Tag Archives: Essay

Why Dogs Rock

The Dog/Human Connection

I was on Facebook the other day when I got one of those postings pointing out that ‘dog’ spelled backwards is ‘god’. As always, I smiled and wondered where people come up with that kind of stuff, but it got me thinking.

Most dog owners love their dogs, think of them as family members, and mourn them when they die. I did some research, found some interesting info, and decided to use it for my post on the Write Room Blog.

Dogs and Protection

A dog’s mantra is to protect and serve, and some dogs will risk death to save their owners from danger, even little pet dogs. This inherent desire has been put to good use for law enforcement purposes. German Shepherds, Belgian Malinois, Dobermann Pischers and other breeds that exhibit fearless and potentially aggressive natures are used as canine police officers, trained to attack and apprehend criminals and back up their handlers. Military dogs perform a wealth of different functions including scouting, detecting land mines, detecting explosives, and more, and dog handlers develop a very special bond with their charges. The US military has its own breeding program, and the Department of Defense Military Working Dog School asks regular civilians to foster puppies aged from 6 weeks to 7 months for five months to socialize them. Here’s a link to a program in Texas.  http://www.37trw.af.mil/shared/media/document/AFD-120611-022.pdf


Dogs and Rescue Operations

Dogs are far superior to humans when it comes to search and rescue, and it has been said that one dog can do the job of 30 humans in search and rescue operations. When we think tracking, Bloodhounds are the breed that automatically come to mind, because they are equipped to do the job more effectively.  Their long ears and the folds around their faces are designed to trap and hold onto scents. Specialized tracker dogs are not limited to Bloodhounds, though. All breeds of dogs, including mongrels or mutts have a superior sense of smell when compared with humans, and are often employed to sniff for people who may be trapped under rubble, snow or mud after natural disasters and terror attacks. Cadaver dogs are used to find dead bodies, thereby helping their loved ones to find closure.

Specialized breeds like Newfoundlands are often used for water rescues because of their strength and swimming skills, aided by webbed feet. We’ve probably all heard of St. Bernards and how they were used for centuries by monks in the Alps to find people lost in the snow. The work was hazardous and so many of these dogs died that the breed came close to extinction. Thankfully a breeding program saved them, but they are no longer used for rescues.


Dogs can be trained to sniff just about anything, and they may be used to detect drugs, bombs, stolen money, or murder weapons.

This post would not be complete if I didn’t mention the wonderful canines who assisted in finding people after the 9/11 attack in New York. Said to be more than 900 in total numbers, and made up of different breeds, they came from all over the country and worked for anything from 12 to 16 hours at a time in chaotic, dusty, smoky and acrid conditions for around 10 days. Sadly, most of them have passed away now, but they will always be remembered as true heroes.


Dogs and Human Health

Humans with physical disabilities rely on dogs to help them with their everyday tasks. Guide dogs empower the blind and hearing-impaired, and dogs can be trained to check if their owners are going into a diabetic coma or an epileptic seizure, sometimes waking them up every hour through the night. If the dog detects a problem, it is trained to press a button that calls for help.

Therapy dogs have been called ‘professional comforters with fur.’ They are taken to hospitals to visit and interact with sick adults and children, who often show marked improvement in their health just from cuddling a dog and feeling their warm, wriggly bodies and their slobbery doggie ‘kisses.’

Autistic children and mentally challenged children and adults, and soldiers with PTSD gain comfort and healing from interacting with dogs. Dogs are used in prisons as therapy and rehabilitation for prisoners, who take care of them and train them, thus learning responsibility and self-esteem.

This is a link to a true story about an autistic boy and his shelter dog—a case of the rescued dog rescues the human, which happens more often than you might imagine. http://www.today.com/pets/shelter-dog-helps-boy-autism-hug-his-mom-first-time-t17686

Some exceptional dogs have displayed an ability to sniff out cancer. This is now being expounded upon, and dogs are being trained in the early detection of cancer using samples of peoples’ breath saved in a test tube, and displaying an unprecedented  98% success rate. This research has exciting and far reaching possibilities. Dogs are being used to aid in mammograms that are hard to read because of dense breast tissue, and to provide a simple (not to mention painless) screening method of cancer detection. (Ref: InSitu Foundation www.dogsdetectcancer.org )


Dogs and Herding

Collies and shepherd dogs of all kinds have an instinctual herding instinct and have been used by shepherds for hundreds of years. Herding dogs can also be quite fierce and protect the animals in their charge against predators. The Great Pyrenees are big, strong dogs that fit into that category. Corgis, Queen Elizabeth’s favorite breed, may look cute, but they were originally bred to herd cattle and other animals.


