Head butting or head pressing? The difference is life or death.

head pressing

head pressing

I read recently of a behavior that I had never thought of as being dangerous, and if I had never heard of it I’ll bet you haven’t heard of it either. If you see your dog or cat standing against the wall, pushing their head against any solid surface, it is an immediate cause for concern and get them to their Vet ASAP. This is known as head pressing and it generally indicates damage to the nervous system or a neurological condition or illness and it is very important that you take your dog or cat to a Veterinarian for diagnosis. According to Dogheirs.com, the illness that can cause this behavior are:

-prosencephalon disease (in which the forebrain and thalamus parts of the brain are damaged)

-tumors (eg brain or skull)

-liver shunt

-toxic poisoning (e.g. lead poisoning)

-metabolic disorder, such as hyper or hyponatremia (too much, or too little sodium in the body’s blood plasma)


-encephalitis (inflammation of the brain and spinal cord. Many things can cause encephalitis. Infectious causes include bacteria, viruses, parasites, fungi and tick-transmitted disease).

-hepatic encephalopathy (metabolic disorder as result of liver disease)

-infection of the nervous system (rabies, parasites, bacterial, viral or fungal infection)

-head trauma

Head pressing can be just one symptom among other behaviors and symptoms of neurological or metabolic distress. Other behaviors and symptoms can include:

-constant pacing

-walking in circles

-face rubbing (pushing head into ground)

-damaged reflexes

-visual problems


-getting stuck in corners

-staring at walls

By recognizing head pressing and other neurologically-related symptoms in your dog or cat, you could potentially save their lives!

This is not to be confused with the head butting your cat does to show affection. This is an out of the ordinary behavior that you notice in your pet. Whenever your beloved starts to act in a manner that is out of the ordinary, don’t wait, get it checked out. With these illnesses time is of the essence in saving them from permanent damage and perhaps the difference between having them with you.

And never forget, it is only through you that the Randolph County Humane Society continues to save lives, one by one.

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“Dignity consists not in possessing honors, but in the consciousness that we deserve them.” Aristotle

Guess what? The very thing I’ve been saying here in Tail Talk since its inception in 2008 has been confirmed by the greatest scientific minds of our times! WhooHoo! Animals are capable of consciousness just as we are and live in a conscious state of being. Hmmmm. In my head that means we have obligations to these animals. Does that mean we’ll see a shift in consciousness amongst our human counterparts now that we’ve been educated so we can no longer claim ignorance as our mantle of protection to proceed? I doubt if I’ll see it in my lifetime, but I’m ever hopeful. Here is the report for your information and dissemination to those that are not as socially conscious. They can no longer argue with your instincts. Even Stephen Hawking says it’s so:

An international group of prominent scientists has signed The Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness in which they are proclaiming their support for the idea that animals are conscious and aware to the degree that humans are — a list of animals that includes all mammals, birds, and even the octopus. But will this make us stop treating these animals in totally inhumane ways? Prominent scientists sign declaration that animals have conscious awareness, just like us. While it might not sound like much for scientists to declare that many nonhuman animals possess conscious states, it’s the open acknowledgment that’s the big news here. The body of scientific evidence is increasingly showing that most animals are conscious in the same way that we are, and it’s no longer something we can ignore. What’s also very interesting about the declaration is the group’s acknowledgment that consciousness can emerge in those animals that are very much unlike humans, including those that evolved along different evolutionary tracks, namely birds and some cephalopods. “The absence of a neocortex does not appear to preclude an organism from experiencing affective states,” they write, “Convergent evidence indicates that non-human animals have the neuroanatomical, neurochemical, and neurophysiological substrates of conscious states along with the capacity to exhibit intentional behaviors.” Consequently, say the signatories, the scientific evidence is increasingly indicating that humans are not unique in possessing the neurological substrates that generate consciousness. The group consists of cognitive scientists, neuropharmacologists, neurophysiologists, neuroanatomists, and computational neuroscientists — all of whom were attending the Francis Crick Memorial Conference on Consciousness in Human and Non-Human Animals. The declaration was signed in the presence of Stephen Hawking, and included such signatories as Christof Koch, David Edelman, Edward Boyden, Philip Low, Irene Pepperberg, and many more.

The declaration made the following observations:

The field of Consciousness research is rapidly evolving. Abundant new techniques and strategies for human and non-human animal research have been developed. Consequently, more data is becoming readily available, and this calls for a periodic reevaluation of previously held preconceptions in this field. Studies of non-human animals have shown that homologous brain circuits correlated with conscious experience and perception can be selectively facilitated and disrupted to assess whether they are in fact necessary for those experiences. Moreover, in humans, new non-invasive techniques are readily available to survey the correlates of consciousness.

