This is a place to talk about dogs, our connection to them, and how we can use this connection to help foster the relationship with them we desire. Why is it so important to talk about our relationship with dogs to understand how to work with them? Because when we talk about dogs, we're really talking about ourselves.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Tomorrow Never Dies, but Yesterday Lives Forever

My dad died when I was 10. It's been almost 30 years since that fateful day, and though it may seem like time should heal the wounds from that loss, the wounds never really seem to heal. They're always there, even if most of the time it may seem as if I'm like everyone else, just going about my days and my tasks, running errands, going to work, playing with my dogs. But underneath it all, there is still a 10 year old boy who lost his father and his way, and though that boy is now a man, when the mask is removed the 10 year old boy is revealed, still suffering from that moment he experienced so many yesterdays ago.

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

Rescue Dogs

I spend my Saturday afternoons volunteering at my local shelter, and dogs like Bowie come in all the time. Look at that face. Does that look like the face of a dog that should be homeless? So many of these dogs wouldn't find themselves in this position if their owners were more informed and educated about how to work and live with their dogs. One of my goals is to educate as many people as I can, so dogs like Bowie don't have to find themselves dropped off and abandoned.

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Dream Team

In case you were wondering about my dogs, here's a quick snapshot of the 3 of them. Let's just say they keep me on my toes. What a bunch of hams. :)

Teacher Student and Puppy

I just wanted to share this photo of Kevin, me and Trisha's puppy Hero taking a walk in the woods behind his house in Vermont. I miss those walks and the talks that would ensue. What a journey it's been.

Thursday, April 15, 2010


Freedom. What is it exactly? Is it limitless choice? Is it lack of responsibilities or commitments? Is that really freedom or is it something else?

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

Redemption Song

Mine is a story about redemption. About rebuilding broken bridges and mending broken hearts. About rekindling the fire in my dogs' hearts that I blew out so long ago. It's a journey that led me back to my dogs, and ultimately, back to myself.

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.