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One Year with our Adopted New Delhi Street Dog, Ginger

November 4th marked one year since we adopted Ginger.

In her favorite perch

If you missed my post from March, here’s the backstory and some pics of her as a puppy. This was the day we got her:

The big day

To recap: She is a New Delhi street dog and displays many of the characteristics of desidogs (also known as Indogs or Indian pariah dogs.)

Now almost a year and a half old, she is fully grown, weighing about 20 kg (45 pounds).

She is an alert, cautious, playful, smart, athletic, and affectionate dog.

She is also quite protective of our house, springing into action and barking if anyone unfamiliar rattles our gate.

She also loves to play fetch.

She is a powerful jumper.

She doesn’t demand to be by our sides constantly, but does enjoy sleeping near (or sometimes directly on) us.

Oh, and she definitely has a mischievous streak. She seems to enjoy nothing more than stealing a shoe or a sock as I sit down to put them on before leaving for the office in the morning, prompting me to chase after her (which is no doubt the point of the “game” for her).

Fetching the newspaper

Beckoning us to come outside to play

Shake on it?

Encountering a goat during a walk in a New Delhi park.

With a blanket stuck on her ear

“Oh, did you *not* want your favorite pillow liberated of its stuffing?”

“Helping” me write a story.

She eats a healthy diet of chicken, rice and high-grade kibble — but occasionally gets her own pancake on Saturdays. 🙂

On an outing at Lodhi Garden.

If you’re interested in adopting a desi dog here in New Delhi (or just want to donate to a good cause) check out the Indian Canine Uplipftment Centre, or ICUC, where we got Ginger.

They do great work rescuing pups and providing medical services to the city’s huge population of strays.

We’ve also had some very informative training sessions with Namratha Rao of Pawsitive Tales. She really knows the breed well and is highly skilled. Get in touch with her if you have any dog training needs.

Here’s to 2019 and beyond with Ginger!

A Psychedelic Temple for the Ages

I’m not quite sure how I missed this story by Drew Zeiba in The Architect’s Newspaper in June. It begins:

Tucked away on a tree-studded, 40-acre plot just a quarter mile from the Hudson River, one of New York’s most unusual construction projects is underway. The Chapel of Sacred Mirrors (CoSM)—a transdenominational church and registered nonprofit—has been constructing the Entheon: “A place to discover god within.”

The piece, which has many images of the construction, such as the one above, continues:

As with the foundation of the Greys’ relationship and their church, psychedelics and entactogens play a central role in the eccentric design of the Entheon. It was, in fact, a (then legal) shared MDMA experience that showed the Greys they should not sell their work, but rather build a chapel to share it with a “worldwide love tribe.”

But by far the most amazing sentence is this:

Selecting a point on their 40-acre plot that aligns with the solar plexus of a projected goddess, “the kabbalistic sephirot of justice,” CoSM has begun converting a former carriage house into a three-level, 12,000-square-foot concrete structure replete with modern amenities, including an ADA-compliant elevator.

Remarkable. Here’s more on the CoSM church and the Entheon itself.

Reading the story, I couldn’t help but think: It seems like this would an extraordinarily frightening place to visit while under the influence of psychoactive substances.

Animal Crackers, Redesigned for 2018

File under: Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes…(Turn and face the strange).

The lede of this New York Times story by Matthew Haag:

After 116 years of captivity, animal crackers have been freed from their cages.

It was a symbolic victory for animal rights activists, notably People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which had argued that the immediately recognizable yellow-and-red boxes by Nabisco portrayed a cruel bygone era when traveling circuses transported exotic wildlife in confinement.

The new boxes are expected to arrive in stores this week. They show a zebra, an elephant, a lion, a giraffe and a gorilla roaming free side-by-side in a natural habitat, a sweeping savanna with trees in the distance.

And here’s what the old packaging looked like:

As the great David Bowie once sang (emphasis mine):

I still don’t know what I was waiting for
And my time was running wild
A million dead-end streets
Every time I thought I’d got it made
It seemed the taste was not so sweet

Introducing our Desi Dog, Ginger

TLDR: Say hello to the newest member of our family: the beautiful Ginger!

