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The End of Democracy? a system on the brink of failure

The End of Democracy? a system on the brink of failure

            Of all the concepts humans have created, I think Democracy must be the most human.  No other species works this way.  Bees are born Workers, Drones, or Queens, and we dogs work out our leadership by fighting, sometimes to the death.  You see, all the rest of us species take leadership as something ordained by strength, not by the willingness of the group.  And because we all understand that, the group is actually willing to follow that leader!

            But you folks have come up with this amazing idea, that if the majority of your group wants something, the rest of the group ought to accept that as the decision.  It does wonders for Peace, which is one of my favorite causes.  After all, as much as they may dislike each other, we can assume that, next month, Boris Johnson and his supporters won’t be fighting Jeremy Corbin and his to bloody messes in the streets!  And Democracy probably does, more often than not, result in the best results for each society that adopts it.

            And yet, always, it has proven imperfect.  Not because people make the wrong choices, but because they’ve never let it work as it should.

            In ancient Greece, where the idea first took a major hold, only adult male citizens were allowed to vote – not women, not kids or teens, not non-citizens, and not slaves (who totaled over half the people there!).  Later incarnations, like in France and England, tried to merge Democracy with their Monarchic traditions.  And the United States, which likes to brag about how much it spreads Democracy around the world, spent most of its first 200 years not letting women or non-white men vote. 

            But the past doesn’t really matter in all this.  After all, Handsome wouldn’t let me have the house to myself today if I still had the problems I did as a little puppy – pooping and peeing and chewing everything up all over the place.  And similarly, just because something was done in a wrong way a couple of centuries ago doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done right today.

            But today, Democracy has problems the ancient Greeks, and revolutionary French and Americans, never dreamed of.  Today people around the world are told they can vote, but if they actually show up to do so, are threatened or beaten.  Polling places are placed near the people governments want to vote, and way too far away from those they don’t.  And now we’ve got this crazy cyberattack nonsense, where people from other countries will create social media to get people to vote against their own interests, or even just to add chaos to a country to weaken it.  And then, when a government is voted in by those methods, of course they’ll do all they can to keep them from being changed, knowing they might then lose re-election. 

            So what’s the human race to do?  Should Democracy be tossed aside, as something that served people well for a long time but has outlasted its usefulness, like tobacco and the horse-and-carriage?  (Or, what I’d like to see, coal mining and terrorism?)  Or is there hope for it, a way for it to improve and get a little closer to the ideal it began as?

            It’s a tough question.  When what was once the world’s greatest empire is on the verge of voting itself into near-irrelevance and poverty, and the dominant nation of the last century is a year away from likely re-electing a criminal gangster the world laughs at, both due largely due to foreign online interference, it’s hard to argue that their systems are better than, say, a stable monarchy.  And other countries, like Turkey and The Philippines, are electing leaders that act like dictators or monarchs, grabbing more and more power for themselves, making us onlookers wonder what good Democracy ever offered in the first place.

            And the world itself isn’t looking so great right now.  I doubt there’s ever been a time before when wildfires were raging in both Australia and California (who have opposite seasons), while Venice is flooding and Dallas is freezing and Paris has been breaking heat records.  And all because of something scientists have seen coming for twenty years or more, but voters keep electing charlatans and liars who deny it, and thereby don’t do anything to help stop or slow it.  Islands are disappearing, plants are dying off, and animals are going extinct every day.  It’s nothing less than nightmarish.

            But I’m going to argue for Democracy anyway.  Because it offers one benefit all the other methods of governing don’t: the possibility of change.

            Oh sure, kingdoms and dictatorships have been overthrown through revolutions, but what other form of government allows the people to peacefully say “Hmm, we’ve made a mistake, so let’s fix it now.”  And that doesn’t just mean changing who’s in charge.  It can mean changing a law to allow more people to vote, or their votes to count in different ways.  It can mean electing people who will fight against phony influence in elections.  It can mean voting to find new ways to deal with problems we can’t even conceive of yet.

            You see, the powerful will always do what they can to keep their power.  This doesn’t make them bad people, it just makes sense.  And, at the least, what Democracy does is forces them to give up just enough of that power to enough people, if they want to keep voted in.  At least that’s how it’s often worked over time.

            For those who want a “strongman” in charge, I can tell you that a dog pack is a pretty rough environment.  And for those who want an inherited monarchy, I can tell you worker bees and drones have a great work-ethic but not much imagination, and that if they had nearly as much as dogs or humans, those hives would see upturns all the time.

            So while the greatest Democracies in the world go through this really bad period, I – incapable of voting or being voted for anything – recommend you humans double-down on this one-person-one-vote idea.  That crazy notion that no one of you deserves more of a say than any other.  That eventually the best of you will rise to the top, if no one keeps you from it.

            And then do everything you can to make it so.  

The rest of us are counting on you.

1 Some Notes on Treason – what loyalty and betrayal mean

Some Notes on Treason – what loyalty and betrayal mean

            A very dark word is being spoken in my country a lot these days: “Treason.”  It means a few different things, and none of them is good. 

            The word has been around since the thirteenth century, referring to betraying a trust.  But it goes back to Latin – this is nothing new.

            And of course, we’ve all heard stories of betrayal going back as far as stories go – Judas Iscariot, or the men Odysseus had to fight off to get his home and wife back (but note – always note – the one being in that home who was steadfastly loyal to him, and the only one who recognized him after all his time away, was his dog!).

            But what we hear about it now mostly regards our nations, our governments.  People in our governments doing acts against their own countries, their own people.  For whatever reason.

            Now look, I have to be honest – As a dog, I would be perfectly happy to see all national boundaries fall.  Countries are human creations, and seem to create more trouble than good: wars, prejudices, even travel difficulties.  But as long as they do exist, it really is a sign of bad character when someone betrays their own people (unless it’s for a truly-felt cause.  I’ll never look down on those Germans who rebelled against the Nazis, for example, or Americans who sneaked slaves away from their persecutors!). 

            And we’ve been seeing a lot of this lately.  Even leaders working against their own countries.  I wonder why anyone stands for it.

  (We have a situation here in the U.S. right now where our President got caught breaking the law, doing things against our country’s interests, but not only is he not admitting treason –  he’s accusing the people investigating him of it!)

And this is my big concern.  Not that sometimes people break laws or do bad things.  That’s always happened.  But I worry when I see people not caring  about who their own people are – their family, their nation, even their romantic mates.  And don’t even get me STARTED on those who betray or abandon their dogs!!

So what’s different today?  Why is this happening now?  I wonder if… maybe because you humans have become less attached to each other, due to social media?  Hey, even my writings to you folks are non-national in their nature; I don’t care whether you’re in Nigeria or Pakistan – you’re all just wonderful humans to me!  But while I believe that’s true, and the way the world should keep moving, that doesn’t mean I believe in betraying your own countrypeople, or your boyfriends or girlfriends either.

So as much as I avoid egotism, I’ve got to put this out here: No Dog Has Ever Committed Treason!  We don’t even think that way!  If a dog in a pack starts grabbing more power than they should have, the pack deals with it right away.  It’s how our leadership changes.  It’s not treason, it’s just our way.

Imagine a family dog turning on the family.  It just doesn’t happen.  Does that mean we’re better than you, or just have less imagination?  I’ll leave that question up to you.

