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18 The Bright Side …the nature of courage

The Bright Side …the nature of courage

We hear a lot about courage. Legends and songs have told of it from the beginning of time, with heroic deeds in the face of terrible odds, or of willingness to suffer great pains for a noble goal.

We sometimes get to feel courage in ourselves. For example, when I hear a stranger coming to the door of our house, and I growl and bark at them, not knowing how big or fierce they might be.

And sometimes we get to see it firsthand.

 

Now I know that there are millions of incredible acts of courage in the world every day. People bravely working to save their children, facing horrors in battle, or sacrificing their own lives for the betterment of all.

But while I am aware of those cases, those aren’t what I mean by “firsthand.” There are other situations, maybe quieter ones, which, because we see them up close, knock us out with their awesome power.

I want to tell you about the bravest people I’ve ever seen.

 

First, there was just a happy couple, one of the happiest I’ve ever had the pleasure to know.   They met in college, fell in love, and got married. They were very nice, had some struggles, handled them well. Over time they had four children – each funny, brash, and very unique. And they had dogs – lots of really fun dogs. It looked like the perfect life. Because, well, basically it was!

Then about a year ago, the husband had a tiny stroke (which happens when the brain gets either too much or too little blood. It can be very damaging, but in this case, he seemed fine).

And then about a week later, he had a seizure. That’s when there’s too much nerve activity in the brain, and can make a person tremble or even go into convulsions. What was odd about this seizure, though, is that it didn’t, like most, go on for a few minutes. It lasted over a day.

Doctors did MRIs and X-rays, and found what they were scared of – that he had a small tumor in his brain. And while they could treat it, it looked like it might be cancer.

Now lots of people would just get depressed and give up hope when they heard that. But not this guy. He’d always worked in the medical field, and was quite happy to trust in the brilliance of doctors. So he was treated with all the best science had to offer. And it helped.

But not enough. The tumor came back.

Now while all this was going on, something else very big was happening: one of their daughters had gotten engaged to the man of her dreams. And while her dad seemed fine, everyone was worried about whether he’d be able to give her away at her wedding.

 

So jump forward a few months. The wedding is set, and he is ready to walk his little angel down the aisle. But the night before, he’s supposed to give a speech at their rehearsal dinner. He’s fine, doing great. Except that the tumor has damaged the part of his brain that thinks of words.

You know that way you’ll get when you’re telling someone about something and you just can’t think of a word that you know perfectly well, when you say it’s “on the tip of my tongue?” Well that’s what he was like, but way more than usual. And it wouldn’t be words that one would normally have to think about, but simple, everyday words that no one ever forgets – words like “chair” or “cloud” or their best friends’ names.

So how could he give a speech? Well, remember my saying what a great couple they are? He got up to speak, but with his wife standing next to him. And she knew him so well that she could tell, with no hesitation, when he was going to forget a word, and what the word would be. So together, they gave a beautiful presentation, something along the lines of…

“Thank you all for coming to this beautiful”

“Dinner”

“Where we get to celebrate the”

“Marriage”

“Of our daughter to her great”

“Fiancee.”

And so on.

 

And everyone there just stared, at the beauty of this amazing moment.

 

And when he walked his girl down the aisle the next night, so proud, beaming, no one’s eyes were dry.

But then something else happened that made those almost forgettable.

 

An hour or two later, when it was time for the dancing to begin, the bride took the microphone and told everyone gathered there, “I want to thank you all for being here for my marriage to the love of my life. But he wasn’t the first love of my life. The first one was the one who got me here, and who taught me to love all sorts of things, from basketball to dumb jokes to musicals. And I’d like my first dance to be with my first love.”

And she reached out her hand to her father. He stood up, took her in his arms, and the music began – not a romantic ballad or a song about fathers and daughters, but instead, a silly, naughty tune they both adored, about always looking on the bright side of life, even in the face of death.

And then, with these almost blasphemous words around them, they danced with wild free passion, as silly and effusive as I am when someone holds a lamb bone up in the air for me to jump. And, with joy in his heart and love in his eyes, that dad sang along with every word of that song.

No one who was there will ever forget that moment. No matter what happens to their brains; it will be embedded into their hearts forever.

This was about eight months ago. He has fought valiantly ever since, never losing his cheerful optimism and canine-level friendliness. The family have gone on trips, cheered their favorite basketball team like crazy, truly lived. And at times it really has felt like the miracles everyone was praying for had come to pass.

But then, a few weeks ago, the doctors sat him and his wife down, and gave the awful news: The medicines they’d been using weren’t working, and they were going to stop all treatment.

So once again, the question arose. What would a family do after hearing news like that? What can a family do then? Give up? Fall headlong into depression?

Not this bunch. They decided to… throw the best party ever.

They invited his friends from throughout his life, family members, coworkers – and had everyone bring pictures and funny stories about him to share. This was to be a celebration of all he’d experienced.

And it was glorious. Still in the same condition, of having everything working in his brain except easy word-grasping, he was as humorous, affectionate, and warmhearted as ever. And the love that poured onto him that night was like nothing I’d ever seen. So many stories, so many joking insults. So much him.

And as I watched him get into a car, two hours past his bedtime, and head home, I knew that this was what everyone in the world deserves. A night like this. Where they can be allowed to feel all the love they’ve earned. Which for him was a whole lot.

And now? When the party has been cleaned up and all the guests are gone… what now?

No one knows.

 

With his family surrounding him, he is now in the hands of… whatever you choose to call it. God, nature, the hands of fate, the Alpha-Dog of all Alpha-Dogs…

No one has ever had better energy inside them and around them. But he, and his family, are truly flying on trapezes without a net. And no one knows for how long.

I have seen miracles often, so I know he could have decades left in him. But we can only hope and pray for miracles; we can’t count on them. That’s what makes them miracles.

 

So what this man, this couple, this family, do, is they face every day. They embrace every second they have. They greet the world with excitement and love and gratitude.

 

And this is what I mean by courage. What I saw in this family when they first faced this rotten loathsome disease. What he and his wife showed when going through painful difficult treatments. What everyone at that wedding saw in that speech and that dance. And what you, my dear readers, must have felt when I told you about the celebration party.

 

You see, awful things can happen to any of us, any time. Courage isn’t about experiencing them, or even surviving them. It’s about how you face them when they come.

To pretend nothing’s wrong, or to blame others, or to withdraw from everyone – those are natural and understandable, but they’re not courageous.

While to stand up in the face of disease, damage, and doctors honest enough to say they can’t do anything, and deliver a laugh, a joke, a hug, a “thanks for being here…” That is truly the act of the brave.

 

I write these articles, and run this website, because I find that, with all the brilliance you humans all have, you often miss out on the simple pure understanding of life we dogs can bring. But in this particular case, I have to bow down. This family, this couple, this man… can even teach us pooches a thing or two.

 

Anyone can die. Everyone does eventually. But looking at people like this enlightens us all with something far more amazing:

How to LIVE.

 

Keep it up, Donny.

