Category Archives for "About Shirelle"

2 Acts of Contrition – the importance of apology

In a popular movie of 1970, a famous actress tells her boyfriend Ryan O’Neal, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.”  A couple of years later, he was in another hit movie, where another famed actress tells him the same line, and he responds “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.”

I agree more with the second one.

People say they’re sorry all the time, and even though they may not truly mean it at a deep level, it’s usually appreciated.  You interrupt a conversation with, “Sorry to bother you, but…” and it’s accepted.  Or you bump into someone accidentally, and say “Oh, sorry!”  Now do you truly, in these situations, feel deep sorrow about your action?  Of course not.  It’s not that big a deal.  It’s just nice to say.

But with bigger deals, it’s often far more important – and more difficult – to express sorrow and remorse.  To feel and relay it to a degree that changes how others look at you.

This issue got on my mind recently, due to some international political scandals I heard about. On May 20, 2020, a world leader attended a party while making rules that people should stay in and not go to parties.  In November of that year, another leader did just the same thing.  And both then lied when they were caught!  And both got in trouble for their hypocrisy.  But today, one of them is hugely popular, while the other might well be dumped by his own party.  What’s the difference? 

I’d argue it’s all about apology.

In May of 2020, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Boris Johnson, attended a party at his home, while pushing the people of his nation to, in caution against the Coronavirus, not even attend funerals, much less parties just for fun.  When asked about the party, he said he hadn’t even known about it.  Then he was forced to admit he’d actually been there.

Then six months later, the governor of California, Gavin Newsom, attended a dinner at a fancy restaurant, while he was pushing the people of his state to stay home and not go to restaurants.  When asked about it, he admitted going, but said that everyone had safely stayed outdoors.  Then when press photos of him showed that he was sitting under an indoor chandelier, he had to admit he’d been inside.

Two lying politicians, hypocritical about the rules they expected others to follow.  So what’s the difference?

Mr. Newsom began apologizing at once.  And then, for the next year, he constantly kept doing so, saying what he’d done was stupid, and made a strong point of not making a mistake like that again.

Meanwhile, Mr. Johnson continued to avoid talking about that party, and has been caught at others, including a celebratory one the night before his nation’s Prince’s funeral!  Finally this week he apologized for the 2020 party to Parliament, and for the recent one to their Queen. 

Both politicians have faced public fury, and attempts from their opposition parties to replace them in office.  In Mr. Newsom’s case, it even led to a special election.  But by that time, he’d apologized enough, and shown his better qualities in contrast to his opponent’s ideas, and won a greater percentage of the vote than in the election that had originally given him the job.

While, in Mr. Johnson’s case, many members of his own party are calling for him to resign immediately.

Again, I’m not trying to say either one is a total hero or total villain here.  Both showed stupidity and arrogance in the first place.  But one eventually handled it right, and the other didn’t.  And as Mr. Newsom approaches his originally-scheduled battle for re-election, no member of his opposition party has even yet publicly announced they want to run!

What’s the difference between the two?  Mr. Newsom might just be saying and doing the things he ought to, but he appears to be legitimately sorry he went to that party, and to see how hurtful it was to the people of his state.  While Mr. Johnson appears to only be admitting his fault to get out of trouble, nearly two years later, in a way that no one believes.

Now I’ll give another couple of examples of what I’m talking about, a bit closer to home: These are about me!

For the first few years I lived with Handsome, I tore up, chewed, or broke more things in his home than I can count – from windows to album covers to plumbing to furniture.  And, young and headstrong, I could see that he was upset about them but didn’t really care all that much.  Sure I wanted him to be happy with me, but that was about it.

But as I got older, I wanted to be more careful.  To stop disappointing him.  To be more of a partner.

But things happen. And sure enough, one day I was near a window when a neighbor I loved to bark at walked by.  I jumped up to let him know I saw him and wasn’t going to take that lying down – and knocked over a large potted plant, that shattered onto the floor, spilling dirt everywhere. 

Handsome heard the noise and ran into the room, and stopped when he saw it, “oh NO!” he yelled at the mess.

Now, again, I’d done things far worse, but not at this stage in my life.  I felt just awful!  I bowed my head into the floor, my eyes squeezed shut, full of remorse and pain. 

And what did Handsome do?  Oh you can guess.  His heart just melted.  He came and hugged me and murmured, “Oh sweetie, it was only a plant.  I can clean it up.  It’s fine.” 

And it was.

A year or two later, a friend of his, one of my favorites, was at our place.  I’d brought her a stuffed toy, and she was playing tug-of-war with me with it, both having a great time.  But then I took a deeper bite to get more of it into my mouth, and accidentally bit her hand.  “OWW!” she yelled, and pulled her hand back. 