But just for now, I’d love for you to take a second to think – who are your ‘packs’ (besides this one I mean!)?  Your relatives?  Your school?  Your city?  Your place of worship? 

Or how about some that get more morally difficult – would you say those of your religion?  Your neighborhood?  How about your race? 

And just for argument’s sake, think of your current romantic relationship, or one you’d like to be in.  What would you consider betrayal from them?  Getting involved with someone else, probably.  But what about lying to you?  Lying about you?  Keeping something from you?  What about just losing some of their feelings for you for a time? 

Where do you draw the line?

I don’t have easy answers for you.  But I do know it’s important to know who you value, who you consider “your people.”  And what you consider to be Treason.

Because until you know these, you won’t really know who you are. 

And it’s only when you know who you are that you can truly act morally. 

Or immorally.  Whichever you happen to choose.

2 The Great Art of Happying — an easy step to a better life

The Great Art of Happying — an easy step to a better life

            You’re probably aware, I don’t know nearly as much English as I write – I just have this amazing computer program that translates my doggy thoughts into words you can read.  But I do have a pretty good ability to understand a few words – “Sit,” “Stay,” “Heel,” “GetAwayFromThatPlateKnuckleheadThat’sNotYourCheeseSandwich!” – and so on.  But sometimes I can do something kind of wonderful too: I can realize what someone’s saying and that they’re saying it incorrectly.  You know, like when a little child says “My dog’s a gooder dog than Shirelle” (which I don’t particularly like) or “Shirelle is the Bestest Dog in the World!” (which I love!)

            Maybe grammar teachers don’t like hearing that sort of creative word usage, but I do.  There’s something magic in it – like where someone means something so strongly, they need to make up new words to get it across.

So Handsome and I were talking with our friend Suraj.  He was excitedly talking about his upcoming marriage.  He comes from a culture where couples aren’t allowed to have any romantic contact before their wedding, so he’s not only thrilled about spending the rest of his life with this wonderful woman – he’s going nuts anticipating their first kiss! 

(I really have to bow down to their noble self-restraint in this.  I can’t wait more than a few seconds after meeting someone to put a big lick across their face, or at least on their hands if they’re scared of me, and that’s if they’re strangers!  The idea of not covering one of my best friends in smooches is pure impossibility!)

And then he said something that really caught my ear.  “The way I see it, people are really mistaken about marriage,” he explained.  “They think you have to be of the same class, or the same race, or even the same religion.  But you don’t.  What matters is that you know how to Happy each other.  And if you can Happy the other person, and the other person can Happy you, and you both like Happying each other, then it’s going to work forever.  It just has to.”

I glanced up at Handsome to see if he was going to correct Suraj’s wording, but instantly knew he wasn’t – the enchanted smile on his face was the same I’d have made if my lips worked that way.  Yes, Suraj was right – righter than he would have been with the right words.  And not just about marriage.

We dogs have fewer opportunities for pleasure than you humans do.  We don’t enjoy books, movies, fashions, spectator sports, driving, arguing politics, video games, or even color.  We get our joys from smells, eating, playing, barking at strangers, hunting, and eating.  Oh, and did I mention eating?

And of course both us species get great joy from being with those we love, and being held, scratched, petted, kissed, and all that, by them. 

But we also both get pleasures, and perhaps our greatest pleasures, by Happying others.  Especially those we love.  What’s better, getting hugged by Handsome when he gets home, or jumping all over him and sniffing and licking and nibbling on him?  (If you don’t know the answer, then you don’t know the frustration of trying to hold on to an excited dog – even if it’s a little mini-Maltese, you’re going to lose the battle!)  And what’s better, hearing a funny joke from your grandmother, or telling her a joke and seeing her break up in laughter? 

Handsome wrote about this in his book about me, talking about a time when he was very depressed and took me to a beach, where I started chasing birds I couldn’t hope to catch: There comes that point, where the connection between individuals becomes so intense that one literally has a physical reaction to what the other experiences.  So while half the time I was ruminating about my lost life, the other half I was feeling the same release Shirelle was.  Or maybe better than hers.  That’s the best kind of love, where the adored is as happy as possible, but I’m happier at her happiness than she is, which is also far deeper than my happiness for myself can ever be.”

Yeah, blah blah blah, I know he gets wordy, but you get the idea – your joy at someone else’s joy is bigger than their joy.   In fact, it’s so big, it’s biggerer than even that!

So here’s my suggestion, for all of us. Think of your plans for tomorrow.  Hopefully you have some plans for things you just simply like – playing a favorite game, eating something good, meeting up with someone whose face you like.  And probably you plan some things you should do but don’t necessarily enjoy – homework, brushing your teeth, going to school or your job, paying bills.  And I hope you get to sleep (one of the biggest pleasures I forgot to list before)! 

But what about the rest of the hours you have?  Is there a way to Happy someone?  Wouldn’t it feel great to send someone an email to say you appreciate them?  To smile at a stranger who’s not as lucky as you?  To go visit that laughing grandmother and give her a hug?  To invite a lonely friend over for dinner?  Or, my favorite, to save just a little bit of your lunch and give it to a favorite pooch?

I’m not saying to skip out on your own pleasure.  But I promise you, Handsome gets more pleasure by giving me that little bit of pizza than he’d get from eating it (Though you can always remind him of this!  Please!  Anytime!  Because sometimes he’s dopey and forgets!). 

You’ve loved Happying others since the first time you realized that the smile you made when you burped made your parents and caregivers gush with joy.  All I’m suggesting is that you make it a bit more conscious.

When you go to pick up your girlfriend to take her to that boring chickflick she’s insisting on, bring her a flower you found in a park.  When you write your boyfriend to see how his studying is going for that big exam, add “You’re so cute I can’t stand it!” to your text.   And when someone you love is going through a tough time and needs space to figure their life out, respect it, but send them a kiss goodnight, with a wish they’re finding what they need.

4 A Prayer for Jessie -The Importance of Importance

A Prayer for Jessie – The Importance of Importance

            I hate it when Handsome’s out of town, even for just a day or two.  But I do love it when he comes back – our reunions are fun even if he’s only been gone an hour, but if he’s been gone overnight, we explode!  I sniff him all over, while he tries his best to hold me tight (and can’t).  And eventually we just stop and look into each other’s eyes, and feast on the fact – all is okay, we’re together again.

            The problem, of course, is that I’m not the only being he ever cares about seeing.  If I were, he’d never leave!  For example, he tries to visit his parents every month or so.  And because he’s afraid to put me in an airplane’s cargo hold (and I’m too big and excitable to qualify as a Therapy Dog and sit in the passenger section), the only times I’ve ever been able to join him on those trips are when he drives there, which takes a couple of weeks at least.  I love it, but he can’t do it very often.

            And, just as with me, he worries about his family a lot – some say too much.  So when he hasn’t seen them in a while, he gets anxious.  So it’s good that he visits, and he always feels so much better when he comes back home.

            Well, except this last time.

            A few days ago, he showed up, and we gave each other our usual crazy greeting, but I could tell something was off.  Was something wrong with his parents, or his niece (who, I’m very proud to say, gave me a new human cousin a couple of days later… WELCOME TO LIFE, JACKSON!) or his nephew, or…?

            No, it wasn’t any of them. 

            “Knucklehead,” he explained to me, “I just spent a half hour on a plane, the longest flight of my life.” 

