Sharing with you things that are on my mind...Maybe yours too. Come back to Wrights Lane for a visit anytime!

20 January, 2016


I study personalities…It helps me understand contrary people in particular and why they do and say certain things -- and why they advocate issues that are not always popular with the “agreeable” mainstream, whatever that may be.

Curious about a person's willingness to obey an authority figure, social psychologist Stanley Milgram a few decades ago began trials on a now-famous experiment. In it, he tested how far a subject would go electrically shocking a stranger (actually an actor faking the pain) simply because they were following orders. Some subjects, Milgram found, would follow directives until the person was dead.

A new Milgram-like experiment published recently in the Journal of Personality took this idea to the next step by trying to understand which kinds of people are more or less willing to obey these kinds of orders. What researchers discovered was surprising: Those who are described as "agreeable, conscientious personalities" are more likely to follow orders and deliver electric shocks that they believe can harm innocent people, while "more contrarian, less agreeable personalities" are more likely to refuse to hurt others.

For an eight-month period, the researchers interviewed the study participants to gauge their social personality, as well as their personal history and political leanings. When they matched this data to the participants' behavior during the experiment, a distinct pattern emerged: People who were normally friendly followed orders because they didn't want to upset others, while those who were described as unfriendly stuck up for themselves.

"The irony is that a personality disposition normally seen as antisocial — disagreeableness — may actually be linked to 'pro-social' behavior,'" writes Psychology Today's Kenneth Worthy. "This connection seems to arise from a willingness to sacrifice one's popularity a bit to act in a moral and just way toward other people, animals or the environment at large. Popularity, in the end, may be more a sign of social graces and perhaps a desire to fit in than any kind of moral superiority."  Some people who are religiously rigid (yes, even Christians) may well fall into the "agreeable, conscientous behavior" category. I can think of a lot of examples, but will let readers make that judgemental call.

The study also found that people holding left-wing political views were less willing to hurt others. One particular group held steady and refused destructive orders: "women who had previously participated in rebellious political activism such as strikes or occupying a factory."

The findings lend themselves even further to Milgram's original goal in the '60s: trying to understand the rise of Nazism. Milgram began his experiments in July 1961, three months after the start of the trial of German Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann. He believed his findings might help explain how seemingly nice people can do horrible things if they are ordered to do so.

Does that mean the Nazis were just nice people trying to follow the dictator Hitler's orders and be polite? You probably wouldn't want to go that far, but suffice to say, it turns out nice people just want to appease authorities, while rebels stick to their guns on moral grounds.

For me, I now try to be more understanding of rebel types because they just might be more morally social-minded than meets the eye. In all honesty, I sense some rebellious tendencies in myself and that is not necessarily a bad thing, I am happy to discover.

17 January, 2016


"People do not rescue dogs, dogs rescue people!"  That rather profound statement was made by the comedic George Lopez, emcee of The World Dog Awards Show on television the other night.

The truth in those few words stayed with me long after the TV special went off the air.  I do not think that Lopez was referring specifically to the "rescue" breed of dog, rather he meant all breeds -- purebred to mongrel -- dogs who are loyal and love unconditionally, dogs who are trained to lead the blind and physically disabled, visitor dogs who bring joy to the ill and infirm in hospitals and old-age homes, dogs who bring comfort with the wag of a tail or a well-placed lick on the cheek, dogs who have a sixth sense when it comes to being sensitive to human illness and anxiety.  In other words, dogs just being themselves which is the only way they know how to be.

I would go a step further with the "dogs rescue people" thought...I think that they literally save lives.

Personally, I do not know how I could live without my little dog Lucy, a blind 11-year-old Miniature Rat Terrier who weighs in at 15 pounds soaking wet.  Lucy is absolutely the most pure, unspoiled creature that I know.  She knows nothing of rejection, hate or meanness because we have sheltered her.  She just loves everyone and thinks that everyone loves her too.  She is everyone's best friend.

When glaucoma took her eyesight a little over a year ago, I sadly and reluctantly considered euthanizing her because I could not accept her having to function in a dark world, not seeing her favorite toys, her food bowl, birds and squirrels  -- me.  I even went so far as talking to our vet about it...He understood but suggested I go home and think about it overnight.

Oh ye of little faith, she has more than justified my ultimate faith in her to assimilate and to stay the course.  Her adjustment to a new dark world was virtually overnight...She is the same old Lucy, she just bumps into things more now and I have had to introduce her to new verbal directions enabling her to follow my voice, like "over here", "other way", "stop", "Lucy up", "Lucy go".  She knows our house and yard like the back of her paw...Increased instincts to smell and to hear have compensated for her inability to see.  She still runs to greet friends and family...and strangers too, if we let her.