All over again, my heart just broke.  I loved this lady (still do).  The last thing I’d ever want would be to hurt her, or to make her not want to play with me.  So again, my head bowed, my chest hitting the floor, my eyes wanting to shut this truth out completely.

And again, she saw it and knew it was true.  She petted me and said “It’s okay, you knucklehead.  You just have to be more careful.”  And gave me a hug.

Boy did I lick her face clean that day!

The point I’m making in all this is about sincerity.  To say you’re sorry is a nice gesture, but to truly feel sorrow over something you’ve done to someone – that means the world.

In an old movie Handsome loves, a character says that apologizing is a sign of weakness.  Well, maybe that’s true.  Maybe a true apology is telling someone “I’m weakening myself to you, because I feel so bad about what I did.”

I certainly showed weakness about that plant and that toy.  And I’m not ashamed of it – I’m proud!

You see, Handsome and his friend both gained respect for me when I did that.  And Mr. Newsom gained respect from the people of his state when he came clean about that stupid party.  Maybe Mr. Johnson can gain some respect from this too – althought it might be too late for that.

So my doggy advice, if you find yourself in a situation where you should apologize?

  1. Apologize as soon as you can.  Right away is best.
  2. Don’t say anything you don’t mean.  Just tell your heart’s truth.
  3. Don’t make excuses.  (Mr. Johnson, in his speech to Parliament, said he’d only been at that party for “25 minutes.”  So?  Who cares whether he broke his own rule for five minutes or five hours?  It just made him sound insincere.)
  4. Don’t ask for forgiveness, at least not yet.  That’s immediately asking the person you hurt to do something for you!  If they don’t forgive you, you can ask later, but don’t make that part of the apology.
  5. And for crying out loud, don’t just go back and do the same thing again!

If you can master these, your apology has a great chance of being accepted.  And with that, your life will be able to move on from whatever it was you did.

Because in truth, love often IS saying you’re sorry.  And meaning it!

How to stay positive in a negative-minded world

Katarina asks:

How does one stay positive when everything around seems so negative?

Hi Katarina –

            Out of all the questions you could have asked, about any topic, you have picked probably my favorite!  Because if there’s one thing we dogs are better at than humans (well, besides hearing, smelling, and biting), it’s this!

            Some dogs live in fear.  I’ve written a lot about my friend Aria, who’s suffered abandonment, beatings, all sorts of awful stuff.  And while she’s sweet and loving, and happy in her new home, she’ll always be scared of “worst circumstances.”  But even with that, she’ll never be “negative,” in the way people can be.

            You see, the problem with you people is that your brains are too big!  You remember so much about the past, and analyze it so much, and think so much about the future.  And you create.  You write novels and symphonies and design buildings and computer coding and put your imaginations on canvases and movie screens – all of which is just wonderful.  But that same creativity means you’re always going to be trying to figure out “what’s next.” 

            Now if your life had always been happy and joyous, that “what next” might be wondering what delights will come to you tomorrow.  You’ve always had great friends?  Well tomorrow you might meet someone just as flawless you fall in love with.  You’ve always been lucky and respected?  Then tomorrow you might get a high-paying job you’ll love.  You’ve always been attractive?  Tomorrow you might get even more gorgeous!

            But no one, and yes I mean no one, gets that life.  By the time you’re a year old, you’ve felt terror, betrayal, abandonment, and awful pain (between being born, weaning, and diaper rash, it’s a guarantee!).  Want to learn not to trust those you love?  Experience your parents telling you they’re having another child.  Want to know cruel deprivation?  Your babysitter says no you can’t stop for ice cream.  Want to know assault?  Your doctor gives you a lifesaving injection.

            In other words, things that are perfectly fine, even wonderful, can feel awful.  And your brain, in order to protect you from being surprised and devastated by these things, learns to assume the worst.  And with that, you become pessimistic and overall negative.

            A few years ago, Handsome met a woman and they both liked each other at once, and started dating.  And of course they both had other things going on in their lives.  But whenever he would change a date – “Oh I forgot I have to work late that afternoon, do you still want to meet for dinner” or “Hey my cousin’s going to be in town that day for just a few hours, can we meet another night?” – she would always respond, “Yeah, right.”  Like she knew he was lying.  Even though he wasn’t.

            And because of this, eventually he broke things off.  Not that she was mean to him – she was actually very nice to him considering she “knew” he was lying to her! But rather he just didn’t want to be in a relationship where he was assumed to be lying all the time, when he was actually telling the truth!

            Was she bad?  No, but clearly she’d been disappointed, and lied to, so many times in the past that she had learned to expect it.  She had been programmed into negativity!  Which made her not just believe negatively (as Aria does) but act negatively and thereby create a negative world around her.  She made Handsome, who had felt positively about her, feel negatively, and end their relationship!  And then be on the lookout for other women to do the same thing, so he could get out more quickly if they did!  Yes – her negativity made him more negative!

