I couldn’t sleep last night.
A too late, too salty curry woke me at 2am
I couldn’t find my Kindle, (Myron Bolitar, Book 7).
Instead read the Guardian.
An interview with Stefano Mancuso the Florentine professor researching plant consciousness, or, more precisely, as he calls it, the neurobiology of plants.
How they sense and interact with the world.
Yesterday I travelled with the family to Fraisthorpe,
A beach off the East Coast of Yorkshire.
It is beautiful,
A wide expanse of sea and sand
Just down from Bridlington.
Blake, our Cocker Spaniel
Ran up and down the beach,
Laser-focused on his orange ball.
I let Stella off the lead.
Stella is a Sprointer.
She is, what happens when you cross a Springer Spaniel with a Pointer.
She has big droopy ears and sensitive eyes.
Almost always, we keep Stella on the lead as she has little ‘recall’ – this being a dog’s ability to return to its owner when called.
Blake is a recall champion, Stella not.
Some of this is nature; Blake and his breed have been developed for years to focus and retrieve game birds or in his current existence, orange balls.
We acquired Stella during Covid.
My old dog Maisie was diagnosed very late with stomach cancer and in my grief-state, alongside the rest of the country I reached-out for another dog.
We found her at a place in the Midlands.
She was a wary creature. Timid to the point of defensive fearfulness, her terror was so great she wouldn’t leave the crate she was occupying, not for a ball, not for a treat.
The people at the dog-place managed to manhandle her out of the cage and she eventually ran around the paddock for us.
We realised that she was likely a dog who had experienced deep trauma, took her-on, brought her home and I began the work of introducing her to life.
Today she is ‘mostly’ normal; she has her quirks. She is very attached to me and if, for some reason, perhaps a door has closed and she can’t access me, she will stand in the kitchen and pee.
She is very defensive around food and until Blake arrived didn’t know how to open doors (he showed her).
I didn’t really want to focus too much on Stella’s history although it is all relevant.
Further investigation at the time of our obtaining Stella revealed that she originally came from a dog trainer in Northern Ireland; a company that trains dogs to detect drugs and explosives. She had been rejected for although she has a good nose, her fearfulness wouldn’t have been good during a bomb scare.
And so, yesterday, Stella was running. Running free. She can run very fast although she rarely gets the opportunity (we sometimes take her to a local paddock/play-place), otherwise she is on the lead.
She joined-in with the ball run and retrieval, she looked as happy as, well, judge for yourself.
At Fraisthorpe, the beach is bordered by a sandy, loam wall which varies in height between one to two metres high. This is mostly adequate to keep Stella with us.
Yesterday she managed, after running free for an hour to scramble up the side.
She had attempted a couple of times although had been unsuccessful and returned to the offer of a fishy treat.
Eventually, she managed to pull herself up and was away.
She literally, did a pull-up; this is not easy for a dog.
It was as if the attraction of ‘up there’ was an order of magnitude greater than the orange ball and the beach.
And, she was off.
Very quickly she disappeared.
Across the field.
If you read Friday’s blog you might know what I was thinking, ‘Crap, a farmer will shoot her.’
Fortunately, there were no sheep or cows, just open fields of stubble and new grass.
She ran. Head down, focused, sniffing.
She chased pheasants, quails and at least one hare.
She was in and out of bogs, up and down dykes.
Shouting ‘Stella!’ ‘Come’ ‘Here!’
The sounds did not register.
I could see her, in the distance, face down, focused, at one with the smells.
And this, is the point of today’s blog.
At different times during the search (Apple tag wasn’t any help, fortunately the area in the East of Yorkshire is very flat with subtle undulations, and I was wearing my glasses – I could therefore see her at distance.) I became frustrated.
‘Damn dog,’ I thought, and ‘This is the last time…’ Or ‘Never again, I’ll never bring her here again…’
You know, the kind of negative, self-talk that drives some of us at times quite crazy.
She was sniffing.
Fortunately, it was a nice day. The sun was shining, and no farmers or cars.
It was then I realised.
I was trying to rationalise with Stella using my human mind-consciousness; I was applying human standards of behaviour on her, a dog.
There is no doubt that dogs are sentient, that they have a sense of self, of the world (Professor Mancuso is exploring consciousness in plants.) And yet, her world is unimaginably different to mine.
For most humans, sight is our primary sense, followed by sound; the others, taste, feel and smell are secondary.
Our visual world, processed through the infinitude of our brains, creates a reality that is finite, amazing, beautiful, complex and all the other adjectives you might want to apply.
It is not the world of a dog.
It is not a world of scent (that is a thousand times more powerful than ours).
Stella running, was likely smelling all the animals that were in the field and all the animals, the shrews, mice, voles, as well as the rabbits, hares, deer, and pheasants that were living there and had passed through in recent days.
An amazing complexity of smells that I cannot imagine.
Complex and dramatically different.
Creating a different world.
And Stella, bred to sniff explosives or cannabis has this canine power multiplied.
Most of the time we tend not to think about the consciousness of others, let alone that of different species.
The world is my idea – Schopenhauer said, everything that is, is a mental construct. The same applies to my dog.
Using the language or tools of humans, ‘Stella! Come here!’ doesn’t work.
This morning, interestingly, applying this logic, I thought to myself, ‘Does Stella know her name?’ Sure, we call her ‘Stella’ all the time and years ago I gave-up trying to train her to recall, and yet, what does Stella mean to her?
(Dogs supposedly don’t understand language, when responding to ‘sit’ or ‘stay’ they are associating the sounds with their behaviour.)
And, over recent months, to (as I call it) develop Stella’s frontal lobes I have been training her to ‘stay’.
Today, following the ‘stay’ (she will stay for up to 10 minutes (I haven’t tested her for longer)), I called, ‘Stella’.
She didn’t move.
Nothing. (I was standing by her food bowl).
I have trained her to respond to ‘come’ which she consistently achieves running at speed to her chews. (Come didn’t work yesterday either).
My frustration at her nose-down, eyes to the ground, was pointless. I may as well have tried to argue with the wind or the sun.
Perhaps, one day, with the evolution of humanity we will ascend the Spiral (see here) and gain a better understanding not just of our own consciousness and that of other humans, but a greater sense of the world as perceived by different animals, even by plants.
Yoda the tortuga… God only knows what he is thinking