Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Negative Reinforcement can be Positive Reinforcement

It is all about control and choice.  Imagine the feeling when we are asked to do something.  Perhaps wash a load of dishes for a family member.  We comply, with some feeling.  Avoiding the argument if we say no.  And perhaps with the hope for a free moment where there are no expectations for our services to that family member.  We wash.  In the washing, we are 'doing'.  The moment the washing is done, we sit down, feel the load of the work done, sigh and in that moment, we are 'being'. 

So.  The argument has been avoided.  The training theory calls this - negative reinforcement.  However, there is something more fundamental going on.  In our sitting and relaxing, we have our choice and control back.  Being victim to the expectations of that family member are a thing of the past.  We are the master of the sit and sigh once more.  In achieving choice and control, we have been afforded something.  In training theory, when we receive something, it is positive.

Choice and control are more fundamental than food.  You never saw an antelope stop to eat his favourite treat while the carnivore was chasing him.  His choice and control were more important than his food.  So, a primary reinforcer is something that does not have to be conditioned. 

Sometimes when we train animals, we actually have to teach them to eat from our hands.  We never have to teach them to look out for their safety - which, fundamentally is when they feel in control - and being in control, means there is choice.

This thought is linked to one on intrinsic and extrinsic motivation - that is a subject for another blog.  Happy sighing!!!

Saturday, 29 July 2017

confessions of a plasticholic

The challenge was presented, and I tentatively said:  "I am up for it."  With good intentions.  This is what I learned.

WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH ANIMALS?  A few things.  Indulge me.

IN GENERAL:  If you know me, you will know that I am constantly playing mind games.  The game I am currently playing is getting to know my habits and belief systems to see how they may be limiting my relationships with the animals in my life.  I thought that going plastic free would be easy.  I thought I knew what my relationship with plastic was all about.   Well.  I was wrong...


Plastic is an environmental threat.  Not just litter that could be swallowed, or toxins in its creation or disposal that are pollutants, or the fact that it probably never breaks down, but also from a climate change point of view.  I know you all know the stories of the big bad P word and all it has done...  So I will not bring more heaviness to your guilt.  But...  Let me share mine. 

I already have a number of plastic free ways of life - normal ones - shopping bags, straws, toothbrushes etc.  So the big focus - was all the other  - harder  stuff to avoid...  I did not do as well as I had hoped.  Here are some confessions:

1.  I did not know the extent of my plastic addiction.  It is evident when I look at animals and those closest to me.  I am very conscious of the plastic I use, and rarely allow myself to purchase plastic problems.  However, when I am purchasing for others, I am willing to sacrifice my principles.  With silly statements in my head like "My children deserve that plastic packet of chips."  "My dogs deserve the plastic chew toy."  "The rats deserve the synthetic homes."

Question - why is it okay for me to compromise when I believe I am being generous.  Is generosity attached to a poor attitude?  Or is plastic seen as a gift.  A gift I am not worthy of?  This is where I am at right now with this lesson. 

2.  Plastic is everywhere.  Even in my daily cigarette.  Yes, I know that I can be purist about this.  I know I should give up this habit. I know that there are many judgements that can be thrown my way with this one.  Here is the thing that this one is attached to...
When I am good I am very very good.  When I am bad, I am horrid...

3...  It is all about convenience.  I live a busy life.  We all do. On my days off I strive to shop for the week in places where I can find plastic free veggies, fruit etc.  Then then wheels fall off - you know how it is...  and I find myself rushing into the corner store to replenish.  In a couple of days this month I threw in the towel completely and stopped trying.  For the next reason...

4.  Discomfort.  To do this plastic free thing requires stepping into the line of fire.  I need to ask the lady at the bread counter to slice the bread and put it into the paper packet.  This usually requires an argument.  Because 'this is not how we do it'...  'the bread slicer does not work' (I went and showed them it did one time) 'I have to ask my manager'  '...the bread is all packed in plastic already'. 

On a good note...  I have learned a few things. 
1.  Put my energy where my mouth is.
2. It is possible.  Just takes a rethink, and some creativity
3. Trying things differently leads others to think about what they are doing.
4.  There are loads of people out there doing there best
5.  When you ask, there are people who can help
6.  There is no turning back.  I am aware.  now I am screwed.
7.  I have no right to lecture or try change the world till I can change me
I am pretty sure I am still addicted to convenience.  There are a number of challenges I am not sure how to face - but this is a start.  #plasticfreelife - Maybe!!
If anyone has suggestions to help, I am willing to hear...  

Thursday, 6 July 2017

all in a moment

Perhaps - every moment we have is engrained on our souls.  Like lines on an old LP record.  They stick there and create the joy, or sadness, or fear or hope that becomes us.  Sometimes we find ourselves in situations where the LP record become stuck.  Because there is a scratch in our experience.  Playing a feeling over and over.  Waiting for someone to come and lift the diamond tip into the next groove. 
Question - do we need to be rescued?
Answer - No.  Our diamond tips are perfectly capable of moving if we are able to recognise that scratch.
All that is really required, is to shake it off. 
Put the words and stories down, and simply hear the music. 