 

Love,

Shirelle

 

2 Still Loving Each Other Tomorrow … the power of long-term friendship

Still Loving Each Other Tomorrow … the power of long-term friendship

The scariest time of my life, paws down, was the week I spent in a city pound.  I was about three months old, and didn’t know much about the world, but I knew I hated it in there.  I was in a cage with four other puppies, and every day we saw some dogs walk out through one door into a happy new life with cheerful loving humans, but most dogs get walked out through another door, scared and sad, never to come back.

 

I was a feisty pup, and loved romping and wrestling with – and especially biting! – my cagemates.  But when Handsome picked me out to leave with him, I was so overjoyed to be freed, I never even looked back at them.

 

At least not until later.  In my dreams.

 

Ever since, I’ve always been haunted by the question – what ever happened to those friends I had?  Which ones got taken out, like me, into loving homes?  Did any escape?  And, worst of all, were there any who didn’t get to leave, except by that “other door” I mentioned earlier?

 

I’ll never know.  And I can’t imagine that, if I met one of them today, we’d recognize each other.  So the mystery will last as long as I do.

 

I bring this up because one thing you humans get to have, way more than us pooches, is long-term distant friendships.  We have people or dogs we meet at some time, and see again a year or two later (this happens a lot with our humans’ families, for example, whom we’ll encounter fairly regularly in visits), and we’ll remember their smells and who was playful and who wasn’t.  But you guys get to have long friendships that are truly profound.

 

For example, my friend Handsome recently went on a weekend trip with some guys who he met when they were all in first grade together!  They were great friends when they were six years old, and here they were, talking about their jobs, politics, sports, wives, children… (hmmm… I’m not sure if I heard there was ANY conversation about dogs.  That’s annoying!)… all a million miles away from the interests they’d had when they’d originally met.

 

And when Handsome told me about it – and this seems to happen often when he meets up with people he’s known for a long time – what he finds most fascinating about the meeting is always how many ways his friends have changed, and how many ways they’ve stayed the same.  The one who had the best comic book collection when they were nine, and is talking passionately today about what’s right and wrong with the different Batman movies.  The one who was obsessed with animal anatomy as a young child, and today will notice a new bird from across a park.  The one who directed a class play in fifth grade, and is worrying about the future of theater and cinema in the digital age.  And yet, the one who was the worst dresser now wears the most stylish clothes, the one who was the most politically conservative is now the most liberal… it just goes on and on.

 

The way I see it, knowing someone well, and then meeting up with them years, or decades, later, is like being in one of those funhouses with warped mirrors. Where you look at your reflection and see long legs, a tiny torso, a gigantic head, etc. Because some of the qualities those people had long ago have shrunk, and become almost invisible, while others have grown so large as to dominate their lives. Imagine if you’d known, say, Barack Obama as a child. Maybe he’d have had some silly, playful qualities. I’m sure he still does, but we don’t see them much. Maybe he also showed some slight tendency to be a leader, maybe wanting to be the captain of teams when he’d play sports? Well that quality has pretty much become his definition now.

 

When it comes to me, I imagine those puppies in that cage would say that Shirelle (though I hadn’t been named yet) was all about biting – and I really don’t do that much anymore. But that she also liked to try to run. Which became my obsession later. But I’ll bet they would never have seen bratty me as someone who’d spend her day trying to help anyone – what I do here all the time!

 

So try to imagine it for yourself. Look at the friends you have now, and think – what will they be like in ten years? Twenty? Forty?! And what will you be like?   Will you still be as romantic, or optimistic, or cynical as you are now? (That’ll probably depend on how things go for you over the years) Will you still love the same things you love today? (Most likely some but not all) Will you still care most about the same issues? Will you still have the same opinions? Will you still be as shy or as talkative, or as anxious or as confident, or as trusting or as cautious?

 

There’s no way of knowing.

 

And what’s difficult is you can’t even know for sure which friends you have today who’ll still be your friends then. Maybe things will happen in your life that put you on such opposing sides of an issue that they ruin a great friendship. Maybe someone who’s a casual acquaintance today will become far closer to you over time. Maybe someone you love like a sibling today will decide later that you’re not good enough and cut you out of their life. I’ve seen Handsome experience all of these. It’s often painful, and always surprising.

 

And this all adds up to me wishing for you to look at the friends you have today, especially the ones who’ve been your friends for some time, and let yourself feel some enormous gratitude for them. Don’t take them for granted! Real friendships, the ones that last, are miraculous. They’re just about the greatest treasure life can offer.

 

And then, if you want to make me really happy, get out there and do something about it! Text them a joke. Write them on Facebook and say, “You rock!” (Or “You stink!” – if that’s what your friendship’s like!)

 

Or, if that friend happens to be the very best kind of friend there is, you can always go up to them and give them a hug, scratch their ears, kiss them on the nose, and say “Good doggy!”

 

But whatever you do, just be sure you appreciate how amazing it is that they’re still in your life. And making it that much more magical.

———————–

 

Wow. Something bizarre has just happened. It’s sad but with such perfect timing, I can’t ignore it.

 

The piece you’ve just read is what I intended to write. But just now, right when I was about to post it, I found out that someone I never met, but who was important to me, passed away today. His name was Gerry Goffin, and he co-wrote a lot of great songs. Some of my favorites. Like “One Fine Day” and “Up on the Roof.” And the most famous song ever recorded by the group who I was named after. So I will close this piece, about how you never know what’s going to happen in relationships, with a quote from this wonderful song, by this man the world will mourn:

 

Tonight you’re mine, completely

You give your love so sweetly

Tonight the light of love is in your eyes

But will you love me tomorrow?

 

We will, Mr. Goffin. And every day after.

Shirelle

A Certain Kind of Imagination …the nature of prejudice…

A Certain Kind of Imagination …the nature of prejudice…

I heard an interesting story a few days ago. A young man owned a really cool old car, a 1955 Thunderbird if I remember right. And one day, the car was stolen. The owner called the police, and filed a report. But after a few weeks, the police told him they hadn’t been able to find it, and were closing the case. He had the car insured, and the insurance company, seeing the police report, issued him a check for the cost of the car.

Then, one night, he got a strange phone call. The voice said it was a police officer, who wanted to tell him that his car had been found. In fact, the police had had the car for over a week, in a lot for found cars. And that, if he didn’t claim the car by the next day, it would be put up for auction.

And why hadn’t he been notified? Well, the voice explained, one of the police officers who had recovered the car had decided that he really liked it, and wanted to buy it for himself. So he rubbed off part of the car’s registration number, and left it in that lot till he could bid on it at the auction!

So the owner, because of the honest cop who’d phoned him, was able to get his car back, the insurance company got their money back, the crooked cop didn’t get the car, and all worked out okay.

Now here’s the question I want to pose to you: Based on this story, are police honest and good? Yes or No.

 

Hmmm… you might think… well there’s certainly that one bad one, who was doing something so underhanded and wrong. But then, there’s that other one, who went way out of his way (even possibly endangering himself if the bad cop found out) to help out the car owner by calling him.

So are police honest and good? The answer is… Police Actually Exist.

And like everything else that actually exists, they are capable of good things and not so good things. And while, as a general rule, I recommend that you treat police officers with respect, and optimism that they’re there to help people out (because I’ve never met one who wasn’t), it is true that there can be some who aren’t as good as they should be.

