Wednesday, 22 November 2017

A bounce and a splash on a blustery day. And feeling pain. And emotions.

I haven't done this for a while. Blogging, I mean.
The while has been spent tackling the annual creative writing exercise otherwise referred to as the NHS appraisal. 
There must be a better way of establishing if we are fit to practice. A way that doesn't involve finding fifty differently worded paragraphs in which we comment on how we reflect on out learning activities. Yes - okay - it does make us think about our role. Yes - it also confronts situations where we might have acted differently. And it does force us to keep current with latest research and treatment protocols. So, maybe it does enable us to practice better medicine. But how many ways can I find to say 'I am working to relevant standards.' 
I prefer this creative form of linguistic perambulation. 

Perambulation - this has become our home, code-word for walk. If we mention the w word, Four-legged-friend and Berti-Baggins go into paroxysms of over-excited tail- wagging and barking. We, therefore, use the p word instead. It will only be a matter of time before they react to perambulation as they react to walk now and then we'll have to choose another word - stroll, trot, wander, ramble, expedition?

On today's morning perambulation, we weren't alone. Others were perambulating fleetingly across the field.

Not that Four-legged-friend and Bertie Baggins appeared to notice. Or just ignored them. Maybe they knew that they wouldn't catch them anyway. 

Hmm ... were they choosing to ignore the deer or oblivious to them? 

Were they just putting one leg in front of three others and somehow managing not to fall over - blithely looking straight ahead; not thinking about anything; empty headed; and plodding, in fact. 

In popular fiction, zombies are incapable of feeling or emotion. Their thoughts are base and primitive - move, harm, destroy. 
Bricks don't feel pain or emote either. 
Nor do dead elephants. 
Or dead baby whales (... Blue Planet - plastics choking our oceans - another rant, another blog).
Or animals, according to our government.

Is this the picture of a creature unable to feel pain or have emotions?

*note to self - breathe. Pause. Count to ten. Look at the trees - and the sun - then hit something!


Dogs who limp when they get a thorn in their paw. When they feel pain. 
Who leap out of the way if a stray foot steps on their tail. When they feel pain. 
Who back into a corner at the vet's because their annual jabs hurt. When they feel pain.
Who two weeks ago felt the pain of the bites of the critters they had in their hair. Anti-flea treatment = no critters = dogs no longer scratching because they no longer feel the pain of the bites.

Dogs who whine at about this time in the evening because they feel the pain of hunger. 
Who wait at the foot of the stairs because they feel the pain of separation.
Who lay a muzzle in your lap because they feel your pain when you feel like crying.

Dogs who hang their heads in shame and head for the nearest exit when they know they've done something wrong. If that's not an expression of shame, I don't know what it is. A Pavlovian response to eating the last slice of cake?
Dogs who today stopped during their perambulation and reversed their rears against the reassuring steady shelter of my legs because it was windy and the trunks of a pair of trees were rubbing against each other with a sound that was half splintering wood and half creaking door and they were afraid. Or if not actually afraid then certainly wary. Did they learn this from Pavlov too? Was it an emotionless reaction to an unknown noise? That they kept looking at my face seeking my reaction, suggests to me that they were ready to react with emotion to my emotion. If I was frightened, they might have barked. Barking is often an expression of fear. It is seldom that other emotion, aggression.

Dogs who don't have the vocabulary to express how they feel. Are we to believe that this means they don't feel? A baby cries when it has immunisations. It reacts to pain but doesn't have the vocabulary to express how it feels. I challenge anyone to say that a baby does not feel pain or have emotions.

I have witnessed the truly awful, heart-rending lowing of a cow separated from its calf. I have read about elephants that mourn the death of family members. The elephant calves taken to orphanages are lost and subdued when they first arrive after witnessing the deaths of their mothers by poachers or trophy hunters (*breathe - count to ten thousand, although that wouldn't be enough. Another blog; another day). We - I - anthropomorphise too much but don't try to tell me that these animals are not feeling emotion. A primitive expression of emotion - yes, perhaps. That depends on how you define it. Primitive - in human terms - because the animal doesn't give it a name, it isn't treatable with counselling (horse-whisperers might disagree), it isn't talked about with friends and there isn't a tee-shirt for it, but it's still real. 

If, by law, animals do not feel pain or have emotions what does this say about us; the writers of that law? I think it makes us a little less human.

* I need to breathe again.

Here is Bertie Baggins following his uncle into a puddle

And doing what he 'likes' best

... bounce once

bounce twice

then splash

and slide to a stop

I just love these blustery-day ears

and this happy boy.

How do I know he was happy? The wagging tail. The 'smile' ... ?

Okay - I know he wasn't really smiling. But in my head, I think he looked happy. I suspect having just run around a lot; eaten a biscuit; and chewed something unmentionable, he was content; if not actually happy.

Here he is again - showing that dogs can run and wipe their nose at the same time

And here is Four-legged-friend just turned into the drive and expressing in an I'm-not-moving-til-we-extend-this-perambulation-activity way that he is unhappy to be home.  

Blustery days and awesome wintry skies ...

and angry hearts. 

Excuse, for a moment please, my mind being in a post-appraisal fog: perhaps, the government should appraise their thinking and reflect on whether it meets relevant standards. We are humans, our standards define our humanity and we are better than this.