A moment today where I felt very scratchy.  Till I looked into the eyes of a loved few - animals and people.  Cried tears of scratchiness.  Then jumped, grew quiet, and felt some music again.
All in a moment.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

writing from love

Being inspired to share thoughts on ethical animal care is now entrenched

So many beautiful souls have been a part of my journey…  and the journey continues…

I have been quiet on this blog for a while.  Busy writing a new book. 


On this note I am very happy to report my  EXCITING WEEK…

The book is being published by Kima Global in English


By Pavel Jerabek in Czech


      And the cherry on the top

Kima Global are publishing Touching Animal Souls in German.


Champagne time!!!


Monday, 15 May 2017

Liberated insight

Stepping back
When we look.  truly look, so much is visible. Learning to paint has helped me to look more closely at so much.  Not just the canvas.  What I find so interesting, is that when I am painting up close, I often doubt that what I am doing is going to work.  Then I step back and see the shadows and highlights and am amazed at how it all come together.

The same is to be said about any relationship.  With people or animals.  When in the thick of it, you either have faith, or doubt.  Is either of these misguided? 
When we step back, we can see what is truly going on.  With whom are we truly in a fulfilling relationship ?  Who are we trying to please?  Who do we find enthusiastic?  Who is a taker? Who is a giver?  Does the animal truly wish to be with us?  Does the person really care about us? 

Liberated insight.
And then we can proceed without attachment.  And truly be in relationship for relationship sake.

Light on the rainbow bridge

Dear Jula

It has been 2 years since you left this realm.

Lessons since you parted


                Broken hearts do not mend – their pain simply colours a new perspective

                As the days pass, I don’t miss you any less – simply put more conscious energy into the time spent with loved ones

                Your inspired 100% - is hard to live up to in the moments of missing you.  So you are misssed with 100% energy

                There is no limit to the amount of tears one can shed

                Gratitude for the time we had – and so wish it could be more


You are so missed gentle soul. 



Warriors do not have to fight.  They need to be.

When we ‘be’, we will inspire.

When we fight, we have reactive forces that displace truth.

Thank you for the ‘being’ that is still you…


Have loved you forever.  Will love you forever!

Saturday, 8 April 2017

see you soon

Been quiet – eagerly writing a new book.  The manuscript will be done in a couple of weeks.  Then I need to decide what to do with it.  Mmmmm.

Thank you feedspot for recognising this blog.  Much appreciated.


Sunday, 19 March 2017

Penguin adoption - Promises - South America Update

Dear PenguinPromises

The chicks have now left the colony and have set off on their winter
migration to sunny Brazil, leaving Promises at home in the colony. The
adults are not able to follow the chicks yet because they still have things
to do before following the chicks to Brazil. I attach a photo showing
chicks, juveniles and adults all gathering together on the beach, prior to
leaving the colony, each to their different destinations.

The chicks have never been to sea before, so they need time to build up the
strength in their flipper muscles. Flipper exercises on land are no
substitute for time spent out at sea, because flipper flapping requires a
lot more strength under water than on land. Until the chicks have spent many
weeks out at sea building up their strength and stamina, they lack the speed
necessary to catch fish. So after leaving the colony the youngsters hang
around the kelp beds feeding on shrimps and other slow moving creatures in
order to survive.

Kelp is the typical brown seaweed that you can see floating in the water
around the coast. You will often find pieces of it washed up on the beach,
and the long branches have capsules which pop when you press them. The kelp
is actually rooted on the seabed, just like a tree, and the branches are
many metres long, making the kelp as tall as a tree.

Trees require sturdy branches to reach their height, but kelp uses the
capsules of air that are all along the branches to make the branches float
up to the surface of the water so that the kelp can catch the sunlight. Kelp
is a plant, and it needs sunlight to grow just like trees do.

The kelp beds are like underwater forests, and like any forest, they are
full of animals. Snails and barnacles live on the branches of the kelp.
Shrimps and lots of other small creatures crawl and swim amongst the
branches of the kelp in order to hide from fish that would eat them, just
like small birds hide in trees and bushes for protection. Even small fish
live amongst these underwater forests hiding from larger fish.

The young penguins find plenty to eat amongst the kelp beds. They would not
survive without them. Over the coming weeks the youngsters will slowly
strengthen their muscles and learn to swim faster and faster, so that
finally they will be fast enough to catch fish. For the last 2 months the
chicks have been used to being fed top quality fish, with 5 star
room-service included, so it is a bit of a blow for them to now be
scavenging around amongst the kelp to catch shrimps.

Fortunately there are kelp beds all along the coastline between here and
It is a very long journey, but there is no rush. The young penguins move
from one kelp bed to another, feeding at each location, and very gradually
they will make their way northwards up the coast of Patagonia until they
eventually reach southern Brazil.

