Lucky Pomeranian

The white Pomeranian which was abandoned by its owner and left to fend for itself in the harsh world has once again found an owner. I saw him bathing and combing the dog. The dog also seems to have taken a fancy for the new owner.

During the inter weening period, it has somehow adjusted with the pariah dogs. This dog is very handsome. In the beginning, street dogs bullied it and there were fierce fights in which it was badly bruised. But slowly the street dogs came to terms with it and it was accepted into their fold. It used to sleep with other dogs under cars and huts shades. It sometimes chose the bitches also and tried mating them but it was fiercely spurned and bitch showed the white fangs .

Since it was a pet from its childhood, it has not faced the hardships faced by the street dogs and has been more fortunate but in the bargain, it did not learn the art of fights and competition for the food:  a trait very much desired to survive as the father of evolution Sir Charles Darwin told us many years ago.

As now it is again under protection, it is safe. But it sometimes runs towards its street friends when it sees them but soon returns to its new found haven.

A strange Food Chain!!!

To survive in this harsh world, one has to struggle and beat others. While in the world of animals the competition is really physical, the human beings take it to mental level. Humans have the ability to hide their emotions, they store their grudges against others and thus compete on a very different level. Most of their actions are covert in nature.

Animals have very hard life that way. Most of them settle their scores on the spot. They don’t keep it for the future. They even do not seem to repent the loss of their near and dear ones in the struggle as the humans do. They seem to be resigned to their fate and take the events as they come.

Since they have to face a fierce competition for their food, they are masters at conserving their energies, they don’t waste it unnecessarily. Since they don’t get much for over eating, they don’t need to exercise for their fitness.

Since many days, I am observing a strange thing. In the early morning, scores of crows dive into the garbage in the ditch outside the boundary of our colony. They dive and come out with bits of parts of the dead birds mostly chickens. With some morsel in their beaks, they sit on the nearby tree branches and many sit on the tops of the buildings of our office which is adjacent to the boundary.

I also invariably noted the presence of stray dogs standing below these trees and always looking up. I have the suspicion that dogs are waiting for the crows to throw away the discarded morsels and eat them. They hope that since crows are endowed with power to fly, they will not linger on morsel in the mouth longer. They discard them after eating small bits and then fly to get the new better ones.

Then, I noticed dogs sitting on the top of the wall of the building where the skeleton of a hoarding is situated and which is regularly occupied by the crows. This wall is facing the highway and first I thought that these dogs are surveying the traffic on the highway! But everyone knows that no animal will take the risk to go and sit on the ledges from where they can even fall down fatally. It dawned upon me that again the reason is the same. Getting the discarded and thrown away morsels of the offal.

This whole phenomenon seem to prove that even crows can feed the dogs. Thus a new food chain is created.

Pavlovian Conditioning

Sometimes, a discovery seems too simple to believe its applications. This is the case with Pavlovian conditioning named after the doctor Ivan Pavlov. He was a doctor and besides his research  on the secrets of digestive system, he was interested in knowing what signals triggered the related phenomena such as secretion of saliva.

We know that saliva is secreted whenever food is presented before animals. This is called drooling. In us humans, an enzyme called Amylase is present in the saliva which breaks down the starch we eat into lower sugars which are sources of energy for sustaining our bodies. Similarly, dogs begin to drool whenever food is presented before them. But what strange thing he observed was that dog also began to drool whenever it saw the doctor’s coat. He concluded that dog formed an association with lab coat and associated it with food. He did more experiment of different kind. He will ring a bell and immediately present food to dog. After some days, he observed that dog began to secret saliva on ringing the bell even if he was not presented with food. This time dog has formed an association between ringing of bell and presentation of food. Pavlov’s discovery was that the environmental events that previously had no relation to a given reflex (such as a bell sound) could, through experience, can be made to trigger a reflex (salivation). This kind of learnt response is called conditioned reflex, and the process whereby dogs or humans learn to connect a stimulus to a reflex is called conditioning.

Animals generally learn to associate stimuli that are relevant to their survival. Food aversion is an example of a natural conditioned reflex. If an animal eats something with a distinctive vanilla taste and then eats a tasteless poison that leads to nausea, the animal will not be particularly eager to eat vanilla-flavoured food the next time. Linking nausea to taste is an evolutionarily successful strategy, since animals that failed to learn their lesson did not last very long.

This work has great spin off studies and changing of behavior.  An important principle in conditioned learning is that an established conditioned response (salivating in the case of the dogs) decreases in intensity if the conditioned stimulus (bell) is repeatedly presented without the unconditioned stimulus (food). This process is called extinction.

In order to treat phobias evoked by certain environmental situations, such as heights or crowds, this phenomenon can be used. The patient is first taught a muscle relaxation technique. Then he or she is told , over a period of days, to imagine the fear-producing situation while trying to inhibit the anxiety by relaxation. At the end of the series, the strongest anxiety-provoking situation may be brought to mind without anxiety. This process is called systematic desensitization.

Pavlovian conditioning is used in effective commercial advertising.  An effective commercial should be able to manipulate the response to a stimulus (like seeing a product’s name) which initially does not provoke any feeling. The objective is to train people to make the “false” connection between positive emotions (e.g. happiness or feeling attractive) and the particular brand of consumer goods being advertised.

Life & Death

What is life after all. Yesterday, in the night, around 9 O’clock, while returning from the club, I saw the dog lying on the grass by the side of the road. Its body was writhing in convulsions; froth was issuing from its mouth. It was dying and its mental faculties had lost all reasoning. Its mates were sitting melancholy by its side nearby. They were silent.

Only, yesterday it was alive, today it is leaving this world. Yesterday, it was fighting for food with other dogs. Animals of same species or for that matter seem to settle score there and then; they don’t keep animosity or love in the balance. We humans, keep the hatred and love stored in the mind where it get the interest also meaning it continues to accumulate and results in tensions and unhappiness. Animals will fight and forget it that instance.

Next day in the morning, though I was not having the courage to go and see it lying there, I went there. It was lying without any worries about gathering food, serene, it was sleeping an eternal sleep freed of all hardships. I recalled to my mind the phrase “a dogs life“.