The point I’m getting at is that there is no “type” that is all good or all bad. We dogs are the most loyal, loving animal there is – overall. But some dogs are frightened of people, and some are angry, and some have been trained to attack; so you can’t just assume that all dogs will be as friendly and loving as I!

(Or have as good grammar!)

In fact, I would argue that to believe that all dogs are friendly, or all dogs are mean, or all police are corrupt, or all police are honest… is simply stupid. Stupid Prejudice.

 

Prejudice means just what it looks like. It means making a Pre-Judgment about something. And we all do it, all the time. When you go to school, you prejudge that teachers will be people who are there to help you, but maybe a bit rule-based. So if a teacher walks up and kicks you in the ankle, or offers you a cigarette, you’re going to be surprised!

But that’s not what I mean by stupid prejudice. No, stupid prejudice is when you hold to a belief about people, even though there is perfectly good evidence against it. For example, if you think, as someone in the news here in the United States said recently, that African Americans were happier as slaves than they are in freedom. That was really dumb. Not only did he come off as an idiot, but it made a lot of politicians who were supporting him pull away, as he made them look bad!

Or when you say someone else is less than you, because of their race or their nationality or their religion. We even see this sometimes, horrifically, where one group will kill all the members of another group they can, from the idea that that other group should be eliminated from the Earth. This is the most horrific extreme of stupid prejudice, and why it has to be noted and dealt with, in all of us.

 

Us? Did I say “Us?!” I sure did.

 

We dogs can easily be bigoted. In fact, pretty much all of us are. I know a Shepherd Mix who was once hurt by a tall white man, and after that he never trusted a tall white man again. And once, I had the experience, after I’d always found that cats run from me, of chasing one, only to find it turning around and slashing me right in the nose!

But I have an even better story:

When I was a little puppy, Handsome introduced me to a dog owned by some friends of his. He’d always found this dog to be friendly and sweet… to him. But she didn’t like puppies, and as I ran up to play with her, she dived on me and started beating me up and biting me! Handsome pulled us apart, but not before I’d gotten really scared!

A year or two later, full-grown, I was walking down a sidewalk with Handsome when a Newfoundland and his owner showed up. Now if you don’t know Newfoundlands, they are HUGE dogs, with long black fur. And to my eyes, this giant dog looked just like that other dog (who was much smaller in reality) had looked to me when I was little. So instead of walking up to sniff and play with it, as I did with all other dogs, I rolled right over on my back, showed this giant my belly, and did everything to show surrender but wave a white flag!

Why? Because I had learned a stupid prejudice! That dog was perfectly friendly. He could have been really fun to play with. But no, I had developed a bigotry that made my life just that little bit worse.

 

It makes me think of a conversation between two characters in a great old movie called The Philadelphia Story. One person is explaining why they had thought badly of someone, and says, “Well, it didn’t take much imagination.” And the other responds, “Not much, perhaps, but just of a certain kind.”

A kind that is predisposed to make unfair and wrong pre-judgments about others.

 

So I’m not going to ask you to never suspect people, or have predispositions to others. That’s impossible.

But I will say, when you notice yourself having a moment of pre-judgment, that you’ll find your world a lot better if you just take a breath and ask yourself, “How sure am I about this?” And if you aren’t too sure… use that great human brain of yours and find out.

 

Because, maybe, that dog you’re scared of would actually be fun to play with. And maybe that cat you want to chase is actually tough and brave. And maybe that police officer you think you know everything about is completely different than you would guess.

 

Because, you see, my dear friends – prejudice, when it’s not a correct judgment of someone, is nothing more than just an especially stupid way of being Wrong!

Take it from one who’s been there, and knows!

8 How to Catch a Squirrel …the importance of optimism…

How to Catch a Squirrel …the importance of optimism…

As you know, I spend most of my time sleeping, sniffing around, cuddling up with Handsome, and hunting.  It’s a good life.

 

But sometimes I like to pay attention to new research.  For example, an interesting study just came out from University College London.  They had some people guess the likelihood that something good would happen to them.  Maybe they’d say “a one-out-of-five chance.”  Then they told them that the odds of that thing happening to someone was twice that.  And when they did, most of those people would change their minds, and figure that now their chances were better, say “a two-out-of-five chance.”  But when they told those people that the odds were worse, say “a one-out-of-ten chance,” they found that the people did not adjust their beliefs about that good thing happening to them.  They kept it at, say, one-out-of five.

 

This says a lot about you folks!

 

To put it in less confusing terms, what they found is that people are naturally optimistic.  You humans will take good news as proof that things are getting better, but take bad news as not so bad.  Some people will say this means people are stupid, or can’t learn.  But I disagree.  In fact, I think it’s necessary for you to be this way.  You see, it all comes down to Squirrel-Chasing…

 

We pups are programmed deep in our brain to chase animals.  And those of us who live with suburban humans usually don’t see a lot of antelope or monkeys to chase… but we see a lot of squirrels.  And where I reside, these sassy, chattery, rude little beasties like to run over my roof and make all sorts of noise.  And so, just like any other dog, I just live to chase them every chance I get.

 

Now that means I might chase five or ten squirrels a day.  So how often do you think I catch one?  Once a day?  Not on your life.  Once a week?  Nope.  Once a month?!  Uh uh.  Try maybe once a year.  Mathematically (and no, I couldn’t figure this out, but Handsome is good with numbers), that means my odds of catching a little seed-nabber are somewhere between eighteen hundred and three thousand six hundred… to one!!!

 

Now those are some pretty awful odds.  But does that keep me from chasing them?  No Way!

 

Because I know that every time I chase one of those little guys, there’s a chance I’ll get him.  And even though the chances aren’t very good, I know that the more I try, the faster I get, the more tricks I’ll learn (like guessing which tree the varmint will run to), and the better those chances get.

 

Meanwhile, this also gives me some added benefits:  my life stays fun, I don’t get so bored when Handsome’s not around, and I stay beautifully fit from the exercise!  While, if my brain concentrated on the probability of my failing to catch one of these little monsters, I’d sit around home lazy all day, depressed, lonely, and fat.

 

In fact, do you know what the definition of “depression” is?  It’s having the exact opposite of that natural optimism you guys and I tend to have.  It’s lacking hope, lacking the belief that things will go your way, and seeing no reason to do anything because things are just going to stay lousy, or even get worse.  It’s just as unrealistic as the optimism, but without the fun (and without the occasional triumph of a squirrel in your clutches!!!).

 

So here’s my theory about all this: Some people, and some dogs, have always been more or less optimistic.  But over time, the people (and the dogs) who weren’t optimistic enough to believe in possibilities better than the reality they faced didn’t survive!   They had to believe things were a lot better than they were, in order to make things a little better than they were, throughout history.  Really, it was the only way to make their lives any good at all.  So that optimism, to my mind, isn’t a weakness; it’s a strength!

 

However, meanwhile, there’s another side to all this.  Some people, using this same optimism, will say that nothing bad will ever happen to them.  They’ll drive drunk, or take dangerous drugs, or get into relationships with bad types, thinking they’re safe, when they’re really not.  So that that same optimism that makes some lives better can make their lives worse – or even end them!