The neural substrates of emotions do not appear to be confined to cortical structures. In fact, subcortical neural networks aroused during affective states in humans are also critically important for generating emotional behaviors in animals. Artificial arousal of the same brain regions generates corresponding behavior and feeling states in both humans and non-human animals. Wherever in the brain one evokes instinctual emotional behaviors in non-human animals, many of the ensuing behaviors are consistent with experienced feeling states, including those internal states that are rewarding and punishing. Deep brain stimulation of these systems in humans can also generate similar affective states. Systems associated with affect are concentrated in subcortical regions where neural homologies abound. Young human and nonhuman animals without neocortices retain these brain-mind functions. Furthermore, neural circuits supporting behavioral/electrophysiological states of attentiveness, sleep and decision making appear to have arisen in evolution as early as the invertebrate radiation, being evident in insects and cephalopod mollusks (e.g., octopus).

Birds appear to offer, in their behavior, neurophysiology, and neuroanatomy a striking case of parallel evolution of consciousness. Evidence of near human-like levels of consciousness has been most dramatically observed in African grey parrots. Mammalian and avian emotional networks and cognitive microcircuitries appear to be far more homologous than previously thought. Moreover, certain species of birds have been found to exhibit neural sleep patterns similar to those of mammals, including REM sleep and, as was demonstrated in zebra finches, neurophysiological patterns, previously thought to require a mammalian neocortex. Magpies in articular have been shown to exhibit striking similarities to humans, great apes, dolphins, and elephants in studies of mirror self-recognition.

In humans, the effect of certain hallucinogens appears to be associated with a disruption in cortical feedforward and feedback processing. Pharmacological interventions in non-human animals with compounds known to affect conscious behavior in humans can lead to similar perturbations in behavior in non-human animals. In humans, there is evidence to suggest that awareness is correlated with cortical activity, which does not exclude possible contributions by subcortical or early cortical processing, as in visual awareness. Evidence that human and nonhuman animal emotional feelings arise from homologous subcortical brain networks provide compelling evidence for evolutionarily shared primal affective qualia.

And never forget, it’s only through you the Randolph County Humane Society continues to save lives, one by one.

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In the arms of an Angel lies the bridge between what was and what can be.

I read a poem by Diane Morgan today about fostering dogs. It is: I am the bridge, between what was and what can be. I am the pathway to a new life. I am made of mush, because my heart melted when I saw you, matted, sore, limping, depressed, lonely, unwanted, afraid to love. For one little time you are mine. I will feed you with my own hand. I will love you with my whole heart. I will make you whole. I am made of steel, because when the time comes, when you are well, and sleek, when your eyes shine, and when your tail wags with joy then the hard part. I will let you go – not without a tear, but without regret, for you are safe forever – A new dog needs me now.