            And while she’s a particularly obvious case, all people share this.  This is the basis of all prejudice, when you think of it – people learn to believe this group of people is sneaky, that group is dumb, and that group is evil… while there’s always lots of proof that those beliefs are wrong.

            So what can you, or any human, do?  You can’t eliminate your own intelligence and live as much in the moment as a pup. 

            But you can make a choice.  You can choose, more than we can. 

            For example, if you were in that woman’s situation, you could think “I imagine he’s on a date with someone else.  But even if he is, that’s okay, as I’ll see him afterward.  After all, we’re just beginning our relationship; we’re not committed or anything yet.”  Or “He says he’s with his cousin.  Maybe I’ll call and see if I can talk with that cousin!  I’ll just tell Handsome that I want to find out what his family thinks of him!”  And then when Handsome does laughingly hand the phone to his cousin, who talks him up, she’ll know he wasn’t lying.  (Or if he got nervous and said no she couldn’t, she’d have every reason to keep doubting him).

            Here’s the truth – bad luck will come along.  It always does.  You’d be dumb to deny that.  But your life is worse if you spend all your time worrying about it!  Good things also come along, and that negativity can take away the joy they bring.  “Yes I just found a pot of gold and will be rich forever, but I know my friend still won’t return my call!”

            Look at it this way.  You don’t know exactly how long you have to live, but it’s a finite time, right?  Maybe you have ninety years ahead of you, and maybe just ninety hours.  But either way, it will end.  Would you rather spend them happier and hopeful, or mired in suspicion?  And would you rather people know you as someone who spreads joy or someone to avoid? 

            That’s your choice.

            You can’t control fate, but you can control what you choose to focus on.  When I first step out of our house in the morning I tend to stop, blown away by all in front of me.  The smells, the sounds, the sights, the feel.  I’m overwhelmed by all the new, the possible.  While most people rush out their door, griping about whatever is in between them and their car, not absorbing any of it.

            You say in your question, Katarina, that “everything around seems so negative.”  I say you’re right, but the most important word in there is “SEEMS.”  What about looking for the opposite?

            There’s a cold miserable storm outside?  Focus on the fact you have shelter.  You get a flat tire?  Focus on the fact that you know either you or someone else will repair it.  You have no food to eat?  Focus on the fact that you almost certainly will later.  You have no money?  Focus on how you can get some.

            Again, I’m not asking you to be unrealistic.  That storm is cold, that tire is flat, you’re hungry and broke!  But focusing on the negative means things will stay that way, while focusing on the positive enables change and improvement.

             And here’s the strangest thing about this way of living: you won’t be wrong!  For example, let’s say someone you love is ill with a potentially fatal disease.  You could choose to focus on the negative, assume they’re dying, and start grieving now.  Or you could focus on the fact that the doctors give them a 20% chance of survival, and do anything you can to help make that happen.  Now what will happen if they die?  Will you be “wrong?”  Nope.  You’ll still be right.  You had focused on hope, and now they’re truly gone.  And you can grieve your heart out.  But their last days alive were better because you were full of love and hope and appreciation.

            Katarina I’m not saying this is easy.  It’s not.  But it is, I truly believe, the best way to live. 

            It sure works for me!

            Wishing you the very best,

            Shirelle

Is it possible to trust someone completely?

PERFECTION asks:

When you fully trust someone does that mean you don’t get jealous anymore? What does it mean to really fully trust someone?

Hi PERFECTION –

            That’s a really great question.  I think there are two answers – and both are… yes.

            Here’s what I’m thinking.  I trust Handsome with every molecule in me.  I know he can make mistakes (like accidentally stepping on my tail!), but I know he would never do anything to hurt me on purpose.  He always wants the best for me.  No question. 

            But because I value him so much, I can go a little crazy when he’s too friendly with another dog.  But I don’t get mad at him, I just get very rough with the pooch – making sure he or she knows “That Man Is Mine!”  I don’t want anyone trying to steal him away, or to get too much of his attention that I love so much.

            But that’s one kind of jealousy.  There’s the other kind that eats at one’s soul.  It has less to do with what anyone else is doing than about ourselves – when a person feels they’re not good enough, they’re terrified that their partner is going to see them that same way, and leave them for someone more attractive, richer, stronger, whatever. 

            So to get back to your question – if I trust someone fully, I might get jealous of someone else’s interest in them, but I also could have such a low opinion of myself that I get jealous out of the thought that they’ll start seeing me the same way I do.  It’s two different kinds of jealousy (and I can tell you, the first kind is a lot more pleasant to live with!).

            But when you ask what it means to fully trust someone, I’ll go back to what I said about Handsome and my tail.  Sure you might idealize someone and think they’re perfect and can never make mistakes – but you’ll be wrong.  But if you see them as they are, and know that they care fully about you, then yes that’s a legitimate way of fully trusting in them.  And it is a beautiful feeling indeed!

