Category Archives for "Growing Up"

How to stay positive in a negative-minded world

Katarina asks:

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

Hi Katarina –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

            That’s your choice.

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

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

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

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

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

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

            It sure works for me!

            Wishing you the very best,


How to deal with parents not accepting your bisexuality

Vedanova asks: I’m bisexual. Yesterday I came out to father. I went to his office and I could feel my heart beating very fast. I was very nervous. He was watching a movie on TV so I waited some time and then we went to get some food. When we came back, I still wasn’t very confident, but I told him I had something that I had wanted to tell him for a long time. And then I told him I was attracted to boys. And the first words that came out of his mouth were, “We have to change that.” I didn’t speak the actual word bisexual because I didn’t want him to know that I know about sexuality. And then I started crying. He started explaining me that this is all because of hormones and that I must have excess of estrogen in my system. And as every homophobic parent ever told their child, “It’s just a phase” was told to me . He wanted to explain me that after a couple years there will be no estrogen left in my system, and I will be attracted to only girls. Now he’s the doctor and not me so I don’t know if that is true or not. And then he also wants me to be a real boy and do “masculine” things and stop doing “girly” things. Whenever I tell him I think some stereotype is wrong he always has the two same reasons – nature told humans to do this (I have never been able to understand this reason) and what people will say. Before coming out, I thought that I would be hugely relieved after coming out but now I instead wish I hadn’t come out. He also told me to never tell anybody but him that I am attracted to boys. He told me that gay boys don’t go through puberty like normal boys do. They don’t ever get facial hair and their voice never deepens which I know is not true. He also told me to not look up anything on the internet about this stuff. He said that he was also attracted to boys in middle school and high school and then wasn’t, which I think he said to make me believe that it’s just a phase thing. I don’t really think that he is homophobic because he did not say anything against gay people. And because I acted like I know nothing about sexuality he also tried to explain me what are the causes of same-sex attraction and he said that it can be CURED by giving anti-estrogen medicines to males and anti-testosterone medicines to females to a certain extent. How can someone be a doctor and say that?! There’s no way a pediatrician does not know about this stuff. One more thing I want to say to you is that I would love to have this letter published on the website if you can (I wouldn’t mind if you wouldn’t) because I feel like this is an issue that every LGBTQ+ person faces and I don’t care if my sister sees it because now I’m getting tired of hiding my true self from the world.

Hi Vedanova –

Every person is guaranteed a few things in life.   And one of them is to disappoint their parents or caregivers, maybe a little bit and maybe a lot.  

You are absolutely correct that your father knows that much of what he said to you isn’t true (I mean, we’ve all seen LOTS of gay men with beards!  Come ON!).  But it’s clear that he doesn’t want to believe you’re gay or bisexual, and that pain in him is real and shouldn’t be discounted by any of us.  Even if we strongly believe it’s misguided.

So I want to throw a crazy notion at you.  Maybe, on one count, he’s right.  Maybe your attraction to men will go away when you’re older.  I don’t know, and you don’t, and he doesn’t (and maybe he wasn’t lying completely about this “phase” of his life!).  Maybe you also won’t like your current favorite food, or your current favorite song.  I simply have no idea.

But here’s the deal about it – it doesn’t matter.

You like that food today, you like that song today, and you’re attracted to both men and women today.  What you’ll feel in ten years is pretty irrelevant.  For all we know, by that time you may have fallen madly in love and gotten married to someone you plan to be faithful to for the rest of your life.  Will it really matter whether you’re attracted to men or women or some body types or races or whatever then?  If you’re faithful, you’re faithful, and that’s all there will be to it.

I do have to say I’m a bit concerned about his idea of giving you medications to deal with this.  I don’t know enough to speak on the issue, but getting a drug to reduce any hormone in your system sounds questionable to me.  What side-effects would that have?  I don’t know.  But it sounds scary.  