Punta Tombo in southern Argentina is about one quarter of the distance that
they need to travel to reach Brazil. During the last few days the penguin
colony at Punta Tombo, which has about 180,000 pairs of penguins, had their
population swollen to well over one million penguins. These are the young
penguins stopping off to rest on their journey northwards,

There are no penguin colonies in Brazil. That is to say there are no
breeding colonies in Brazil, and no penguins actually nest there. Brazil is
just a winter feeding ground where the penguins can avoid the cold and
gloomy winter days back home in the colony. Several penguin species from
several countries spend our southern winter off the Brazilian coast, without
ever coming ashore. Most Brazilians don't even know that they have so many
penguins just offshore.

When the adults arrive in Brazil too later this year, the population will
reach about 4 million penguins, comprising of Magellanic, Rockhopper and
Macaroni penguins, all from the Falkland islands and southern Argentina and

Back home in the colony, Promises must now spend time out at sea catching
fish and relaxing. This rest and relaxation is very important for the
penguins' survival.
During chick-rearing Promises lost a lot of weigh, and must now replace that
lost weight so as to be back in good condition before the annual moult
The annual moult takes about three weeks, and Promises cannot eat during
that period, so getting back into shape before the moult is vital.

When the adults were feeding the chicks they had to swim a long way every
day, bringing fish back to the nest from the feeding grounds. Now that the
chicks are no longer in the nest there is no need for Promises to return to
the nest every day. The adults can spend all their time just floating around
near to where the fish are, which saves a lot of time and energy.

When the penguins get hungry, Promises can just dive down and catch a few
Then they can relax floating in the water for hours. It must be very
relaxing bobbing up and down over the waves with nothing to do. When the
adults want to sleep, they just sleep floating in the water.

The adults will be out at sea relaxing and eating for about three weeks
before they return to the nest. I will write to you again when the penguins
are back home in the colony next month, undergoing their annual moult.

Best wishes from Mike

Saturday, 4 March 2017

Andy Seliverstoff - Great work on - What makes people kinder?






Andy Seliverstoff is a 58-year-old professional photographer from St. Petersburg, Russia.



Andy Seliverstoff / Via

A few years ago some of Seliverstoff's friends asked him to take photos of their daughter Alice in a park. They had their gigantic Great Dane, Sean, with them, so they decided to incorporate him into the photos. After seeing the results, he knew he was on to something special.

Andy Seliverstoff / Via

Seliverstoff did another shoot with a child featuring big dogs, and told BuzzFeed News that he was "deeply touched" by the work. That was four years ago and he's been a dog photographer ever since.

Andy Seliverstoff / Via

The project has become his passion, which he chronicles in a book called "Little Kids and Their Big Dogs."

Andy Seliverstoff / Via

All of the photos are taken in St. Petersburg. Its extensive parks and colder climate help create some spectacular shots.

Andy Seliverstoff / Via

Andy Seliverstoff / Via


He also tries to ensure that the photos are taken where the dogs commonly walk and play with children in familiar surroundings so they are as natural as possible.

Andy Seliverstoff / Via

Seliverstoff says that most of the subjects in his photos are either children or grandchildren of people in his friend circle. He said that it's rare that people acquire big dogs while they have young kids, so most of these dogs were with the families before they had the children.




The photos depict the interactions between cute kids and these very gentle giants.

Andy Seliverstoff / Via


Andy Seliverstoff / Via

Seliverstoff said the goal of the series wasn't just to create beautiful pictures, but to capture the interaction between the children and the animals.

Andy Seliverstoff / Via

Andy Seliverstoff / Via

The overall message he's trying to get across, he said, is simple: "Love for dogs and children makes people kinder."







This message and any attached documents are only for the use of the intended recipient(s), are confidential and may contain privileged information. Any unauthorized review, use, retransmission, or other disclosure is strictly prohibited. If you have received this message in error, please notify the sender immediately, and then delete the original message. Thank you.












Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Understanding Dog Separation Anxiety

Love this blog. See below.

Hi ,

One of the most common problems I hear from fellow dog owners is the incredibly stressful case of separation anxiety. Dogs with separation anxiety can turn into nervous wrecks, and as owners, we don't know what to do.

We still need to go to work, buy groceries, and take care of our children. So, what can we do to train our dogs that it is okay when we leave, that we will return and they needn't worry? It's a tricky science with many people voicing their opinions.

But, in the end, it comes down to simply being there for your dog and not supporting their behaviour with reinforcement.

The Danger of Separation Anxiety

To start with, separation anxiety is often mistaken for excitement. When you return home and see your dog bouncing around wagging its tail, you probably assume that they are just very happy to see you. This may be the case, but it can also be a sign of excitability - the result of anguish they felt before.

That anguish comes about when they are left alone - some part of their canine instincts flashing that they are being abandoned, a death knell to dogs. You shouldn't feel guilty about leaving your dog. Most dogs can handle it perfectly well, and even those with anxiety can be retrained.

