Daily Archives: February 11, 2018

The Lives They Left Behind: Suitcases from a State Hospital Attic by Darby Penney

51emoQ2iSAL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_The Lives They Left Behind: Suitcases from a State Hospital Attic by Darby Penney

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I believe that reality is always better than fiction in truth of events and artifacts that accompany the stories. Besides, if such story chimes the bell of my emotion even in the faintest decibel, I dive into it. In this regard, this book was a sure thing to read about people who were inflicted with “sacred disease” -as termed by Hippocrates – how they got there and what they were really like as individuals with dreams, memories, hopes, and wishes.


One of the suitcases found in Willard Psychiatric Center courtesy of phaidon.com

Hundreds of derelict suitcases came into light when Willard Psychiatric Center in upstate New York were closed in 1995, ending its century long history of a public mental institution. Each suitcase has a story to tell with pictures, bus/train tickets, diaries, letters, and even teacups contained herein. In the eyes of the author, it was like the fateful revelation of the outcry of the people who had come to live in the hospital. What I have found in reading this book is that many of the patients do not seem mad or needful of being institutionalized. Many of them suffer from loneliness, abandonment, and ill treatments from others. To my consternation, if a spouse or a family member was regarded irksome, bothersome, and troublesome, a ticket to the lifelong institualization was a sine qua non solution to get rid of the person forthwith.

A truly powerful testimony to the dignity of the people who found themselves on the edges of society, The Lives They Left Behind is comprised of heart-wrenching accounts of those whose lives were immortalized in the artifacts they forgot to claim ever more; that there is only a thin layer of difference between those within and without gives rise to requisite re-examination of what constitutes normalcy of behaviors as “socially and culturally” accepted because in one way or another we all carry a certain degree of “madness” within -for better or worse.


The Rise of Fido : Book review on Dogs by Raymond Coppinger

513eG+OX1CL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_Dogs: A New Understanding of Canine Origin, Behavior and Evolution by Raymond Coppinger

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

We claim to love dogs, and yet we know so little about them. We long for their unconditional affection, but we are ignorant of their needs and our faults altogether. Moreover, we like to think dogs as wolves and believe it so. Since I am a kind of person who says hello to a dog I encounter in the streets, this book caught my eyes and mind to know more about dogs, a beautifully different organism worthy of our attention and care, and to find out how they got their way based upon scientific and cultural examinations of dogs.


Raymond and Lorna Coppinger with their fido friend courtesy of google

This book, written principally by Raymond Coppinger, professor of biology at Hampshire College, a former sled dog racing champion, is unique among many other books about dogs I have read in terms of its scientific bases of anthropological and behavioral studies of canine familiaris, i.e., the dog. The most significant fact about this book is that the author forthwith and forthright argues that dogs are not direct descendants of canis lupus, the wolf. Furthermore, he counters Darwinian evolutionary theory based upon the three factors of anthropological evidence, behavioral ecology, and Belyaev’s tamed foxes.


Pemba Village Dogs courtesy of marinebiologist.com

To begin with, the author takes readers to to a village of Pemba, an island off the East African coast in the territory of Tanzania, where the inhabitants still live on a boundary between hunting-gathering of the Mesolithic period and agriculture of the Neolithic period. In Pemba, dogs exemplify village dogs with a prevalent display of the uniformity of shapes, sizes, and colors of the coat, all of which indicate isolated gene pool untainted by any other strain of dog that would introduce a variation in appearance. The Pemba village dogs have co-habituated with their human inhabitants by choosing a niche close to human existence as a place of steady supply of food, safety, and reproduction. This leads to a conclusion that they are the descendants of the first evolved domestic dogs from the Mesolithic period of human history.


Dmitri Belyaev and his tamed Silver Foxes courtesy of es.turopedia.com

First, people created a new niche called the village. Then some curious wolves came to the niche and gained access to a new food source. These wolves adapted to this new convenient niche are “genetically” predisposed to show less “flight” distance than those of their wild peers and become tameable. A Russian geneticist named Dmitri Belyaev’s long term experiment with the Russian Silver Foxes corroborates this domestication process: after 18 generations (36 years on our evolutionary clock), the foxes became naturally tamed and remarkably resembled dogs in appearance and temperament.


Characteristics of  juvenile features of wolf pups courtesy of evolution-slideshow.net

Moreover, Coppinger ardently disagrees to the wolf-turned-dog theory. Rather, dogs descended from a “wolf-like” species that became extinct is their paramount contention to the widely accepted opinion. In addition, dogs possess characteristics of neoteny by retaining wolfish juvenile shapes and features, such as round and short facial shape with floppy ears, and care-soliciting behaviors into adulthood. That is, by keeping the cute and lovable appearance of wolf puppies into adulthood, the behavioral developments of dogs still remain in perpetual juvenile stage, which makes themselves well adapted to the human inhibition and thus able to survive in their niches for their safe existence.


A Little heartbeat at my feet courtesy of naver.com

Dogs are one of the fewest animals who share our lives and require our tender attention and care for the reasons concerning the above and most of all, the feelings we get when we see the eyes of dogs that are so soulful and insightful. We need to take a close look at our canine fellow creatures in their true form based upon their biological needs and behavioral tendencies, to love them as they are, and treat them as a wonderful creature of nature that has been with us for so many years in our human history.

Don’t forget the little heartbeat when a dog is at our feet. Never forget that they are only dogs.