Animals in the Bible

As we approach Passover and Easter, it is a good time to reflect on the impact and role that animals have in God’s plan. From the very beginning, in the Garden of Eden, God used an innocent animal to represent His saving Grace.

When Adam and Eve sinned, they tried to fix their sin themselves by making aprons of fig leaves to cover their nakedness or sin. But God showed them that only God can forgive or fix sin. To do this He killed an animal and made them clothes of the animal’s skin. From that point on the Jewish people had to sacrifice an animal on the Day of Atonement to cover their sins for a year. This animal sacrifice represented the coming of the Messiah.

When the Angel of Death visited Egypt, those people who had the blood of the lamb on their door posts were passed over. Did you realize that their animals were also spared?

Scientists have long pondered the mental abilities of animals. Recently they have designed tests to determine just how smart and how aware animals are. If they had carefully read the book of Numbers, they would have had their questions answered.

The Bible teaches us kindness to animals, how they think, which animals were created to be domesticated and which ones were not. It also talks about miracles that involve animals.

Jesus is referred to as the Lamb of God. When he died and was raised from the dead, there was no longer a need to sacrifice animals, the debt had been paid. Have you ever thought of the fact that only an animal is innocent and pure enough to represent the Messiah?

If you want to read more about the role of Animals in the Bible, you can do so in my book, God’s Creatures: A Biblical View of Animals. There is so much the Bible teaches us about them. You will be amazed. You can order a signed copy at http://www.sbulanda.com

Mechanical disease-sniffing device vs dogs

A number of researchers from various universities have joined together to try and develop a mechanical device that can rival the scenting ability of dogs to detect diseases in people. No one denies that dogs have a remarkable ability to detect the early stages of disease in humans. But the cost of training the dog and the dog’s length of service makes using them expensive. If scientists can develop a device that can equal a dog’s nose it would reduce a lot of the cost.

What has proven elusive to scientists is that dogs can pick up connections that researchers cannot mimic in a machine. For example, some dogs that have been trained to detect one type of cancer will identify other types of cancer as well. When the researchers tried to determine what the dogs were detecting, they were not able to. The differences were not detectable by current tests. What complicates the problem is that the different cancers that were detected by the dogs do not have any biomolecular signatures in common. The dogs were able to generalize from one kind of cancer to be able to identify others.  

The detection system that has been developed is 200 times more sensitive than a dog’s nose but the machine cannot figure out the elusive patterns that the dog can, that allows the dog to detect various cancers. In other words, the machine cannot think and make the connections. Until the researches solve the mystery, the machine cannot replace the dog.

The important point for people who use dogs for scent detection work is that dogs are capable of analyzing scent in a much more complex way then they have been trained to do. The bottom line is that if your scent dog gives you an indication that does not make sense to you, trust your dog and look further.

Dogs, wolves and dingoes

According to retired anthropologist Pat Shipman from Penn State University, dingoes and their closely related New Guinea singing dogs, are not dogs. They are not wolves either, but fall into their own class.

Domestic dogs arrived in Australia in 1788 with the first ships of convicts. The dingoes were already there for at least 4000 or more years prior to that. Genetically and behaviorally, they are more like wolves with their inability to digest starches and their inability to bond with humans. Dogs on the other hand have no difficulty digesting starches and do bond with people.  

Dingoes can survive in the Australian outback where domestic dogs that are feral have a difficult time or cannot survive.

What makes it difficult to separate the lines between wolves, dogs and dingoes is that genetically they can hybridize and have fertile offspring unlike horses and donkeys who typically produce infertile mules.

Shipman feels that a dingo is a wolf on its way to becoming a dog but never made it.

Dingo – free photo dreamstime

Indoor/Outdoor Cats and hunting

Cat owners are often torn between keeping their cat an indoor cat only or allowing them to go outside. Those who allow their cats to be indoor/outdoor cats feel that their cat needs the activity and exercise going outdoors affords them. However, outdoor cats will hunt and kill prey. Some cat owners are not fond about this. If a cat kills wildlife and eats their kill, they are subjected to various infestations including worms and fleas.

A team of researchers found that by feeding cats a diet rich in meat protein instead of non-meat sources, and by playing with their cats, hunt behavior was reduced significantly. The food had to be from a high-quality brand, and by using it reduced hunting by 36%. Added to the diet, playing with a cat for five to ten minutes a day further reduced the hunting behavior by 25%.

Pluskat exhausted after hunting bugs in the garden

The play behavior had to include stalk, chase and pounce games and allowing the cat to have a toy mouse or similar toy at the end, to mimic a real kill.

This change in diet and behavior is beneficial in more ways. It increases bonding between the cat and his owner and is fun for both. The study noted that the restrictive methods previously used, such as putting a bell on a cat, did not reduce hunting as much as the diet/behavior change.

Finding a Lost Dog

Losing a dog can be devastating. A person’s first reaction is usually fear, confusion and panic. However, with a good plan in place, looking for a lost dog can be less stressful and more successful. There are a few simple points to consider when looking for a lost dog. However, prevention is the key ingredient. The most important thing you can do is have your dog microchipped and have a collar on your dog with his name tag that includes a way to contact you. If someone in your area finds your dog, they will not have a microchip reader and will rely on a name tag.