But, if you ignore it or allow them to continue showing that excitement, it is bad for their health. Not only can it progress to full blown depression and anxiety which hurts the heart, but it can result in destruction around your home.

Why Dogs Become Anxious

On a very basic level, separation anxiety is due to a dog's pack mentality. If they are left alone, they feel that they have been dropped from the pack. But, on a more immediate level, your dog is anxious because you have not clearly shown them that you are a solid, in command pack leader.

In the wild, a pack leader may often leave the pack for a time to hunt or scout ahead. If your dog sees you leave and gets upset, they very well might see you as a follower, and themselves as an alpha leader.

Your job is to take control of the situation and show them that you are not only the leader of your pack, but that you will return every time you leave. Dogs that openly accept their owner as pack leader are infinitely less stressed and anxious. They can trust in you to deal with the issues at hand.

Of course, not all separation anxiety is as complicated as a pack leader dilemma. Sometimes, it can be simply due to a lack of exercise. A dog that does not get enough exercise simply becomes agitated when you leave and will keep themselves busy while you're gone by destroying your home.

The easiest way to handle this is to make sure your dog gets a real walk before you leave - at least 30 minutes of solid walking. You should also walk your dog after you've returned home and waited the 15 minutes before greeting.

Giving Your Dog What She Needs
Good dog ownership consists of giving your dog what she needs, and not what she wants. This may sound cruel, but in reality, by treating your dog as a dog and not as a human being, you will provide them with the stable, protected environment she craves.

She will be able to relax when you leave and you'll know that your $200 shoes are still intact every day when you return home.

If you want even more comprehensive information about resolving separation anxiety in dogs, please check out:

Talk to you soon,

Calvin Lewis




13842 Outlet Dr. #A-180 Silver Spring, MD 20904, USA

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Sunday, 19 February 2017

Giving back to animals. A gift a day

Change happens.  It is inevitable.  It is what we resist and strive for.  Do we prepare the animals in our lives for change or do we wrap them in cotton wool and then see them stress when even the smallest thing changes.

Yes.  animals also have comfort zones. 
A suggestion for the animals in your life - provide them with a small gift everyday.
For your dog, it could be a plant he has never sniffed.  For your horse a rub on the shoulder.  For your cat, perhaps a bit of sand paper wrapped on a stick.  and tomorrow we start again with something new.  Something to look at, touch, sniff, feel, taste...  A new place to visit...

If you work with exotic animals it is called enrichment.  An essential part of working with animals!  Domestic animals deserve it too.

Basically when providing novel stimuli in the form of small gifts, we are preparing our loved ones for changes they may experience.  Then experiencing new things becomes the norm.  Perhaps even something they look forward to.

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

stick to the facts - five hints on how to...

Sometimes easier said than done.  Stick to the facts.  Your facts are not mine.  Your idea is not the as mine, and you assume so much that I don't even know about - and visa versa.  The joy of our experience is that we all come from differing perspectives.  Take this baggage into relationship with animals - Not fair!


  1. Get mentally fit.  Practise listening and not going off on a tangent.  Keep a question in mind - even with an animal.  So, if in a training session focus on one thing at a time.
  2. Stop, Look, Adjust, Move - when working with an animal and it is not going according to plan, stop practising what is not working out.  Do something else and come back clear.
  3. Be prepared - so, know what the point of the communication is - what are you wanting to share, experience, teach, learn.
  4. Play.  It is not all about the facts, or the rules or the judgement.  Take time out to just enjoy being with the animal.  Lots of time
  5. Breathe and be.  There is nothing more wonderful than being in relationship with animals.  The more we are - the more confident we become in their presence, and before we know it - they read our minds and we read theirs.
Basic respect - seeing things from another's point view - without an agenda.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Innocent beings

There is nothing better than true connection.  And it begins in innocence and ends there.
Liberty is letting go of the expectation, taking a deep breath, and then just being in the world.

Touching Animal Souls: Top 10 things I choose not to live without

Touching Animal Souls: Top 10 things I choose not to live without: So grateful...  For a while it was taken for granted.  Now there is joy in the little things.  The amazing amazing little things.  Cannot ...

Top 10 things I choose not to live without

So grateful... 

For a while it was taken for granted.  Now there is joy in the little things.  The amazing amazing little things.  Cannot sum it all up here.  But here is a start anyway.

10.  Beach living - swimming with animals, wherever that may be.

9.  Friends who are as passionate about animal care as I am.

8.  Open-hearted animals - the reason for waking up in the morning.

7.  Early morning sojourns with the menagerie (with the joyful repeat at dusk)

6.  Physical labour required in the care of animals

5.  Fur on my couches

4.  The smell of fish on me after a satisfying day at work

3.  Barefoot living - provides the contentment of being connected to the planet

2.  That look in their eyes.

1.  Putting my face into the fur of the horses, dogs and cats, inhaling and knowing that this is where I wish to be.

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

South American Penguin update

Dear PenguinPromises


The chicks have been growing quickly and they are now almost as big as Promises.