All my best,

Shirelle

6 Gratitude Anyway – sticking positive in negative’s face

Gratitude Anyway – sticking positive in negative’s face!

            I was getting depressed.

            All the people around me have been down or stressed or terrified for months.  And we dogs are big empaths (which means we feel what you guys are feeling), so I’ve been down too.

            But that was just from the stupid virus.  Now it’s worse – the continuation of the lockdown far past what anyone envisioned, the billions of people suffering from this around the world, the continuing death rate from the illness but also from accidents and murders from people’s stress and misery, all the fear going around…  it’s enough to make a tail unwaggable.

            But that’s not the way I choose to live.  So I decided to change my feelings.

            I can’t change what’s happening around me, of course, but I know that I’ll be more energetic, and more helpful, if I can also focus on good things, and feel grateful for them.  And there ARE still so many of them, despite everything.

            So I gave myself a task: Come up with 100 things I’m grateful for.  Grateful for right now, at this exact moment.  It wasn’t easy, but I did it.  And do you know what?  I felt better right away.

            So maybe you can try it too.  Stay upset, stay angry; we need that to beat this awfulness.  But also, appreciate what you’ve got that’s absolutely wonderful.  And struggle to think of it.  It is possible, I promise!

            Here’s mine:

Scientists are working for a vaccine.

Most people are behaving intelligently to slow the virus down.

The lockdown has been great for pet adoptions – many shelters have been emptied by people enjoying raising puppies and kittens in their time at home.

The lockdown has kept you guys home so much more, which we love.

Taylor Swift put out a new album that many say is her best ever (though I haven’t heard it yet)

I’m very hopeful about the upcoming US election, that new people will take charge who reduce the amount of poison in our air and water, and work to combat global climate change.

There’s Handsome.  Always there’s Handsome.

Pizza.

Trees.  I love trees so much – the shade, the squirrels, the place to squat or lift my leg…

Water.  Maybe there’s nothing more important out there.

YOU!  My pack, my readers, and every question I get from any of you!

Animal Rescuers.

The couch I’m not supposed to climb on but I do when Handsome’s not at home

Zoom, FaceTime, Doxy… imagine how much worse this lockdown would be if you guys didn’t have these!

Dogs Don’t Get COVID-19.  (at least so far)

Cheese.  All kinds.

Squirrels.  How boring life would be without them!

Naps.

Unlike you guys, we can bend around and lick and chew just about anywhere that hurts or itches or is dirty!

Walks.

My neighborhood – especially the dogs I get to see occasionally.

Buster Keaton’s movie Steamboat Bill, Jr.  Handsome had never seen it before, and it was glorious to sit in the room with him when he watched it in breathless awe last month.

Flowers.

The people who pick up our garbage and recycling and drive it away.

Leashes.  I know it sounds weird, but I’ve explained this before – they give me safety with some freedom.

Veterinarians.  I know that sounds weird too, but they’ve saved my life numerous times, whether I liked their methods or not.

Groomers…  well, really I don’t like doing that at all, but I do appreciate their being as nice as they can!

My house.  And all shelters.  For so many reasons.

My friend Dilla, who makes the funniest sounds and has a tongue that sticks out the side of his mouth.

My friend Aria, who melts my heart and teaches me new things all the time.

My friend Kuma, the best playmate I ever had.

Opera.  Of all the music Handsome plays in our home, this is the closest to what my heart is like.  Passionate, dramatic, and loud!

Grass.  To roll in, to run in, to sniff and pee on.

Memories.  Of lost friends, of great meals, of the best vacations.

Dog Parks!

Beaches!

Forests!

Beverly Cleary – the great children’s book author who always has done such a good job of helping her readers understand weird kids (and dogs!)

Trumpets.  I’ve always loved the sound of trumpets!  No matter how well or badly they’re played.

Bruno Mars.  Because if I could be a human, he’s the kind of human I’d want to be!

Dog Food.  Duh.

Treats.  Double-Duh.

Whatever it is in the human brain that makes so many of you want to befriend us, adopt us, care for us, play with us, fall in love with us. 

Speed Limits on cars!

And that there are NO SPEED LIMITS FOR RUNNING DOGS!

Ice Cream.  And because Handsome doesn’t like to eat too much dairy… all those fake ice creams!  Based in almonds, coconut, soy, cashews… all of them YUMMY! (the little bits he shares with me)

The shower in our house, which on hot days like today is the coolest place to lie down, with my back against the tile wall

My ability to run

My ability to jump

My ability to bark (even though it annoys people)

My ability to lick people’s faces

My ability to wag my tail!

The fact that, however smart he might be in other ways, Handsome’s love for me makes him too stupid to kick me out of the house for making noise and shedding hair all over the place.

