The 45-pound Nepalese Mutt, Mera

Posted on May 26, 2019 in Uncategorized

Frans de Waal, a primatologist at Emory University, has a new book out called Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? and in it he gives hundreds of examples of surprising intelligence from non-human species, including many instances where other animals appear to be smarter than we are.

In addition to intelligence we are learning that animals can sense a human being’s mood as well as medical condition. Clearly, we have to admit we’ve been conveniently wrong about animals, as well as birds and sea creatures.  

In 2008, sixteen well-known scientists signed the Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness concluding:

“Convergent evidence indicates that non-human animals have the neuroanatomical, neurochemical, and neurophysiological substrates of conscious states along with the capacity to exhibit intentional behaviors. Consequently, the weight of evidence indicates that humans are not unique in possessing the neurological substrates that generate consciousness. Non-human animals, including all mammals and birds, and many other creatures, including octopuses, also possess these neurological substrates.”

This week I am featuring a story about a dog named Mera who exhibited intentional behavior when she decided to follow Don Wargowsky up 23,389 feet in 30-40 mph winds with a wind-chill of minus 20 degrees. What was it about the Seattle-based mountain guide that drew Mera to him? We will never know.  

The First Dog Ascent of a 7,000-Meter Himalayan Peak

by Anna Callaghan, photos by Don Wargowsky  

On November 9, 2018, a dog named Mera (named by the guide Wargowsky) became the first of her kind to reach the summit of Baruntse, a 23,389-foot peak in Nepal’s Himalayas, located just south of Mount Everest. The peak, often overlooked as it lies in the shadow of some of the tallest mountains in the world, is a steep, challenging climb in its own right. (…)  

“I am not aware of a dog actually summiting an expedition peak in Nepal,” says Billi Bierling of the Himalayan Database, an organization that documents climbing expeditions in Nepal.  

According to Bierling, there have been a few cases of dogs at Everest Base Camp (17,600 feet) and some who’ve followed teams through the Khumbu Icefall up to Camp II (21,300 feet), but this is perhaps the highest-recorded elevation ever reached by a dog anywhere in the world.  

Mera, age unknown, is a 45-pound Nepalese mutt who appears to be a cross between a Tibetan mastiff and a Himalayan sheepdog. She possesses an extraordinary level of confidence relative to her small frame. Though slight, she has muscles likely honed by years of travel over rough mountainous terrain in the Khumbu Valley. She has soft, close-cropped black fur, golden yellow legs and snout, small ears that flop forward, and kind eyes.   Mera embedded with a team from the Kathmandu-based Summit Climb, led by Seattle-based mountain guide Don Wargowsky, in the tenth day of its month-long expedition.  

The team members were descending from a successful summit of Mera Peak (21,247 feet), the first mountain they had climbed on their trip before heading to Baruntse, and were just above the fixed lines at around 17,500 feet when Mera came bounding toward them.  

She (had) passed about 30 climbers on the way up to Wargowsky’s group, all of whom could’ve been persuaded to give her food or attention, but she crossed a glacier with a crevasse and bee lined it for Wargowsky.  

From that point on, the two were inseparable. He gave her a sleeping pad and jacket for a bed nest, and in return she fashioned herself into the ideal tent partner for three weeks: quiet, cuddly, agreeable, and with a small stomach. “One morning we got wind so bad it ripped the anchors off the tent, picked it up, and moved it a few feet,” Wargowsky recalls. “She just woke up, looked at me, and went back to sleep.”
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How to Talk with Children about Death

Posted on Apr 6, 2019 in Uncategorized

NPR: The Dog Isn’t Sleeping: How to Talk with Children about Death

Cory Turner starts her recent article about talking to a child about death by taking us back to 1983 and her 7th birthday, when she learned that her dog, Mingo, would not be coming home; and on the very same day and for the same reason, finding out Mister Hooper would not be coming back to Sesame Street.

They had both died.

Using the loss of a pet as a springboard, Cory collaborates with Rosemarie Truglio, a developmental psychologist at Sesame Workshop, to offer a good primer for adults to use when talking to children about death.

You might want to bookmark this post for the time when you need to talk to your child or grandchild about how to explain: “no… never.”

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Come Hell or High Water, I Am Not Changing My Mind!

Posted on Mar 3, 2019 in Uncategorized

Happy Sunday, Readers! I hope you have had a decent week. 

Today I am featuring the recent Daily Stoic column on Winston Churchill’s so often quoted admonition: “Never give in. Never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty.” I am sure you have heard it before. It is even on greetings cards. 

The Daily Stoic reminds us that those few words are part of a longer Churchill statement.   

When you read what Churchill said, think about the times your ego caused you to declare, “Come hell or high water, I am not changing my mind!”  

I find it so much easier to only accept data that confirms my position (in mental model language: confirmation bias). Don’t you? 

But I am also aware that it is wise to stay open. I know that the ability to change my mind is an art that will serve me well. 

I recognize that. I try to remember it. But it’s hard, isn’t it?

No one would ever call Winston Churchill a quitter. His whole reputation is built on his instinct to fight. He was the lone objector when appeasement toward Hitler reigned as policy in the 1930’s. He was the one strong enough to inspire the British people to hold out against the Nazi bombardment and a potential invasion until America entered the war. His personal motto was KBO…Keep Buggering On.

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Posted on Feb 24, 2019 in Uncategorized

What follows is Christina Torres’s article on teaching middle school in Hawaii and a response from my friend, Maritza Gerbrandy-Dahl. Like Torres, Maritza teaches middle school. And like Torres, Maritza often doesn’t know if she can continue another year.

You will laugh, sigh and bleed a little as you read Gerbandy-Dahl’s response.

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Every Once in a While We Need to Lighten Up!

Posted on Feb 17, 2019 in Uncategorized

Eileen Fisher held a women’s conference in NYC recently called “Women Together: Freedom Is an Inside Job,” and I attended online. Tara Branch was one of two keynote speakers. 

Tara often uses humor to help us understand that we all are struggling in some way, and her conference talk was no exception.

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Why Wait for Someone to Ask You to Be Their Valentine?

Posted on Feb 10, 2019 in Uncategorized

This year make yourself a priority and be your own Valentine. It won’t mean you can’t be another’s as well.

Trust me on this. Self-love is prerequisite to being able to give and receive love without strings. 

Not easy?  Maybe not. But don’t wait. Just do it. OK?

Give yourself the orchid, the box of chocolates, the bottle of wine you thought had to come from someone else to be a true Valentine gift.   

And then…

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