They now leave the nest each day to explore the area around the nest in preparation for leaving the colony. I attach a photo of the chicks so that you can see just how big they have grown in such a short time..


Childhood is very short for a penguin. The chicks leave the nest to begin life on their own after just two months from hatching. During those two short months they increase their weight 30 times, from about 100 grams at birth to about 3000 grams when they leave. They change from tiny balls of fluff into full-sized penguins in just 8 weeks, when food is in good supply, which it is here.


At the moment whenever the weather is nice, the chicks leave the nest to do their flipper exercises. They flap their flippers up and down as fast as they can as though they expect to fly, but these exercises play a very important role in building good strong flipper muscles which the chicks will need when they leave the colony to begin life as a juvenile. Once out at sea they will have to swim long distances and need to be ready for the journey.


The chicks have fluffy chick feathers when they are small. These fluffy feathers are wonderful for keeping the chicks nice and warm when the feathers are dry, but the fluffy feathers are no use at all when they get wet. They soak up water like a sponge and make swimming impossible. So the chicks are now shedding their fluffy chick feathers and replacing them with sleek, shiny feathers that are waterproof.


The new juvenile feathers do not soak up the water. They are coated with wax which the penguins produce in a gland near to the tail. They spread this wax over the feathers during grooming. Penguins spend a lot of time grooming themselves and each other. Keeping the feathers waxed is one of the reasons for grooming, and the other reason is to remove ticks and fleas.


The new feathers will keep the chicks warm and dry even when swimming. The waxy feathers interlock together using microscopic hooks, providing a waterproof barrier that works in a similar way to the black wet-suits which people use for diving and surfing. The new feathers are like the feathers of Promises, but without the black lines of the adults which only appear when the penguins reach 5 years of age..


Once these new feathers have finished growing the chicks will be ready to leave the colony and go out to sea on their own. Penguins are born to swim and are always happiest out in the open ocean. The excitement when the chicks first enter the water is a joy to see. They splash around, leap in and out of the water, and float around on their backs splashing water over themselves to bathe.


At the moment it is a difficult job for Promises to catch enough food to feed the ever hungry chicks. Their rapid growth means that the chicks can eat more than Promises can catch. The adults both set off as soon as the sun rises at about 5 o'clock in the morning, and spend all day out at sea catching fish for the chicks. The chicks cannot go into the water yet, until the new feathers are ready, so they must stay at home and wait for supper. The chicks don't get breakfast or lunch, just supper.


The adults don't get home until late afternoon or early evening, and even after supper the chicks still complain that they are hungry. The chicks in our colony are well fed and food supply is not a problem here, which is why the chicks here grow so quickly. In colonies where food is in short supply, such as in the Falkland Islands, chick growth can take as long as 16 weeks, twice what it is here.


The chicks here eat a quarter of their own body weight every single day. The adults work 12 to 15 hours a day catching enough food for the chicks. They get no weekends and no days off to relax. Before they started rearing the chicks the adults weighed about 6 kg and now they weigh less than 5 kg. They have lost more almost 20% of their body weight because of working so hard to feed the chicks.

It is just as well that they only have to do it for two months, otherwise poor Promises would disappear altogether.


Despite their frenetic flipper exercises, the chicks lack the strength and stamina to be fast enough to catch large fish when they leave, so during the first few months at sea they fish amongst the kelp beds feeding on small fish, shrimps and other crustaceans.


Gradually as they spend more time at sea, and build up the flipper muscles, they will become faster and will be able to leave the kelp beds and catch slightly larger fish, but it takes four years for the youngsters to fully develop the strength and stamina that they need to begin raising families of their own. Experienced adults loose 20% of their body weight rearing the chicks, which is why younger juveniles would not have the strength and endurance to raise chicks successfully.



Many people ask if they can adopt the chicks, but unfortunately we are unable to offer the chicks for adoption. I wish we could. The problem is that when the chicks leave the colony, most will not return to the colony until they are 5 years old and ready to raise chicks of their own. That means that people adopting chicks would not get any news or photos of their penguin for 5 years.


Once the chicks have left, Promises will take a long rest out at sea just catching fish and relaxing, so that they can recover the weight that they have lost over the last few weeks. This feeding and recovery is very important because about a month after the chicks have left the adults must return to the colony in order to change all their feathers, which means a period of about three weeks stranded ashore with no food. It is important for Promises and the adults to recover their lost weight before beginning a long period without food.


I will write to you again when the chicks have left the colony and the adults are returning fat and healthy to begin their annual moult (molt)..


Best wishes,  Mike




Monday, 30 January 2017

conveniently choice-free

Don’t waste a moment.  They deserve true relating.  Present choice-based communication where we honour them by allowing them to be individuals who are talking to us.  Listen and respond with grace, not ‘systems’.