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The backstory:

Last year, about six months after our beloved dog Ashley died, we found ourselves really missing having a pooch in our lives. But we weren’t quite ready to adopt a new one.

ICUC

Anasuya started asking around about organizations here in Delhi that help street dogs, and a friend recommended the Indian Canine Uplipftment Centre, or ICUC.

ICUC

The New Delhi-based organization was founded in 2012 by the charming Sonya Kochhar Apicella, who like all the staff at the center clearly care deeply for dogs. And as anyone who has visited Delhi knows, there are tons of street dogs here.

ICUC is the NGO wing of a boarding, day care and grooming on the same premises called Canine Elite.

(If you’re into helping dogs, do consider getting in touch with or donating funds to ICUC. If you’re here in Delhi and need any dog-related services, consider Canine Elite.)

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‘Designed by Darwin’

Often called Desi dogs (Desi roughly meaning “from India,” based on the Hindi word for “country”), these canines typically look like Ginger: medium sized, short haired, and often a shade of brown, with some white marks.

They’re also sometimes referred to as Indi-dogs or “Indian pariah dogs.” (“Pariah” is an ecological term for dogs that typically live on their own, outside homes, untouched by breeding.)

Another name for the creatures is INDogs, short for “Indian Native Dog;” you can find a wealth of information at INDog.co.in, the site for the INDog Project.

The group also maintains a gallery of such canines, and a crowd-sourced document containing reports on the dogs’ temperament.

Desi dogs, some of which have over the years mixed with non-native Indian breeds to varying degrees, often live in neighborhoods here in New Delhi and in other cities, towns, and villages.

Residents typically look after them, feeding them but often not providing medical attention or sterilization. Others dogs roam around more freely. Many have diseases and suffer from various ailments.

I haven’t seen the full version of the documentary, but Desi dogs are reportedly mentioned in a 2003 National Geographic documentary called “Search for the First Dog,” as being one of the world’s oldest types of dogs.

A snippet from the show describes these dogs perfectly: they’re “designed by Darwin.” They are mostly a product of natural selection, not man-made tinkering for looks.

So anyway: Ginger.

On our first ICUC visit, we learned that Sonya and her team had just taken in a litter of ten Desi dog puppies, along with their mother, who had been rescued from a New Delhi intersection.

We decided to play with the pups a bit.

Then this happened.

ginger

Frankly, all the puppies were cute, but this little light brown one – with a white stripe down the middle of her face – struck me as especially lovable. And she was comfortable with people, which I liked, while some of her litter-mates were a bit more skittish.

ginger

We continued visiting the center once or twice a month, often checking in on the litter and spending time playing with some of the dozen or so older dogs living there, which range in age from nearly a year to several years old.

Then around October, one day we showed up to discover that five of the ten puppies…had been adopted!

I rushed into the room where they were being held and found, to my relief, that the cute little yellow puppy was still there.

So that was it: We decided to officially adopt her, signing the papers on November 4.

And as I mentioned, we’ve named her Ginger.

ICUC ginger
The big day.

ginger sleeping
In the car on the way home.

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The first couple of weeks, despite our better judgement, we let her sleep in our bed because it was the only way we could get her to stop whining. Total bed hog. She no longer sleeps in the bed with us.

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“Please play with me!”

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An early visit to the vet

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With a favorite toy

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Sleeping on Anasuya

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One of her favorite perches, where she can keep an eye on the gate and police any potential intruders – when she’s not napping, that is.

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In the sun.

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She weighed about five kilograms – or 11 pounds – when we first adopted here and now, at about eight months, she weighs 16 kg (35 pounds). I think she’ll continue growing a bit more. She seeks out pats a little less now, but still enjoys sitting in our laps from time to time, as you can see above.

Now that she’s getting closer to the one-year mark, we’re also getting a better sense of her grown-up characteristics.