When I read that I immediately thought of the person that supervises the kennels at Randolph County Humane Society shelter, Luella. She is a special soul.  She has to be. She has the most thankless job of any person I know. Her journey with us began years ago as a volunteer and turned into the only paid position within the entire organization. Everyone else that works with RCHS does it as a volunteer but we simply could not ask Lu to continue to be here, day in and day out, week after week, year after year, hour after hour, and not compensate her for her time except what she is paid is not compensation for the job she performs. When she walks through those doors RCHS is her home. Those are her dogs. Not figuratively, literally. She knows them intimately as only a mother knows their child. She knows their diet, their meds, their temperament, their nuances, and the pain they’ve suffered. She recognizes it in their eyes. She has empathy from the pain of loss she has suffered in her own life. She knows what it is to have suffered the loss of a beloved and she understands the pain of separation, so when they come to her after being part of a family and then having that love suddenly removed, she is the one that can hold them in her arms and give them the caring and understanding that imparts the implicit understanding of having been there. When they are in pain she climbs into their cage with them to comfort them. She cries tears of compassion of one that understands the cries of loneliness and fear they feel when they first come through our doors. That’s the first stage of their healing, from her heart to theirs, in her loving arms. They know she knows them intimately from their poop, just like their mamas did when they were babies, checking by smell for parvo and by sight for worms. She corrects them for bad behavior and encourages them when they do it right, making the choices that will make them good dogs for a new family to love and be loved. When they are sad and confused, she comforts them as only a loving mother can. It’s amazing that she finds the time to heal any of them that come through our doors considering that she has the responsibility of walking the dogs that fill our 14 cages and play with the inhabitants of 6 cat cages with 2-3 in each cage and no daily volunteers to depend on for help. Her day begins with moving the dogs to outside cages, running water, picking up dirty laundry, doing wash, picking up dishes, washing dishes, cleaning and scrubbing cages, doing the same in animal control if they are short handed or on vacation, because the animals are living, breathing beings and their needs don’t stop just because we have other things to do. In case you’re not getting the big big picture here, she could use some help from like minded, loving individuals. There are two teenage girls, Brea and Makayla, that volunteer two days per week and a pure blessing to Lu, dependable and loyal, everything she is, but she needs more. These two girls are going back to school and now Lu is going to be left in a lurch. Surely there are more people out there that can help with the least of them than 2 teen age girls? Volunteering is not easy, so come prepared to work. Sometimes there are special need dogs. Mopping floors cannot be beneath you. Scoop poop out in the yard, just like at home, should be something you should expect.. Wash outside pens till they shine. Anyone out there like to mow the yard and weed eat? Our yard needs that every week too, so you could volunteer here and really help us out. The building desperately needs to be repainted. So much is needed and so little time for Lu to take care of everything because she has bigger and better things to attend to, like sniffing poop to insure there is no major parvo outbreak and seeing to it that the animals in emotional crisis are comforted, as only a loving mother can do. Someone has to. The person that promised to love them into eternity, then didn’t, certainly isn’t coming back to take care of their obligations so the only person that can prepare these broken hearts for a new home is Lu. That’s why we need you to help with all the other things. So please, please, don’t you have a couple of hours in your week when you can step outside of your comfort zone and do something really meaningful for those that appreciate it so much but can’t do anything in return for you, except in the knowledge that you’ve helped another living soul go onto a good life? There is no greater reward than that. There are so many that need us, so please, be that angel that comes to their aid. Please…

And never forget, it is only through you that the Randolph County Humane Society continues to save lives, one by one.

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Are we the superior beings?

Michael Rosenberg, animal activist, spends weekend caged with the animals

Michael Rosenberg, animal activist, spends weekend caged with the animals

I was watching the program “Through the Wormhole” on the Science Channel and the segment was regarding will we survive first contact with aliens. But during the segment they had a scientist, Dr. Laurance Doyle, that set about to figure how to identify if a language is being spoken and the way he attempted this was to use the sounds of the dolphins. The first thing he did was use known verbiage from our language, taking our words and made a chart from their frequency. And we see that it has 45-degree slope. This 45-degrees slope appears for any message in any language, in any medium, be it a book in French or a phone call in Japanese. And when Laurance’s team applied Information Theory to the chatter of dolphins, a 45-degrees slope emerged. Dolphins communicate in a language that has structure, just as complex as ours. Now that they have the knowledge that yes, this is communication, I’m confident they will find that all species communicate with each other, clearly and succinctly. Not just with facial and body expressions as previously thought, but with vocalizations, something we have thought were privy to the human race, the masters of the universe. As we become smarter we are using our abilities in an attempt to find a way to communicate with beings that will be smarter than we are. Why are we doing this? Because we are familiar with how we treat the animals in our care, and we understand that we’re not kind and loving in our approach to what we don’t understand and think of as lessor beings. So we understand it is in our best interest to insure we are not thought of as a lessor being should/when we are visited from the great beyond by the superior beings that have the wherewithal to come here and enslave us because we will no longer be the superior animal in the food chain or the one with the superior intelligence and biggest weapons to fight, we will need to plead our case to show why it is in their best interest to keep us free because our free lives will be useful to them. I wonder if our increasing ability to understand animals will allow them to make their case as to why they deserve their place on this earth, just as we do, to live their lives freely and unencumbered. They deserve to be loved and respected, just as we want to be loved and respected. If we could understand what they’ve been saying all these years, I wonder what their tales will tell. Stories of the huge numbers that have been killed for our pleasure, a concept I’m sure they don’t understand because their idea of the food chain is to take only what you need to live. Or maybe it’s the stories of how they used to have huge areas to raise their families, but no more, because now it is concrete, asphalt and shopping centers for our pleasure at the expense of their lives. I wonder if the visitors that come to our land, superior in every way to our ways, will treat us with the same disregard as we have treated those that have not been able to fight back when we took what belonged to them. I pray the invaders that come here will be more magnanimous in their taking than we have been, but I’m not going to hold my breath. However, perhaps if we change our ways and make our world a shining example of how life can be in this universe of ours, we can show through our example of what a kind, loving people we can be to the least of them that have no voice, any invaders that come here will see what it is like to live in a kind, harmonious universe. It’s a thought.