 

So here’s my request for you, my dear friends.  Let your optimism make you try way harder.  Let that optimism get you to take daring risks.  Let it make you brave and romantic and impetuous.

 

But don’t let it make you stupid.  Don’t let it make you forget how valuable you are, to everyone who loves you today, and everyone who might meet you in the future.

 

You see, if I chase a squirrel in my yard, Handsome has no trouble with it (though I often sense he’s cheering the squirrel on to get away from me!).  But if I chase a squirrel across a street, it makes his heart stop.  He’s terrified.  He knows I could get hit by a car anytime, and it scares the daylights out of him.  And I know he’s right – but I also forget, because that squirrel (or cat, or whatever) is right there, running, in my sight.

 

So my request to you is the same as his to me:  Run like crazy and live your life to the fullest.  But don’t take risks that are too foolhardy.  Use your brains.

 

And live to be optimistic another day!

Leashes! …the odd nature of love…

Leashes! …the odd nature of love…

How often do I hear humans – humans who aren’t dog-lovers I should add – talk trash about how stupid we dogs are when we get wildly excited at the sight of a leash.  “You see?  Dogs are so dumb, they’re happy to see that thing that’s going to tie them up and hold them back.  They don’t have real self-respect at all.”

What a bunch of hooey!

Now sure, when we’re young, and first getting trained on leashes, we fight them like crazy.  We’ll pull on them till we nearly collapse from choking, we’ll bite and paw at them.  And, embarrassing as it is to admit, we’ll have tantrums as bad as any two-year-old human, where we roll around on our backs, screaming as though that leash were torturing and killing us.

Sure we do that.  It’s part of growing up.  We have to rebel, just like human kids, to test our limits – to see if there’s anything we can get away with.  (And just as with human kids, we usually find that there’s a lot we can!)

But once we’ve gotten through that, and especially once we’ve gotten trained well enough that being walked doesn’t mean we’re constantly being yelled at or jerked…  leashes become something we absolutely love!  Leashes mean walks around the neighborhood, so we can smell all the things we’ve been curious about since we were last there.  Or they mean trips to other places, for nature hikes or fun restaurants where we can sit under the table and catch food when you guys clumsily (or kindly on purpose) drop it onto the ground.  Or they could mean any other number of things – going to friends’ houses for play dates, going on a real vacation where we drive for days (or fly, though I’ve never done that).  Really, they mean two things – Getting Outside of Where We’re Locked In – and Being There With Someone!

Don’t get me wrong, I love hanging out with Handsome in our home.  And I love sniffing around by myself.  But how much more fun it is if he takes me on a trip – whether to the mountains or the beach, or just a hamburger stand.  We pups spend so much time alone at home (and that’s if we’re the lucky kind who live with nice owners, instead of at a shelter or in a lab), so it’s always a treat to get to be out with others.  Even a trip to the veterinarian (which makes me shudder) is more interesting than just hanging out next to the couch.

 

Now this much is absolutely true.  But I’m really writing this because of something else those stupid comments from people make me think about.  Which is: you aren’t all that different from us!  Humans have lots of leashes, and absolutely love them.  How many of you wake up in the morning and instantly check your email, or your mobile phone?  Sure, you could have a more relaxed, pleasant morning.  But you are tied to other people, and want to connect to them – and be at least mentally out from your comfortable home – at once.  What happens if you leave the house without that phone?  Do you feel “oh good, I’m free,” or do you feel disconnected, nervous, almost naked?  “What if someone called and I wasn’t there to answer?  What if someone needed me?  What if that person I’m really into texted to ask me out for tonight?!  AUUGGH!!”

And then there’s that other really obvious kind of leash.  The kind that humans put on each other’s finger.  The kind that says “I am pledged to this one other person, for the rest of my life.”  That’s a huge leash!  And one that we dogs, with our innate loyalty, relate to fully!

 

And this is precisely my point.  Why do we get excited about leashes?  Because we associate leashes with love.  Just the way you get excited when your phone buzzes to tell you a text has come in, or your heart skips when someone you really like walks up and asks you for a favor.  And just the way you all get all soppy and teary-eyed when you watch two people exchange rings and promise to be each others’ forever.

 

We’re not stupid, you see.  Leashes are just the visible version of the much stronger ties that bind our hearts to yours, every minute of our lives, and beyond.

2 It’s In The Kiss! …the individuality of love …

It’s In The Kiss! …the individuality of love …

You know that thing you do when something gets stuck in your mouth?  Like if you’re eating popcorn, and a bit goes in between your back teeth?  What do you usually do?  Well, before you go for a toothpick or dental floss, I’ll bet you do what most humans do, without even thinking.  You try to work it out of there, using the tip of your tongue.  Your tongue is full of muscles that make it work like a dentist’s tool, which is delightfully useful.

We dogs can’t do this at all!

Seriously, if something gets stuck in our teeth, we have absolutely no way to deal with it.  Our paws don’t have fingers that can work around the gums (or even hold floss!), and our tongues simply don’t work that way.  It’s so frustrating!

On the other hand, imagine if you were really thirsty, and had to drink out of a bowl of water, and didn’t have hands to pull it up to your mouth.  How would you do it?  You’d have to stick your face into the water, and kind of inhale it.  It’d be uncomfortable and difficult.  While for us, that’s super-easy.  We just lap it up with our long tongues, which work almost like spoons, bringing just as much water into our mouths as we want.  It’s perfect.

Funny, isn’t it, how our mouths work so differently?  But there’s another area where these differences come into play, that often means even more to us than our ability to drink.

Of course, I’m talking about KISSING!

Oh we love to kiss!  Humans and Pooches, it’s one of our favorite things in life!  We kiss our parents, we kiss our babies, we kiss to say hello, we kiss to say goodbye, we kiss to nurture, we kiss to tease and tickle… and of course, most importantly, we kiss to say “I love you” – the best statement any being ever gets to make.

(And yes, before someone out there tries to disagree with me, a kiss can also be an insult, as when one gives a “kiss off” to someone, and it can be a statement of threat in some cultures too.  But we dogs never kiss that way, so I’ll just stick to the nicer meanings here.)

 

You see, humans and dogs kiss completely differently!  For you folks, it’s all about the lips (at least at first).  You either pucker up and create suction, making a smacking sound, or you just gently rub your lips, on the object of your kissing.  While for us dogs, it’s all about the tongue.  We can offer tiny little licks, just barely sticking our tongue out to show a shy, submissive, affection, or we can give a wild, passionate slurp to show that we’re absolutely crazy about whoever it is we’re kissing.

Isn’t this funny?  That both of us kiss for the same reason, but we do it in completely different ways?  I know that there are human cultures that kiss in slightly different manners than others (such as some Eskimo tribes that use noses), but I’ve never heard of any humans who show affection to their friends or family with a big lick!  It’s just not done!  (“Hi Grandma, nice to see you, sluuurrrp!”  Right?!)

