Sunday, April 26, 2015

Looking into a dog's eyes

I've been wondering about something I heard recently on National Public Radio.

As noted in a blog by Rachel Feltman, a researcher has concluded (not suprisingly, in my opinion) that dogs and humans can communicate very naturally and can easily become friends.

But much of this is all about the eyes--of the dog and the human.

Because locking eyes with a dog, according to the study, creates a tight bond between dog and man.

It has something to do with the oxytocin feedback loop in both the canine and human. Oxytocin is a hormone acting as a neuromodulator in the brain.

When you and your dog stare at each other for several seconds, even, in some cases, for minutes, human and dog each get a chemical boost that leaves both life forms better at bonding and reading social cues.

This only happens with canines and humans, not with wolves (even wolves raised as pets).

One researcher believes that the feedback loop (again facilitated when a dog owner stares into his dog's eyes) accounts for the positive feelings humans have for their dogs. Canines use this mechanism as a "shortcut to our hearts," he writes.

This makes complete sense to me--even though I had never heard of oxytocin. Because when my sheltie (Joe) or my bichon (Michael Jackson) locks eyes it does seem we are somehow bonded closely. And sometimes I believe my dogs can even sense how I feel (well, sick, up, down, depressed, happy, sad...).

I always knew my dogs were smart, perceptive and somehow could get inside my brain.

Now we have evidence.

Bark, bark!! Ruf, ruf!!

Friday, April 24, 2015

What ran through his mind in those final seconds?

One of the biggest mass murderers in history is 28-year-old Andreas Lubitz.

He was the presumably bright, skilled co-pilot on that ill-fated Germanwings jet that crashed a few weeks ago in the French Alps, killing 150 people, many of them high school students and their teachers.

We now know Lubitz was severely mentally ill and should have never been allowed into the cockpit, let alone had the lives of 150 souls in his hands.

Why did Lubitz crash the plane when he locked the pilot, who had taken a bathroom break, out of the cockpit?

Evidently, according to audio recordings found in the plane's wreckage, the captain did his desperate best (unsuccessfully) to get back into taking control of the fast plunging jet. He banged on the door. He yelled, "For God's sake, open the door! Open this damn door!"

But cold-blooded murderer Lubitz kept the plane--an Airbus 320 en route from Spain to Germany--diving into the remote, jagged, snowcapped Alps.

Wonder what he thought in those final seconds--as terrified passengers in the back, realizing their lives were about to end, screamed and pleaded for mercy?

Perhaps it was something along the lines of: "I'm taking this baby down, and soon I won't have a worry in the world. Dumb trusting, stupid, idiotic people. None of 'em deserve to live any way. And after I'm done with 'em, nobody'll even be able to find their bodies. Not even a fingernail for some of
'em. Ha, ha!"

I can see him smirking, licking his lips, eyes wide with anticipation, grinning with devilish delight, fist pumping.

And then, the big, horrendous, monstrous collision into the mountainside.

So many dead. So senseless.

One reason I'm blogging about this is I have a close friend who's mentally ill. I've visited him a few times when he was hospitalized in a psychiatric unit.

Not a pleasant place to spend much time. Last visit, for example, a woman kept pounding on her food tray, angrily demanding this or that from the nurses. Finally, they sent her from the dayroom out into the hall (similar to putting a 3-year-old in time-out). Another man, learning that I was a veteran, asked me if I could take him out of there to the VA Hospital, cause 'they always treat me the best there. I love the VA.'

He was emaciated and pale. Pitiful and so sad and bored--slumped there in the dayroom in his pajamas.

Of course, I couldn't have gotten him out of that psychiatric care facility even I'd wanted to, because such places are locked units. Only a doctor can get you out.

If only Andreas Lubitz had been in a locked psychiatric unit instead of at the controls of that Germanwings jet...