Amazing Intelligence in Animals—Tom, the Virginia’ Vet Association’s pet

 

Intelligence will never stop being beautiful

I first published this short article in the Temple City Star on 18th of January, 2018

Dogs aren’t the only animals that serve men in the military. Cats, also, play a role. Tom—yes, that’s what the vets have named him, “… is a tomcat that’s established himself as the facility’s feline therapist” in the Salem, Virginia’s Veterans Association Medical Center.

“[Tom] arrived after some hospital staff read a book called “Making Rounds with Oscar”, by Dr. David Dosa, a physician who treated patients with medicine and with his therapy cat, Oscar. They (Salem VA hospital) knew they needed a cat just like Oscar, so they adopted Tom.” Writes I-lovecats.com.

Because some visitors aren’t exactly friendly to cats, the hospital has a “No Pet” zone, but Tom doesn’t mind. He makes friends easily, so more and more non-cat lovers are relenting and starting to pet him and bring him treats. There are some heartwarming tales written about the many ways Tom has helped long-term veterans deal with life, and Sharon Herndon, whose late father was a vet in this hospital, even wrote a book about him, titled, “Tom the Angel Cat.” She wrote, “Tom is the final salute to a job well done. He’s serving our country’s heroes by acting as one himself.”

Isn’t it nice when we treat animals as companions in our world we live in, rather than  treating them as a nuisance.

“Intelligence is the ability of a species to live in harmony with its environment.” — Paul Watson

A Sunday Chat with Myself—25 February, 2018

“The Greatest Problem in the world today is intolerance. Everyone is so intolerant of each other.” — Princess Diana

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In Stony Plain Alberta, a shop owner that makes wooden signs and things had a brilliant idea. In an effort to promote reading in the community the owner decided to create a small weatherproof, but easily accessible box, containing books that are free to anyone who wished to take one—or exchange it with one of their own from her “Little Library.”

The project worked great for about 3 years, then a neighbor complained to the city about the Little Library, demanding that this “offencive??” item be removed! The push was on. Should the owner of the Little Library resist the crabby, short-sighted grumblings of the complainant, or should she just shrug indifferently and concede—give in—remove the Little Library—and move on with life? After all, it didn’t seem really all that important to warrant any kind of altercation—or was it a very important issue?

At first blush, all this seems so insignificant. For the newsmedia, nothing newsworthy here; just another minor happening, not worth sharing with the busy minds of Alberta, especially when there are more interesting, dramatic, hate and fear-promoting negative stuff out there to feed the public mind—like the latest  shooting in the Florida school that killed 17 students; or, we can take a pick from the almost 1.9 million police-reported Criminal Code incidents (excluding traffic) reported by police in 2015—an approximate increase of 70,000 over crime in  2014. Ask any news anchor worthy of their advertising customers, those are newsworthy items—but in reality, I feel that the Stony Plain incident is more important than the most of the dramatic “dis-information” appearing on the evening news.

Intolerance: unwillingness or refusal to respect other opinions or beliefs

Intolerance. A small, seemingly harmless action, like, I remember the time when I was shopping in Lethbridge at one of the stripmall markets and needed to use their washroom. Unfortunately, the washroom wasn’t functional at the time. Some bored person with mscief on his mind had taken a bunch of paper towels and completely blocked the toilet with them. Then flushed the toilet, allowing the water from the tank, mixed with his excrement, to overflow and make a mess all over the floor. Yes, I was inconvenienced and somewhat irritated that  I couldn’t use their washroom and had to, instead, leave the store and go across the street to the Costco store and use their washroom. On the way over to Costco, I couldn’t help but think, why? Why would a person do such a thing?  Did he have an anti-social problem, or was he seeking revenge against the store for a perceived or real grievance he had with the store, and this was the best way that he could get even?

But, what really bothered me was thinking of that poor store clerk who now had to take time out of his busy schedule and go into that stinky washroom and clean up that disgusting mess so that it was respectable again for future customer.

If I may take a moment to address the perpetrator that blocked that toilet, I’d like to assure you that, no, it was not funny nor was it a joke! It was not a ‘small’ act: it was a very big, inconsiderate and mean act, and if you wanted revenge against the store, I doubt that management was even made aware of your meaningless act!