 

But when you think about it, it’s not just humans and dogs who show love in different ways.  Everybody does, really.  For example, you might be someone who wants to hug those you love as hard as you can.  But someone else might be more sensitive, and show love with a very light, soft touch.  You might like to cover the one you love with lots of big kisses, while someone else finds that overwhelming, and wants little pecks.  This can create a bit of a problem, where one person might not feel loved if someone isn’t showing them love in the way they like to receive it.  And then if they say so, that might make the person who’s showing them love feel rejected or hurt, as if their love isn’t good enough.

There’s a beautiful passage in The Call of the Wild, probably the greatest book ever written about a dog, where Buck the main character, and his human owner, are showing each other affection: the owner pets Buck, but Buck’s fur coat is so thick that Buck can’t feel the petting enough to have a pleasurable sensation from it.  And Buck shows his love to the man by chewing on his hand, to a degree that hurts a little.  So neither is actually making the other feel good at all, but both can tell that the other is showing them affection, so they’re made deeply happy by the acts anyway.

 

In some countries, a holiday called Valentine’s Day is being celebrated around now.  And I know, all sorts of miscommunication and mistakes are happening, in showings of affection.  One man is giving his beloved a huge bouquet of flowers, which she sees as beautiful but overwhelming, and she can’t tolerate how it makes her feel pressured.  He’d have done better with a little box of candy.  Somewhere else a boy is showing his affection by offering to take his girlfriend to the new movie of Robocop, and she’ll break up with him for having been so insensitive to her need for flowers.  A girl will slip a card to a guy she has a crush on, signing it “A Secret Admirer,” and he’ll think it’s from another girl and ask her out.  Other people will receive statements of love and desire from people they’re not interested in, even from people whose gender they’re not attracted to, and all sorts of sadness and hurt feelings will transpire.  And of course, then there are all those people who simply don’t receive any Valentine greetings or gifts at all, who feel completely unloved on this day (even though they may be very loved indeed).

How silly, and how sad, that love – the most wonderful thing in life – should create such confusion, such fear, and such sadness.  What can anyone do about it?

 

Well, there are lots of answers.  But here’s mine:  TAKE THE KISSES!

If a dog licks you, absorb it fully, and enjoy that that pup thinks you’re great.  If a person kisses you in a way you find nerdy or sloppy or uncoordinated, take it – the meaning behind it is as true as if it were artfully bequeathed by Casanova.  If someone gives you flowers, or candy, or a ticket to a movie you have no interest in seeing, accept the love.

And if you get a “Secret Admirer” note, be happy, and see if you can encourage that admirer to reveal themselves!

 

And if you’re one of the hundreds of millions who gets nothing, not a single statement of romance, from anyone this year, know that there are all sorts of other kinds of love out there, and appreciate the ones you do get.  Did your dad give you a hug before you went off to school?  Did a friend smile when they first saw you this morning because you always brighten up their day?  Did a dog or a cat walk up to you asking to be petted?

 

Love comes in all sorts of ways.  Oh sure, don’t get me wrong – it’s just glorious when it comes in exactly the way you want, from exactly who you want it from.  That’s the best!

But if you’re only accepting that kind of love, if you’re only appreciating that kind of love, you’re missing out on so much of the joy of life.

 

Every day, when Handsome comes home, I run to him and jump up on him.  He can’t do that to me – he weighs over three times what I do, and would just flatten me!  Then he puts his arms around me and massages my neck with his fingers.  I can’t do that to him – if I tried, I’d rip his skin with my claws!  Then I lick his face.  He doesn’t do that to me – if he did he’d get a mouthful of my shedding hair, and I wouldn’t feel it anyway.  Then he puckers up and kisses my forehead and my nose.  I can’t do that – because… well my lips just simply can’t!

This crazy unequal ritual is one of the favorite moments of the day for each of us.  We’re both getting to feel how much this other being – so different, in so many ways – loves and appreciates us.

If we can all do that a bit more, with everyone who we share feelings for, maybe life can get a whole lot sweeter.

And maybe the day will come when we’re so close, we’ll be able to help the other drink water, or pick a popcorn kernel out of their teeth.

 

All my love,

Shirelle

This Goofy Life …the search for sense in silliness

This Goofy Life …the search for sense in silliness

 

A few weeks ago, Handsome and I were hanging out with a friend of his.  The friend was telling a funny story about his life.

You see, when he was young, he was a good student, but didn’t really know what he wanted to do in his life, except that he liked riding horses, and wanted to try playing polo.  So when he applied to go to a university, he picked a school that had a polo team.  He went there, played polo, had fun, did well, got married and developed a great career (and never played polo again).  All terrific, right?

Then, over time, he developed a hobby, which became a gigantic passion for him – painting.  By the time Handsome met him, this guy would spend every free moment he had creating one picture after another, and getting really great at it.  And as he developed as a painter, he naturally found what sort of style he liked best, and what established painters he most wanted to be like.

And then he learned something shocking: The painter he most wanted to imitate, to learn from, had been teaching at his college when he was there.  He hadn’t even heard of the guy then!  Here, he had had the opportunity of his dreams right at hand, and hadn’t even known it.  And now that opportunity was long-gone.

 

Life is like that.  Have you ever found out that your now-favorite singer was performing in your town right before you got interested in them?  Or that someone you now have a huge crush on was walking around your school all alone, trying to make friends, just before you got attracted to them?  Or that your owner was pulling a roasted chicken out of the oven and dropped it onto the floor while you were out of the room, and was able to pick up all but a bit of the grease before you wandered in?!  (That one’s happened to me a few times!!)

And did finding these things out drive you up the WALL?!!

 

I find that there are two ways to look at incidents like this.  Both make sense.

The first is to really feel bad for yourself!  “Man, when am I gonna get a break?!”  “I would’ve appreciated that painting teacher way more than those other clods did, and I’d be a famous artist today!”  “That would have been my favorite concert ever!”  “I would’ve treated that gorgeous person so much better than anyone else at my school, the unappreciative jerks!”  “That chicken would’ve been SOOOOOO YUMMY!”

And it’s really hard to not feel that way.  Because it’s one thing to simply be unable to get what you want, but way more painful to find out that you almost had it, and just missed out by a tiny bit of bad timing!

 

But then there’s another way of seeing it:  As that it’s just proof that you are sooo close to getting your dream!

Handsome’s friend could take that crazy coincidence as proof that his next perfect painting mentor can be right nearby now.  You could think that tomorrow you might get to see your new favorite band, in a small intimate place where no one else knows about them.  You could learn from this that the chance of meeting that special person is a great possibility at every second of every day.  And I could learn that someone might accidentally might drop the best thing I’ve ever eaten… right NOW!

 

As I said before, both ‘lessons’ are correct.  But one version leaves you feeling really rotten about your life.  And the other gives you excitement, confidence, and a reason to greet each day with joy and curiosity.

So it’s your choice.  Life is goofy, there’s no question about it.  And it works in strange ways that have absolutely nothing to do with what we want or wish for or plan.  But how one lives with that fact is up to every individual.  Including you.

 

And also including a friendly pooch who no longer takes a chance on being outside the kitchen when a chicken is being roasted!

 

Cheers,
Shirelle

All About Happiness… how to get more of it!

All About Happiness… how to get more of it!