            Now you know, we pooches aren’t all that good at math, so I struggled with this, not coming up with any answer.  Till he explained, “I spent the flight next to the sweetest woman, who explained to me that she was flying here because her son had just been killed.  And not out of anger, or even a robbery.  He was killed, the police believe, by mistake.  He had just dropped his girlfriend off at her house, the girl who seemed like she might be The One for him, and on his way home, he was shot.  Apparently by someone who thought he was someone else.”

            My heart sank.  We always hear about these things happening, but here it was, right in front of him, and now me.  “He was her only son.  And he was a really great guy, whose life and career were just taking off.  And somehow this woman had to go through this – for no explicable reason.  And she’ll never get over it, not for a second.”

            We are all programmed to believe that we will outlive our young.  That’s why it’s so hard for a dog when one of our puppies doesn’t make it through birth.  But to raise a child, and raise him well, and then have him snuffed out just as life begins to bloom into accomplishment and romance?  This is too much for anyone to take.

            Handsome asked her how she was able to be so together at this point.  “I’m completely numb,” she smiled kindly.

            Then something happened kind of beautiful.  The flight attendant asked them for drink orders, and Handsome wished to himself “I’d love it if she’d order something alcoholic, because I’d love to buy it for her – and she could sure use some help today!”  (He’s not normally a big one for using alcohol as self-medication, but since she’d be greeted at the airport by her grieving daughter, this could prove an exception)  But she just ordered a cola, and the attendant moved on. 

            Till about five minutes later, when she leaned into him and whispered, “Could I ask you a favor?  Could you wave that nice man down and ask if he could slip a little whiskey into my Coke?”  Handsome exploded in joy, “I was WISHING you would ask that!  Yes, and I’ll buy it for you!  It’s the only thing I can do to help!”  He ran up and ordered the drink – and do you know what?  They gave it to her for free!

            As the plane landed, he took her hand and wished her all the strength humanly possible, to get through this.  And she looked him in the eye and said “Please pray for me.”  And they disembarked, probably never to see each other again.

            Well as you can guess, by now, he had me whining on the floor.  No wonder he’d felt distant.

            Especially as he was feeling so… fortunate!  Here he’d just spent a fun day with his parents, and was about to welcome a new baby into the family.  And coming home to the friendliest pup in the world.  It wasn’t fair – everyone should be having the time he was having, and not suffering this horror.

            So he asked me to write this.  To tell this story, and to think about what it means to me.  And I’ve thought a lot, and here’s what I came up with:

            I get letters from you guys, all the time, often very full of love, but complaining about your parents, or siblings, or your kids.  I know deep down you love them more than anything in the world, but just as I can take Handsome for granted at times, or he can forget how important I am to him for moments, all of us can detach a bit from how much we love, and are devoted to, our closest companions.

            So take just a second, and put aside how annoying they might be, and think about how you’d feel if your mother, or father, or brother or sister, or uncle or aunt, or your child, were suddenly taken away from you.  And how they’d feel if you were robbed from them forever.  (And if you’ve already lost one of these people, let that feeling come through – how you miss them, and what it would be like to talk with them, laugh with them, hug them, or maybe sneak that drink to them!)

            I’m not trying to guilt-trip you, not at all.  I just want you to feel the love that life and stresses can make us forget. 

            You see, there’s one other thing about that woman.  Her name is Jessie.  That’s the name of my favorite cousin, a great great dog owned by the family that just had the new baby.  And Jessie died a few years ago – a loss they, and I, can never replace. 

            Coincidence?  Maybe.  You’ll just have to decide for yourself.

            But if you can do what I asked, just take that moment and feel all that love in your heart – with its joy and its pain and its frustration – then I think you and I, and everyone reading this, will have fulfilled that woman’s request to Handsome.  Our love will come together to become a beautiful prayer.

            And maybe, just maybe, all that love will give her the strength she needs, to get through what she has to.  Till the day she can join her son again, and maybe, just maybe, find out why things like this have to happen.          

            Because this doggy has no idea.

6 What to look for in a partner

Marcy’s Love Story… what to look for in a partner

This pup is far from the first to say that we all are the authors of our own life stories.  That while we’re always affected by the world around us in infinite ways, we still make the decisions that define our journeys.  How we react to events, to people, to things, and what we pursue – all these make us the writer (as well as director and lead actor) of our personal, or canine, epics.

I bring this up because I want to tell you a story, of a dear friend of mine.  A woman, very bright, and almost as cute as me, who had everything in life but love.  And how she managed to turn that around.

Marcy grew up in an intellectual home – her father was a noted psychologist, and her mother equally sophisticated, surrounded by wonderful minds.  But what she loved most was great writing, especially in the theater.  As she grew up, she became an expert on hundreds of plays, enough to work for playhouses to help them pick out what works they’d choose to perform.  And after a while, her own writing took off as well, to the point where she had stories and articles published, and was hired as a writer on big TV shows.

But with all this going on, her love life was… not so great.  She’d have relationships with interesting guys, but nothing lasted (You’ve maybe noticed, interesting good-looking guys are often difficult to keep in relationships!  Even my beloved Handsome can, at times, be no picnic.  In fact, picnics are one of those times – he never  lets me have the chicken bones, and then throws them out!  Sure I know they’re bad for me, possibly fatal, but come on… they smell SO GOOD!).  She even got married, but that proved wrong very quickly.

You see, as a writer, Marcy lived in her own head a lot.  She was friendly (and a big dog-lover, a great sign of character!), but at times her mind might be somewhere else than totally present. 

Can you relate?

For example, she would come home, throw her things down when she walked in the door, leave her shoes wherever she took them off, and rush to write down what was on her mind.  Then her boyfriend, or husband, would walk in, and get annoyed – how inconsiderate of her to make a mess of their place! 

And “inconsiderate” is the right word.  She wasn’t being purposely sloppy, she was just not… considering… about him at that moment!

So after her divorce, which was inevitable (Aren’t you impressed with my big words?  Just writing about a writer makes me so literary!), she did what lots of people did then – she tried personal ads. 

(For those who don’t know that term, before internet dating sites and meetup apps, newspapers and magazines would publish short personal classified advertisements, where a person would describe themselves and what they were looking for in a few lines.  No photos or Instagram accounts, just words!  Imagine!)

She wrote something clever and flirtatious, knowing that she’d get a lot of responses that wouldn’t work for her, but hoping maybe one or two guys would catch on and respond in a fun way too.  And one did.

This guy was maybe more of an oddball than she was.  He’d worked as an actor, as a writer, as a limousine driver… and I’m forgetting a lot of things.  He’d lived many lifetimes in his years.  But what mattered more was that his letters were funny, and open, and sweet, and showed real interest in her. 

They wrote each other for so long that it almost didn’t matter what the other looked like – when he finally showed up at her door, they’d been in love for weeks.  Then the fact that each found the other attractive too… oh this was just too good!  At last, she wasn’t just a terrific writer of articles and TV shows – she’d written her life to right where she wanted.

Sure enough, they married soon.  And while of course they had their squabbles, both had reached a point where their appreciation and gratitude shone over every moment they shared.  They raised, and loved, and grieved over the losses of, pet dogs; they moved across the country; they began new careers… all together and with mutual support.

