stiff shoulders. He got his son a Gorky for a holiday gift. She was so friendly seeking attention standing with paws on my knees. I’ve always had a spot for them!

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  9. From Ray: Marco – that was a beautiful article. Are you really Dr Dolittle? I have a number of rabbits which hang around the house, hoping to be safe from the hungry coyotes all around. There are becoming more friendly every day and I suspect it has to do with familiarity – seeing me and knowing i won’t put them in a pie…. but then rabbits tend to be pretty gullible so who knows.

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  10. Thank you, Ray. I met Rex Harrison in 1965 and had some great conversations. He was a brilliant man and his real life character was not far from Dr. Doolittle. Glad to read about your rabbits. Around here I worry about the pesticides so commonly used on just about every yard. I’ve let my back yard “go natural” as much as possible. I’ve read that rabbits never go far from where they were born.

    Like

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