The smell of chocolate (Handsome won’t let me eat it but… wow!)

Cool night air

Warm sunshine

Ear scratches

Head scratches

Nice soft stroking petting

Huge overwhelming hugs

Tummy rubs

And best of all, tummy KISSES!

Every moment someone I love comes to my home

The fun of barking at anyone I don’t know who walks by my home!

Governments and Charities who help their people devastated by this tough economy

Health care workers risking their lives to help people with this horrible virus

Scientists working to find treatments to help people with this horrible virus

Scientists working to find a vaccine for this horrible virus (I know I said that before, but isn’t it worth two counts?!)

Chew Toys

Bones

Tennis balls

Harnesses for us dogs that tie us to cars’ seatbelts so we’re safe in case of an accident

My doggy optimism that tells me things will get better eventually

The fact that even if people can’t get together as they used to right now, they can still laugh, cry, and dance.

Birds.

People who push to make this world a better place

People who risk their lives to keep this world safe for others

Dogs who do both

The feel of the ground when I lie on it

The smell of the ground when I lie on it

The sound of the earth when I lie on it

Other dogs’ butts!  Hey, just because you don’t appreciate them doesn’t mean I can’t!

The way some guys are so wildly attracted to women

The way some women are so wildly attracted to guys

The way some guys are so wildly attracted to guys

The way some women are so wildly attracted to women

The way we doggies are so wildly attracted to all you people!

The way so many of you people are so wildly attracted to us doggies!

The way (amusingly incomprehensible to me) so many of you people are so wildly attracted to nasty old kitty cats!

The stars in the sky at night

The clouds in the sky at daytime

Butterflies

The fact that history tells us no plague lasts forever

Firefighters

The new really amazing vegan meat substitutes that taste so much like the real things, but without anyone getting hurt!

Happy Couples

Good Marriages

Amicable Divorces

Did I mention how grateful I am for Handsome?

Did I mention how grateful I am for YOU?

And okay, #101 – a third shoutout to those scientists working so hard to get us to a new world where we don’t have to worry about this stupid virus anymore!!!!

So what do you think?  Can you do that too?

I know you can!

Shirelle

2 Poop and Bad Breath: making sense of the new virus rules

Poop and Bad Breath: making sense of the new virus rules

Among the differences between us dogs and you humans, at least once you reach a certain age, is the way you guys are so squeamish!  Things that seem normal to us, or really terrific, nauseate you.  You never sniff each other’s butts hello, you never roll around on dead animals you find, and you insist on cleaning yourselves with soap and water, instead of using your tongues the way we do!

So you might say we pups live in the world of the gross.  The smells we seek out when you take us for walks are just the ones you go to great lengths to avoid.  And we’re fascinated by watching you work so hard to get rid of them.  Imagine how curious you’d find it if someone took good care of their garden but removed all the prettiest flowers and threw them into the trash.  Well that’s what it’s like for us when you cover up all the most interesting smells and treats!

Now in the past few weeks, I’ve been watching you guys struggle with a completely changed world, a new reality.  Where all the rules are unlike anything that was true two months ago:  DON’T go to school, DON’T shake hands when you meet someone, DON’T go visit your grandparents, just STAY on that couch and watch your iPad and phone!  HUH?!

Lots of you are extremely confused, especially about how best to stay safe: Wash your hands, social distance, wear a mask even though they won’t keep you safe, sanitize, moisturize…  of course you’re all going cuckoo! 

But I have a way, through my gross little brain, to help you out.  It’s all about us dogs (isn’t it always!).  Here goes:

First, if you’ve ever had a dog you take on walks, I hope you’re considerate enough of your neighbors to also bring along a bag or two, to clean up when we poop.  (Yes, I said POOP!  I told you, I’m pushing your nausea envelope today!)  So when we plop out something you guys find stinky and distasteful, you reach down and put it in the bag.  Right?

And you do it perfectly, right?  Only the bag touches our nasty turds, right?  No bit of your finger could possibly accidentally brush against it?  And nothing sticking to the bag could get  onto your hand when you tie the top into a knot, right?  You’re ABSOLUTELY SURE? 

Well, just to test your sureness, how about if a friend of yours offers you a handful of chocolate-covered peanuts.  But you need to hold them in your hand, before you put them in your mouth.


Do you?  I’ll bet you don’t!

In fact, I’ll bet you go, “That’s so nice of you.  Let me wash my hands to make sure there isn’t any dog-doo on them, and then I’ll gladly take those yummy treats and devour them!”  Or maybe it’s “Could you just put them into my mouth?  I’m worried about what’s on my hands.”  Or you even think, “Well I know nothing touched my left hand, so I can eat from that… I think!”

