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The King and His Dog

Tongdaeng

Tongdaeng, a previous Bangkok stray, adopted as a pup by Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej, caught the heart of the Thai people. The book on her life story, “The Story of Tongdaeng,” or เรื่อง ทองแดง, written by His Majesty, turned into a best-seller the moment it went on sale.

Thais love their king, and customers wrestled over the last few books on November 12, 2002, when the book was launched and 200,000 copies were sold. That doubled the first-day sales of the best-selling Harry Potter’s book.

Tongdaeng’s rise from outcast to palace favorite began in 1998 when she entered the Chitralada Palace in Bangkok. It was a present from a medical development centre, which looked after stray dogs and knew that the King loved dogs.

The King praises Tongdaeng as one of the best-mannered, considerate, and respectful dogs in the world and as an example to all Thais on how to behave—particularly politicians. The King’s loyal subjects have been buying the book to read about His Majesty’s views.

TongdaengBook

The book contains messages on morality and manners—much-appreciated considering the stories of corruption surrounding the country’s politicians. King Bhumibol, a constitutional monarch, enjoys immense respect from his people. He introduces Tongdaeng as “a common dog who is uncommon.”

When chasing other dogs around trees, the King writes, she insists that they always run clockwise. Many readers interpret this as a call for national unity.

Tongdaeng can also pick up and open coconuts at the King’s seaside palace on the Gulf of Thailand even though this can take a long time and result in torn gums—advice to be patient and endure pain in times of adversity.

The King writes, “Tongdaeng shows gratitude and respect—as opposed to people who, after becoming important, might treat with contempt someone of lower status to whom they should be thankful.”

Thais worship their king and have the highest respect for him. He never directly criticises public figures, though he occasionally issues reminders to Thailand’s political leaders about their loose moral standards. Thais remember too well how King Bhumibol ended several serious clashes, particularly the one in Bangkok in May 1992, when the army shot at demonstrators protesting a military takeover. Millions of TV viewers worldwide witnessed the army chief and a democracy campaigner, General Suchinda Kraprayoon and Chamlong Srimuang, prostrating themselves in front of His Majesty as he ordered them to stop the hostilities for the good of the nation.

The ultimate message of Tongdaeng, the crossbreed stray, is that, even though you may be born into poverty, you can rise to the top by means of your attitude and manners.

Cultural Differences in Dogs—Our Responsibility

Cultural Differences Dogs

Do animals have cultural differences? Do dogs behave differently according to their doggy culture?

Yes, they do. Normal behavior is only normal under specific conditions. Normal behavior is the behavior displayed by the majority of the population in a precise area in a particular period. We may not like it, but if most do it, then it is normal. An extreme example: to behave rationally is not normal among humans since most people behave irrationally.

Yes, dogs show cultural differences. Their facial expressions and body languages show slightly different nuances from region to region. Even barking and howling can be distinctive. Davis Mech discovered that when he flew to the Abruzzi Mountains in Italy to assist Luigi Boitani and Erik Zimen with their wolf research. The Italian wolves howled with an accent (or so did the Americans).

Natural selection determines the cultural differences our dogs show from one area to the other. We breed those we like best, and we like them differently from place to place. Remember, selection acts upon the phenotype (the way a dog looks and behaves), but the traits pass to the next generation thru the genes (genotypes) involved in the favored phenotypes. Don’t forget as well that our human choices as to preferred animals are also natural selection.

Cultural differences in dogs are easy to spot when one travels as much around the world as I do. It still surprises me, for example, to see that European English Cocker Spaniels or Bichon Havaneses are so very different from their American counterparts—and not only physically, also behaviorally—same breeds, different cultures.

A culture develops according to the influence of the particular individuals in a group and their distinct environment. The unique characteristics of the individuals and the environment determine cultural development. In dogs, we are the most influential environmental factor. Therefore, the same original breeds develop variants depending on the human group with which they interact. Undoubtedly, we create the various canine cultures we have. The question is whether we do it intentionally or unintentionally, and I believe we can argue for both.

In a sense, we can say we have the dogs we deserve. We have created them, either by planning to breed them to achieve specific results or not caring at all—which amounts to the same in this context. The problem is that cultures evolve, our societies change, and so do our needs and requirements—which is fair enough. What does not seem fair to me is to impose new (cultural) requirements upon the dog all of a sudden after having created it to fulfill different (cultural) needs back in the day. Of course, we (as a species) change with time, and so do our dogs. We can change them, the dogs, to meet new necessities, as we’ve done in the past, but it requires a well-planned breeding program based on reasonable expectations and scientifically sound methods. 

The ethics of changing animals as we please is an entirely different discussion, alas one for another day.

 

 

References

Cavalli-Sforza, Luigi L (1986). “Cultural Evolution”American Zoologist26 (3): 845–855. doi:10.1093/icb/26.3.845.

Davis, N.B.; J.R. Krebs, J.R.; West, S.A. (2012). An Introduction to Behavioural Ecology (4th ed.). ISBN-10:9781405114165.

De Waal, Frans. (2001). The Ape and the Sushi Master: Cultural Reflections by a Primatologist. New York: Basic Books.

Holdcroft, D.; Lewis, H. (2000). “Memes, Minds, and Evolution.” Philosophy75 (292): 161–182.

Jones, Nick A. R.; Rendell, Luke (2018). “Cultural Transmission.” Encyclopedia of Animal Cognition and Behavior. Springer, Cham. pp. 1–9. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-47829-6_1885-1. ISBN 978-3-319-47829-6.

