Tabula rasa

We can teach dogs to save lives, to detect bombs, arms, drugs and many illnesses. We can teach them to be companions, carers, entertainers. They can be pets but they can work hard, too.


And we can teach them to fight and kill. The way we bring the best and the worst in dogs reflects our society. The loyal animal, domesticated like no other is the mirror of our ambitions, desires and fears.


I was happy to see the story of Whizz on BBC breakfast today. I needed it.

Disclaimer: ‘tabula rasa’ (‘clean slate’) doesn’t imply any dog can be anything. It refers to the choice people make for dogs to be ‘good’ or ‘bad’ (I won’t go into details or ethical/lexical/philosophical or sociological musings on the words themselves). Neither Brian nor Lily would be able to drag a human being to the shore (Whizz saved 9 people by doing just that). But Lily’s empathy makes it impossible to be sad-ever (‘Why are you sad? Have a kiss.Have a hedgehog’) and Brian is (hopefully) going to be the best canicross/skijoring dog in the UK . Well, he’s going to be good. Good enough.


13 thoughts on “Tabula rasa

    1. We don’t have snow here (West Midlands, UK). We’ll practice using rollerskis (when Brian is big enough, he needs to be over half my weight -fortunately I am built more like a kid than an adult) and then we’ll try the proper stuff in Norway. Anyway, for now it’s backpack (for building core strength) and a special harness – to teach him to pull (see, even pulling can be useful). We’ve been trying various things and he seems to be good at skijoring 🙂 Agility and obedience competitions involve a lot of people and people make him uneasy. But when we do canicross or train ‘joring’ he doesn’t care-and then we’re on our own most of the time. I love snow (not so much skiing as snowboarding, but tough, I have to adapt and compromise) 🙂

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  1. Had to Google skijoring…terrifying…but I love dogs for their empathy for humans, Erin is the same as Lily-“Why sad? Here, squeaky pig and sloppy lick ..” and Brian just looks great! As for snow…don’t want any this year, speaking from the East Midlands…the West can have it all :)! x

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    1. I’m sure I’d fall in love with Erin 🙂 The snow here is never ‘proper’.We’re going to Norway (just me and Brian). When I say Brian is mine, I mean it. He’ll continue the tradition of me and ‘my boy’ having quality time together. We’re both active and love being out all day (Hedgehog and Lily not so much). We’ll have no electricity and running water for 4 days (nope, I don’t like this particular bit).

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      1. She seems a really loving, caring and loyal friend (from all the blog posts she’s mentioned in). And I love the bond she has with your Mum! (and I’m a wuss, a sporty wuss, but a wuss nonetheless- I just like my annual escapes – just me and my dog) x

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    1. Dogs can definitely teach us a lot-if we’re willing to learn 🙂 I’ve learnt the most from my first rescue, long gone now-and Ardbeg, the dog who is the reason behind this blog 🙂
      There was a theory about (human) mind stating we’re born with no preconceived ideas (‘clean slate’) and we’re shaped by circumstances (upbringing, education, culture)-thus the title of the post 🙂 The term is used a lot in education (I’ve been a teacher/lecturer most of my life) but the origin definitely indicates new beginnings (literal translation would be ‘scraping slate’ -the one used to write on) but I like your metaphor 🙂 I like embracing the past-accepting my mistakes and learning from them, so I’ll never be ‘tabula rasa’ but I get the point of not dwelling in the past-many people waste their lives and energy on it! Thank you for the wonderful comment 🙂 x

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      1. Yes :-)! I refer to a “tabula rasa” situation when it is necessary to start from 0. If referred to humanity as a whole, I think we have a lot to learn from animals and Nature in general. My understanding is that everything is collaborative in Nature, dogs and all other creatures are aware of this. It is us, humans, who are obsessed with controlling everything, even that which is beyond our control. Someone might argue that this is part of human nature but I think, what is human nature? Aren’t dogs, cats and all the other creatures just there to remind us that life is about love, good food, running around with friends and discovering new scents and new flavours?

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      1. We can learn a lot from animals. For instance, there are no animal super-achievers, although my Barmalei might be an exception. We were brought up with the idea of being the first and the best, as a matter of survival, but I don’t have to tell you that there is a difference between what one is and what one does.

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