What is Happiness?
Sometimes we’re handed Happiness (like when I’m handed a piece of rigatoni!).
Sometimes we seek Happiness and find it (I’m walking outside looking for something interesting and a squirrel runs by and I get to chase it).
Sometimes we just feel Happiness for no reason (I’m sleeping on the doormat, and life feels good). And then there are times when nothing in the world can give us Happiness (maybe I’m feeling ill, and won’t even take that piece of rigatoni Handsome hands me).
We know Happiness when we feel it, but what is it? I say it’s a state of mind, a way of feeling. Sometimes it’s tied in with Excitement (like about that rigatoni or that squirrel), but not always. It’s just something inside us that says, “life is good right now, and I not only believe that, but I feel it.” Now we know that life is good when someone hands you that rigatoni (I’ve got to think of another example, or I’m gonna drool all over this computer!). But what is it that makes you feel that life is good when nothing special is going on, or that keeps you from feeling it when things are good? That is the question!
Some people say it’s all about Faith. If you believe in something or someone who oversees everything and intends the best for you, then you can survive bad times and still be happy. In Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s epic novel “The Brothers Karamazov,” he talks about how all the famous saints were ecstatic when they were being tortured and killed. (Okay, I know, I know… No, I’ve never read that book, and neither has any other dog. But Handsome listened to a reading of it in his car once, and I overheard that one bit.)  Others say it’s all about living in the moment, not paying too much attention to what’s happened in the past or what’s coming in
the future. And still others say there’s no such thing as achieving happiness. That you can achieve integrity or virtue, but happiness just comes and goes. While yet others say achieving integrity or
virtue is the only true happiness.
Now you’re probably looking at this with a “What in the world?!” look on your face. Why is this crazy dog talking about philosophy, when all you want to know is how to get more candy or not hate your homework so much?!
Well, I can’t guarantee you the extra candy, but I can say that, from a dog’s-eye-view, every argument I quoted above is True.
You see, I’m an absolute optimist. Any second, something good could happen, and I don’t want to miss it when it does. So even when I sleep, I’m listening to hear if anyone’s going to sneak through my yard and I can chase them. And even when I’m glum and bored, I’m listening to hear if Handsome is even thinking of going to the kitchen, where he might give me a treat or just
accidentally drop something! I never know what’s coming next, and I’m always hoping it’ll be something I like, so I’m always looking forward to it. That, for a dog, is Faith.
Meanwhile, our doggy brains are smaller than yours, and we can’t think about the past and future in the way you can. And that definitely helps us stay in the moment, and, yes, happy. So
what if, say, someone said something absolutely horrible to me a month ago? Are they here now? Are they saying it now? Is it affecting me now? No. But Handsome’s right there in front of
me, and could he decide to scratch my head right now? Yeah!! And yes, also because of our smaller brains, we dogs do have integrity! Whether it’s a powder-puff lapdog, a starving stray, or
the most vicious junkyard guard, we dogs are always honest – simply because we don’t know how to lie. And that takes so much stress away from us! It’s easy for us to be happy, since we aren’t
sitting around worrying about what to say to whom – we just say the truth! I guess you could argue that some dogs are more virtuous than others (that darn Lassie has always made it so hard
for the rest of us – trying to live up to her example is like all of you trying to be Mother Teresa!). And sure, I’ve stolen food off the table, and climbed on the couch when I shouldn’t. Still, my
integrity is pretty great.
But overall, I think the key to Happiness is in being able to find something that makes you happy. When I’m feeling really sick, everything makes me feel bad, and the only thing that keeps me from total misery is knowing that sickness always goes away eventually. But when I’m not sick, I’m always looking for something to enjoy. That’s why we dogs always curiously sniff around wherever we go… we want to see if there’s anything great out there.
You humans do it – you’ll channel-surf with a remote, looking for a TV show you like, or you’ll “window-shop” at a favorite store, browsing to see what you might want. So why can’t you do that everywhere, and all the time?!
Imagine it – you wake up in the morning and think “What’s out there that’s cool today?” You go to school or work or camp, and instead of thinking “Oh they’re going to make me do things I don’t want to do,” you ask yourself “What’s out there that excites me?!”
Here’s the hard part for a person – it’s not about making up your mind beforehand; if you go to school expecting to meet the love of your life, and you don’t, you’ll be disappointed. But if you
go with open excitement, you just might make a new friend, or read a poem you love… or meet the love of your life! And, incredibly, if you do that, you’ll be happier overall, even when nothing is making you happy, just because it might!
But here’s the funny part. Most people walk through their life expecting or fearing something lousy, and so when something that would make them happy walks by, they don’t even notice it. See? They’re not able to be made happy! You don’t have to be like that! You can be happier!
So try it, and see what you think. Try doing this for a whole day. Oh sure, you’ll come across 10,000 things that you don’t like. But what’s the one thing that you find that does make you happy? A flower? A good friend’s smile? A joke? A song?
Or… you know, I’m still thinking about that rigatoni!

My Friend Rob … the importance of asking for help

My Friend Rob … the importance of asking for help

Dear Pack Members –

 

This is the hardest letter I’ve ever had to write.

 

But I’m writing it out of love.  I’m writing it because my heart is breaking.  And I’m writing it because I want every one of you who reads this to understand your own value.

 

Everybody in the world gets illnesses.  It’s a normal thing.  Most, like colds and flus, go away after a while.  But some of us have what’s called a Chronic illness.  That’s a problem that one can’t get rid of.  Diabetes is a Chronic illness, for example.  So are Parkinson’s, and Herpes, and some forms of Cancer.

 

This is also true with the mind.  Some mental conditions one has for a while and then moves on from.  A very depressed mood, for example.  Or Grief – like I’m feeling now.

 

But there are also mental illnesses that are Chronic.  Some illnesses with big names like Schizophrenia, where people hear and believe things that aren’t really there.  While other people have a mood problem that will always be with them.  There are new amazing medications that can help them, and therapy and other activities help a lot – but there is no cure.

 

One of the types of incurable mood illness is called Bipolar Disorder.  In this condition, the person is usually Depressed, but then at times gets a crazy kind of excitement, called Mania.  It sounds fun, and it might even look it from the outside, but it’s not – it’s horrible.  Especially because the higher the Manic time is, the deeper the Depression that follows it.

 

Now as I said, there are medications that can really help with these sorts of problems.  But often the people who need them don’t like to take them.  (You know, just like how all of us – me included – hate taking our medicine?)  But these people will often avoid taking their medications because they start to believe they don’t need them.  At first, they might actually feel better without the medicine, because nothing is controlling their mood.  But then, when their mood shifts into Depression, and there’s no medicine helping them, they feel as low as low can get.  And nothing makes them feel better, and they feel like nothing ever will feel all right again.

 

I’m writing this essay because one of my best friends, one of the people who helped create the AskShirelle.com website, died this month.  And he died because he had Bipolar Disorder, and because he stopped taking his medications.  And because, when he got fully depressed, he took his own life.