Laland, Kevin N. and Bennett G. Galef, eds. (2009). The Question of Animal Culture. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard UP.

Swanson, H.A., Lienand, M.E., Ween, G.B. (2018). Domestication Gone Wild: Politics and Practices of Multispecies Relations. Duke University Press. https://doi.org/10.1515/9780822371649.

Featured image: Dog behavior shows cultural differences across breeds and regions (photo by NewEvolution at https://newevolutiondesigns.com/50-free-hd-dog-wallpapers).

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Are Our Dogs Stressed?

Dog Stress – Licked My Balls

Are our dogs stressed? Asking the right question is the first step to getting the right answer. Never be afraid to ask and reformulate your questions. At one point, you’ll have asked the question that will lead you to the right answer.

The term stress is dangerously ambiguous. “Stress is a word that is as useful as a Visa card and as satisfying as a Coke. It’s non-committal and also non-committable,” as Richard Shweder says. I’m talking of stress in a biological sense, the response of the sympathetic nervous system to some events, its attempts at reestablishing the lost homeostasis provoked by some intense event.

Please, read:

 

As to the illustration: chuckle at the serious and reflect on the amusing; both are amusingly serious and seriously amusing.

 

Keep smiling!

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Treat Me Like a Dog, Honey!

Treat Me Like A Dog

All characters appearing in this blog are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. The facts described may not apply to all regions of the world. Content warning: The following text contains scenes of humor and should not be read by humorless persons.

Photo: If we just were as caring toward our spouses… (photo by unknown)

TreatMeAsADog

“Treat me like a dog, honey!” If we were as patient, caring, and understanding toward our spouses as we are toward our dogs, I’m sure the rate of divorces would fall dramatically.

Dog owner: “My dog bites me sometimes when he gets too excited playing with a toy. What can I do?”

Dog owner: “My dog chews the couch and tears down the curtains when he’s home alone. What can I do?”

Dog owner: “My dog pees on the floor when we have guests. What can I do?”

Dog owner: “My dog bites people I meet on the street when they talk to me, but it is only to protect me. What can I do?”

Dog problem #1 according to statistics: CHAP or canine home alone problems (photo by twenty20twenty photos).

Now, I invite you to substitute the word dog with spouse in all sentences above. How many divorces are we facing, do you reckon?

Dog owners go to great extents to solve the problems that invariably will pop up. Dog owners live by Murphy’s law. When all fails, they adapt to their beloved pets and adjust their lives instead. They get up early and go to bed late because the dog needs to be walked and do stuff—and sometimes there’s a lot of stuff to do, including the endless sniffing of a patch of pee.

Dog owners don’t go on long holidays because they don’t want to leave their dogs behind. Instead, the dogs decide who they visit, when and for how long. They only call on friends who accept their dogs’ visiting as well.

Gone are the days when suntanning used to be a relaxing, careless activity! Dogs are wonderful, aren’t they? (photo via fax.com).

DogPeesSunBatherFaxoDotCom

The dog cannot be home alone. Gone are the days when they could go to the movies on the spur-of-the-moment.

Gone are the lazy Sunday mornings, staying in bed a tad longer.

Their impeccably clean home is not that impeccable any longer because dogs imply hair, dust, fluff, flees, accidents—and the dog never tidies up.

Imagine your partner bites you when watching an exciting TV program, pees on the toilet seat, hits people who talk to you, force you to go for a walk in pouring rain, interrupts your movie watching, always decides where to go on holidays, chooses which friends you can see, makes a mess of the house and never cleans up. I bet you would be gone even before you have had the time to finish reading my blog (and I, for one, wouldn’t have blamed you for that).

“Treat me like a dog, honey!”

Keep smiling!

 

PS—Did you smile? Then, take a look at this one: “Are Our Dogs Stressed?” Smiley smiles

Featured image: Treat me like a dog, honey! (art by Anton Antonsen). T-shirt with motive and quote available here.

t-shirt-Treat Me Like A Dog

I’m a Citizen of the World

I’m a Citizen of the World (ChildDogCatwide)

I’m a citizen of the World,” I say when asked where I come from—and I am, in mind and heart.

Diogenes, in about 412 BC, was probably the first to use the expression and express the very same sentiment. Socrates (469-399 BC) concurred: “I am not an Athenian or a Greek, but a citizen of the world.” Kaniyan Poongundran, the Tamil poet, wrote (at least 2000 years ago), “To us all towns are one, all men our kin.” Thomas Paine (English-American philosopher, 1737 – 1809), said, “The world is my country, all mankind are my brethren and to do good is my religion.” Albert Einstein (1879-1955) thought of himself as a world citizen, “Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind.”

I’m a citizen of the world. I’ve traveled over most of our beautiful planet, seen mountains above the clouds with perennial snow tops, and oceans reaching far beyond the eye can see. I’ve lived in temperatures from 40º C below zero to 40º C above. I’ve eaten all kinds of food prepared by humans and spent many a day and night enjoying the company of people with the most exceptional cultures and habits.

What’s my favorite place? I don’t have one. Everywhere I’ve been, I’ve discovered new pieces in the amazing puzzle of life. Everywhere I’ve been, from the most glamorous cities to the poorest war-torn areas, I’ve met kind and gentle people. I’ve shared water with the Maasai in the African desert and rice with the Chhetris in the Nepalese mountains. With all of them, I felt a strong kinship: no country, no culture, no language, no divide—we were family, we were humans, we were sentient living beings. Yes, I’m a citizen of the world.

Life is great!

Featured image: Everywhere I’ve been, I’ve discovered new pieces in the amazing puzzle of life.