My son was gifted with a record player.  What excitement.  He plugged it into our surround sound system and hauled out my record collection – unplayed for the last 25 odd years.  Not sure who was more excited as he took the LP out of its sleeve – none other than Led Zeppelin ‘Stairway to Heaven’, slipped it on, and the static crackle launched me back into nostalgic joy. 

Joy aside, it was such a great lesson.  My son was clueless on how records worked.  He was shocked that you only got to listen to four or five songs and then you had to manually turn over the record to hear the other songs.  I remembered evening with friends where we would gather around the record player and choose the songs we wanted to listen to.  We would argue and motivate what went next.  And, yes, manually do the business of putting on the song once we agreed. 


The lesson – perhaps convenience is robbing us of our responsibility to choose.  We no longer are in touch with the world.  Our fast foods are made up.  Even packets of half made foods provide convenience, but less tangible processes with mother earth.  We are no longer in touch with the world.  We are removed from her, and busy complaining about the cue in the check out line being too long.  Forgetting what time it would take if we really had to go out and harvest the trolley load of packaged material. 


So off the soap box now.  Let’s get to the animal relationship connection…What is the impact on our relationships with animals?  The modern human is addicted to systems.  Which is tantamount to the blind leading the blind.  The flat liners encouraging the unmotivated.


Rules and regulations on how to respond when something goes in a particular way are the quickest path to eradicating respectful relationships.  Question – if you hear yourself or another saying – about your dog – don’t let him jump up on you.  He is not allowed to do that.  Or the horse must respond like this when you do that.  There is a place for consistent relationship.  There is a place for clear boundaries.  However, are we always looking at the animal – from the animal’s point of view?  Or the human, for that matter.  If your four legged friend needs some comfort during a thunder storm, will he feel confident enough in relationship with you to ask for that comfort?  If your horse is startled by a snake, will he consider his response or simply throw you off and look after his own safety.


When we create relationships with people or animals, we cannot do it with rules.  We have to do it with respect.  So yes, clarity must be achieved.  However, respectfully.  With choice on both our parts.  Don’t get lost in the system.  For those of us that understand the terminology – ‘don’t get lost in the bridge’.  Or, as we have all heard – its about the journey, not the destination.


Stop, breathe – CHOOSE - act

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Inspired by innocence

Its been said before. Enthusiasm is from Greek origin and means the God within. Enthusiasm is often socialised out of us. Put to sleep with dogma and fear. As we get older the rigidity of our opinions can harden and defend any thought or feeling that is not acceptable in our reference pack. Danger zone. That's when patterns and beliefs take away our objective enjoyment of the animals and people in our lives. Its when we stop appreciating the nature of what is. It is judgement time: When the neighbour is not fit to look after animals. When a spouse does not share our virtuous view. When the animal knows what it should be doing and is instead being naughty. When the world becomes filled with our resistance.  An angry dead end place.

Funny story. We think we inspire kids to careπŸ˜ƒπŸ˜€πŸ˜‚. Truth. They remind us that caring is empathetic. That it is without a story. That it is in the moment. Love this blessed gift that was made for me by my 9 year old friend Jemma Schnell. Horse enthusiast and lover of animals. Finder of heart wherever she goes. Truth sayer and precious angel. She is a sage!! 

Sent from my Samsung Galaxy smartphone.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Happy Birthday Sausage

This photograph.  Taken on the 1st of January 2000.  At 6am in the morning.  New Year’s eve time with dolphins is something that animal care staff do.  No better way to see in the New Year.  And how beautiful is this angel Kelpie.  33 years old today. 


Such a gentleman.  When I started working at with him, Kelpie was 6 years old.  And already a charmer of note.  If you ask him to retrieve a toy, even today, he will be extra obliging – helping you get it out of the water.  He is a confidence builder.  In people and in animals.  He has taught so many animal trainers that they are good enough.  He is the stable soul that we will introduce new young animals to, and he takes them patiently under his flipper, and shows them the ropes.  Special memories.  Like when he was practising behaviours he was trained with Khwezi – the newest addition to the bachelor group – Khwezi did not know the behaviours yet, but Kelpie was teaching him them.  When he mimiced the alarm, so that he could get the trainers to rush to say hello at a whim.  How he will happily play with trainers for hours.  If you are there, so is he.  How creative he is.  Him and Freya coming up with a dual behaviour at the same time to a cue they had never see before.  That special bond with Freya.  His wicked sense of humour.  How he will sit and stare at you when you ask him for a behaviour, and you know that he knows what you want him to do.  And just when you are about to give up asking, he playfully offers the behaviour.  How he measures up people.  Slowly, deliberately.  Watching, and checking to see if he can play the game.  His gentle being.  Standing in the water, just cuddling him.  And his super enthusiasm after that water encounter.  When he jumps higher than ever. 

There were those before I started working that told me tales of Kelpie.  He was the first calf ever born at Sea World.  Observations of the miracle were exciting, and covered by scientists.  Many lessons learned, and written up scientifically.  His playful nature.  Eager enthusiasm.  They were apparently prevalent from the start. 