As I so often say to teenagers about their sexuality, what matters to me is that you keep safe.  So if you’re finding yourself attracted to both men and women, but not getting sexually active with them, you’re of course totally fine.  Where I see a concern is if you start dating a boy and getting involved – then I imagine your father doing more than he is now.

Vedanova I don’t know your age, or how long you’re planning on staying at home.  If you’re nearing the time you’d move away, you might consider just holding off on pursuing any romantic relationships with boys till then.  And maybe, to avoid confusion and conflict, girls too.

But if we’re talking about years and years, that becomes a tougher issue.

But for now, again, I really want to emphasize that I’m impressed with you and proud of you for standing up for yourself.  While you’re not happy with the immediate results, I think you’ll be happy forever that you admitted who you are.

And that won’t be a phase!



Is it possible to trust someone completely?


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

All my best,


Should you worry if your different-sex partner kisses someone of their sex?

Outcast asks:
Lately my girlfriend told me she kissed her female friend. Her reason was that her friend was nice and she was curious to see how it felt kissing another girl.  It’s been two weeks since she told me . But I think I lost that trust towards her, though most friends tell me it’s not a bad thing. I’m confused on how I should feel or act about this.

Hi Outcast –

Okay, let’s get this out of the way for starters: I love to kiss EVERYBODY!  Men, women, boys, girls, all sorts of dogs, the sides of trees, hey I’ve even kissed a couple of cats in my day!  So how you humans avoid kissing all of each other is just beyond me.

But I know that the sort of kissing you’re talking about isn’t the same as me running up and taking a big slurp on the side of someone’s face.  Or if your girlfriend had kissed her grandmother.  This was more of a romantic kiss, a sexual kiss.  And she wanted to find out how it felt to do that with a girl, since she’d only tried it with boys before.

And you say you’re confused as to how you should feel or act.  And I’m going to emphasize one word of that: you’re confused as to how you SHOULD feel or act.

And my answer to that is… no.

That there is no such thing as “Should” in this case.

Now there are some people who will tell you “What she did is wrong, and so you should break up with her.”  But I’m not one of those.  What they did was inquisitive and harmless, to my mind.

But maybe you feel horrified and disgusted and mistrusting, “If she would kiss that girl, then what else might she do, the next time she gets curious?  Flirt with my dad?  Make out with my best friend?  Take her shirt off in church?!”  And if that’s the case, then you clearly need to talk with her, and find out where her boundaries lie.  What is “interesting” to her, and what’s “off limits.”

Or maybe you feel excited, “I hope she does it again so I can watch!  Or maybe she and her friend would both make out with me at the same time!”

Or maybe you don’t really care all that much.

Now you say you’re feeling a loss of trust.  But I think it’s really important to answer two big questions then.  First, what is it you’re not trusting – that she kissed anyone, that she was willing to try kissing someone of the same sex, that she was even curious about it?

And secondly, how did she feel about it?  Has she told you?  Did she love it?  Did she want to do more of it?  Or did she feel “It’s just the same as kissing a boy?”  Or maybe even “It was nothing, I didn’t feel anything at all?”

The fact is, Outcast, we live in a very particular time.  Because humans are getting more accepting of different sorts of sexualities that have been shunned for centuries, that also means people – especially young people – are trying more things out.  “Am I bisexual?”  “Am I actually a different gender, or gender-fluid?”  And these questions aren’t a bad thing at all.  Especially if they help people get happier, and help people accept others more than they have before.

Don’t get me wrong – if one’s religion or moral beliefs dictate that they shouldn’t even try such things, I’m not going to say they’re wrong.  But just as I don’t want to see one person hate another because that person eats foods they don’t believe are morally or religiously right, I also don’t want to see hatred of another for who they’re attracted to, or who they innately feel they are.

So what all this leads to is… talk with her.  Find out how she feels, and what she wants.  And then have an even bigger talk with yourself.  And see what you really, deep down, feel about what she says.