She is my constant companion, either at my heels or on my lap (her favorite place).  She knows my every mood and anxiety, my bodily pain and heart aches.  I frequently just hold her to my chest for a few minutes and the warmth of her body absorbs the heaviness, the aches and the hurt that tends to localize and overwhelm a soul.  She sleeps with me in bed a night, tucked tightly to my hip.  I have often said that one day they will have to surgically remove her.

Lucy's antics make me laugh, generally at a time when I am not seeing much humor in life.  She brings the first smile of the day to Rosanne's face, likewise the last smile at night.  You simply cannot become too down or depressed when you have a dog in your life.

"Wus" as I often call her, comes to Rosanne for affectionate pats on the head, belly rubs and the odd treat, but understands the delicacy of my wife's condition and has never offered to jump up on her lap, with one remarkable exception a few months ago when we returned from the hospital with a cancer diagnosis for the first time.  Lucy hovered under Rosanne's reclining lift chair and then began to repeatedly and uncharacteristically jump up on the leg rest.

"I think that she wants to comfort you," I offered as I gently placed the little soul on Rosanne's lap. Lucy immediately adjusted herself into position higher up on Rosanne's stomach, directly on the spot where a lymphoma tumor had been discovered, and remained there for the next three hours.  I was astounded and Rosanne was deeply touched.  It was a one-time-only occurrence, but it had great lasting meaning for us.  Dr. Lucy doing her job!

Rosanne's words pretty much sums it all up.  "I never knew that you could love a dog so much!"

Indeed, Lucy has rescued us more times than I can count...She gives us life...She is our life!

15 January, 2016


Under the scars of a hard life Ugly was beautiful

I know for a fact that many of my readers are pet lovers and for that reason I pass on a story that is sure to tug at the heart strings.  You might even want to have some Kleenex tissue within reach.

What’s in a name?  You’d be surprised!

Everyone in the apartment complex knew who “Ugly” was…He was the resident tomcat.

Ugly loved three things in this world – fighting, eating garbage, and shall we say love.  The combination of these, coupled with a life spent outside, had their effect on Ugly.  I’m going to leave the rest of this story to a kindly woman we’ll call “Betty”.
“To start, Ugly had only one eye and where the other should have been was a gaping hole.  He was also missing his ear on the same side, his left foot appeared to have been badly broken at one time and had healed at an unnatural angle making him look like he was always turning the corner.  His tail was missing, leaving only a small stub which he would constantly jerk and twitch.  He would have been a dark gray stripped tabby, except for sores covering his head, neck and shoulders.

“People would say ‘That’s one ugly cat!’  Children were warned not to touch him.  Adults threw rocks at him and sprayed water on him when he approached their homes.
“Ugly always had the same reaction…If you turned the hose on him, he would stand there getting soaked until you gave up.  If you threw things at him, he would not run away.  Rather he would curl his frail body around your feet as if seeking forgiveness.  Whenever he spied children, he would come running and meowing frantically as if begging for their love and attention.

“One day Ugly made the mistake of sharing his love with a neighbor’s Huskies.  The dogs did not respond favorably and Ugly was badly mauled.  From my apartment I could hear his screams and I tried to rush to his aid.  By the time I got to where he was laying, it was apparent that Ugly’s sad life was almost at an end.
“Ugly lay in a wet circle, his back legs and lower back twisted grossly out of shape, a gaping tear in the white strip of fur that ran down his front.  As I picked him up and tried to carry him home I could hear him wheezing and gasping. ‘I must be hurting him terribly’, I thought.

“Then I felt a slight movement followed by a tugging and sucking sensation on my ear…Ugly, in so much pain, suffering and obviously dying, was trying to suckle my ear.  I pulled him closer to me and he bumped the palm of my hand with his head, then turned his one golden eye towards me and I could hear the distinct sound of purring.  Even in the greatest pain, that ugly battle-scarred cat was asking only for a little affection, perhaps some compassion.
“At that moment I thought Ugly was the most beautiful, loving creature I had ever seen.  Never once did he try to bite or scratch me, or even try to get away.  Ugly just looked up, completely trusting me.

“Ugly died in my arms before I got him back to my apartment but I sat and held him for a long time afterwards, thinking how one scarred, deformed little stray could so alter my opinion about what it means to have true pureness of spirit, to love so totally and truly.  He taught me more about giving and compassion than a thousand books or lectures ever could and for that I will always be thankful.
“This tiny, abused ball of fur had been scarred on the outside but I was scarred on the inside and it was time for me to move on and learn to love truly and deeply…To give my all to those I cared for and to those who cared for me.

“Many people want to be richer, more successful, well liked, beautiful, but for me I will always try to be Ugly.”
Note to Betty:  You may always try to be Ugly but to me you will always be beautiful.