I met her when she was working in an office with Handsome.  Both of them would bring their dogs in for their therapy clients, and she was so nice I only got a little jealous of how friendly Handsome would be to her aging pups.  And her husband, Jon, was as nice as she was.  And a great teacher to kids, and a good enough tennis player to whip Handsome’s butt any time they played (pssst… don’t tell Handsome I said this, but that didn’t mean Jon was all that great – LOTS of people can whip his…  oops here he comes, gotta get back to the story). 

In fact, everything was kind of perfect about Jon.  Except that one cruelty that shows up too often in people, and in dogs and even cats:  One day his doctor told him he had a bad cancer.

They did their best, with every treatment they had, but it wasn’t enough.  With Marcy having stayed by his side every moment, he eventually slipped away.  Far too young, far too soon. 

A mutual friend called Handsome that morning and told him the news.  He phoned Marcy right away and left a message about how sorry he was.  And then, surprisingly, he didn’t hear back from her for a few weeks.  Till one day, he got a call from her – angry and hurt, wondering why he’d never called!  He explained that he had, and she quieted down – the reason was clear.  She had been in such shock over the loss of her great love, she hadn’t been able to remember the message.

The three of us went to an outdoor restaurant that day, where I was able to lay my head in her sad lap until the food showed up.  She was weak and pale still, but able to talk calmly, until a subject came up – that thing about her being sloppy at home.

“You see,” she explained, “All my life, anyone I lived with complained about my leaving my clothes and stuff around.  But one day, Jon walked into our bedroom and said, ‘You know, when I’m on my way home, I never know if you’ll be here.  And then I walk in, and I see your shoes on the floor, and your papers and your coat spread out, and they make me so happy.  Because then I know you’re here, and I’m going to get to see you.’” 

And with that, she started sobbing so hard she couldn’t finish her food.  (Though  while it was a heartbreakingly beautiful story, I won’t pretend it kept me from helping her out with the job!)

Marcy and Handsome and I have been even better friends ever since.  Maybe at another age, they would have become a couple (living with all my shedding certainly would make him tolerant of a shoe or two!).  But it wouldn’t have lasted;  although they shared a lot of interests, they wanted different things in their lives. (And besides, one of her two newer dogs HATES him!  Frankly, I think he’s still so in love with Jon he can’t stand any other man to be near her!) 

But they’d hang out, go to (and criticize) movies and plays, and be there to help each other when they could.  Like, as she worked to write a funny and heartbreaking book about her and Jon, which Handsome wants the whole world to read someday.

And as, horrifyingly, Marcy came down with a cancer too.  And went through the same treatments Jon had, and came through them fine – only to come down with another one, a worse one, that couldn’t be treated in the same way.  That she battled for years.

Till a couple of weeks ago, when what we’d all known would happen finally did.  When Jon came down to take Marcy away from us.  And while she’d battled fiercely to stay alive, I have no doubt she was so happy to see him, she easily flew into his waiting arms.

So Handsome and I have spent a few quiet nights at home.  He’s told me funny stories about her, and said a lot of bad words about cancer, and given me some really big hugs.  But then he suggested I write this story to all of you.

For a couple of reasons.

First, because, out of all the relationship advice I’ve given, I don’t think any has been better than this: that you should look for someone whose flaws make you happy, or who is thrilled by your flaws.  What could ever make a better relationship?!

And second, to suggest that, sometime, you look up into the sky, and see if, in the clouds or the stars, you can make out some sloppy scattered shoes or papers.  Because, just past them, just out of our sight… one of the most perfect loves ever is glowing in eternal joy.

2 A Life of Time – how time awareness makes life better

A Life of Time – how time awareness makes life better

So let me begin this one with what they call a Disclaimer. 

            Imagine that you were asked to write about the great historic landing of humans on the moon that took place 50 years ago this year.  You might write about the history behind it, the international “Space Race” to get there first, some of the personalities involved, and almost certainly the famous words “This is one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”  Great.

            But would you also write about the minute details of the physics and astronomy and engineering that enabled this miracle to happen?  Probably not.  Probably you don’t have nearly the knowledge to do so.  But that’s fine; you can still appreciate the historical majesty of the moment.

            Well that’s what it’s like for me to talk about Time.

            We dogs have NO sense of time, in the way you humans do.  Or maybe it’s better to say that we have the sense of time you do when you’re around one year old.  You know how babies go through that stage where they freak out the moment their mother leaves their sight?  That’s us!  “She’s gone forever!  I’ll never see her again!”  And that’s why we go so bonkers when you come home to us after a day… or an hour!  You’re back, and our lives begin again.

            Anyway, now that that’s out of the way, I want to talk about exactly this.  About Time.

            Humans develop a profound awareness of time by adulthood.  That childhood mindset of “Why isn’t it Christmas yet” turns into an innate calendar that – most of the time – keeps a huge number of facts in great order.  For example, to those of you who are fans of it, answer quickly: how many hours are left till the series finale of that TV show about dragons and kingdoms?  (I’ll bet you can answer that in under a minute!).  And to the rest of you, how long till you owe your next tax payment?  Or till your next big test at school?  Or, better, till vacation starts?!  Or how long has it been since you first met that perfect someone?!

            Now we animals are so connected to the Earth and Skies that we might pick up on things you don’t.  Maybe your cat starts meowing right at the time you usually feed her – though of course she has no clock.  Or your dog wakes you up if you’re not out of bed by 6:30, even though the sun is at different places at that hour throughout the year.  And if you ever read the book or see the movie Lassie Come Home, it tells of a dog who always meets her boy right when school gets out, to such a perfect degree that people in their town set their clocks by when they see her walking to the schoolhouse.

            But we are no good at all with long-term time.  That way you can tell when your holiday will begin or you’ll learn who wins the Iron Throne.  We can’t think that way at all.

            Now as I said, babies have our sense of time, and it improves as you humans get older.  But lots of people make the mistake of thinking that just because a person isn’t a baby anymore, they have a fully-developed time sense.  Actually, a human’s conception of time keeps developing all the way into their late teens or early twenties! 

            For example, here’s something funny I see a lot.  When kids are about thirteen years old, in the first week of the school year, they’re assigned some big project that’s due in four months.  Now the super-motivated students (or okay, I’ll call you guys Nerds – it’s not an insult in my book!) will do the assignment right away.  Good for you.  And everyone else will mean to do it, but suddenly they’ll find that three months and three weeks and three days have passed and that thing is due in FOUR DAYS and it’s all a crazy crisis with tears and yelling and angry families and… 

            And it’s completely ridiculous.

            Whether you’re that top student or the bottom of your class, NO one at that age has the time sense to plan out and do that assignment the way it ought to be done.  I blame the teacher, not the kids.  They should know better.  (Unless the teacher consciously used it as a teaching tool, to help the students develop their time sense better.  But I don’t usually see that happening).

            Now you’ll hear about university students “pulling an all-nighter” to finish a project in time, but that’s usually because they should have planned out a week or two better, not four months.  Their brains are further along.

            What I’m beginning to realize, though, is that hitting that ability at age 19 or 22, where you can finally make long-term plans, is great – but it’s still not everything.  There are actually MANY senses of time one can have.  And the more you do, the better.

            So there’s the sense we dogs have, through connection to the Earth and Skies, of time on a deep feeling level.

            Then there’s the sense humans get by about age ten – “I’m bored, isn’t it time for school to get out yet?”

            Then there’s the long-term sense one gets a decade later – “That’s great that I finished what I needed to do today.  Now I should put an hour or two in on that long-term project, and maybe think a bit about what to get my girlfriend for her birthday, which is only two months away.”