But as long as you don’t put your hands in your mouth, or touch your nose or eyes, or touch anyone else, you probably don’t worry about what might be on you, right?  You might even be on an hour-or-two-long hike with your pooch, and very happy to wait to wash up afterwards.  But you don’t put your poopy hands on your face!  And that’s all that matters!

Now imagine you walk into your home after that walk, and there’s a knock on the door, and without thinking you turn the knob and open it.  You chat with the person there, shut the door, and think, “… hmm… I shouldn’t have touched the knob, there might be some of that doggie’s poo on there.”  So you wash your hands and  the knob, right?  But what if you forgot to at the time, and it’s the next day, and you realize, “Wow I should have washed that doorknob yesterday, when I might have gotten something onto it.”  Do you feel you need to wash it now?  Probably not.  It’s been so long, anything nasty would have dried out or evaporated.

And this is exactly what the experts are saying to do about the coronavirus!  Keep your hands away from your face, wash or sanitize often, and be aware that it can last on other surfaces but just for a time.

In other words, when it comes to your hands, there’s really no mystery about Coronavirus – just TREAT IT LIKE DOG POOP!  Yes it’s potentially much more dangerous if you get it into your system, but the way to treat it is JUST THE SAME.

Okay, now, time for number two!  (Yes, that’s a little joke there for those who get it.  Clever pup, aren’t I!)   And this one’s about Breathing!

Now I think my breath smells just great, but I’m not a new puppy anymore and my mouth has had lots of things in it over the years, and so I have… well… dog breath.  And even it’s not as pungent as some other dogs I’ve known, like those with rotting teeth!  So what would you do if your breath smelled as bad as ours?  How would you keep your friends?!

Well, one thing you could do is to stay a little distance away from everyone.  After all, bad breath is just airborne molecules, that dissipate as it gets further from the nasty mouth.  Some say six feet (or two meters) and some say farther is better.  But either way, just stay far enough away that others can’t smell you.  But to be even safer, why not put a covering over your mouth, to keep all that stink inside, away from others?

Well that, my dear friends, is social distancing, and face masks!  One of the worst things about Covid-19 is that a person can be infected with it but not feel it for a few days.  So when it comes to dealing with others, act as if you know you have it!  And since it, like bad breath, is borne in droplets in air, the way to do that is to stay six feet or more away from others, and wear a mask to keep the nasty stuff in.  (Yes, there are fancier, more technological masks, that actually do help keep the person wearing them safe.  But you don’t need that if you’re following the other rules; leave those for the brave selfless health workers who are getting right up next to people with the disease for hours and days and weeks on end.  They need them; you don’t.)

Now there are those other rules to follow, of course.  Stay home if you can, wash instantly if anyone coughs or sneezes on you, keep healthy, take vitamins and zinc and… oh you don’t need me telling you these things!

But if you can remember the rules of Poop and Bad Breath, you ought to be safe.  Safe enough to get through this awful period, and move on to the sort of world we had and want to have again, a world where all your other problems, like about crushes and dating and anger and betrayal and embarrassment… those GREAT problems, become all we talk about again!

2 The Space Between – finding the sacred in every day

            I was lying down on the bed, as I always like to do in the middle of the day, with my eyes closed, when I heard footsteps come near me.  And before I opened my eyelids, I realized something: I didn’t know what to feel!  If it was Handsome or a friend of his coming by, that was really good news – I might get petted or even fed a treat.  But if it was a stranger, then I needed to go on the alert – to growl or snarl, to defend our home, or even to run away.  And in either case, my reaction wasn’t so much about the person as about their proximity.  How close they were to me.

            After all, I walk through the world with strangers all the time, whenever Handsome takes me on a walk or to anywhere.  And they don’t mean anything much to me, just maybe occasionally someone to sniff.  But some will come into my awareness, enter my space, connect to my energy with theirs, and suddenly they’re my new best friend, or a serious foe.

            This all made me think about the nature of the space between us.  At this moment right now, there is a space between you and me.  Maybe it’s three feet, maybe it’s twelve thousand miles, but you and I have a spatial relationship (Of course we have another relationship by you reading this, but I’m only talking about physical distance here).  And most likely it’s a space we’re not noticing, that really doesn’t matter at all to us.

            But when someone gets to a certain nearness to us, our sense of that space changes.  Again, maybe that’s a negative – maybe you’re walking down a dark street and someone starts walking too close to you for your comfort, and you’re frightened. 

            But often, very often, the space is something else.  Not negative at all.  Let’s say you’re shopping in a grocery store, and there’s a person a few feet away from you, looking at the salad dressing while you’re looking at olives.  No big deal at all.  But then they turn to ask you about olive oil.  And suddenly everything has changed.  The space between you has a question to it – are they really just asking about olive oil?  Are they attracted to you and trying to start a conversation?  Are they nice?  Do you want to talk to them?  Maybe you like the way they look and hope they’ll stick around?  Or maybe you’re just happy to help a stranger out?  Or maybe you don’t know anything about olive oil and are a little embarrassed?