Dogs and Sport

Dogs have been used for man’s recreational purposes for thousands of years, from beagles, fox-terriers and foxhounds, bred to hunt foxes (tally-ho), to Rhodesian Ridgebacks (where I come from) that were bred to hunt lions, and Karelean Bear Dogs. Modern hunting dogs in the US, mainly hounds, wear tracking collars so their owners can easily follow or locate them in the dense eastern and northern forests.

Pointers find where the quarry is hiding and ‘point’ it out to their owner, Retrievers fetch birds their owners have shot, often having to swim to complete their mission. Sight hounds—Saluki, Whippets and others were bred for their superior speed and vision.

Apart from hunting, dogs show amazing agility when they compete in sports like Frisbee-catching events, canine agility competitions, dock-diving, herding contests, and more, and  Greyhound and lure racing, which has been taking place for literally hundreds of years.

The Iditarod is one of the most grueling races in the world. Teams of dogs compete to pull sleds some 1,100 miles through snow, ice, and sub-zero temperatures. Only northern breeds of dogs, primarily Siberian huskies and Alaskan Malamutes are permitted to be used because other breeds have proven to be unable to withstand the harsh weather conditions. The race can take anything between 9 – 15 days, and is one of the toughest of all competitions in the world. When the race starts, a red lantern is lit, and is awarded to the last team to cross the finish line in recognition that the race is not over until everyone is off the trail.


Dogs in History

It would be an impossible task to choose one most famous dog, but there are a few who deserve a special mention.

While dogs belonging to presidents and world leaders may have been given their share of airtime, Lassie, although fictional, must be one of the most recognizable dogs worldwide. Her part was first played in the movie ‘Lassie Come Home’ by a male Rough Collie named Pal in 1943. Pal was not the first choice because he was a male—he was originally hired to do the stunts. He performed so well in one particular scene that it was decided he would replace the original highly-pedigreed female star.

Rin-Tin-Tin, on the other hand, was a real dog (not fictional), and starred as himself in movies, and has been credited with bringing Warner Brothers out of bankruptcy in the 1920’s.


Laika, the first dog in space, was one of three strays picked up on the streets of Moscow.  She had the misfortune to be chosen from the three to orbit the earth in Sputnik 2 in 1957. Technology at that time was limited, and it was not possible to bring the spacecraft back to earth in one piece. It was reported that Laika would eventually run out of oxygen and die an easy death after a few orbits, but sadly, it is speculated that she died soon after takeoff due to overheating. A statue of her stands as a reminder of her sad mission.

Sinbad, a dog of indeterminate breeding, signed his enlistment papers for the US Coast Guard with a paw print, and received his own identification number. He must be one of the most decorated dogs in history, having been awarded the American Defense Service Medal, American Campaign Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal, and the Navy Occupation Service Medal.

Able Seaman Just Nuisance

Then there was Able Seaman Just Nuisance, a Great Dane who was the only dog to be enlisted in the British Royal Navy. He got into trouble for constantly boarding the trains to Cape Town from the naval base near the southern tip of Africa, without a ticket. Sailors were allowed to travel free, so he was enlisted to alleviate the problem. His name was given as ‘Just’, last name ‘Nuisance’, and his trade ‘bone crusher’, while his religious denomination was listed as ‘Scrounger.’ His statue can be seen in Simonstown, South Africa, and a movie about his life is currently in production.

On a final note, consider this. Simply stroking any pet can decrease levels of stress hormones, regulate breathing, and lower blood pressure, but dogs are the only ones that watch and wait every time we go out, and greet us with a happy dance and a wagging tail when we return. We are currently ‘between dogs’ in our household—not for long, I hope. It’s the first time in my life I haven’t had a dog, and I love our cats, but that special welcome is what I miss the most.

Trish Jackson writes romantic suspense and romantic comedy, and loves to include fictional animals that are not limited to dogs in her stories.  http://www.trishjackson.com


Balance by Kenneth Weene


Like most young children, I liked playground equipment – that is most playground equipment. I didn’t like seesaws. My brother, who is older and was therefore bigger, would always con me into joining him on the seesaw only sit on his end and keep me trapped, legs dangling uselessly and hands gripping in terror, high in the air. Then, when I had been suitably intimidated, he would jump off and allow me to fall to the earth, invariably crying as a result.

