A photo my wife took of me working with Jackie on some heeling.
Friday, July 23, 2010
Monday, May 17, 2010
This is how Roxy looks nowadays. She used to be so stressed and anxious all the time. Things aren't perfect for her yet. But the transformation that's occurred has been amazing. Will she ever be a completely calm, relaxed, easy going dog? She's a terrier, so calm and relaxed are relative terms. But when I see how she can just lie around outside in the sun and hang out with me with this look on her face it makes me feel so good knowing how far she's come. Which of course means I've come pretty far too:)
Saturday, May 15, 2010
Monday, May 10, 2010
Not everyone is comfortable in the darkness and all the emotions and feelings that are usually associated with it. However I am very comfortable there. I actually find peace there. Pain, anger, rage….these aren’t things that are foreign to me. I’ve lived so much of my life with them hanging around me, that I no longer fear them. Instead, I consider them my friends.
Death came to my doorstep early in life, and though he did not come for me, he took a piece of me when he left. And though I feared my initial encounter with him, and did not want to look him in the face, he did not leave me empty handed, because he brought with him an old friend, and her name was Darkness.
It didn’t take long for me to become very comfortable and intimate with this friend. She became my constant companion while I navigated this world lost and alone. She took my hand and led me through the valley of my heart, and there waiting for me, were anger and rage. They welcomed me with open arms, and I embraced them. These new friends gave me access to a hidden, inner world that had no boundaries. And while in this world, I discovered a secret, a hidden truth. That all wisdom, everything we need to know, we already do. We are the owners of infinite wisdom and understanding, if we choose to visit those places hidden deep inside us….and listen. Rage gave me the power to open that door. It allowed me to step into that unknown without fear. And by walking through the doorway that rage opened for me, I found truth and I found myself.
Dogs are our mirrors and they reflect back at us who we really are. They tap into our deepest, most hidden emotions. There’s no denying it. That’s just what they do. We can get into all kinds of theories of why that is, and there are many, but few can argue this fact. So if you have a dog that is expressing his fear, his anger, his rage….is it really his feelings he’s expressing or yours?
When you look at your dog, and you look through his eyes and look into his soul, you’re really looking at yourself. Because this being that sits before you, is not “merely” a dog. He is all your hopes and fears. All your anger and rage. All your unfulfilled wants and desires. All your joy. He is your heart and your truth, and he holds the key to unlocking that door to self discovery, just as Darkness helped me unlock mine. He is the ultimate guide on this journey we call life, because through him, you can find your truth, and ultimately find yourself.
E.E. Cummings said it so beautifully, and if your dog could speak, I believe this is what he would tell you:
here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Everything I do, everything I am today, has been and continues to be influenced by that singular moment. A snapshot in time. A moment that changed the course of my life, in ways I will probably never completely know, at least not on a conscious level. That moment made me the man, husband, son and brother I am today.
They say time heals all wounds, that as the sands of time fall through the hourglass of our collective lives, all wounds heal, and we need to just "let them go". That the more time passes, the more we should be able to just get over it, and those past moments and experiences should no longer have an effect on who we are today and how we respond to the world around us as we get older. At least that's what we always tell ourselves and each other. Listen to enough self help speakers and you'll start to believe that you can just forget your past with the blink of an eye, and a $2000 check.
Roxy was 1 year old when I got her. A rescue dog from a shelter in Michigan. She seemed happy and energetic, and for the most part she was. She liked to mix it up with other dogs, and being a terrier, she was quite fearless. The problem was that she hadn't learned how to engage other dogs properly, and on a walk one day, an off leash dog came across the road, and in her socially inept way she tried to connect with him by mounting him. This dog was 3 times her size btw. The dog reacted and, to use a dominance expression, put her in her place. But Roxy's got a lot of heart and fire, and let's just say she didn't take it lying down. Like anyone with heart, she fought back. It was a singular moment that changed her relationship to other dogs and how she interacted with them from that moment forward.
Roxy is now almost 5. Did time change the way she feels about other dogs? Did time heal the emotional damage caused by that single moment? No. Time can't. Because on an emotional level, time is not linear. As Kevin Behan has told me time and time again, "Dogs don't remember, but they can never forget". And I believe that statement applies to us humans as well. Roxy has never forgotten that moment. It stayed with her, under the surface, affecting every experience she had. Just as the loss of my father when I was a child has affected every experience for me since.
To deny our pasts is to deny ourselves. No matter how much time passes, we will always have scars. Dogs are no different. In order to help an emotionally challenged dog heal from the past that haunts him, we have to help him revisit that place where it all began. Help him relive those moments, so we can help him wipe the slate clean. Help him face his fears and emotional challenges so those past moments and experiences no longer have power over him. Because even though dogs "live in the moment", they are completely victims of their pasts.
I don't know if I will ever fully heal from my past, and that's ok. I've learned that life is a journey, and on this journey things happen that aren't always right or fair. But fair is only a human concoction anyway. The thing I DO know is that when I help a dog heal, when the fire starts coming back into his eyes, and I see the transformation happening, I feel a part of myself heal as well. When I see Roxy today, and see how much she's changed, I know that I've changed too. And the more we change together, maybe, just maybe, this man won't need to wear a mask anymore.
Saturday, April 17, 2010
Friday, April 16, 2010
Thursday, April 15, 2010
When I watch a dog run after a ball, or chase and catch a frisbee, I am witnessing a poetic expression of complete freedom. A collie working his herd. A setter flushing game. A terrier, well....being a terrier. Nothing else exists in his world in that moment. He is completely focused and channeled. He is, for lack of a better word, committed.
But wait, isn't commitment the opposite of freedom? Aren't we taught to believe that lack of commitment and responsibility is what it means to be free? Could it be possible that the real path to freedom isn't about shedding commitment, rather fully engaging in it? Forgive my abuse of the English language, but could it be that true freedom is actually a more committed commitment to commitment?
When I watch a schutzhund dog bite a sleeve with all his heart, fully committed to the moment, I am watching poetry in motion. I am witnessing a moment of amazing passion, desire, sheer will, and presence playing out right before my eyes. It is through his intense determination and commitment that allows him to push through all his resistance, and achieve the feeling of freedom that he so desires. That suspended moment, where time and space no longer exist. Where all things flow and are right in his world. That is the place where true freedom lies.
Dogs show us that freedom doesn't come from lack of commitment. Instead, it comes from TOTAL commitment. Because it's by walking through the doorway of commitment that you discover true freedom and liberation.
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Honor the Dog isn't just about teaching your dog to sit, or stay, or come when called. It's about re-establishing the relationship between us and our dogs. And through that connection, allowing our dogs to rediscover a part of themselves they have long forgotten. And through this journey, the door is opened to find ourselves as well. But only if you choose to take the first step.