“Tolerance of intolerance is cowardice.” 
― Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Another intolerant act that really annoys me is when I pull into a parking lot and see some vehicle straddling two stalls, meaning I have to go farther down the line to find an open spot. What causes people to be so inconsiderate of others? Psychology Wiki tells me, “Selfishness [intolerant] is usually associated with a deliberate act. For example, a selfish person deliberately focuses on their own agenda, rather than that of others.” I think that certainly would apply to the person that blocked the shopping mall toilet: he was thinking of pacifying his own feelings—whatever they might have been—with no thought of the inconvenience he was causing others.

Psychology Wiki goes on to say, ‘The act of being selfish can also be unconscious or accidental.” This particular idea can easily apply to the person that parked his vehicle to straddle two parking stalls. Maybe s/he had a deeply troubled mind at the time—keeping an appointment with a divorce lawyer or some similar high-tense meeting. I could easily forgive the person in such a case. But, since I’ll never know why s/he decided to take two parking spaces, I’ll never really know the reason: was he preoccupied with troubled thoughts, or didn’t he just give a damn?

Hate, ignorance and intolerance is what killed the Jews during the Nazi era, not their targeted, mis-informed delusions imposed by a political regime of seeming righteousness

Intolerance is a complex social issue, both for individuals and groups in general. Throughout history, intolerance certainly has been a troubling issue that has plagued mankind since—well, since man learned to be intolerant! There is a time to take a stand against intolerance, and there’s a time—usually in individual cases—when it’s wisest to talk to the person and try to find out why they are so troubled and angry. I wish the Little Library in Stony Plain the very best, and may your issue soon be resolved. Above all, don’t leave the issue in limbo. Reading—the act of gaining knowledge and improving humanity’s intelligence—is not a small matter: it’s a big issue!

“Ignorance and prejudice are the handmaidens of propaganda. Our mission, therefore, is to confront ignorance with knowledge, bigotry with tolerance, and isolation with the outstretched hand of generosity. ― Kofi Annan

 

Amazing Intelligence in Animals—Cleo the Cat

 

Cat reunites with nursing home elderly

This story was first published in the Cardston Temple City Star on 30th November, 2017

 

Cleo, the cat, certainly proved that he was not your average adoptee, and that he loved his owner, Nancy Cowen, more than anything else in his life.

Nancy and Cleo were the best of friends for eight years, but Nancy’s health started failing, so she was forced to move into the Bramley House nursing home in Westcott, Dorking, in the UK. Unfortunately, the nursing home—at the time! —had a no pet rule, so Cleo was reluctantly adopted out to the neighbors. But Cleo had other plans. He missed Nancy, and he was going to have no part of that separation! Two weeks after Nancy moved, that furry fella showed up on the Bramley House doorstep. At first, no one payed attention to the cat. Thinking it was just another stray, they just fed it while it spent its nights under the benches placed around the home for its residents to enjoy.

Then, Nancy’s sister came by to visit and spotted Cleo.  Long story short, arrangements were made with the nursing home to allow Nancy and Cleo to be happily united again.

The puzzling question is, how did Cleo know where Nancy had moved to? Do the bonds of love extend beyond material boundaries?

Amazing Intelligence in Animals — Elephants

“We admire elephants in part because they demonstrate what we consider the finest human traits: empathy, self-awareness, and social intelligence. But the way we treat them puts on display the very worst of human behavior.”  — Graydon Carter

You’ve heard that elephants have a great memory. Well, that’s not all they have. Elephant’s are considered the world’s most intelligent animal, and are similar to a human’s brains in many ways.

According to an article in Wikipedia, Elephants manifest a wide variety of behaviors, including those associated with grief, learning, mimicry play, altruism, use of tools, compassion, cooperation, self-awareness, (and, of course) memory and communication.”

An elephant’s cortex also has as many neurons as the human brain suggesting convergent evolution. That is, “the independent evolution of similar features in species of different lineages.” They also possess strong family ties, possessing one of the most closely-knit societies of any species, and display grief at the passing of a family member. According to many researchers in this field, it is morally wrong for humans to cull them!

“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” 
― Mahatma Gandhi

There is one ability elephants don’t have that we humans have: the ability to make war against neighboring elephant families and other animal specifies! – Sorry, I just had to get that dig in.