Never forget, it’s only through you the Randolph County Humane Society continues to save lives, one by one.

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From my soul to yours, feel the love. It’s real, and it’s forever.

Danny sniffing Monty Ross's stetson

Danny sniffing Monty Ross’s stetson

On June 14, 2014 the Canadian Mounted Police suffered one of their worst days. Royal Canadian Mounted Police Constable Dave Ross, along with fellow officers Fabrice Gevaudan and Douglas Larche, were killed by a shooter in Mocton, New Brunswick while on duty. Constable Ross was a K9 officer, partnered with Danny. Danny was not hurt during rampage that killed his partner, not physically, anyway. At the regimental funeral Danny walked in the funeral procession alongside an officer who was holding Ross’s Stetson hat. Danny was heard whimpering throughout the service, according to the Global News. He understood that his partner was gone from this existence and he was suffering, just as we do when we lose a beloved. There are stories of animals that never recover from the loss of their beloved humans everywhere. “Hachi” is a movie based on the true story of a dog named Hachikō in the 1920s in Tokyo, Japan, owned by Hidesaburō Ueno, a professor in the agriculture department at the University of Tokyo. The loyal Akita accompanied his master every day to the station and was waiting faithfully every day upon his return. When Hidesaburō Ueno died suddently in 1925, Hachikō spent the next nine years waiting daily at the Shibuya station. His faithfulness made him a national hero and a national symbol of loyalty. Statues have been erected in his name, and his stuffed body is on display in the National Science Museum of Japan in Ueno, Tokyo. Then there is the Argentinian dog named Capitán who sat every evening for six years on his owner’s grave. According to theweek.com, Miguel Guzman bought Capitan for his son, Damian, in 2005. After Guzman died the next year, Capitan disappeared. A week after the funeral, the family returned to the cemetery in central Argentina and found Capitan there, howling. The heartbroken dog had found the cemetery and tomb on his own, and has lived there ever since, sleeping on Guzman’s grave. “I’ve tried to bring Capitan home several times,” Damian, 13, says, “but he always comes straight back… He’s looking after my dad.” Then there’s the story of Navy SEAL Jon Tumilson’s Lab Hawkeye, who laid down next to his casket throughout his funeral service, refusing to leave his side. Leao is a mixed breed who stayed at her owner’s side as she died during the 2011 flood and mudslides in Brazil, laying at the earthen grave of her beloved, refusing to leave. Then we have our very own Hachi, a Border collie from Montana named Shep, who maintained a vigil at the train station for six years beginning in 1936 after seeing the coffin of his master loaded onto a train. The stories go on and on. The love is real and it’s reciprocal. It cuts both ways. They suffer our loss just as we suffer theirs. This is why it’s so critical that you make plans and arrangements for your beloveds in the here and now because this kind of loyalty deserves to be rewarded, and if you don’t the travesty of what could be is unconscionable. I know because I have seen it during my years of donating time at the shelter. One especially egregious story is that of the beautiful Cocker Lela, who was left in the loving arms of Bruce when Jenny died, except Bruce found he couldn’t keep his promise because illness forced him to leave his home. Lela’s screams as she grabbed onto Bruce’s leg as he left her at the shelter are a sound that has seared my soul forever. Jenny’s children wanted no part of Lela, so Bruce was left was a heart broken by so much more than just the grief from the loss of Jenny, and Lela was lost with losing so much more than just Bruce and Jenny. Dying isn’t the hard part. It is in the living where the difficulties lie and grieving for the loss of an important presence in your life is almost unbearable. I know. I’ve been living with such a loss since I lost my Action Jackson last July, and I miss his smile in everything I do. The love between man and beast is real and true, and it’s forever. It changes the fabric of time. There is no forgetting, ever, and nothing is ever the same again for any involved. The naysayers will say you can read whatever you want into the behavior of animals. I feel sorry for them that they are so narrow in the ability of their heart to see love that they miss out on what could be the best part of living. So Danny, I understand your feelings of loss. I wish I were there to comfort you because we are kindred souls that are missing our beloveds. So from my soul to yours, feel the love.

And never forget, it is only through you the Randolph County Humane Society continues to save lives, one by one.

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