But I can say that I’m a lot more likely to judge someone for kicking a dog than for kissing anyone.

All my very best,


Is it better or worse for families to pick their children’s spouses?

Hi Shirelle,

                 As for the girl I am seeing, it didn’t work out between our families so I am not seeing her now. Sometimes things just feel like the “Super Mario” game. Where you play the whole level just to know at the end that “your queen is in another castle” .  But some things are not in my control to make things work.

                 I just don’t understand, in an arranged marriage, who should be given weightage: the girl or her family.  In this case, her family was too concerned with a lot of things and this behavior my parents didn’t like. So they decided not to continue the process with this family.

                 I don’t know if whatever happened was good or bad.



Hi Kiran1209 –

I’m not one to argue for or against the system of arranged marriage.  But the best argument I’ve ever heard for it is that most people become, as they age, more like their parents.  So parents actually have a better sense of whether their kid and someone are right for each other than the two young people do.  

If that’s the case, you may well find, twenty years or so from now, that you’re very glad to be with a woman who shares your values, and that you’re not in that other family (even though you might still like them).  But if you’re an exception to the argument, maybe you’ll always have some resentment that you got paired up with someone more like your parents, and less like this girl you were so fond of.

I have no idea which will happen.  Though I do believe, from everything you say, that your parents’ intention is completely good.  As are her parents’ intentions.

All I can do is wish for you the incredible luck that I had – that my “arranged marriage” that happened when Handsome bought me at the pound, has been the joy of my life, and that I wouldn’t want to be with anyone else.  May you find a woman you treasure and feel gratitude for every moment, for the rest of this life and beyond.

That’s not too much to ask, is it?!



What to do when your family is pushing you to a profession you don’t want

Tuktuk asks:

I’ve been happy these days and mostly avoiding any negative thoughts, but then suddenly I had a thought that I am not going into the right profession. I am a medical student. I feel like I am not in the right profession because my parents and my family expect a lot out of me. They say there’s no pressure but indirectly I can feel the tension. My mother has said since I was young that she doesn’t compare me with other kids, but indirectly she used to, and I used to feel pressured all the time. I had to be on my best behavior because she was a teacher in my school, and now when I am in college they constantly remind me that I have to be a successful doctor. I get overwhelmed by everyone’s expectations these days and due to this thinking I haven’t been doing anything. My career choice was the only thing I never doubted, and felt that it was my own decision, but now I feel that even that was forced on me indirectly. I feel I have no uniqueness in me. I don’t feel useless but rather tired of everything that’s going on around me and just want to run away. I feel like when I’ll die no one will know me because I couldn’t leave a mark, and was rather like a piece of dirt which goes away when the surface is cleaned.

Hi Tuktuk –

            I have so much to say to this, but let me start with your last sentence.  I believe that you feel this, but I promise you the opposite is the truth.  Even if you stay on exactly the path you’re on right now, you are clearly the focus of your parents’ dreams, and would become someone who would care for, and maybe even save the lives of, hundreds or thousands of people.  I remember when I broke my toe by jumping on the fence to bark at our neighbors.  I was maybe a year old?  But I can tell you everything about that pet emergency hospital, each person who worked on me, and what the needles felt like going in, how kindly they wrapped up my foot (and how frantic Handsome was while waiting for me).  And that was a broken toe – I was maybe there an hour.  You might become a lot more involved in some people’s lives than those professionals were in mine!

            But that’s all about if you stay on the same path.  A path you’re beginning to doubt.

            Don’t get me wrong – I love doctors and believe there’s no more noble profession.  But I also absolutely LOVE that you’re going through this – wherever it leads.

            Here’s what’s going on, my friend.  Your brain is developing in a way it couldn’t when you were even just a year or two younger.  You’re starting to question everything in your life – and that’s the BEST THING YOU CAN DO!  You’re realizing that decisions you believed were your own were actually your parents’. 

