Dogs, Sleep, and Dreams,

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August 28, 2020 by libroshombre

            Many dog owners agree with Charles Schultz, the famed Peanuts creator, that, “Happiness is a warm puppy,” and with the completely anonymous W.R Purche’s, “Everyone thinks they have the best dog, and none of them are wrong.”  Lord Byron, as famous for his horrible treatment of friends and family as for his wonderful poetry, reserved most of his true love for his Newfoundland dog, Boatswain.  Byron was twenty when Boatswain died in his arms from rabies, and it seemed to suck compassion right out of the man.  He wrote a moving eulogy for “One who possessed Beauty/ Without Vanity,/ Strength without Insolence,/ Courage without Ferocity,/ And all the virtues of Man/ Without his Vices.”  Just like my dog, Griff.

            E.B. White, author of “Charlotte’s Web,” and other classics, loved dogs, too, but for their frailties as well as their qualities.  He wrote an obituary for his cantankerous dachshund Daisy “who died December 22, 1931, when she was hit by a Yellow Cab.  At the moment of her death she was smelling the front of a florist’s shop … She is survived by her mother, Jeannie; a brother, Abner; her father, who she never knew; and two sisters, whom she never liked.  She was three years old.  Her life was full of incident but not of accomplishment.  Persons who knew her only slightly regarded her as an opinionated little bitch, and said so, but she had a small circle of friends who saw through her, cost what it did … She also developed, without instruction or encouragement, a curious habit of holding people firmly by the ankle without actually biting them – a habit that gave her an immense personal advantage and won her many enemies.”

            Daisy, like Boatswain, Griff, and all dogs, was a dreamer.  “What Do Dogs Dream About?” was answered in a LiveScience.com article by that title and quotes Dr. Stanley Coren, a leading dog psychologist and author of “The Intelligence of Dogs,” “Do Dogs Dream?” and other dog-related best sellers available at your public library.  Coren taught at the University of British Columbia, where he made breakthroughs in studies of visual perception and other subjects.  His theory that left-handedness is partially caused by difficult births and is connected with shorter lifespans due to accidents and compromised immune systems created a big stir, but his later, happier, studies were in canine behavior.

            Coren noted that dogs sleep more than people and the structure of their sleep looks remarkably human,” cycling through stages of wakefulness, rapid eye movement and non-REM sleep.  In tests dogs are alert 44% of the time, drowsy 21%, and spend 12% in REM sleep.  People dream in both REM and non-REM sleep, Pappas wrote, “but the dreams that most people remember are REM dreams.  In this stage dreams are memorable and bizarre … By comparison, non-REM dreams are rather mundane.”  Categorizing the day’s events take place in non-REM sleep, while REM sleep “may be an avenue for the brain to explore them in a consequence-free environment.”

            The world’s full of consequences right now, but dogs, with their remarkable olfactory powers, are coming to our rescue.  “Dogs are fur-coated sniffing machines,” according to “How to Speak Dog,” a book that Guys Read Gals Read recently donated scores of to local public school libraries.  “A dog has a special pouch in the roof of his mouth for storing smells.  And his brain is a giant database full of searchable odors,” which explains the fascination with butt-sniffing and rolling in dead things.  Training dogs to scent Covid-19 is happening round the world.  In France, for example, dogs can detect the virus in sweat from infected people with 100% accuracy, and similar training’s happening in Australia, Belgium, and other nations, but apparently not here.

            It takes 6-8 weeks to bring already trained scenting dogs up to speed on Covid-19, and 3-6 months for dogs with no prior scent training.  But even untrained dogs provide Covid relief.  A large Washington State University national study found that 70% of dog owners feel less isolated and depressed, thanks to their canine companionship, and 42% are having more walkies and exercise.  Your pets are household members; if you get sick, you need to treat them as such and isolate even from your pets yet only 40% of pet owners have designated someone else to provide pet care in such situations.  It’s our duty and best interest to tend their health, too, for as Andy Rooney, noted, “The average dog is a nicer person than the average person.”

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