            Oh and then there’s a true sense of timing – like what a great musician has, keeping a perfect beat no matter how complicated an arrangement is.  Now that one… I’m not sure that can be learned.  It might be just a gift!

            But I recently discovered another.  One that can make an enormous difference in a person’s life, if they’re willing and able to take it on. 

            Sit where you are, reading this, and try to keep reading, while remaining completely aware of time passing.

            Can you feel it?  You might even feel something physically, like a breeze passing through you as you focus on it.

            And now, if you can do that, try to also sense your body in its space.  As you feel time passing, do you feel how your back, your butt, your legs and arms, your feet and hands, your toes and fingers, your nose and ears are all existing – in time, and in space.  And every movement you do is just affecting where you are in both. 

            It’s a weird feeling, isn’t it?

            Now imagine you lived that way all the time.  Or at least tried to. 

            It wouldn’t be that anxious place I see you humans in all the time, “Oh I’m gonna be late!”  “Oh we’re going to miss the movie!”  Or “Oh I’m going to turn eighteen without ever having had a boyfriend!”  That’s a pretty awful place to live.

            But instead, you’d be aware of time… within the moment.  And doing that, you’d probably make a lot fewer mistakes.  You wouldn’t be late as often, because you’d know at the time  that you were getting dressed too slowly or just right.  You wouldn’t get distracted as often; or rather, distractions wouldn’t be such a problem, because you’d be aware of what you were being distracted from, and able to pop right back into it.

            I think great dancers and athletes have a lot of this quality.  An unending awareness of where they are in time and space.  And butterflies – who are just the most awesome things that exist.  Even if I try to eat them when they get close to me!

            I envy you guys, having these abilities to experience and measure time, and to plan and show up on time, or even late!  Yes, we dogs can’t “show up late” because we can’t conceive of when “on time” is!

            But even more I envy those few of you who can really experience time as it’s happening.  You ballerinas and goalies.  You trapeze artists.  You magicians.

            Although, that’s what you all are to me.  Magicians.  And every bit of awareness of time you gain, the more magic you do, and the more you are.

            Maybe, if reincarnation is real, I’ll have that ability in my next life. 

            But I have no idea when that’ll be!  Hey I don’t even know when that show’s going to come on!

4 My Green Name Tag – the joy of celebrating cultures

My Green Name Tag – the joy of celebrating cultures

I have a green name tag that hangs off my purple collar.  Not by accident – Handsome loves the way those colors look against my orange and white fur.

This usually doesn’t mean a thing to me (remember we dogs are color-blind!), but there’s one day a year I’m really glad I wear something  green.  That’s St. Patrick’s Day.

On this holiday, at least here in the United States, there’s a tradition that everyone is supposed to “wear the green.”  And if you don’t, people have the right to pinch you.

Well I DON’T LIKE GETTING PINCHED!  It hurts, and I’m not allowed to bite anyone back if they do it!  So I’m glad my name tag keeps this problem away.


But just recently, I started wondering, what’s the big deal about this color?  And why should St. Patrick, not a super-important saint in the history of Christianity, get a holiday, when… oh, say, Peter, Paul, and Mary don’t.  (Hey, look what I just did!  If you’re old enough, or a fan of 1960’s folk music, you’ll see I just made a sort of joke.  And if you don’t get it, do a search for “Peter Paul and Mary” and listen to some of the most gorgeous popular singing ever recorded!)


So anyway, I did some research about this day.  And I found that it’s on the day St. Patrick is said to have died.  And the green is because it’s a color associated with Ireland, where he brought his religion. And the holiday is to honor the Irish people and their culture.

But wait.  I live in a country known as a “melting pot,” where almost every culture of the world exists.  Why is this day such a big deal?

Well, it seems that centuries ago, tons of Irish fled their homeland in the face of famine and oppression, and came to America.  And they wanted to honor their heritage, so over time, it became a holiday for everyone here – and now over most of the world.

So in other words, even if you’re a Moroccan-Serbian-Singaporean Sikh, you’re still supposed to wear green on the 17th of March, to show pride in your Irishness.  Because they were desperate refugees.  And dance to Irish music, and eat and drink their food, and just have the best time you can – all to honor something you’re not!

Silly?  Yeah, kinda.

And, I think, also kind of fantastic.


Most of the horrors of human history have been perpetrated because one group of people sees another as “different” or “the other.”  How great to have a day where everyone’s Irish.  Wouldn’t it also be great to have a day where everyone is Nigerian?  Pakistani?  How about a day when everyone’s some other refugee from a starving oppressed nation their country happens to be welcoming?  Hey how about if one day everyone was Israeli and the next day Palestinian?  Might people find it a little harder to blow each other up if they’d just had a party where they danced to those people’s music, ate their traditional foods, and – yes – drank their drinks too?!

I’ll make you a deal.  If you humans start doing this, I’ll agree to dress as a CAT one day a year; I’ll even eat tuna, scratch on a couch, and poop in a litter box!  All for the cause of world peace!

But till that day, I do hope you all get a chance to enjoy at least a little of St. Pat’s this year.  Dance an Irish jig.  Eat some cabbage and potatoes.  Drink some beer (if you can and should).  And raise a toast to your favorite Irishpeople ever (James Joyce?  John Wayne?  Enya?  Hey this pup is a total sucker for the voice of Bing Crosby!)!  And may the road rise to meet ya!



So my dear dear friends, I wrote all that earlier this week.  Then this morning I awoke to the sound of Handsome’s clock radio, to as heartbreaking a story as I’ve ever heard.  You’ve probably heard it already: In the beautiful town of Christchurch, New Zealand (yes, the town has THAT name!), some people took it on themselves to bring guns into some mosques where holy prayers were in session, and kill as many Muslims as they could.  This wasn’t out of a personal resentment; they were openly acting in this insanity called White Nationalism, trying to get rid of as many people who didn’t look like them as possible.  (And to clear their country of refugees – as though white people were the original inhabitants of those gorgeous islands, and not immigrants into Maori land themselves)

So on the same weekend people worldwide join each other in playing at “We’re All Irish,” we’re hearing yet once more the vicious scream of “You’re different, so we hate you!”

(And I promise you, it brings nothing but sadness and shame to America that one of the shooters hailed our President as a symbol of their movement)


Think of it this way.  On a purely biological level, every human is more like every other human than any of you is like any dog or cat or cow or bird.  And yet nearly every one of you I’ve met has loved an animal to the furthest limits of your heart.  This talk about difference, superiority, inferiority?  It’s all just… just what I’ll leave in a litter box when that cat holiday gets going.


Please, it’s just so simple:  Love everyone you can.  And those you can’t love, just like.  And those you can’t like, tolerate.  And if we all can do that, it’ll all be okay.


In fact, remember when I accidentally mentioned that singing trio earlier?  I’ll end this with a quote from I guess their most famous recording, which happened to be written by a man who as an adult changed his surname to one more… Irish!

“How many times must a man look up

Before he can see the sky

How many ears must one man have

Before he can hear people cry

How many deaths will it take till he knows

That too many people have died?

The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind

The answer is blowin’ in the wind.”




2 Twenty Questions – how to avoid dating problems

Twenty Questions – how to avoid dating problems

Over the last few years, I’ve gotten thousands of letters from you wonderful people.  And while the topics have covered everything from pets to parenting and music to morals, the vast majority have been about romance.  Dating, Crushes, Marriage, even Divorce.