1) If you organize a group of people to look for the dog, use all safety precautions so that the volunteers do not become lost as well. Stay in touch using cell phones or handheld radios. The radios can be purchased for a nominal fee at any store that sells outdoor equipment. Radios will work in areas that cell phones may not, however, they have a limited range so be sure that a chain of people can relay messages over distance. Also, establish radio protocol so that one person does not tie up the frequency preventing communication with others. Communication is essential to let the other volunteers know what is going on, if the search is being suspended, or the dog has been found. Because people feel safer and calmer if they know what is going on, this will allow the volunteers to do a better job.

Be sure that volunteers wear the appropriate clothing, (long pants and long sleeves), hats, and substantial footwear. Each volunteer must carry a snack, water, leash, bath towel, bowl, enough water for themselves and the dog, canned cat food or treats and a flashlight. Flashlights are necessary during the day to check dark places.

The canned cat food should have the strongest aroma, (or a similar treat) to lure the dog. Small cans of cat food work well because they can be carried easily and kept fresh.

A bath towel can be used to carry the dog if he is injured, exhausted or to wipe the dog if he is wet or dirty. If the dog is cold, he can be wrapped in the towel.

Volunteers must always work in pairs for their own safety, and in the event two people are needed when the dog is found. A meeting area and time should be established in case communications break down. No one should leave until all are accounted for.

2) A dog that ran away because he is frightened will bolt in any direction, but usually to the least noisy, darkest area. Given the choice of an open field or woods, the dog will go for the woods. If the dog is lost in the city or suburbs, the dog will look for a dark, quite spot to hide after it has run to exhaustion.

Therefore, try to estimate how far the dog will run (this varies with the dog’s size and condition) and add a mile to that. On a map of the area mark where you last saw the dog as the center of a circle and draw a perimeter around that point, based on the furthest point where the dog could be. The circle will encompass the area to start looking for the dog. If you saw the dog run, you can focus in that direction. Be sure to check small dark areas: under porches, stairs, garages, sheds, etc. If you have several people helping to look, have some start at the perimeter of the circle and some from the center. Be sure to look for the dog, never assume that the dog will come when called.

3) If a dog runs away, they usually run into the wind. That means that the wind will be blowing toward the dog, into the dog’s face. Check with a local airport to see what the wind direction was when the dog ran away. Then start looking into the wind from the point where the dog was last seen. 

Dogs who wander away will usually meander along unless they find something to chase or something that interests them. This means that the search area will be smaller. If searching in the woods or a park, look for a game trail and look for fresh dog tracks to see if the dog went that way. If you do find tracks, you will not be able to tell for certain if they are from your dog, so do not give up searching in the rest of the area. If you are searching in an urban or suburban area, listen carefully if neighborhood dogs are barking. Often, they will bark at a stray dog. If you hear a lot of barking in one direction, check that area first.

4) When searching for a dog, travel slowly and make frequent five to ten-minute-long stops. Many people will drive around in a vehicle, calling to the dog. Unless the dog is within a few seconds of your location, he will not be able to find you if you move too quickly. Keep in mind that a dog can hear you calling from quite a distance away. They need time to determine the direction of the sound and then get to it. Wind and other environmental elements can distort the direction of sound (tall buildings, large hills, etc.) making it difficult for the dog to find the source of the sound. By stopping and continuing to call for about five to ten minutes, the dog will have time to find you.

5) When you sight the dog, do not act excited and/or run toward the dog. Sit down or stand still and let the dog approach you, even if it is your dog. Sometimes a dog can become so frightened, hurt, or weary that they may not think straight. Their survival instincts may take over, making them more cautious than they would be at home. Depending upon the direction of the wind, you could be downwind, and the dog may not recognize you right away.

Give the dog time to feel safe. Running to the dog may make him run away from you and lose what little trust in humans that he has left. If you feel it will work, you can, at a distance, slowly move so that you are upwind of the dog, and then open the can of cat food, but still let the dog come to you. When the dog comes to you do not try to grab the dog. Let the dog stay there and relax. Slowly pet the dog until you can attach a leash without frightening the dog. If the dog does not want to be caught, you will most likely not be able to grab the dog fast enough to catch him, even if he is next to you.

6) If the dog does not approach you, do not give up. Stay in that area and/or return to that area. You can leave food etc. but do not try to catch the dog.

7) If you leave food for the dog, do not assume that because the food was eaten that it was eaten by the dog. Other animals may eat the food, so continue to search the area. If you can, spread sand around any food that you leave so that you can check for footprints to determine if a dog ate the food. If sand is not available, loose soil will work as well.

8) If you have to search for the dog over a period of time, keep a log of the weather and the location of water sources. The dog will generally head into the wind and seek water.