            My point is that whenever two conscious beings are near each other, there’s a mystery.  Maybe very little (like if you’re next to your sister whom you’ve known all your life, and who frankly bores you, but who could  punch you in the cheek, or not!), or maybe a lot – like before I opened my eyelids that afternoon.  And that, unless one of you is really frightened, the less you know about what to expect, the more magical that space is.  In fact, I’d even call it Sacred.

            Have you ever been to a play?  That moment the curtain opens, you feel an excitement – maybe something will entertain you, make you laugh or cry, change your view on something.  Or when the lights go down in a movie theater and the screen lights up.  The stage and the screen are, to my mind, fully sacred spaces (Of course I’m basing this on what I’ve heard – no one’s ever let me into a movie theater).  Or ask a painter what the most sacred space in the world is, and I can almost guarantee, they’ll tell you “a blank canvas!”

            Or think of when you’ve had a dance at school.  Maybe it’s in a gym.  You’ve had your Physical Education classes there every day for years, but that night it’s different.  The room is full of unknown, of mystery.  Will that person you’ve had an eye on for weeks want to dance with you?  Will they talk with you?  Will they want to walk outside with you?  Will they sneer at you and tell you to go away?  The air is electric with excitement, with anticipation, with fear.  And the walls, the floor, the chairs, everything is new and mysterious.  Now if you have a lousy night, no one wants to dance with you, and you feel lonely and humiliated, then there’s nothing you’re going to see as special there.  But what if there’s even a moment of a chance…  Isn’t the place suddenly a bit more supernatural?!

            What I’m after here is for you, me, all of us, to open ourselves up more, to feel the magic that exists every time we meet anyone.  Not just the materially hopeful side (this person might give me a treat!  Or that one might give you a job!), but that you never know what that person, or dog, is really like.  That you might get something from them that will change your life – a new perspective, a new friend, even a new joke.  And the more we’re aware of that, the more we can feel the sacredness of that space, the beauty of it, the shock of possibility.

            I guess what I’m really saying is that mystery, unless it’s clouded by fear, is always sacred.  The unknown is sacred.  Animals are sacred. And because their whole lives are unknowable, babies are the most sacred thing of all.

            Try it.  Walk up to someone, whether you know them or not, and feel how the energy changes when you’re a meter away, half a meter away, a quarter.  Yes there can be fear, but there’s also anticipation.  And you can use that any way you like.  To look away politely, or to smile warmly, or to have some fun with it.  (Like have you ever stood in an elevator, where everyone politely looks around and avoids each other, and made a silly face and a goofy sound?  THAT is honoring that sacred space in a great way!  I love jumping on people there, where they can’t get away, but Handsome usually keeps me from doing it in case they’re afraid of me.  You don’t have that problem!)

            The potential for love and humor and help is everywhere.  And you can make it your life.  The world can be your temple if you let it.

            Just do what I did on that bed.  Feel it, and open your eyes!

What to do when a parent stops speaking to you

Naina asks: I just had a fight with my mom and now she is not talking to me what should I do now?

Hi Naina –

Now of course I don’t know you, or her, but I can’t help but guess that this is a very abnormal event in your home.  That her not talking to you is new, or at least rare.

And usually it’s the other way; usually parents are begging for their kids to talk with them, open up, stop being so secretive.  So my sense is that this argument really bothered her.  More than maybe any fight you’ve ever had before. 

I find that, when something like this happens, it’s really a chance for you to learn about the other person.  Something bothered them that badly.  What was it?  Why did this bother them more than other things (that might have seemed like bigger deals to you)?

When I was a puppy, I was a horrible chewer.  I chewed and bit everything around me.  And while Handsome, my human friend, would often get annoyed, it never went beyond that.  Until one day, when he was taking a shower, singing along with one of his favorite albums, a record that he’d had since childhood .  And came out to find the cover in a hundred pieces all over the floor, and me with the rest of it in my mouth.  He flew into a rage, picked me up, opened the back door, and threw me across the back yard!  (Before I even touched the ground, he suddenly felt horrible guilt, and has never totally forgiven himself, even though I came through it fine – landing as well as any cat!). 

So let me tell you, I’m not quite sure why an album cover has more meaning to him than, say, the leg of a table.  But I learned quickly that it does – and have never so much as sniffed another record ever since!

So, like that, something specific happened in this fight, that’s driving your mom nuts.  So your job is to find out what it is.  (Please tell me you didn’t chew up Abbey Road like I did!)

And once you do, or even if you have a good guess, then your (tough) job is to go to your mom and tell her.  “Hey Mom, I’ve been thinking a lot, and I realize it was really hurtful when I told you I’ve always hated your hair,” or “really hurtful when I said you’ve never been a good mother,” or “really hurtful when I said I want to move out.” 