It wasn’t fair. I knew that we were supposed to balance that long beam so it was even, but we never did. Over time I came to think of maintaining balance in life as very important, but I also had learned that life is not fair. Accepting its unfairness was an important lesson. Being prepared to pick myself up after disappointment or after my brother jumped off the seesaw was an essential life principal.

Fast forward about fourteen or fifteen years. I was a freshman in college. Like all colleges, Princeton had a physical education requirement. I ended up in a boxing class. Our coach, Joe Brown, was a delight of a man. He had been a professional boxer, and he saw boxing as less about fighting and more about dance, rhythm, and balance – especially balance. I wasn’t very good at the sport. I hated hitting others almost as much as I hated getting hit. But the idea of balancing myself struck home. We would take our stance, and Joe would push against us. If somebody wasn’t properly balanced, if his weight wasn’t properly distributed and set low, down he would go in an embarrassing heap.

Quickly I appreciated the lesson of balancing myself, of tucking in, of setting my feet and getting low. I thought of that balance as self-organization. If we aren’t prepared and organized, we are not ready to deal with life.

Joe taught me other lessons about balance as well. In addition to boxing, he taught sculpting. While I didn’t sculpt, I liked him well enough to occasionally hang out in his studio. He always had music playing – usually classical Spanish guitar. It wasn’t simply a love of music but also a keen awareness of the need for aesthetic sensory input. There was also decent wine to drink, the earthy smell of the material, and the sensuous tactile experience of working the clay. And there were wonderful discussions an unending flow of topics.

The balance of sensations, including intellect and emotion, helps us to live fully. I call that the balance of life.

Besides sculpting, Joe designed playground equipment – not the static equipment of my youth but interactive climbing apparatuses. When one child moved, it would change the equipment for all the other children who were on it. This meant that the child had to be aware of the social matrix in which he or she was playing.

Social balance is important if one is to find fulfillment. If we are not balanced in terms of the significant others in our lives, we will find ourselves very lonely.

These four balancing lessons are integral to my artistic endeavors. My creative milieu is words; I’m a writer – mostly novels but poetry and short stories as well. Every day I sit down at my computer and type away. It would be easy to lose perspective and focus, to become wrapped up in my work, unable to accept the inevitable rejection letter, digging my way deeper and deeper into a maze of my own mind. It is so very easy to lose balance. That is why I like to review these four lessons, to think about their application to my life.

Periodically I ask myself four questions:

1) Am a ready to deal with disappointment? If the story doesn’t work or the rejection letter comes, can I get on with my work?

2) Have I got my life organized so I won’t be caught off guard? Have I taken care of what has to be done?

3) Am I getting good quality input to keep my mind and body in tune? Have I planned ways to fill my personal space with the quality sensations, information, and nurturance that will allow me to be productive?

4) Have I thought about the social world in which I am pursuing my art? Have I taken proper steps to meet the needs of those who are important to me and have I made my needs clear to them?

I no longer play on seesaws or climb on jungle gyms. I’m long since out of college and well past the age when I could box even if I wanted. However, the life lessons about balance still hold true.


Brief bio:

Life itches and torments Kenneth Weene like pesky flies. Annoyed, he picks up a pile of paper to slap at the buzzing and often whacks himself on the head. Each whack is another story. At least having half-blinded himself, he has learned to not wave the pencil

Ken’s short stories and poetry have appeared in numerous publications. He is the proud papa of five novels and two short print books. His most recent books are “Broody New Englander” and “Times to Try the Soul of Man.”

To find Ken’s books visit http://www.amazon.com/Kenneth-Weene/e/B002M3EMWU

College Athletes: Why Stress them Out!



Universities spoon feed athletes with gilded promises while also making out checks of gold to them on the sly, oh and perish the thought if the athlete is injured and then suddenly all the help they were promised, for a degree for a profession, by staff dries up – oops! Out of luck! So, what’s a college student to do without the promise of big money, new car and lots of empty promises? Greed sounds about right. Hoping for big money in a contract, thinking that scouts might be interested in them and not realizing that most team owner are mainly focused on making money than being good role models for their players. What would any of these kids do for a million dollar contract or better yet 2 million? Poor examples are not only set by coaches and team owners but by major league players who set the tone for those to come. Going on strike if they do not get that 6 figure contract and big raise they think they deserve. So, what would happen if someone finally put the Cabash on salaries and actually made them work for the pleasure of playing a sport they claim to love?


