Why dogs live less time than humans

AlfieThis post popped into my Facebook feed the other day and the story made me cry.  It would have touched me at any time, but it was especially heartbreaking as we have very recently lost our beloved spaniel, Alfie.

Here’s the story:


Here’s the surprising answer of a 6 year old child.

Being a veterinarian, I had been called to examine a ten-year-old Irish Wolfhound named Belker. The dog’s owners, Ron, his wife Lisa, and their little boy Shane, were all very attached to Belker, and they were hoping for a miracle.

I examined Belker and found he was dying of cancer. I told the family we couldn’t do anything for Belker, and offered to perform the euthanasia procedure for the old dog in their home.

As we made arrangements, Ron and Lisa told me they thought it would be good for six-year-old Shane to observe the procedure. They felt as though Shane might learn something from the experience.

The next day, I felt the familiar catch in my throat as Belker‘s family surrounded him. Shane seemed so calm, petting the old dog for the last time, that I wondered if he understood what was going on. Within a few minutes, Belker slipped peacefully away.

The little boy seemed to accept Belker’s transition without any difficulty or confusion. We sat together for a while after Belker’s death, wondering aloud about the sad fact that dogs’ lives are shorter than human lives.  Shane, who had been listening quietly, piped up, ”I know why.”

Startled, we all turned to him. What came out of his mouth next stunned me. I’d never heard a more comforting explanation. It has changed the way I try and live.

He said, ”People are born so that they can learn how to live a good life — like loving everybody all the time and being nice, right?” The six-year-old continued,

”Well, dogs already know how to do that, so they don’t have to stay for as long as we do.”

Live simply.
Love generously.
Care deeply.
Speak kindly.

Remember, if a dog was the teacher you would learn things like:

• When your loved ones come home, always run to greet them.
• Never pass up the opportunity to go for a joyride.
• Allow the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face to be pure Ecstasy.
• Take naps.
• Stretch before rising.
• Run, romp, and play daily.
• Thrive on attention and let people touch you.
• Avoid biting when a simple growl will do.
• On warm days, stop to lie on your back on the grass.
• On hot days, drink lots of water and lie under a shady tree.
• When you’re happy, dance around and wag your entire body.
• Delight in the simple joy of a long walk.
• Be faithful.
• Never pretend to be something you’re not.
• If what you want lies buried, dig until you find it.
• When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close by, and nuzzle them gently.

That’s the secret of happiness that we can learn from a good dog.”

We were in pieces when we lost our Alfie as he was only eight years old, and we had expected that he would be part of our family for a much longer time than that.  Our seven year old granddaughter took it particularly badly.

We have since compiled a photo album of Alfie so that we can remember his time with us, and we have a couple of framed pictures on the kitchen wall, right above where his basket used to be.

There’s a lot to be learned from how our children see the world I think.  Here’s our happy dog for you:





Fair play vs fair game

The truth

It is a fact that when you live your life with your cup perpetually half-full you give people the benefit of the doubt more than others do, and you automatically put your faith in your fellow human beings to do the right thing.  You believe in the essential goodness of mankind and approach life with a serious sense of fair play.  It’s also inevitable that others will see you as naïve to some extent, or even just plain gullible at times.

Many years ago, we experienced a difficult business and family split that resulted in hurt for my husband.  What happened way back was a classic example of us failing to see what was directly staring us in the face, because of our youth and our naivety, but most of all because we could not understand or believe firstly how others could behave so appallingly over a long period of time, and secondly, show no remorse once found out.  It was definitely a case of the pair of us learning that when someone shows you who they are, you should believe them.  But we hadn’t and it took us a long time afterwards to accept the truth.  We resolved that never again would we allow meddling, manipulation or destructive interference into our family life, and we never have.  Until recently, and this time we didn’t personally invite it in.

Time and experience certainly lend a degree of wisdom to humans, and also resourceful strength to deal with life’s ups and downs.  But still my own naivety continues to trip me up occasionally, leaving me shocked and disillusioned.  We cannot always choose who we have to deal with in our everyday work or personal life.  Clashes of personality are common along the way and to be expected.  That’s just normal.  I’m talking about much more than that though.  I’m talking about when another person purposely goes out of their way to make your life uncomfortable or difficult using a set of manipulative and devious devices that they’ve been carefully honing for a long time.

I’m pretty sure you will recognise the character type – this is the individual who displayed all the tendencies you despised at school; the one who made your life a misery, the one you avoided like the plague. And mostly, there was no way of making this person behave better.  Talking and asking someone like this to change is pointless; they never consider that their behaviour is unacceptable or offensive.  And they do not listen to anyone else’s point of view anyway.  In my experience even people in authority struggle to communicate effectively with a person like this.  And when you do voice your point of view and ask them to think again about their behaviour, this character type will damn well make sure you pay in some unimaginable way for having had the audacity to speak out at all.