And so often, I find you guys in relationships you probably shouldn’t be in.  The sorts you could have avoided by asking the right questions (or at least have gotten out sooner if you had).  Which then keep you from the wonderful love stories you deserve.


So I’ve put together a list.  Twenty Questions to ask yourself before you date.  Some of these are probably easy, some are likely very hard, and definitely many of your answers will change as you grow older.

And while I can’t guarantee that doing this questionnaire will bring you the fairy tale romance of your dreams, it should help you avoid most of the problems I’ve seen in your letters.

So take a shot at it, and see what you think!


The first two are simple and shallow – before you consider dating anyone:


  1. WHAT ARE YOUR TYPES? No one is attracted to everyone – or even to everyone considered “attractive.”  Some people have extremely specific attractions (only tall blonde altos, or only muscle-bound nerds), but even when you’re very young, you’ll know there are certain qualities that attract you.  Height, skin color, hair or eye color, thin or curvy, hairy or not; I know a woman who refused to date any man whose feet were smaller than hers.  And you might even find looks aren’t as important to you as scent, or the sound of someone’s voice.  Whatever your criteria are, it’s great to be aware of what matters to you – and what doesn’t.


  1. HOW MUCH TOGETHERNESS DO YOU WANT/NEED? Oh I see this one all the time.  One partner texts ten times an hour, the other wants to check in once a day.  Both are fine, but maybe not good for each other.  Or one person wants to be touching all the time, while the other needs more space and just wants occasional physical contact.  Or one loves touching but not in public, which makes the other feel rejected.  And then of course issues arise where one partner wants “to go further” than the other, at least at that particular stage of the relationship.  Know what you want and need in these areas, and speak up about it.  You’d be amazed how many problems that’ll solve.



Then this next bunch matter when you actually become a couple – even if just for a short time.


  1. HOW DO YOU WANT TO BE TREATED? I know, that sounds vague.  But look at the couples around you.  Some are so kind and gentle with each other, and never say anything sarcastic.  Some tease a lot.  Some are always talking about each other or referring to each other, while others feel better not doing that, and just knowing the other is there for them.  Some like to fight and then make up, while others only complain in very careful soft language.  All are fine.  But who are you?  I see so many – just as an example – young women who say they want to be treated with chivalrous kindness, and then choose Bad Boys every time.  So be honest about yourself – for example, I don’t like dogs attacking me, but a little playful biting is fun!


  1. WHAT’S THE WORST FEELING FOR YOU? I’m not asking about your greatest fear necessarily, but rather something you actually experience.  For example, I hate being left alone, I hate baths, and I hate feeling I’ve hurt someone I love.  Now all those do happen at times, but I’m sure glad I don’t live with a person who’ll leave me alone for a week at a time, or give me a bath every day, or scream at me that I’ve ruined his life!  So if what feels worst to you is being ignored, you probably shouldn’t date the super-ambitious student working 20 hour days to get perfect grades, while on a top sports team, and working three jobs to pay bills.  They’re a great person, but likely not what you need.


  1. WHAT’S THE BEST FEELING FOR YOU? How often do I see someone who loves, oh, for example, singing on stage.  And they pair up with someone who finds that dumb or cheap, and wants them to stop doing it.  WHY WOULD ANYONE DO THAT?!  Don’t choose someone who won’t tolerate what you love most, or you’ll have to make an awful decision, choosing between them.


  1. HOW DO YOU DEFINE FAITHFULNESS? Do you feel cheated on if your boyfriend or girlfriend is talking to someone else?  What about if they hug them?  Kiss them?  Date them?  There’s no right answer to this – what matters is what you feel.  Be sure to date someone with a definition similar to yours.  Otherwise it’s just guaranteed to be a mess.


  1. WHAT DO YOU NEED RESPECTED? Imagine if a great athlete met someone she was fully attracted to, they had great times together, all was fine… but that person felt that a career of playing sports was really pathetic and childish.  Imagine if you cared a lot about great art, and your partner considered that stupid.  There’s nothing wrong with having different interests – it’s really fun – but there are things you need respected in your life.  Maybe your family, or your job, or your hobby.  Don’t fill your life up with someone who doesn’t respect what you care most about.


  1. HOW LONG DO YOU WANT YOUR NEXT RELATIONSHIP TO LAST? Are you looking for a fun weekend?  A summer fling?  A full commitment?  You are begging for heartbreak and frustration if you haven’t thought about this, and aren’t expressing it to someone you date.  Make sure you’re on the same page.


Now if you’re after a short-term thing, maybe that’s all the questions you’ll need.  But if you’re looking at a longer haul…


  1. WHAT DO YOU VALUE MOST? This might be different from the “respect” question I asked before.  Maybe you care a lot about the environment, or about culture, or life, or honesty, or God.  A long-term relationship is doomed  if the two people don’t share the same basic values.  This is different from having the same Opinions though.  For example, if you think all dog-kickers should be executed, you could have a happy relationship with someone who thinks they should only be jailed.  But you’re going to have a rotten time with someone who thinks they should be given medals.


  1. WHAT PLACE DOES RELIGION HAVE IN YOUR LIFE? This should be an obvious one.  Especially if you’re considering raising children.  If you are deeply devout, you should be with someone who is as well.  And if you’re a casual thinker about deep topics, it’s best you pair up with someone who feels that way too.  And definitely, if you’re an adamant Atheist, insisting there can’t be anything more than what we see, you’ll have a horrible time with a true believer.  You might find you’re able to enjoy someone whose religion is different from yours (though that’s not very recommended), but at least have the same attitude about it, and you’ve got a chance.


  1. WHAT PLACE DOES POLITICS OR PHILOSOPHY HAVE IN YOUR LIFE? Similarly, if you are planning on devoting a year to volunteering for a political campaign, life will be easier if you’re with someone who feels the same.  But if you don’t care much about social issues, then life will be easiest if you aren’t awakened every day with questions about how you feel about some argument you’ve never heard of!


  1. WHAT DO YOU HAVE NO RESPECT FOR? Remember my earlier question about how important it is that your partner respects what matters to you?  Well, what about the other way around?  Don’t bother dating someone who spends four hours a night playing video games if you think those games are idiotic.  Don’t date someone who writes romance novels if you find them boring, or beneath you.  Find someone you respect, whose interests you respect, and happiness is a lot more possible.


  1. WHAT TASTES MATTER? We all have tastes that matter to us.  So you’ve found someone who loves music, just as you do, but they find the rap you’re an expert on “just noise!”  Or they hear nothing in the classical music you treasure but “bedtime.”  Do you really want to live the rest of your life not blasting your favorite tunes out?  Or sharing your favorite books with your spouse?  Or crying at that favorite movie every year?


  1. WHAT LIFESTYLE MATTERS? Are you a vegetarian?  Do you like to keep the temperature in your home a little colder or warmer?  Do you like to spend a lot of time outdoors?  Do you love watching sports?  Do you like to play music loud?  Do your ears get hurt easily?  Again, the more you can determine of what matters to you, the better?


  1. HOW CLEAN AND ORGANIZED DO YOU NEED YOUR WORLD TO BE? It is hard  to live with someone who is either way more clean and organized or way less than you.  Sure you can disagree on some details (“I’ll keep the books in alphabetical order, if you do the daily dusting”) but overall it’s really a big deal that you’re happy and comfortable in the same sort of home.