Young college athletes learn from the best, or the greediest and are so overwhelmed with what they think will be their future they fail to see what is at the end of the yellow brick road: GREED, MONEY AND hopefully good health insurance incase they get hurt. Teachers and doctors work hard to instruct students and save lives and if they went on strike every time their unions did not pay up with big money or insurance companies skimped on payments, what would your nation’s medical care be like. Of yeah: Doctors are not any different than athletes everyone wants more and more money. Why do athletes feel they should be handed everything they want and have to not strife to earn it? Oh Yeah! Because they are athletes, good at what they do or maybe just okay and the school needs the revenue from the games and the concessions to keep the athletic department afloat.


“The pressures faced by young college athletes are too overwhelming and often drive these poor overworked students to drink, take steroids, drugs or even worse have no time for the mundane assignments required of them,” says the head coach of a small college. “Sometimes the pressure,” he continues, “ can be so unbearable, so great that while taking courses like beginning ceramics or pottery in this way they will be able to create their own casts if they have any broken bones remembering that they can put harmful stress on the players fingers and hands, and caution has to be heeded to make sure that they don’t burn themselves when using any of the tools like the kiln or ovens. Making sure they have extra accident insurance would help too. Football players might be offered a course in basic geometry in order to learn the differences between circles, diamonds and triangles and how these shapes might come in handy when reading their play books or formulating new plays. Baseball players might be offered courses in batting practice or hitting a piñata in order to strengthen their arms and enhance their batting averages. Basketball players might profit from the courses in basic shapes in order to be able to tell the difference between a sphere and a circle, which would help them find the hoop.


Athletes put themselves on the line every time they enter the playing field, the basketball court or just enduring a strenuous workout or practice. The academic curriculum and course load puts undue stress and pressure on these young people requiring them to stay up past curfew to study, to assignments and unfortunately have brain overload which might prevent them from doing what they are really in college to do and that is win games.


So, let’s be realistic and come to an understanding of how we as college coaches and college officials can lower the bar for them in order to attain some type of success. Incentives are the answer and eliminating the worry of having to live up to the high GPA of 2.0 is another way to prevent failure and insure that no one will be cut from the team. After all these athletes have a short lifespan on the field and within three or four years they will have outworn their worth and be ready for a more lucrative career working in McDonalds or even pumping gas.


Academic overload is dangerous and these young people should not have to bear the headaches, bodily aches and fear of getting cut from the team when many should have a course load of no more than one or two classes of their choice. But, these athletes provide such pleasure to spectators and bring in the funds that support the athletic department why not pay them for their skills? Getting into college must have been difficult if not traumatic for them until they either got daddy to hand over a big donation to the school or maybe someone wanted a star athlete and looked the other way when viewing their grades. Not every athlete cannot handle the workload but let’s be fair: the average athlete has to do his assignments, practice before and after class and on weekends, have weight training, conditioning and be sleep deprived. So, rather then stress them out the school should fund the bill for tutors to help them with their assignments, a massage therapist to work out their kinks and a heavy paycheck to make it worth their time. Minimum wage would not suffice after all they can get that working in Burger King or Subway. The colleges might even want to come up with pay scale based on athlete productivity, which team wins the most games and pay players accordingly. Incentives do work and paying them to score big points, practicing and doing the job they came to college for seems to be a step in the right direction.


Sports for profit that’s what it has come down too. If actors can demand their fair share of the million dollar pie then why shouldn’t young athletes get paid some big bucks too after all child stars get money to star in movies so why not pay for their services too. After all it’s only temporary. How long can they last? Legs, arms and bodies burn out, muscles can be strained, discs can rupture and even worse trigger thumb or finger from signing autographs. It’s all about money: Education needs to take a back page to the importance of paying a young superstar what he is worth. Is it really sports for profit? Have we lost sight of why people enter the sports arena? What happened to playing football, basketball and other sports because you have a passion for it? Money, Greed, Five Star Contracts and maybe even a stint as a host on ESPN. Is that what being an athlete has become? What’s Your Opinion?