And here’s the funny part.  You might be wrong.  You might think it was about her hair, when all she cared about was you saying you might move. 

But even if you are wrong, your effort will show her that you cared.  That you thought about it.  That you were anything but the thoughtless, inconsiderate, stinker she was feeling you were.  And that instead, you were the angel she’d fallen in love with the moment you were born, but maturing into a caring, trustworthy adult. 

(And it’ll be even better if you’re right!)

So give that a try.  And even if you’re no better a mind-reader than I am, you’re still very likely to win her heart – and her voice – back!

The Very Best of Luck!

Shirelle

Can one love dogs too much?

Aunii asks: It is not about me. I want to ask about you. Do you like Dogs too much? Because you have pictured dogs all over your webpage.

Hi Aunii –

         Do I like dogs too much?

         Is it possible to like dogs too much?!

         I don’t think so!  I don’t think it’s possible to love dogs ENOUGH! We are the most fun, loving, great-smelling, cuddly, protective, playful, funny… did I say loving?!  We’re just the best!

         Except that I love people even more!  At least some people.  Like especially my special human, the one I call Handsome.  Oh and I love my Pack Members – it’s like you guys are my family!

         And I know I can’t love Handsome or you guys enough!  That’s impossible!

         But I think you’re a little confused about something else.  Those pictures on the website, those aren’t just random dogs.  Those are ME!  Me at home, me with your letters, me with other dogs, me contemplating the world… 

         So if you’re asking if I love dogs too much, maybe a fairer question would be whether I love myself too much!  After all, I’ve put all those pictures up.

         But I don’t think so. I just want you guys to see what I look like, and how I smile at you.

         But does Handsome love me too much?!  If anyone ever loved anything to excess, that might be it.  What’s that Shakespeare line about loving not too wisely but too well? Handsome would argue he loves me very wisely and very well.  As well as is possible.

         And I sure hope you find someone, or many, in your life you can love too well too!  It’s the best way to live!

         Thanks again!

         Shirelle

What is Crazy Love?

Jhalli asks: When you answered my last question, you mentioned CRAZY LOVE! Can you explain what crazy love is?

Hi Jhali –

You mean when I talked about the love Handsome and I have for each other?

 

Well, when I say “Crazy,” I mean that it’s love that’s so strong it takes us out of our usual minds.

 

For example, one time he left town and I had to stay at a doggy-day-care.  And this was a really nice one, where they let me stay in a fenced-in area with some other dogs, where we could sit on furniture and have a good time.  And it was fine.  But when he came back to get me, and I saw him, I lost control, and climbed up the chain-link fence, terrifying the staffers who thought I’d cut myself on the top.  I just couldn’t wait for them to let me out – I’d missed him so much!

 

And on his side?  Oh wow, he’s written a book about me, talks about me all the time… as he wrote once, I have “ruled and tickled” his heart since the day we met.  And has he had girlfriends who’ve gotten jealous?  Jealous of a DOG, mind you – not exactly someone he has romantic eyes for!  Heck YES they’ve gotten jealous!  Because they see his crazy love for me, and the love he gets back.

 

I’ll be honest with you, Jhalli.  If it’s not “Crazy Love,” then it’s just respect and affection.  (Which is a wonderful thing; don’t get me wrong!)

 

Love IS crazy, when it’s real.

 

I can’t wait till you get knocked off your feet by just that!

 

All my best,

Shirelle

What to do when your husband’s family makes him choose between them and you

Join my pack asks: I’ve been in a marriage for the past five years, but most of the time our life is in problems based on our family surroundings. I want some respect from my partner’s family, but that is not given to me properly and he won’t give them up. I think he didn’t give priority to me, and this affects me and our relationship badly. What should I do?

Hi Join my pack –

 

I find this situation so sad.  Why would a family not treat their young man’s wife with respect?  Don’t they realize that you are part of their family now?  One of them?

 

But in the end, I have to really take a hard look at your husband.  Because he’s the one who chose you, and he’s the one who made the full commitment to you.  So it’s his job to get them to treat you better.

 

I can relate to your situation.  I was a pretty awful puppy (very destructive, always biting everyone and everything), and my human friend Handsome’s family developed some negative feelings about me.  But he has always defended me to them, insisting that I’m “The Best Thing Ever,” and that they had to treat me well (and I did get better!).

 

But a bigger deal has been Handsome’s girlfriends.  Some of them really haven’t cared much for me at all (I think they’re jealous, which is goofy!), and he’s been put in some really awful situations.

 

In one case, one of them literally asked him to decide between us – did he choose her or me?  He loved her lots, had hopes of marrying her.  But he realized something very dark and serious.

 

He realized that only one of us would ever (or could  ever) ask him to make such a choice.  So he chose Continue reading

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