  1. WHAT DO YOU WANT TO DO WITH YOUR LIFE? Do you want to retreat to a cabin in the woods and avoid civilization?  Do you want to work hard and get rich and live in high society?  Do you want to write a book or a symphony?  Do you want to become famous?  TALK about these things with that person.  Even if you never succeed at your goal, your trying it will either make your lives together heaven or hell.


  1. DO YOU WANT MARRIAGE? WHEN?  This one ought to be pretty self-explanatory.  If one of you wants it and the other doesn’t, we have a problem.


  1. DO YOU WANT CHILDREN? WHEN?  Same exact thing:  This one ought to be pretty self-explanatory.  If one of you wants it and the other doesn’t, we have a problem.


  1. DO YOU WANT PETS? WHEN?  This one ought to be as obvious as those last two, but I find couples getting together without ever discussing whether their family should include a wonderful dog or a stinky cat or some pretty goldfish, or…  Come on, talk about it!


  1. WHEN DO THESE THINGS NOT MATTER? And in the end, it’s impossible to meet someone who’s ‘perfect’ for you in every way.  You’re going to have to compromise on some things.  What are the items here that aren’t really dealbreakers for you?  How would a person need to be in order for you to give up on those?  Really, they have  to want to watch that rom-com with you every Christmas?  You can’t  tolerate their goldfish?

This last one is hard, and you won’t know it till you’re in it.  But it is maybe the most important question here.  Because, when you know exactly what it is that you want and need, but have found someone so wonderful that you’re willing to give up on some of those… there’s a really good chance you’ve found The Right One.


When Handsome was looking in the pound for a new dog, he wanted someone younger than me, smaller than me, and with shorter hair.  But I won him over, and that was that.

So find someone that great, and start compromising.  There’s nothing better.  As that beautiful old song sings, “Then go to her side, and make her your own, or all through your life you will live all alone.  Once you have found her, never let her go.”

(Or him, or them, or it, or…!)



Nothing to Sneeze At … all sorts of allergies

Nothing to Sneeze at … all sorts of allergies

Have you ever taken Antihistamines?


See, I’ve been thinking about Histamines lately.  We all know Antihistamines, but their job is to fight Histamines – a natural compound, released by the body to increase inflammation so tissues will bring in defensive substances  (mucous, white blood cells) when it feels attacked.  (Can you believe  a dog came up with that line!  Sometimes I even impress myself!)


Histamines are very useful when poisoned.  And very annoying when dealing with allergies.


I’m lucky.  I have never suffered any allergies.  But my human friend Handsome was a sensitive child: nervous, a worrier, and got sick often too.  Nothing huge or chronic, he just caught everything that went around.  And each time, what he’d feel was Histamines.  Like millions of microscopic mosquitoes, flying around inside him, stinging him constantly!


And I knew a dog who got awful allergies, to fleas!  He was bitten so many times, and scratched so much, that his immune system went haywire and he lost his fur and a bunch of weight… and eventually his life!  A wonderful dog, too, it was a horrible horrible thing to watch.


So it made sense for Handsome to take Antihistamines: drugs that blocked the production of Histamine in his body.  Working against his body’s incorrect actions.  But perhaps against his body’s defenses when they were right as well?  Maybe, but it did enable him to survive his childhood!  (They tried giving that dog some too, but I think it was just too late)


Now as we know, many of us have physical allergies.  But I think all  of us have emotional ones.  Oversensitivities, fears, based on deep-seated beliefs about ourselves and others and the world.


My biggest emotional allergy is to water coming down onto me!  I have no trouble jumping into a creek or the ocean, but I hate rain, sprinklers, and especially getting bathed.  Oh what I’ve put Handsome through, jumping out of tubs, shaking water all over him all the time!  The trick he eventually learned was to use a big cup, and slowly pour water over me while holding the back of my neck.  I still hate it, but that makes it tolerable.


Some of us wear our emotional allergies with pride – dogs who snap at anyone who reminds them of an abuser, “Hey you’re a tall man with long hair!  I’m gonna bite you before you kick me!”  Or people who gleefully reject romantic advances, “I know what you’re about!  You just want to hurt me!  I’ll never speak to you again, now that you just asked for my phone number!!”


While others find emotional Antihistamine.  Some adults drink when they go to parties, so they can be social.  Maybe you need to overeat when you do poorly on a test.  I haven’t found the way to avoid the feelings of water, but I sure know what to do afterward to get rid of the feeling: I shake it all onto Handsome and then run like crazy around the yard!


So is there a solution?  A motivational speaker might say that the key is to just walk through the allergies, suffer all the Histamines, to get strong and make it to the other side of them.  Right?




Let me tell you, I’ve had years of water coming down onto me, and I’ll never like it.  And I’ve seen sneezing fits in others – they don’ t end, and there’s no other side to it.


So does that mean we should just avoid anything that feels uncomfortable?  Or numb ourselves constantly?


It’s a hard one, isn’t it!  Just this week I met a woman, very interesting, funny, passionate, who said that she never wanted to see another play as long as she lived.  She found them all torture.


Now I don’t know what caused this in her, but I know there are all kinds of plays – dramas, classics, comedies, thrillers, musicals – and it’s crazy to think a human, with a human brain, would reject them all.  (Now let me be clear – I’ve never seen Cats and there’s no way I ever would sit through that filth.  But for a person to never experience My Fair Lady?!  What’s the point of having that great brain then?!)


Fundamentally it all comes down to one question.  Is it possible for anyone to live at such a state of awareness that their Histamines – physical and  emotional – only release when they really need to?


I don’t know.  If so, I’m not there yet.  And my friend Handsome definitely isn’t.


From all I can see, he’ll remain the same dorky man I’ve always loved – scratching, coughing, sneezing…  just as when he was that sensitive child, and for as long as his imperfect two-legged furless body carries him.

And calling me in that very friendly tone… to have a dreaded bath!





The Mattering of Matter – how to make yourself and others happier

The Mattering of Matter – how to make yourself and others happier

In the letters I’ve gotten over the years, I’ve seen you pack members happy, furious, sad – and occasionally really depressed.  Sometimes that’s been for big reasons: a boyfriend broke up with you, a dear friend passed away, you failed at something you’d devoted yourself to.  But sometimes it’s been for something much less.

Maybe you went to a party and felt that no one really cared about having you there.

Maybe you got into an argument with a friend who simply didn’t listen to your side of things.

Maybe someone who’d been hiring you just stopped calling, without explaining why.


Now those might not seem enough to freak out about.  But I’ve seen you get just as blue about those as you do for those bigger reasons.




After all, those other guests at the party may have had very good reasons to focus on other people, and maybe your friend was so scared or angry or obsessed that they just couldn’t listen to your viewpoint at that time, and maybe you’d done such a good job for those people that they didn’t need your services anymore, and think you’re great.  But still, you feel crummy.


I think there’s one quality that every one of these, the big and the small, have in common.  Each gave you a message that You Don’t Matter.


And it can even be a smaller cause.  Have you ever dated someone who said they loved you like crazy, but paid no attention to what you wore, or told them about?  Leaving you to feel, “They don’t care so much about me; they’d just like being treated well – by anyone.”



This tiny issue means SO MUCH to so many of you!  Maybe it’s, emotionally, the most important thing of all.

Is that crazy of me to say?  I don’t think so.