 Fran Lewis


Fran Lewis: Fran worked in the NYC Public Schools as the Reading and Writing Staff Developer for over 36 years. She has three masters Degrees and a PD in Supervision and Administration. Currently, she is a member of Who’s Who of America’s Teachers and Who’s Who of America’s Executives from Cambridge. In addition, she is the author of three children’s books and a fourth that has just been published on Alzheimer’s disease in order to honor her mom and help create more awareness for a cure. The title of my new Alzheimer’s book is Memories are Precious: Alzheimer’s Journey; Ruth’s story and Sharp as a Tack and Scrambled Eggs Which Describes Your Brain? Fran is the author of 11 titles.

She was the musical director for shows in her school and ran the school’s newspaper. Fran writes reviews for authors upon request and for several other sites. You can read some of my reviews on Ezine.com and on ijustfinished.com under the name Gabina. Here is the link to her radio show www.blogtalkradio.com,

Family Reunion Yields Key to Health Eating by Clint Evans

“What do you eat then?” My cousin asked my uncle this in response to his new eating plan.

His work sponsored an expert to come in and teach an eating program. The main crux of the program is to replace sugar. There’s no deprivation (which I also advocate). You just forgo sugar and grains. Instead you can eat meats, veggies, some fruits, nuts and seeds.

They don’t even eat beans because there’s some research showing beans cause inflammation.

To overhear that comment broke my heart a little. That we’ve fallen so far as a country and in our education that people can’t even imagine what to eat without sugar is unacceptable. These sugar-spiking foods are the big reason we have an obesity and diabetes epidemic on our hands.

The most recent numbers show 2/3 of Americans are overweight [http://frac.org/initiatives/hunger-and-obesity/obesity-in-the-us/]. 35.7% are obese according to [http://www.sfgov3.org/ftp/uploadedfiles/shapeupsf/projects/UpdatedSugarSavvy.pdf] and the CDC [http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/adult.html].

Wheat and sugar are to be replaced…only to be eaten in small doses as treats once a week or less. What can you eat?

– Dark Chocolate – lots of good minerals including magnesium and potassium.

– Kale – Romaine Lettuce – Spinach – your leafy greens. Power packed with minerals and vitamins including calcium, anti-cancer phytonutrients, free radical fighting substances and more.

– Blueberries – like all fruits they do contain the sugar fructose. But 1/2 cup to 1 cup of blueberries a few times per week gives you lots of nutrients and fights free radicals. Great addition to smoothies.

– Broccoli – excellent cancer fighting properties. Some research suggests steaming for a little while helps release more of the nutrients. source: http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=george&dbid=64

– Coconut – almost digested already so it’s very easy on your digestion. Great food source.

– Pumpkin Seeds (or Walnuts) – great sources of Omega-3 fatty acids. Pumpkin seeds are the more powerful choice. What about salmon? Atlantic salmon is farm raised and infested with toxins. So DON’T eat it ever. Never order it at restaurants because it’s almost certainly farm raised since farm salmon is cheaper. Alaskan wild salmon is better but still causes you to be more acid (acid is the opposite of what you desire) and it has mercury and some ocean toxins. So pumpkin seeds are the top choice, walnuts the second best choice.

You must get Omega-3 fatty acids. The big problem western society has is the RATIO of Omega-6 to Omega-3 fatty acids.

Most people in the western world have a ratio of 10 Omega-6 fatty acids to every 1 Omega-3 fatty acid. This is highly destructive.

This is why eating fewer animal products will help your ratio because animal products contribute tons of Omega-6 fatty acids.

The ideal ratio is 1:1. Keep it under 2 Omega-6 fatty acids to every 1 Omega-3 fatty acid as a guideline.

Avocado – provides healthy mono unsaturated fats (coconuts are another great source of these healthy, filling fats)

Onions & garlic – mix into your cooked dishes. All kinds of healthy micro-nutrients to help your immunity, heart and circulatory system. When you cook or sauté it they keep most of their nutrient content. But cooking them blunts the “bad” taste some people don’t like. Also, it has less effect on your breathe when cooked.

This is a good starter list of foods. It’s by no means an exhaustive list.

What now?

I recommend you take that 1 small step. See if you can replace the wheat in only 1 of your meals per day with 1 or 2 of the foods on this list.

Once you feel the mood and energy improvement replacing wheat in more of your meals will be easier. When you feel a positive difference your motivation to make another small change ratchets up dramatically. I encourage you to eat to boost your energy not sap it.

If you have a question or comment I encourage you post it below.