One of my favorite thoughts is, “If god created it, love it!” (and God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. Genesis 1:31)

A Sunday Chat with Myself — 11 February, 2018

“No idleness, no laziness, no procrastination; never put off until tomorrow what you can do today” — Lord Chesterfield

Life can have its boring moments if I don’t keep busy, but, to me, that raises  a question: is the idea of boredom a penalty for idleness, controlled by societal forces that have instilled in me the idea that I must always be busy? As the proverb says, “Idleness is the root of all evil.” Therefore, can I assume that idleness I sin, as many of our preachers try to convince us? .” We’re taught that “idle hands create mischief for the devil.” There are a whole bunch more sayings like this so, to me, it’s obvious, society has a serious concern that we citizens don’t fall into idleness, and furthermore, what is boredom? Is one the consequence of the other?

I have noticed mild forms of boredom in higher forms of animals, but not as intense as in humans. For example, my cat can lay on its soft blanket by the window all day long, stirring only when it’s hungry or needs the litter box, and not get bored at all. Life seems peaceful for my cat, but when I get bored, I become restless, and life is anything but peaceful! My mind, my fingers, are itching for something to do!

I also see yogas sitting cross-legged for hours on their mats and not be bored.  The only conclusion that I can come to that my boredom is conditioned; purely a state of mind. Boredom does not necessarily have to be a product of idleness.

In an article that I recently read by Jessica Leber, she claims that there are five types of boredom. I was especially interested in her first three categories of boredom. The first is Indifference. If I understand her correctly, indifference is when I watch the entire evening news hour while eating my sandwich, and come away feeling unmoved by all the negative events that took place in the world this day. In a sense, my mind was idle, but I wasn’t bored: my passive mind was being entertained to a point of indifference.

The next is calibrating. Calibrating is an unpleasant situation one might find himself in,”characterized by wandering thoughts unrelated to the present situation.” It’s like in my youthful days when I still went to school. The scene: an algebra lesson. My teacher would drone on in his monotone voice something about “a” plus “b” minus “c” equals”d” (unpleasant situation) while my mind was dreamily gazing out the window, preoccupied by imagining animal forms in the fluffy summer clouds above.

The third type of boredom Jessica Leber defines as Searching. Searching is like a “person might do to ease the discomfort of a situation one find himself in.” like, I remember once when I was still in the military standing guard in front of our Captain’s office where he was conducting an important training meeting. To relieve my boredom, I counted, then recounted, every one of the hundred plus (I forget the exact amount) of ceiling tiles that ran the entire length of the corridor! I was searching for something better to do, but military discipline demanded that my mind stay in the present moment of being ‘on  guard.’

Boredom: God’s way of telling me that what I’m doing is not interesting. I should occupy my mind with interesting, constructive “stuff.” 

During that military time I was condition not to think: just obey, that all my thinking will be done for me. “Hurry up and wait” was another common military conditioning, while not trying to be bored in the process–not having interesting, personal thoughts–was all part of that routine.

But all that was in the past; they were my life’s experiences. So, is that it? is idleness that causes boredom given to us as a gift that we inherit along with birthright, so that we’re guaranteed to move forward and have experiences?

The yogas have an interesting practice that addresses idleness. It’s sort of a yoga conundrum!  They ask you to try and make your mind blank and still so that you have no thought in in at all. It can’t be done, because, even if you should accomplish that impossible feat of not thinking, the very act of forcing your mind not to think, is a thought! Plainly stated, my God did not create me to have an idle mind, and boredom is the ‘kick in the pants’ for me to find something to do.

For all creation, thinking is mandatory! Contrary to the hum-drum experiences in the military, or what I didn’t learn in school, life forces one to think!

But, I do have a choice: I can fritter away my time in daydreaming, or tightly center my thoughts on a specific topic or action and accomplish something that I’m desirous of doing. Act positive, as work ethicist’s might call it.

Which raises another interesting thought. Many companies have a special department, usually headed by their CEO, called a “Think Tank.” The purpose of the Think Tank is to come up with new or innovative ideas that the company can use in giving it an edge over its competitors. I’ve known people who had pleasure and honor of being part of a company’s Think Tank and one thing that’s decidedly absent during a session is concentrated thinking! Everyone seems just idly doodling and exploring all the possible “what-ifs” centered around the problem/topic of the day. It seems that our subconscious mind works best when our objective, conscious mind stays out of its way, and great ideas—solutions to vexing problems—often pop up seemingly out of nowhere when the mind is idle.

In conclusion, both an idle mind and an active mind are special attributes that we inherited  from our Creator. It is wise for me to know the difference of when to be idle, and when to be active!

“Focus on being productive, not busy.” — Tim Ferris

 

 

Amazing Intelligence in Animals—The Crafty Crow

Crows are smarter than you think!