 

Rob was a wonderful man, with a great sense of humor, a beautiful wife, dogs he loved, and an enormous pride in what he had achieved with our site.  He knew all about computer programming, and had everything to live for.  Today, though, he has left a gaping hole in the hearts of everyone who loved him.  He’s not there to hold or kiss his wife, or to scratch his dogs’ chins, or to tell a joke, or to enjoy the success of his work.  For his whole life, Rob was someone who you were happy to see when he walked into the room.  But that’s not going to happen anymore.

 

I’m writing this to all of you, because recently I’ve gotten a lot of letters from Pack Members who say they’re so miserable they’re thinking of ending their life.  They feel like they’re alone, like no one cares about them.  Well, that’s what Rob was telling himself too.  And it wasn’t true for him, and it’s not true for any of you either.  If a voice inside you is telling you that you don’t matter, or that you’d be better off not alive, or that others would be better off without you, that voice is a Liar!

 

Handsome and I have a plant that Rob and his wife gave us a few years ago.  It has flowers that only bloom for about a month every year.  And I love to lie on the doorstep by it and watch them struggle every spring to grow and open.  And when they do, they have gorgeous deep magenta petals that shoot out of the buds, and reach for air, reach for the sun, reach for moisture, reach out to attract bees to pass on pollen, reach out to hummingbirds to pass on seeds, or maybe they reach just to leave me awestruck at their beauty.  They know they don’t have as much time as they want, so they give it their all and live as bright and full and long as they can.  That plant – its leaves, its shoots, its buds, its petals – that is life!  That’s desire and love and passion and yearning.  That’s every song and singer, that’s every painting and artist, every kiss and bite, every laugh, every cry.

 

And that’s you.  That’s the volume level you have the right to live – Big and Full.  Because you matter.

 

I wish each of you could see how I brighten up when I get an email from you.  How your questions make me sad, make me thoughtful, or sometimes make me laugh.  I wish you could see the faces of the thousands of people who then read your questions when they’re posted.  Who agree or disagree with what I say, but either way, are feeling some of what you felt when you asked it.  Who are letting you matter to them.

 

Just think – all these people you’ve never met, and you’re affecting them.  Just imagine how much you must mean to the people you live with.

 

Rob’s decision will hurt a lot of us for a very long time.  But if I can convince just one of you to do one thing, his loss will not be in vain.  Please, for me, for Rob, and for everyone who’s ever cared about you – when you need it, ASK FOR HELP!  If you’re feeling depressed about something, feeling hopeless, feeling terrified – ASK FOR HELP!  And especially if there’s something actually wrong inside you, a chemical problem in your brain – ASK FOR HELP!  Ask a relative, ask a friend, ask a teacher, ask a religious leader, ask a police officer, or make a phone call to a Suicide Prevention number, or ask a Therapist (this is what their whole job is about).

 

Or if you can’t find words to say what you’re feeling, of course you can always ask a friendly dog.  We will look into your eyes and see your sadness, and feel it.  We will like it when you hold us tight.  We will play with you to take your sadness away.  We will run with you to get you away from it.  And you know, we will try to lick it right off your face!

 

Remember, there’s always someone.

 

You know, it’s an odd thing about that plant.  This spring, for the first time in years, its flowers didn’t bloom.  I think now I know why.  I only wish I’d realized in time.

 

Love to all of you,

Shirelle

1 Honk! …lessons from the back seat

Honk! …lessons from the back seat

 

I live in the United States, in the southern part of the California, near Los Angeles.  For those of you who don’t know about this area, it’s famous for sun, moviemaking, smog, celebrities, and lots of the best music ever.  But when you live here, what sticks out most is something else… TRAFFIC!

 

This is a lovely place to live, so people move here from all over the world.  And since we don’t have enough public transportation, most of those people drive.  A lot.  All the time.  And because of that, we have lots and lots and LOTS of traffic.

 

When I’m home, my powerful ears can hear honking, accelerating, braking, and, yes, accidents, but it’s all distant.  However, when Handsome takes me somewhere, particularly if he uses one of the big freeways, I get a look at the human race that… well… isn’t always pretty.  (And that includes watching my favorite human acting in ways that sometimes aren’t the best.)

 

And over the last few weeks, as the traffic has gotten even worse, with holiday shopping and extra tourism, I’ve realized that there’s a lot to learn about life from the back seat on these crazy streets and freeways.  So, for your pleasure, here goes:

 

 

1)   Tailgaters

Few things in life are more frightening than tailgaters.  These are the drivers who think it’s smart to pull right up next to the car in front of them, even if both are driving very fast.  Maybe they think this will inspire the car in front to move faster, or let them get by.  Or maybe they think it makes them look tough and intense.  Or maybe they’re just not paying attention.  Regardless, they’re simply putting their money and their cars’ front ends, and maybe some bones or lives, at risk.  The question, though, is how to deal with them when they’re right on your tail.

 

This is a lot like a lot of situations in life.  Everyone has a sense of comfortable space, the distance they like others to stand from them.  When someone invades that area, especially if they’re purposely harassing you, it causes a surge in fear and anger (If you want to find out what teeth feel like in your nose, try crowding too close to the face of a dog you don’t know!).

 

Many drivers get angry and yell at tailgaters, while glaring at them in their rear-view mirror.  This doesn’t do a whole lot of good, since the offending dope can’t see or hear them.  Some get aggressive, and hit their brakes, in order to frighten the idiots.  This can work (and can get pretty funny results), unless the tailgater is not paying attention (meaning your car gets crashed into), or has anger issues – in which case you might get forced off the road and beaten up.

 

My suggestion, both on the road and off, is simply to move aside and let these morons get past you.  If they have a legitimate reason to be driving or acting this way (let’s say they have someone in the car who needs to get to the hospital right away), you’re letting them do the job they need.  And if they’re just stupid drivers, you’re saving yourself from their idiocy.

 

And if, in regular life, you just step aside and let a crowding fool know that you want them to move on, you’ll find the air around you becomes a lot easier to breathe!

 

 

2)   Drinkers and Texters

While tailgaters deserve to be given a reasonable doubt, that they might have a good reason to drive that way, drinkers and texters don’t share this at all.  When a car is driving very erratically, swerving across lanes, not noticing when lights change, etc., Handsome gets very frightened, and I do too.  These people seem to forget a simple fact: Cars are giant powerful machines.  You can’t run one correctly when you’re not giving it your full attention – and doing that can hurt or even kill someone.

 

And people do this all the time.

 

Similarly, off the roads, we see people everywhere irresponsibly waving their power around.  Throwing out insults without thinking of their effects, grabbing at others with no concern about how that feels… even handling weapons casually.  This is inexcusable.

 

This is one case where Handsome sometimes handles himself well: he calls the police.

 

Yep, that’s the best thing to do.  If you see someone who’s clearly driving erratically, call the cops on your cell phone (using a safe method – like headphones or a speaker), and give them the license plate number and your location.  And let them take care of it.  To not do this is giving up your responsibility as a member of your community.  Just imagine: how would you feel to find out the next day that that drunk ran over a child or a dog?  Do your best to keep that from happening.  And actually, you’ll improve that driver’s life too, by waking them up to what they’re doing.

 

And, similarly, if you see a friend acting in a very irresponsible way, be the best friend you can, and have the guts to tell them so.  And if they can’t handle it, maybe tell a grownup, or, if necessary, a police officer.