And he has taught us all so much about animal training.  What is possible through trust and faith.  That a nearly 400 kilogram animal can be a gentle giant.

Kelpie angel.  So grateful that I know you.  And I know I speak for so many.  You are a gem.  It is so easy to love you.  And we do!  Happy Birthday Superstar

Head in the Sand

Our world has gone made.  Legislating about everything rather than looking at what needs doing. 


There is no right or wrong, just opinion.  This is the case when we only do ‘right or wrong’ based on the outcome we will receive from others.  So I don’t cross the road or I will get a smack from my mum.  Or I do my homework so I can get my pocket money.  It starts when we are kids.  We are trained not to think for ourselves.  Not to consider the best thing to do.  We are trained about what is right or wrong.  We stop seeing things for the greater good.  Because we are not facilitated to consider that.  We stay small.  We are trained to be selfish.

Then we grow up, and don’t speed our cars to avoid the camera trap.  Or we save up our money to buy the designer jeans so our friends will think we are cool.  And we drive past the beggar with judgement justifying our ignoring his plea.  Or we celebrate the supermodel, calling her a good role model for our kids.


Then we get fed information that keeping animals in captivity is wrong.  And we become activists so we can have our photograph taken next to a banner that identifies us as a goodie.  Or we campaign against a zoo, by pressing the like button on facebook at the same time as we eat our fast food burger(no thought to how hectic the burger is for the world).  We sign petitions without doing research.  We make uniformed rash arguments because our friends think the same way.  In essence –

We worry too much about what others think about us, and too little about what is really going on.


I am not saying that animals in captivity are ‘right’.  There are good zoos and aquariums and bad ones.  But here are some thoughts.

-          We have come so far in the captivity industry.  Welfare is improving daily.  And this is great, not only for the animals in our care, but also for the lessons it teaches us about their wild counterparts.

-          The ‘wild’ is in trouble.  Welfare in the wild is scary.  Animals are going extinct at a rapid rate.  We need captivity – to learn, to propagate, and in hope – to reintroduce animals back to the wild when the wild is ‘fixed’

-          The captive industry is hugely responsible for any empathy that people have with nature and the wild.  My children grew up in South Africa and have been fortunate to go out to see and spend quality time in the bush – and yet I know that they have great empathy with the ocean because of time spent in aquariums – where they were educated, and given an opportunity to get close and create connections to something beyond themselves.


If we phase out captivity – is there hope for nature?  I would love to believe this.  I fear, however that the result will be no animals in sight for the majority of people on our planet.  The documentaries will muddle dinosaurs and dolphins, dodos and giraffes.  Nobody will know what is real.  The remoteness of the critters will mean that nothing will be done to help the animals with a chance.  Virtual reality will take over.


I had a discussion with an educated cashier yesterday when I purchased some items at a hardware store.  I explained I did not wish for a plastic bag as it was unnecessary waste and ended up harming the world.  He said how?  I told him about animals – dolphins and turtles that die as a result of ingestion, and pollution from plastic and how it was in the fish we eat, and making us sick, and that plastic takes a long time to break down.  His retort – ‘That’s not my problem.  I don’t eat fish.  Plastic eventually will break down.’ 

Connection is everything.  When I have spent time observing a monitor and how it reacts to the world.  When I have looked into the eyes of a brindle bass.  Touched an eagle ray.  Watched a Queen Coris steal food from a Starfish. 

When I feel a part of this world, rather than the world owes me a favour, then I will begin to be a responsible citizen. 


Let’s stop shouting.  Let’s look closely at what needs doing.  No legislation will take the place of good heart.  If a zoo is bad, then let’s focus on that zoo.  Get it fixed or shut it down.  If an aquarium is good, lets get 100 000 kids to visit per month.  Change the kids and show them care.  If there is litter on the floor, pick it up.  Go for swims in the ocean, walks in the bush.  This is it!  No second chances.  We are part of something awesome!



"Do or do not; there is no try." Yoda


Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Confidence kicks

Next lesson

And this one was a paperwork lesson(-:

Not theory thankfully.


My blessed art classes with mad art teacher who keeps us grounded, guided and well-nourished with good red wine.  On the latest canvass I chose to paint a picture of my son when he was a little younger with another of our family members, beautiful horse Gandalph. 

So, all proceeded well to start with.  Until I realised that I was having a fine time painting Gandalph, but not such a fine time painting Zac.  Then I realised why.  Gandalph does not judge me.  And I am worried about Zac's opinion of me.

Freedom in the revelation.  Chatted to Zac about it.  Had a laugh, and then moved on to paint this angel as well as I could.  No more required.


Someone told me that judgement – of ourselves, or others, is a justification for a stuck mind.  Who wants a stuck mind.  Freedom in expression is only possible when we forgive ourselves our inadequacies.  In relation with animals it is easier.