This story first appeared on the 27th of July, 2017, in a column that I write for the Temple City Star.

Most everyone that I’ve talked to can tell me at least one story of how smart dogs are and the intelligence that they display. But, do you know that birds are also very intelligent, especially the crow?

Crows are crafty little critters, ask anyone who’s tried to catch one or shoo it away from a fruit tree. A crow’s brain is about the size of a human thumb, putting it on relative par with primates. A PBS series “Nature” showed an experiment where a crow figured out how to use a small stick to retrieve a larger stick, then use that larger stick to get at some food that had been placed out of its reach. Crows can also recognize individual people that are important to its survival, and can distinguish between who’s a danger or a friend to them.

Crows are born with tool-making abilities, and hone that ability by watching their elders, a sign of higher intelligence.

(name withheld) of Seattle, Washington, has reported that her backyard crows have left over 70 trinkets in her bird feeder, including ear rings, a heart and “best friend” charm, all with an enticing reminder to “keep the food coming, lady!”

A Sunday Chat with Myself – 4 February, 2018

“There went out a sower to sow … some [seeds] fell by the way side … some fell on stony ground … some fell among thorns … some fell on good ground” — King James Bible, Mark chapter 4, verses 3-8.

Jesus’ parable of the sower was front and center in my thoughts this morning, so I thought I’d use it as the topic in my today’s musings. Probably what helped elevate that thought to front and center was that,  at present, our family is having the pleasure of having two Mormon Sister Missionaries visit with us. Over these several weeks we’ve discussed many life-topics, most recent, Jesus’, parable, “The Sower.”

Although Missionaries of all faiths claim that they, through their missionary ventures, are sowing the “seeds” of the Gospel–Jesus, the Christ’s teachings–it may appear to them, and I’m sure to many others–that this Parable of the Sower can only be used as a religious lesson, and in a religious content.

To the contrary, I feel that the Parable of the Sower is not just a religious creation, but applies to all of us, regardless of our beliefs, every day and in real life and in real time. Jesus wasn’t just talking to ‘religious’ people, or ‘Christians,’ but to the public in general, and as an example to all of us on how we can live a happier life.

For example, I may have gotten up this morning feeling rather grouchy: feeling that the world owes me a better life. In the meantime, as I mumble and grumble through getting dressed and make breakfast, burning my toast in the process, which only added to my feeling miserable, my friend comes calling, and in a cheerful mood, invites me to join him on a walk through the park. He even brought enough popcorn for both of us to feed the pigeons!

“Not today!” I grump irritably at him. “I feel shitty! My leg hurts! My boss made me work overtime last night, and never even offered to pay me double time for all that work. The world’s just so damn unfair–” I look around and find that, while ranting, my friend had quietly excited, to go for a walk in the park by himself!

My negative interaction with my friend’s cheerfulness made me a Sower, and I just sowed some negative seeds! On what kind of ground did they fall onto? Stony ground that made my friend immediately leave, snuffing out his good humor and make him as grouchy as I was? I may not have done permanent damage to our friendship–at least I hope I didn’t– but I easily could have ruined his day.

“I’d like to be remembered as the Sower of Good Seeds. That’s the greatest parable in the Bible, as far as I’m concerned.” — Pete Seeger

As a positive example, suppose another friend came to me feeling quite downcast. He had just lost his job, and he was afraid to go home and tell his wife, who was already juggling the books to make ends meet.

“This would only make her feel worse!” he moaned.  The rent is due next week, and the car needed some minor repair. “I think I’ll just kill myself and, at least, my wife can collect on my life insurance!”

I have two choices. I can tell my friend, ” Don’t be stupid! Suicide isn’t the answer! That’s life! Suck it up and just try harder,” or I can empathise with his worry. Maybe my own finances aren’t in better shape than his, so I can’t offer him a loan, but I can give him some positive encouragement–moral support– some positive choices: strengthen his desire to keep on trying: to keep on living, to see that often, when one door closes, a better one opens. I just have to help him find that ‘better door.’

I found that the world really can be a beautiful, fun-filled place, and  most of it depends on my own attitude towards life, and how compassionate and desirous I am towards helping others with their struggles and to feel as happy as I am. Develop an “Attitude for Gratitude” and pass that feeling of gratitude on to my neighbor, that’s my philosophy!

“The sower soweth the word.” — Mark 4 verse 14

“And these are they which are sown on good ground; such as hear the word, and receive it, and bring forth fruit, some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some an hundred.” — Mark 4-20