The truth about why one human being sets out to inflict hurt on another lies often in the antagonist’s low level of self-esteem and their own insecurity.  If you then add jealousy, selfishness, obsession or any other extreme human emotion into the mix you have a cocktail that could be used to make an explosive device such is its destructive power, and most of us have no natural mechanism to understand or cope with this.

I’m not sure why I continually fail to see that this type of character will never change when it comes to my own life though.  I’m not stupid, I’ve had some serious crap thrown at me and coped admirably.  But that’s when the crap looked like crap.  When it couldn’t be mistaken for anything else.  The problem arises for me I think when the crap I’m looking at masquerades as something else, and it’s then that I see a slim chance of the masquerading crap eventually polishing itself and opting to play fair.

There is of course the theory that you should fight fire with fire.  I cannot go with that though.  It’s always been my belief that to sink to someone else’s low-life depths and take part in a battle on their level serves no purpose whatsoever in winning a war.  Instead I thought about it long and hard.  I took advice from close friends and thought some more. Then I drew an imaginary line and walked away; this was the safest, most sensible option.  I provided no explanation nor will I ever do so.

Hurt and disappointment fade.  What will not fade, however, is my resolve to ensure that the promise we made all those years ago is maintained.  I cannot be responsible for another person’s behaviour, neither should I be made to suffer because of it.  And I will not compromise my integrity, or my long-held and hard-won morals and principles, the same ones my entire family live by.

I acknowledge that the human race is far from perfect, indeed no single one of us is perfect.  I know that there are individuals near and far who are in some way so damaged, that they devote endless amounts of time to imposing themselves and their misguided beliefs, ambitions, habits and behaviour on others purely for their own selfish satisfaction, and they do so without a single care for those they climb over or trample underfoot on their distasteful journey.  Often their only hollow reward is a pathetically sad and fleeting chance to gloat.

I also know that we continue to live and learn.  2016 then, provided me with a forced opportunity to learn from experience.  That lesson will be bottled, labelled and displayed in a prominent position in our home, to be shared with our family, and it will be imprinted firmly on my subconscious to help keep me on the straight and narrow going forward.  The label will read:

“When someone shows you who they are, believe them, THE FIRST TIME”   — Maya Angelou

When someone shows you who they are believe them the first time

Relics of war

Relics of history on Lincolnshire Wolds
Relics of war on the Lincolnshire Wolds

RAF Stenigot was a Royal Air Force Radar Station in operation between 1938-1955, and it was a vital piece of a communications network that prevented both German attacks during World War II and Russian air strikes in the years following.

Originally built in 1938 as part of the “Chain Home” network, the station did not initially feature any large dishes. In the beginning the site had an octet of aerial towers; four for receiving, four for transmitting. These were supported by some low-lying buildings and stood on large concrete pads. This initial installation was in place to intercept German air raids.

Once WWII ended, the site was retooled to serve as a NATO-run early warning system to warn against Russian airstrikes. To this end, four huge, 60-foot-wide parabolic dishes were installed, replacing the previous towers. This new network carried the jaunty name, “ACE High,” standing for “Allied Command Europe.” While this newer version of the station performed well, the whole site was decommissioned in the 1980s, and by 1996 the entire station was all but dismantled.  The site is now managed by the Ministry of Defence.

However, some remnants still remain. The most impressive relics of the base are the four massive parabolic dishes that have been taken down from their mountings and and moved to a nearby field.  Today the disused dishes simply rust away as enormous relics of wars gone by, surrounded by grazing sheep.

First Nativity

A cold and frosty Lincolnshire morningThis morning was my granddaughter’s first nativity play in the church of the small village where she goes to school.  She has just turned five, and her reception year group of ten children sang the first verse of Away in a Manger entirely on their own and with no piano. The rest of the school joined in at verse 2.  There wasn’t a dry eye in church.

I can only speak for our own little one when I say that she has been transformed by this amazing school and its staff in just a few short weeks since leaving nursery.  They are an incredibly dedicated team of people.  And I am so very proud of this wonderful child.

I did of course take some photos, and video too for our own memory bank, on the strict understanding as advised by the headteacher that no-one would post up photographs or video to any social media sites or online at all.  These precious children must be kept safe and away from greedy, prying eyes. And I agree wholeheartedly with that.  Let’s draw the line.

So here’s a photo of another recent morning taken at my favourite time of day, when the sun is just rising, and the world is crisp and fresh and brave and new.

Almost bare

Chicken coop under the almost bare beech tree
The last of the autumn leaves on the beech tree … it’s almost bare

What a glorious autumn we’ve had.  The colours have been amazing and the leaves have hung on right into December, mainly because we’ve not had any really adverse weather conditions to blow them off or wash them away.

The season has provided some spectacular photo opportunities; the shot above was taken recently at daybreak on a frosty morning.  It’s a shivery scene, with the beech tree almost bare of leaves and the mist hanging low in the field behind.  I’m hoping that the winter will provide some equally great scenes.  I hate to say it because I know it causes problems in the UK …. but I’m hoping for SNOW and lots of it.