She is a very smart and alert dog, keen to interact with humans and play with toys and fetch balls. She’s also quite athletic and agile.

And she is a great watch dog: She’s plenty defensive of us and our house, but she doesn’t bark an unreasonable amount.

Ginger’s likes include:

  1. Eating bugs
  2. Running in circles in the yard
  3. Playing with other dogs
  4. Biting her leash, turning walks into tug-of-war matches
  5. Policing the kitchen for dropped scraps
  6. Napping

Among her dislikes:

  1. Cats
  2. Tennis racquet-shaped flyswatters
  3. People ringing our doorbell

We love her so much already.

Book Notes: ‘Sapiens,’ by Yuval Noah Harari

Sapiens

From time to time I share notes about the books I’ve been reading, or have revisited recently after many years.

These posts are meant to help me remember what I’ve learned, and to point out titles I think are worth consulting.

For previous postings, see my Book Notes category.

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

Published (in English): 2014
ISBN–10: 0062316095
Amazon link

Brief Summary

A deeply thought-provoking book about how homo sapiens came to dominate the world – and how our advancements have come at a significant cost.

My notes

I love big, sprawling books that tackle huge subjects and challenge you to change the way you conceive of the world.

This global bestseller, which has been all the rage among Silicon Valley technologists in recent years, in particular, is one of the best of that sort of title I’ve read.

It’s a kind of even-bigger-picture “Guns, Germs and Steel,” the hit 1997 book (which I also loved) in which Jared Diamond famously demonstrated the role the environment has played in shaping civilization and material development.

I think anyone who reads this fun, fast-paced, surprisingly easy-to-read book will be hard pressed not to come away with the sense that:

Human life is insignificant in the grand scheme of things;
– Our advancements as a species have been mind-bogglingly rapid, with humans and the planet paying a huge price;
– The way we have been living for the last 200 years is radically at odds with how humans have existed over the long term;
– The jury is out, according to Harari, as to whether humans will survive in the long term. He is not optimistic.

(Okay, all that may sound depressing, I know realize, but still…)

  • Harari, a historian, shows how homo sapiens evolved in East Africa 200,000 years ago, then 70,000 years ago spread out of Africa as the cognitive revolution took over, in which language emerge and allowed sapiens to either kill off or out-flourish other humans, like Neanderthals.
  • We all know that sapiens wiped out the world’s biggest animals, but Harari reinforces this point, recounting how we killed off megafauna from Australia to the Americas over time. Sapiens has historically destroyed everything in its path, and now that we have nuclear weapons, Harari is not bullish on our long term survival. But, of course, the universe doesn’t care about people. Cockroaches and rats are thriving today despite our having driven other creatures to extinction, and could in millions of years evolve into sophisticated creatures, thanking us for demolishing the planet and setting the stage for their rise.

  • The agricultural revolution, which happened about 12,000 years ago, was “history’s biggest fraud,” Harari writes, because it lead to widespread suffering for farmers and laborers producing food for elites, while life as hunter-gatherers may have largely been more conducive to human happiness despite shorter lives and higher rates of violence.

  • 2,500 hundred years ago coinage came into use. Money equals trust. Harari is big on “imagined orders” and the power of ideas to bind or separate us, such as democracy, capitalism, racism and the caste system.

  • The scientific revolution, about 500 years ago, lead to the industrial revolution some three hundred years later, and ultimately imperialism, with all its devastation for those subjugated.

    “The feedback loop between science, empire and capital has arguably been history’s chief engine for the past 500 years,” he writes. Capitalism + scientific inquiry = imperialism.

  • The industrial revolution – while providing us with undeniable material and medical benefits – has meant “family and community” have been replaced by “state and market.”

    “Millions of years of evolution have designed us to live and think as community members,” he writes. “Within a mere two centuries we have become alienated individuals.

  • Industrialized animal husbandry feeds the world, but “If we accept a mere tenth of what animal-rights activists are claiming, then modern industrial agriculture might well be the greatest crime in history.

  • I found the penultimate chapter, on human happiness, to be particularly thought-provoking.