9) Never forget to advertise. Use every means possible to let the people in the area know that there is a lost dog. Contact all veterinarian clinics, shelters, pet supply stores, and rescue groups. Also post signs in stores with bulletin boards, on telephone poles, especially where children congregate, by public transportation and any other place that you can think of. Be sure to post on social media. If your dog is not found right away, about every two weeks call everyone you notified, such as the local rescue groups, to let them know that the dog is still missing. This will keep your dog fresh in the minds of the employees.

Always have an up-to-date photo of your dog. If the dog is a breed that looks like others in the breed, a similar picture will do. Remember, the average pet lover will not notice the fine differences between your dog and others of the same breed. So do not panic if you do not have a recent photo. Be sure to expand the area that you advertise to at least five miles from the point where you last saw your dog.

Keep all your bulletins up to date. If the lost signs that you post look old or weathered people will think the dog was found. When you find your dog, it is important to call all the organizations that you originally notified to let them know that the dog was found. Also remove all your postings.

10) Lastly, never give up. Dogs have been found months after they disappear.


New wolf hunting tactics observed

It has long been thought that wolves hunting methods only involve running down large prey until they are too exhausted to fight. However, new research has shown that wolves have developed a stalk and ambush method of hunting in the summer, designed specifically to catch beavers.

Beavers have poor eyesight but a keen sense of smell. Wolves have learned to wait downwind from where the beaver comes out of the water to go on land.

pexels free photo

Researchers found that this hunting method is not limited to a few wolves, but has spanned several years through multiple packs over the Northern Hemisphere where wolves and beaver co-exist.

The study shows that wolves are flexible in their hunting methods and can change to the method that works at that time.

Author Note: This also demonstrates the wolf’s intelligence and ability to communicate the method to other members of the pack.

New stem cell therapy for dogs

For the first time a team of researchers have developed the first step to easily use stem cells to create stem cell therapies to fight diseases in dogs. By doing this they can also model diseases.

The research team from Japan, led by Associate Professor Shingo Hatoya from Osaka Prefecture University used a “foot-print” free method that controls how the cells replicated in the body preventing problems with the previous methods that were used.

The research team believes that with continued research, their findings might be able to help humans since dogs share the same environment and develop the same diseases, especially genetic diseases. Perhaps the the research will expand to other animals, helping all of our pets.

Stem cell therapy for dogs

Associate Professor Shingo Hatoya from Osaka Prefecture University, and his team have developed a more reliable way to develop easy stem cell therapy for dogs.

Dempsey

This has paved the way for more research that will enable veterinarians to treat otherwise untreatable chronic and degenerative health issues in dogs. In the past, this was not as critical because dogs did not live as long. But with modern medicine, dogs are living longer and thus are suffering from age related conditions that exist more today than in the past.  

The research team feels that because dogs and humans share much of the same environment, the results of their research may have a ripple affect to humans since they share some genetic diseases.

Birds spread Lyme’s disease and ticks

A new study by Global Ecology and Biogeography with lead researcher Daniel Becker, a postdoctoral fellow at Indiana University developed a model that identified, with an 80% accuracy, the species of birds that spread Lyme’s Disease. They found 21 new species that spread the disease.

The research team found about 102 other studies that showed Lyme disease infection from ticks feeding on the birds. There were 183 species of birds that infect the ticks with Lyme’s. The birds have a broad range that spans the Americas, Africa, Asia and Oceania.

What this means is that even though the birds do not spread Lyme to people, the ticks on them can drop off of the bird into a garden or yard and then attach to a person. Because birds can fly great distances, they can spread Lyme’s disease to areas that previously did not have it or did not have a lot of it.

The study found that thrushes are the riskiest bird as well as perching birds and those that eat seeds and forage on the ground. 

Author’s note: Tick activity is always the strongest in the spring and fall where there are definite seasons. Always take precautions when outside, especially wearing long sleeves, long pants with your socks over the cuff of your pants. This prevents ticks from crawling up your pant legs. Use bug repellent and cover your head. After working outdoors, remove and wash all clothing and be sure to check your entire body for ticks.

Therapy dogs, robots or real dogs

Dr. Leanne Proops from the Department of Psychology of Portsmouth University conducted a study to see if children would respond positively to a robotic therapy dog vs a real dog. The researchers used a biomimetic robot at a West Sussex school with 34 children who ranged in age from 11 – 12. The robotic dog was a MiRo-E biomimetic robot developed by Consequential Robotics.

They also used two real therapy dogs, a Jack Russel mix and a Labrador who were from the Pets as Therapy group.

Before the therapy session the children were asked to fill out a questionnaire about how they felt about the real dogs and the robot. The researchers found that the children spent the same amount of time petting the real dogs and the robot, but they spent more time interacting with the robot.

The children did report that they preferred the session with the real dog. However, they did express more positive emotions after interacting with the robot.

Even though this was a small study, the researchers are hopeful that in cases where children are afraid of dogs or are allergic to them that robots could be a substitute for real therapy dogs. The robots could also become more available with little or no upkeep and training requirements.

My comment: However, there was no way based on this report to judge if the children interacted with the robot more because it was unique and different. Dogs are not uncommon for most children, robots are.