Gluten-free fruit pie

Freshly picked blackberries and apples straight from the tree made a delicious fruit pie for dessert at the weekend.  I used gluten-free ready to roll pastry from Silly Yak which can be found in the chilled section of most supermarkets; trial and error has convinced me that their pastry is as good as any gluten-free pastry you can make at home.  And it’s quick and easy to use. So I cannot say in all honesty that this is a completely home made blackberry and apple pie but it almost is!  I can definitely say though that it was delicious and it went down well with custard and with ice cream. Yum …

Kick the bucket-list

Jason Lennick’s witty writing always makes me chuckle; he can also be relied on to say it how it is, and this one struck a chord with me.  This post is courtesy of Jason at https://halfbananas.com so here we go …

kick the bucket-list

The concept of making a to-do list of amazing experiences and must-see places has become something of a cliche in recent years. There was even a movie called The Bucket List with Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, although I’ve not seen it (it’s not on my list).

If you’re not climbing the Matterhorn for charity dressed as a penguin, or piloting your own fantastical steam-punk ship/house to the Burning Man festival, you’re not really thinking big enough, man. Run an ultra-marathon across the desert, take ayahuasca with an Amazon shaman, or unicycle to the South Pole to raise awareness for world albino-hamster day. But don’t just sit there!


From one perspective, creating such a list makes perfect sense. Having great goals and a desire to see some of our incredible world is a worthy aim. But dive a little deeper and we find ourselves in slightly muddier waters.

I think my concerns are threefold. Firstly, people are often adopting the same ideas and goals as everyone else, either trying to copy the lifestyles and experiences of the rich and famous, or just jumping on bandwagons. We end up chasing cliches, where everybody’s bucket lists start to sound awfully similar.

Secondly, the very creation of such lists puts your life into a forward-gazing type of wishful thinking mode. ‘My life will be so amazing once I’ve done x, y & z.’ One could relegate the act of living day to day as a kind of ‘waiting for good-oh!’ (with apologies to S. Beckett).

Thirdly all that striving, hoping and wanting cool experiences, just adds to the existing  pressures to have that toned gym-body, great career and dream partner that the magazine world have been selling us for the last few decades.

‘You cannot have your cake and eat it’ seems to most kids like a very peculiar saying. Why would anyone want a cake that cannot be eaten? But I think there is a nugget of wisdom in that cake. Or maybe it’s a walnut, hard to tell. In lusting after an amazing future full of adventures, we relegate the here and now to a time-filling, clock-watching, zombie-like existence. Instead of the ‘power of now’, we live with the ‘promise of then’.

Even our weekends can become a competition, where we feel the need to cram in as much cultural, sporting or culinary activity as possible so as to announce proudly at the water-cooler on a Monday “Yah, the weekend was amazeballs.” (I hate that expression..)

“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone” Blaise Pascal

Is there any way to escape this conundrum? How do we balance the desire to have a good life with the aim of avoiding these pitfalls? I believe the answer could be summed up in two words chocolate cake. No, sorry, that just drifted into my head for some reason. No, the two words are: mindset and authenticity.

With the right mindset, we can see the value in the world on our doorstep and have no urgent need to go rushing off to party with a hip ukulele-techno DJ at a Venezuelan yak festival, or base-jumping with neo-pagan anarchist film-makers after a night of avant-garde theatre in down-town Tokyo. We can perhaps learn to value the here and now and the people, places and simple things around us.

kick the bucket-list

Maybe we can try, as William Blake so eloquently put it:

“To see a World in a Grain of Sand, 

And a Heaven in a Wild Flower, 

Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand, 

And Eternity in an hour.”

Authenticity means living in a way that is true to our nature, meaningful and does not simply leave us always wanting more, more, more. It’s living according to your inner values and true needs, not being told what to want, think or do.

To live with a healthy mindset and authenticity are lofty goals in themselves. But even if we cannot fully achieve them we can at least keep them in mind when the media bombards us with images of the lifestyles of the rich and fabulous.

You may have heard some folks in the media discussing the concept of a ‘fuck-it list’ more recently. It seems to be a newer twist where one learns to say fuck-it to anything that holds us back or weighs us down with unnecessary pressures, desires and expectations. Maybe it’s time to put the bucket list on the fuck-it list?

Right, I’m off to eat some yummy (vegan) chocolate brownies left over from my birthday. I will say fuck-it to having a flat stomach. Life is too short for all those endless crunches and there are waaay too many nice cakes to be sampled.

Do you have a bucket list? Or a fuck-it list? Go on, spill the beans in the comments section.

© Copyright Jason Lennick 2016. All rights reserved.

Picture credits: Steampunk house/ship – collectorsweekly.com 
Dolphins – grayline.com

NB – The above post “Kick the bucket-list” has been re-produced here with the kind permission of Jason Lennick over at halfbananas, the original writer and owner of the work –  https://halfbananas.com/2016/08/21/kick-the-bucket-list/  If you don’t already follow Jason then here’s the link for you to take a look (and I promise you that I’m not being paid for this shout out!!) –  https://halfbananas.com