    Money doesn’t ultimately bring lasting happiness due the luxury trap: there are diminishing returns to having fancy things, and someone always has even nicer stuff. That’s the case even for most billionaires.

    Community, family, positive marriages, and living according to one’s values – and with a sense of purpose – matter more. It could be that happiness most flourishes when we buy into belief systems or religious delusions, even if scientifically life has no meaning.

  • Harari seems to promote Buddhist philosophy and meditation as an antidote to alienation. “People are liberated from suffering not when they experience this or that fleeting pleasure, but rather when they understand the impermanent nature of all their feelings, and stop craving them,” he writes.

  • Ultimately, for all our advancements, human suffering is still rife in the world – whether it’s due to consumerism, ongoing oppression, or other factors. That puts all of our economic and scientific progress into perspective. Are humans actually happier today than tens of thousands of years ago? We are undoubtedly healthier and safer, but we may not be any happier.

Warren Buffett’s System for Sharpening Your Career Focus

Image result for warren buffett

James Clear shares an interesting anecdote, reportedly based on advice legendary investor Warren Buffet (pictured above) gave to his personal pilot, Mike Flint.

If you don’t want to click through, here’s the TLDR for how the Oracle of Omaha said to focus on what’s most important in your work:

  1. List your top 25 career goals
  2. Circle the 5 most important
  3. The key: Avoid the other 20 “goals” until you’ve accomplished the first 5

That’s it. Do what’s important until the big stuff is taken care of.

I like it. 

Related: my Book Notes entry from last year on “The One Thing,” By Gary Keller with Jay Papasan:

Brief re-cap: This is a short book with a simple thesis: In every job, there is one single activity that you should focus on that will improve your value to your company or your customers. You should focus on that, above all else, even if it means neglecting other responsibilities, the authors argue.

Ashley, 2008-2017

ashley

This is a post I hoped I would never have to write.

Long-time readers will remember Ashley, our beloved Bangkok street dog, whom we adopted in 2009.

About two weeks ago, on March 7, Ashley died after a brief illness.

Above is a photo from the day we adopted her from an organization that rescued “soi dogs,” as they’re called, in Bangkok.

It’s one of our favorite images of Ashley, since it was such a happy day for us — and because we joke that Ashley looks like she’s laughing in the photo, having tricked her way into a “forever home” as a year-old dog at a time when other owners were snapping up much younger, often cuter puppies from the organzation that saved her.

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Here’s a recent pic of her, from before she got sick.

A and I are still trying to process the news and live with the reality of coming home to an empty house, no longer taking walks with her, and living without her constant companionship on the couch, in the den, in the kitchen and nearly everywhere in between.

She was by our side in Bangkok for five years, then with us in Singapore for two and a half years, and then here in Delhi with us since we moved here last summer.

We adopted her when she was about a year old, and she would have turned nine this August.

(You can read about her history in this post and this one, and here’s one I wrote on the fifth anniversary of adopting her.)

Ashley was no longer a puppy, of course, and she had started to slow down ever so slightly in recent months. While she had some health issues before we adopted her, she was a pretty robust dog, and we expected to have much more time with her. And that’s part of what makes saying goodbye so difficult.

She loved our house here in New Delhi, with our small yard and its many sights and sounds: birds to eye, squirrels to chase, fellow street dogs to romp with, cats to pester.

Ash developed a cough a month or so back, and a subsequent ultrasound revealed a large mass in her abdomen that we later learned was cancerous.

She underwent surgery not long afterwards, and the mass was removed, but she never rebounded fully, and she succumbed to multi-organ failure just a few days later. Fortunately we were with her during her final days and hours, patting her head, stroking her back, and just keeping her company.

She was so weak in her final days that she had to be carried everywhere, yet her puppy-like enthusiasm remained; just an hour before she died, even though she could barely sit up on her own, I took her leash down from a coat rack near the door and she wagged her tail vigorously, looking up at me with her big black eyes.

