Sorry for the absence

I feel terrible that the blog has been neglected but I am battling a horrible and painful infection that stemmed from an abscessed tooth. These days I only have the strength to keep up with the foundation’s important functions of helping working dogs with their cancer treatment and providing a host of organic products that the the best available. I will hopefully be bringing some new stories of dogs we are currently helping with grants. I just have to work up to the time needed to sit at the computer to put together the new pages. So, do hang in there and look for some special tales soon!


Our Dogs may really be Einsteins

Watchers , written by Dean Koontz in 1996, was my favorite book from this author. Of course, it’s easy to guess why. The hero of the book is a genius Golden Retriever, aptly named “Einstein.” Cover ImageWhen Travis Cornell and Nora Devon meet Einstein, they are touched by the dog’s intelligence. Einstein is one of two altered life forms that had escaped from a top-secret lab. The other, “The Outsider,” is a deadly hybrid.

Einstein is able to communicate via a computer and it is that tale that drew me to an article that recently appeared in the April 2008 edition of Animal Cognition. The article, “A dog at the keyboard: using arbitrary signs to communicate requests,” details research from Brazilian scientists who had taught a mixed breed dog named Sofia to use a computer keyboard. The world’s first, now non-fictional, canine typist is able to press paw-size keys to ask for water, be petted, and more. It is truly amazing.

Sofia actually presses different and quite distinctive symbols on a keyboard as a way of making requests. For example, an X stood for “pet me,” a triangle stood for “give me water,” a big circle stood for “give me food,” and a small circle stood for “put me in my crate.” When Sofia pressed a symbol, a tape-recorded word was played in Portuguese corresponding to the meaning of the symbol. Her behavior prior to and after pressing the symbol was monitored on videotape, the experimenters assessing the direction of Sofia’s gaze toward objects corresponding to the symbols, or movements that reflected her intentions. About 87 percent of the time Sofia’s gaze at an object or movement corresponded to the symbol that she pressed.

Use of symbols has been shown previously with chimps, but not with dogs. This is the first study that has shown that dogs have the ability to use symbols to communicate with humans. I think my Alfie would be great at this task as he is very paws-on. He really seems human when he uses his paw to nudge us awake to let us know he needs to go outside. Rather than the usual panting to alert us, he gets up in the bed, and begins to tap our chest with his paw, attempting to wake us up and see that he needs our attention. I can’t tell you how cute it is to all of the sudden awaken and see him tapping with his paw.

I discovered a wonderful article detailing this research work and created a PDF for you to enjoy. Just click here.

Anyone miss me?

Although my daily Golden thoughts have continued to appear (I pre-ad them to be published daily), I have been consumed with computer issues and transferring systems. The unstable nature of windows finally broke me and I decided to go to an iMac, since it can handle 2 operating systems now. But, I don’t have to tell you how difficult it is to transition or learn new operating systems and software programs. Needless to say, I am a mess, my house is a mess, and my Golden darling Alfie is a mess. Since Hubby Gary hates computers and has busy preparing and planting in his garden, he is the only one who has been spared.

It seems like ages since I’ve had a spare moment to breathe, let alone blog, so I am sure many wonderful stories have been lost. But, I will be trying to make up for lost time in the coming weeks. To get started, I found some adorable photos at the LA Times, one above and those below. They are all wonderful pick-me-ups, that’s for sure.