So here it is again.  Gratitude for the animals in my life. 

Without this example of miracle Gandalph and my relative perspective of my son, I would  never have noticed the differences.  And as a result, I would have been far less inclined to be able to afford my son more space to simply be himself.  And myself, more space to be.




Sunday, 15 January 2017

A Lesson in Surrender


I always found the concept of surrender a cop out.  Something one would do if one was too weak to take on a situation.


So, when I found myself in a situation where I am unable to follow my passion in the most effective manner, I experienced great discomfort. 

Speaking up was immediately taken as judgement.  Even though it was never intended as that.  The presumed judgement resulted in defence.  And the drama began, and unfolded. 

 Chasms and vindication ruled.  Frustration and finger pointing.

What has this to do with animals?


For those of us that work with animals, they are like kids.  They sense how we feel.  Our moods affect them.  So, when this type of angst environment is created, the disturbance affects the creatures that we love.

The lesson – stop the angst.  It is not worth upsetting the animals.  Nothing is.  So, surrender. 

Not sure where this will go.  But I am here right now. 


And then the best part of the lesson.  Summer evenings at the stables.  I have put the three boys away for the night.  Snuggled into their necks and inhaled their horsey smell.  Business of preparing their evening done.  Time on my hands.  And I sit.  Big breath and here I am.  Listening to them finishing their dinner.  Watching the pond in the evening sunset.  Herons and hadedahs flying overhead.  My dogs beside me. And Przzy the cat is rubbing up and down on my leg.   Light cool breeze offering respite from the hot hot day.  Nothing to think about.  Nothing needs doing right now.  Just being.  This is when I remember the word surrender.  Being being being.  Enjoying the being.  In the company of Gods.  It is here all the time.  Being is surrender. 



Sunday, 8 January 2017

Great blog about interesting dog facts

Love Mr Lewis blogs. Here is a really interesting one:

From: Dog Temperament [] On Behalf Of Dog Temperament

Hi ,

Every day, we sit and watch our dogs do seemingly amazing things. But, do we really understand everything that makes our furry friends so special? In today's message I want to touch on 10 things that I find simply fascinating about dogs.

They truly are amazing creatures, with more intelligence and abilities that we give them credit for.
Let's take a closer look at just how incredibly they truly

1. Canine Ears - Dogs can register over 35,000 vibrations a second. To give you an idea of how many that is, the human ear can only register 20,000 vibrations a second. Dogs have a hearing capacity 75% greater than our own.

2. Longevity - Most people assume dogs can only live for 10+ years, but the world's oldest dogs managed to live for over 20 years. In fact, the oldest dog to ever live survived for 29 years and 5 months.

3. Seeing At Night - Dogs have a few sight myths. They can see in color, but to a very limited degree.
Additionally, they have better night vision than we do because of special reflective layers in their eyes.

4. As Warriors - Dogs have been trained to do many things in human history, including riding alongside in battle. In the middle ages, mastiffs were trained to run in alongside knights. Germans in World War II were also said to have used them to blow up tanks.

5. Jaws of Steel - A dog's jaws are its most powerful weapon. Whereas most hunters have claws as well, dogs can exert almost 200 pounds of pressure in each square inch with their jaws, far more than a human being ever could.

6. Nose Prints - Every dog has a unique nose print on par with human finger prints. In fact, these nose prints have been used in the past to identify dogs that were lost or accused of attacks.

7. Anatomy - Despite their size differences and shapes, every dog is almost identical in terms of anatomy with 321 bones and 42 permanent teeth. Variations occur in size and length of these bones of course, with large number of variants in organ placement as well.

8. Puppy Sleep - Puppies will sleep for 90% of the day for the first handful of weeks. Many people mistake this for illness and many vets will see countless "sleepy"
puppies every year.

9. Ownership - Nearly 35% of all American households own a dog and more than 5 million puppies are born in the US every year.

10. Dog's Ears - The ears of a dog have twice as many muscles as human ears. Their ability to move and control their ears is equal to our ability to swivel and bend our necks.

Some dogs have even greater control over their ears than others, with some breeds bred for dampened hearing.

As you can see, dogs are incredible animals with so many unique facts that it's impossible to think of them as anything more primal than what they are - our loving friends and pets. Their physiology, intelligence, and even their character is unique among all domesticated pets.

It's no wonder that dogs have been such a powerful companion for human beings for much of the last 12,000 years, dating back through much of recorded human history.
As long as human beings have been building homes or farming plots of land, we've had dogs by our side.

Now that's an amazing fact for you.

Before I sign off, I thought I'd mention that every dog owner NEEDS to have at least one good reference guide to their dog's health to ensure that they live a long and happy life.

If you haven't got a copy of "The Ultimate Guide to Dog Health" make sure you get one now.

Go here for full details:

All the best to a long healthy life for your dog,

Calvin Lewis



13842 Outlet Dr. #A-180 Silver Spring, MD 20904, USA

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