A baby is devastated when left alone, and then ecstatic when their caregiver returns.  A child will misbehave to the point of punishment, just to get attention.  And teenagers will do things they really don’t want to (such as sex, drugs, or crime) to feel “in” with the other kids.  Because if you’re not in, you simply don’t Matter.

Then with adults, we hear every day about someone hurting or even killing the person they love, out of feeling they don’t matter.  A popular movie told of a woman going crazy from that feeling, attacking the family of the man she loved, swearing out “I will not be ignored!”

And today we hear of people all over the world voting against their interests, or even risking their lives to rebel against their governments, not necessarily because they want more money or rights, but because they feel no attention from them.

It’s that painful.


Now I don’t imagine a whole lot of my pack members are setting fires or attacking families.  But I know a lot of you feel these feelings.  Especially about Mattering to someone who Matters a lot to you!  Even if they tell you you’re great, but don’t seem to really value you, you’ll feel crummy, “I guess I have no actual personal value.”


But what about when you feel you do Matter?  Then you feel like you’re on top of the world!  And how do you get to feeling that way?  Well, usually, it’s because someone who you think Matters says that you do too.  How many teenage girls have fainted when their musical idol looked at them and pointed!  It’s just too much ecstasy to take, that Frankie or Elvis or Paul or Prince or Sting or Usher or Justin noticed me!!!


So just think about it – how much power this gives other people over you.  Especially manipulative people.  If someone you’re dating ignores you, making you feel you don’t Matter, and then adores you, making you feel like the center of the universe, they absolutely have you in their control.  And probably will get you to fall in love with them – for telling you you don’t Matter!  Which creates SUCH a mess!


I’ve talked here before about the wonderful bestseller The Five Love Languages. But maybe we should talk about Mattering messages instead – how different people can feel they Matter, and what activities fail at doing that.


For example, you know how, when you’re first dating someone,  you don’t want to alienate them by overwhelming them with all your insecurities, but you also don’t want to ignore them?

Well, think about it – both of these tell that other person they don’t Matter!

Ignoring, of course, makes them believe you never think about them.  But sending them a hundred anxious texts an hour just shows you’re thinking about your own worries, and not about them.

While making someone feel they Matter is just about the kindest thing you can do.


Here’s what I see: If you feel like you Matter, being stuck in a two-hour traffic jam is bearable.  If you don’t, red lights make you angry.




Now we dogs don’t have this issue.  For the same reasons we don’t have shame or write symphonies – we don’t have the self-reflecting brains you guys do.  If a person or a dog tells us they don’t want us around, we just feel rejected.  We don’t make the connection “I don’t Matter” the way you do.  We don’t like it, but it’s not the same amount of pain.

But we sure love Mattering, and we sure love telling others that they Matter.  Which is why I love doing what I do – you do Matter to me!  But I’ll get more to that later.

For now, I want to offer you a couple of suggestions on how not to be controlled by this!


First, think of a dog or a cat you like.  Imagine it’s playing – chasing a ball, or whatever that animal likes to do.  You feel a joy at watching it play, right?  And the more passionately it tries, the more it enjoys the playing, and the more fun it is to watch.   So does it matter that it’s trying?  Sure.

But in the big picture, in the grand scheme of what’s important in the world, or the universe, does it Matter whether that dog or cat catches that ball?  Not at all.


Now think of a professional athlete.  If they don’t try their hardest to catch that ball or make that basket or jump over that pole, it’s disappointing, right?  You want them to do their best.  It matters that they do.  But does the result of the game, or whether they break that pole-vault record, really Matter in the world?  Not really.


So do you see what I’m describing?  On the most personal level, there’s a kind of mattering (do your best, try to succeed).  And on the grand universal level, there’s another (it’s only a game).  And both of those are absolutely true and real.

But most humans spend their time thinking in an in-between level.  “I didn’t win the game, so I don’t Matter to anyone now.”  “I didn’t make the track team, so I’m a failure and don’t count at all.”

And that in-between level?  It’s NONSENSE!  It’s simply not true!  You Matter exactly as much, whether you win or lose, whether you succeed or fail.

And… believe it or not… you Matter exactly as much whether or not that person you’re crazy about even notices you!


You see, it’s all about judgment.  You’re giving other people too much power to judge you, or you’re judging yourself too harshly.  Yes, admit that you failed at what you were trying to do.  That’s the only way you can ever improve.  But that doesn’t mean you don’t Matter.  Not at ALL!


And how do I know this?  Because – remember I told you I’d get back to how we dogs see this issue?

Because, think about the word: Matter.

Matter is substance.  Matter is something that exists.  Matter is something that’s there.

We dogs are always interested in matter.  We sniff everywhere.  We lick everything.  We say that if it’s matter, it Matters!

We don’t care if a tree managed some incredible feat or not, or if it lost a branch when it was struck by lightning.  It’s Matter.  It smells interesting.  It has possibilities – that there might be animals in it, that it might be fun to chew on, or it just might be a good place for us to pee!  Regardless, it Matters!


Now my second suggestion.  I work so hard to convince you guys you Matter, because you do!  All dogs work to do this.

In fact, those of you who’ve been around a long time might remember a couple of years ago when my website was hacked, and I found out that a number of letters had been sent to me without my seeing them?  Which meant those members didn’t get responses from me?

I have never  felt so awful.  Because I had, without intending to, given them the message that they didn’t Matter to me!  Which was completely untrue!

And I know that hurt many of them, a great deal.  Which just makes me howl at the moon in pain when I think about it.

So next time you get told you don’t Matter, or you just feel it, please try to remember us dogs.  We’ll always tell you that’s not true.  And we’re right.


But wait… Even beyond letting our love for you in, can you be more like us?  Can you do a better job of telling others that they Matter?


Imagine the following conversation over text, between Person A and Person B:

A: Hey.  Yeah I’m free tonight.

B: I texted you about that three hours ago.

A:  Don’t worry about it.  See you at six.

B: You always do this.  I know you were hoping Chris would ask you out instead!


Now what’s being said here?  First of all, it’s taken a while for person A to respond, right?  And by not mentioning that, they’re implying that Person B’s having to wait for a response doesn’t Matter to them, right?

Then Person B’s response doesn’t take into account that Person A might have had good reason not to respond earlier.  In other words, it’s saying Person A doesn’t Matter either.


So what if the conversation went like this instead:

A: Hey sorry that took so long.  Yeah I’d love to see you tonight.

B: Oh good.  What was the holdup?

A: My parents are jerks and made me do all my homework before I could use the phone.

B: Oh man.  Will they still let you out tonight?

A: Yeah, I mowed the lawn too, to make sure they’d be cool with it.  I didn’t want to miss out on seeing you.

B: That is so sweet.  Thanks!  You’re the best!


See the difference?  In the first scenario, those two are going to meet up at six feeling defensive and angry.  In the second, they’re going to have trouble keeping themselves from covering each other in kisses.

ALL because they told the other one they Mattered.


So this is my big double-wish for you.  Tell yourself you Matter, always.  And tell others they Matter too.  And your life will get so much better.


And then, if you can do that for a while…  Whoa, think of what your life could be, if you stopped listening to these stupid voices in your head altogether!  The ones that say you don’t Matter.

How would it be to Matter a lot more than you believe?


You can.  Because you do.


I promise it’s true.  Dogs never ever lie!


No Matter What!



All my love,