 

Remember, this world is yours as much as it’s anyone else’s.  You have the right, and the responsibility, to make it safe.

 

 

3)   Speeding

I love running.  I loooooove it!  The faster the better.  And I love riding fast in Handsome’s car – and I know he loves driving it fast too!  And just as I don’t like having a leash on, no person likes having rules about how fast they can drive.

 

But those rules are there for reasons.  And when you catch yourself speeding (as Handsome often does), it’s really important to remember to slow down.  Even if the rules feel too severe.  And save that feeling for somewhere where it’s safe.

 

For example, while I have to wear the leash around our neighborhood, I know that Handsome will eventually take me to a dog park or a beach where he can let me run, and love it as much as I do.  And if he really wants to drive his car fast, there are racetracks that will allow him to go as fast as he likes.

 

But on the roads, he’s got to respect the “leash” of the speed limits.  Because, again, they are there for a reason.  And if he can’t see what the reason is – for example, let’s say there’s a road that looks like it should allow him to go twice as fast as the speed limit – then that probably means he can’t see the reason (maybe a dip up ahead, or a railroad crossing), which is exactly why he needs that limit right there.

 

Just as I need my leash, because I might not be aware of a car speeding down the street – who’s not obeying the speed limit!

 

4)   Help

Through my windows, I often see cars stuck on the road.  Maybe they’ve stalled out, maybe they had a flat tire or an accident.  I don’t know.  What I do know is that they might need help.  And most drivers don’t care to check to see.

 

Now sure, if the car’s just there because its owner is taking a nap after driving too long, there’s nothing to do about that.  But what if they’re stuck in snow, or changing a tire?  Could you get out and give them a hand?  Do you have the time or the chance to?  Or what if they’re just waiting for a repair truck, but are stuck in a dangerous place?  Could you phone the police to come and wait with them, so their flashing lights can warn other drivers to change lanes?

 

This is real life!  Around you, right now, most people are probably doing just fine, but there are others who could really use a hand.  If you have the chance, if you have the opportunity, why not help them out?

 

Why not hold the door open for someone carrying a package?  Why not give your seat on the train up for someone older, or who just looks tired?  Why not give that begging woman a little bit of change?  Why not even just give that sad-eyed kid at school a friendly smile?

 

Doing nice things for others is the best feeling we ever get.  I’ve given so many kisses in my life, but the ones where I lick someone’s tears are the tastiest of all.

 

5)   Intersections

Some people are just scared.  They’re scared all the time.  And their being scared can make them more dangerous to others – though I’m sure they don’t intend that to happen.

 

One kind of driver who makes Handsome scream is the one who enters an intersection to make a turn, but doesn’t pull forward enough to let another car in – apparently because they think it’s dangerous to do so.  Then they don’t turn until after the light has changed, so the car behind them has to wait for another light.  In fact, every car behind them has been slowed down, just because of this driver’s imagining that some other driver is going to run a light and plow into them – even though that’s usually impossible.

 

But the ones who drive him even angrier are the ones who slow down – or stop – at intersections with green lights.  They can see that all the oncoming traffic is stopped, but they still slow down or stop, thinking that one of those cars is going to suddenly accelerate, run a red light that they’re stopped at, and hit them.  This also slows down everyone behind them, and can even cause accidents.  It drives him NUTS!

 

And in regular life…  It’s simply no fun to live scared all the time.  If you do, you’ll not only miss out on chances for yourself, but keep others from living their own lives too, just because you exist in a state of fear.

 

I know I’m always saying this, my dear friends, but the solution is to LIVE!  And if you really LIVE, that’ll enable you to actually do more GOOD THINGS!  People with more friends are able to get their friends to help others.  People who make more money are able to give more money away.  And people who pull all the way into intersections, or move through quickly, are enabling the drivers behind them to get off the road – to meeting their friends, or getting to their job, or just putting less pollution in the air – all the sooner!

 

6)   Enjoying Misery

Crazy, clueless, irresponsible drivers are everywhere.  But unless you live in a city, you probably don’t know how bad traffic jams can get.  Now if you’re on your way to a World Cup match or a One Direction concert, you expect a lot of waiting, because so many people are trying to get to the same place at the same time.  And because of that, you’re probably going to be pretty okay about it.  But what about when you’re on your way to school, or to see the new Thor movie, and you’re stuck in traffic for an hour because… well, likely because some dumbhead was speeding and tailgating while texting and didn’t notice the stalled car in front of them, and caused a big accident that’s held everything up?  What do you do then?

 

I can tell you what too many people do – they freak out!  They honk and yell and try to wind around the other cars by illegally driving on the shoulder and…

 

And they don’t get anywhere any faster at all.

 

I know this feeling very well.  I’ve always disliked being cooped up, and when I was a puppy, Handsome would put me into a crate at nights, and I hated it!  Hardly anything in life is as frustrating as being kept from moving when you feel like moving (and a puppy wants to move all the time!).

 

But you know what I did?  I would whine, paw at the door, yowl a bit… and then take a deep breath, and go to sleep.  I knew there was nothing to be done about this little prison.  So I might as well get something pleasant out of it.

 

And when a person’s stuck in traffic?  Well, they can check out different radio stations.  They can phone a friend.  Maybe even read a book.  There’s lots they can do – and any of them are better than honking or acting stupid.

 

Same thing in the rest of life.  I’m all for struggling against ridiculous situations, but once you realize there’s no way around it… accept it, for as long as you have to, and make the best of it.  Eventually, the traffic always moves, and eventually, you reach your destination.  One way or another.

 

7)   Vocabulary!

Okay, there’s one further thing I’ve learned from Handsome, through our adventures in traffic.  And this is lots of fun, but I can’t go into much detail about it here. And that is… Vocabulary!

 

Why, if it weren’t for traffic, I wouldn’t have known a lot of the words I used here today – like moron, idiot, nincompoop…  and I definitely wouldn’t have known many many MANY other words that I am not comfortable using here!  Words like #[email protected]%!  And @*#+!  And of course %@^#&*(!!!!

 

Each of these words has a specific meaning and is a Synonym (do you know that word?  It’s a word that means a word that means the same as another word!  Try saying that three times – even with a human mouth!).

 

One of those words is a synonym for tailgater.  One is a synonym for driving-texter.  And one is a symptom for person-who-won’t-pull-forward-in-an-intersection.

 

All of them are extremely entertaining to hear, from the back seat.  And I know that all of them are reasons why I’m glad the windows to our car are usually closed, as they might prove quite offensive to other people’s ears.

 

But for me, they’re just the same as the barks I yell out at cats, at squirrels, at passing dogs, at skateboarders… except that they’re even funnier.

 

 

Education experts tell us that the secret to a fulfilling life is to never stop learning, to keep ingesting new facts and ideas forever.  Well, this has been a list of things I’ve learned while being strapped into the back seat of a car – the most boring, cramped place I know….  and I still learned them all.

 

May 2014 bring you hundreds of thousands of new wonders and concepts and inspirations… so that your lives may be open, free, and joyously safe roads – with no limits at all.

And no tailgaters!!!

 

Cheers!

Shirelle