When she passed away, we had her cremated here in Delhi, and the very sympathetic workers at the facility gave us her ashes in a lovely urn. Now it sits, with her collar and a painting of her A gave me as a gift years ago, on our mantle. (See the photo at the bottom of this post.)

Rather than dwell on her sickness — really just a week or two of the nearly nine years she lived — we have been trying to focus on all the fun we had with her.

Here, to have them all in one place, are a bunch of my favorite photos of her. I’ve posted some of these before, but others are new.

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As a puppy, before we adopted her

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She was in really rough shape

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But was soon…

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…On her way to health

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How she looked when we adopted her

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On the way home, day one

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Taking a nap at home in Bangkok, not long after we adopted her

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A happy, high energy pup

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A favorite past time: hanging out on the balcony.

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At the beach in Thailand

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One funny thing: she liked the beach but hated getting near any kind of water

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Sand on the nose

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At home in Singapore

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On one of many long walks we took in the city-state

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On the couch and in my face, likely because I was eating a snack

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On a jaunt in Singapore

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At Singapore’s Bishan Park

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Looking quizzical

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“Can I please have some of that lamb you’re cooking?”

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If her morning walk was ever delayed, you might open your eyes to see this, with her unruly ear fur — tendrils, we called them — blowing in the air conditioning

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At home in Singapore

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On our balcony here in New Delhi

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On the bed

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After her surgery, wearing a T-shirt to protect the stitches

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RIP, Ashley

I really, really loved that little ball of fur.

Video: New Delhi Street Dogs are Totally Unflappable 

​I often pass this group of street dogs near our office building in Connaught Place. 

These mutts are totally unflappable. 

Honking cars, pedestrians weaving between them, bicycles, horses, you name it. 

They could care less. 

They just keep dozing, sunning themselves as New Delhi buzzes all around them. 

A level of zen I can only one day hope to attain!

Previously: a super-enterprising street dog I saw back in August.

About a quarter of the time I take Ubers here in Delhi the driver asks me, when I get out, to give him a five-star rating. (Drivers must maintain a certain rating to ensure they can continue working on the platform.)

Usually I just nod my head and say “yeah okay,” and proceed to give them whatever score I would have given them anyway. 

The other day a driver did something different. 

As I was getting out of the car he said “sir” to get my attention, then pointed at his phone, where he had selected five stars in his rating for me

Then when he saw I was looking, he pressed submit.

When it came time for me to score him later, I also gave him a similar rating. 

He was a good driver indeed, but he also understood the law of reciprocity. He knew the difference between just saying something and actually taking action. And that I may well feel inclined to help him out too (since riders are also ranked). 

Clever. 

Why We Gain Weight Over the Holidays

Stephan Guyenet, an obesity researcher whose work I’ve linked to in the past, on why we tend to get fat over Thanksgiving and Christmas:

Thanksgiving is a special time in the United States when we gather our loved ones and celebrate the abundance of fall with a rich palette of traditional foods. Yet a new study suggests that the 6-week holiday period that spans Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve accounts for most of our country’s weight problem (1). Understanding this fact, and why it happens, gives us powerful insights into why we gain weight, and what to do about it.

The human brain is the product of millions of years of survival in the face of scarcity, and it has a number of hard-wired tricks up its sleeve that helped us stay alive in the world of our distant ancestors. One of these is an important function called reward, which mostly whirrs away below our conscious awareness. In a nutshell, every human brain is wired with specific motivations that help us seek the things that are good for us, including physical comfort, sex, social interaction, water, and of course, food (3). But not just any kind of food: the brain isn’t wired to make us crazy about celery sticks and lentils, but rather to seek concentrated sources of fat, starch, sugar, and protein that would have met the rigorous demands of ancient life (4, 5, 6). In everyday experience, we feel cravings as we smell turkey roasting in the oven, or see a slice of pumpkin pie obscured by a generous dollop of whipped cream. This craving, along with the enjoyment we feel as we eat delicious foods, is the conscious manifestation of reward.

Click through for more info, and steps to help curb holiday weight gain.

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