Why rescue from abroad?

Angus our Cyprus rescue

I love it when people ask me why we have two rescue dogs from Cyprus, when there are lots of UK dogs that need rescuing. We do also have a local rescue that nobody else could manage and would have been put to sleep, but I don’t disclose that initially. I always ask why not? Let them tell me why they think I shouldn’t, this is always an interesting part me. I could of course tell them to bugger off and ignore them, but I like to listen to their reasoning which often revolves around the old adage charity begins at home. Rescuing a dog is a huge responsibility and those that do rescue are very special people. People who are often left with to pick up the pieces of the pain, suffering and misery that fellow people have caused. The lifeboat ethical and moral theory is a great way to consider this question. Your in a lifeboat and have room for ten more more people, but there are many people in the water. Do you rescue only those close to you? How would you decide who is rescued? Do those farthest away have less of a desire or right to live, than those close to us?

Positive social cohesion within a group of domesticated dogs.

Support the hierarchal leader

This is a basic technique to support the hierarchical structure within my group of dogs. There is a lot of social dominance within my group as with any group of dogs and its true that in many cases possession does count. But how, do we know who is the leader of this group? Anton the largest dog in this video is by far the strongest of our four dogs and does not generally get involved in squabbles that the others do, but strength alone does not make a good leader. Anton and Ralph the Cocker Spaniel, another one of our rescue boys have a kind of love and hate relationship. Ralph is very vocal and extremely sensitive to environmental changes. Despite Anton’s vastly superior strength advantage Ralph will often confront Anton barking in what appears to be a highly confrontational manner. Despite Ralphs behaviour towards Anton, Anton has on the majority of occasions turned away from Ralph and diffused the situation. So, what makes Anton stand out as a good leader of our group, and why do I support him? Anton has on only two occasions reprimanded Ralph severely by getting him onto his back and mouthing him around the neck, but has never caused any injury. Anton could quite easily kill Ralph in these confrontations but he chooses not to. Anton is extremely tolerant and it really does take a lot of provocation to elicit this behaviour, so why does he show such restraint. Sadly, despite a plethora of evidence there are still many people who think that rolling dogs onto their backs, being the strongest or just plain aggressive and despotic are the signs of a good leader. In human history there are many examples of despotic leaders who seem to get to much attention. Ask anybody for the name of a despotic leader and we would think Hitler, Stalin, Idi Amin, Mugabe, whenever I turn on the television there is a documentary on Adolf Hitler. But what of those good leaders that did not lead through fear and suppression, Mandela, Martin Luther King, Gandhi? I can’t remember the last time I saw a documentary of any of these on television.

Does Anton believe that Ralph is better off alive than dead? Does Ralph bring something to the group that Anton recognises that is important to it’s cohesion? Anton could easily lead the group through fear but chooses not to, this is the sign of a great leader. Does Anton recognise that Ralph is struggling with his social cohesion skills? Recognising the strengths and weaknesses of the group, showing restraint and compassion, empathy, calm, assertive and understanding are all qualities that Anton displays and why I recognise and support him as the leader of our little group. I believe that this displays a theory of mind, Anton understands that Ralph is not seriously threatening his position within the group and that by showing restraint, compassion and empathy the other dogs within the group are more likely to work with him. Is this a link back to Antons ancestral past? If a group of wild dogs or wolves split, with one group led by fear and the other by cooperation, empathy and understanding, who would prosper? Successful hunting, breeding and longevity need a cooperative leadership style not a fearful one. Some of you may think, surely I should be the leader of the group? I’m not a dog and no matter how proficient my canine communication skills I can never be a dog. What skills do I have that my dogs need to ensure the cohesiveness of it? Quite frankly non, and me rolling around on the floor pretending to be a dog must be hilarious and somewhat confusing to them.

Emotional crisis within society

Over the last twelve months my work has diversified greatly and besides my canine behaviour and psychology work, I also work with students in local schools and colleagues who have a wide range of emotional and social behaviours that require support and development. To help me with my work I use two of my dogs Angus a three year old male rescue German Wirehaired Pointer from Cyprus and Chester an eight month old English Springer Spaniel. My work is extremely rewarding however, the extent of the emotional crisis that I see amongst young children is truly worrying. I remember my childhood and although we had little money I really cannot recall having the same emotional burden that many of the young students I work with have. I remember flared trousers, long hair, carefree days getting dirty and playing out in the warm sunshine. Society has changed so much since I was a child, with advancements in science and medicine being two of the most obvious. Whilst we enjoy all of the trappings of a technologically reliant society have we lost touch with our emotions, does modern society deem them superfluous? We seem to have lost touch with our emotions and how important they are to our health and wellbeing. I ask my students “How do we have such a strong relationship with dogs if we don’t share a common language?” We share our emotions with dogs and our emotions allow us to communicate and build such a strong bond, our emotions bind us together. Over the last week we have worked with students who were in a spiral of deep emotional crisis who have been unresponsive to human intervention. I have been able to reach out and connect with them through Angus and Chester. Had I been in that situation without Angus or Chester with me then like the other caring staff that were trying to help I am in no doubt that like them I would not have succeeded in engaging with these students. Students respond very well to our intervention methods with Angus and Chester and feel that they are able to talk to me through Angus and Chester about their worries. A colleague of mine observed that Angus and Chester act as a kind of emotional regulator for the students and this works both ways, when we take the time to sit down and cuddle our dogs. It’s a symbiotic relationship that regulates yours and your dog’s emotions, but imagine if you didn’t have the opportunity to regulate your emotions. Mental health awareness is as important to our overall health and wellbeing as physical health, and one which we should be on the curriculum in schools. We have created the society that we live in but, with all of it’s riches and trappings comes a price, have we have lost touch with our emotions?

Emotions are more powerful than words

Breeding matters

“In dog’s, we’ve bred the people we wish we could be”(Carl Safina). I love this quote from Carl Safina and it really makes me consider how our relationship with dog’s has evolved. Loyalty, protectiveness, sensitivity, affectionate, helpful to others, non-aggressive and intelligence are some of the more common traits we like to see in our dog’s. Deep down of course we all have these capacities but yet uniquely to human animals we still wage war, people are dying of starvation and in many cases humans take more than they need, exhausting the earth of its natural resources. Do we breed dog’s unintentionally to remind us of who we once were? To keep us in touch with reality and show us how we can all living and working peacefully together, taking only what we need.