            This doesn’t make them villains, at all.  What’s important here is that you’re doing something really important that we dogs can’t do, and about half of people can’t do.  It’s called Metacognition, and means the ability to think about your own thinking.  You are going through a profound reassessment of your whole life so far, that’s going to determine a great deal of your future. 

            I imagine you’ve heard the term “Midlife Crisis.”  This is something that happens to lots of humans around age 40 or so, when they suddenly question everything in their lives, such as their marriages and careers.  How fortunate that you’re doing that NOW! 

            And here’s what’s so important about this – whatever decision you make about your career WILL be yours now.  If you decide to become a professor of Philosophy (which would suit your deep-thinking brain), or a struggling pop singer, or, yes, a doctor – any of those choices will be yours, and you’ll know it!

            But now here’s the bad news.  I can’t help you with your decision.  Not because I don’t have opinions, but because it has to be your decision!  And maybe that’s something you can’t decide right now.  Maybe you need to take some time off of school (if so, this might be a great time to do it, while many of your classes are likely online); maybe you need to travel the world (if so, this is a lousy time to do it, with the border closings and all the fear); or maybe you can stick with your classes for another term while you try to figure things out.

            Have you ever heard of the movie director George Miller?  He was you!  He was the son of proud, hard-working Greek immigrants in Australia, who’d always dreamt that their bright son would become a doctor.  And so he did.  He studied hard, and got his degree, and in his first residency, he worked in an emergency room.  And every night, he’d see people come in with horrible injuries from auto accidents.  And bit by bit, he talked about what these brought to his mind with a friend of his who wanted to produce movies.  And eventually he quit his medical job and they made a violent low-budget film with a bunch of car action.  It was called Mad Max.  Three sequels, many other films and minseries, and Oscar nominations and wins later, he’s pretty happy with his decision.

            Another similar story is of a great cartoonist.  I don’t know if they print Pearls Before Swine where you are, but it’s Handsome’s favorite comic strip these days.  Its creator, Stephan Pastis (hmm… also of Greek heritage) did what he was supposed to do and became a lawyer.  And hated it.  And would sit around bored, doodling little funny images to keep himself amused.  And eventually… well you get the idea.

            And then there’s the other story.  Not of one person but of millions.  Who went into the profession that was chosen for them, experienced just the doubt you’re having, but then found a way to do those jobs that inspired them, gave their lives meaning, and connected directly to their hearts.

            What’s important to me is that you’re asking this question.  Whatever answer you find, your life will be beautifully improved by your having gone through this.

            And, while I’ve got nothing against dirt – I love to roll around in it and track it into our house – whatever you become will, I promise, not be seen as just a speck of it.  You will be amazing.



What to do when you realize you can’t save your parents’ marriage

Wooff asks: So, I’ve come to terms with the fact that I will be moving out next year. I can avoid looking at the problem straight in the face, but the problem will still continue to exist – especially when it’s not my problem to solve.
I started writing to you when it became clear that my parents did not want to be with each other and I didn’t know what to do. Sadly, well I see it to be sad, they are still together and that was back in 2012. Two individuals who lack harmony within themselves and with each other. For a long time, I thought that suicide was the way out of my situation, then I thought it was love from other people, but as I’m growing older I’ve come to understand that the way out is me. Only I can remove myself from this toxic situation. Well, when my parents were considering getting a divorce, my mom didn’t have much support from her family and my older sister. I was the only one then who wanted them to get a divorce or at least that’s what I know. But like I said, they didn’t. My dad is short-tempered, biased, and not easy to talk to. Whereas my mom is immature at times, seeks validation and has a victim mentality. This is not to say that they don’t have good qualities but I’m not writing this letter to let you know that they are good people – which they are, but in different ways. What I’m trying to say is, they are not a good match. Now for the longest time I thought that I could fix this. But coming back to the beginning of this letter, I’ve realized that it’s not my problem to fix. I see the problem, yet I avoid it, but it continues existing. I thought my suicide would finally shake them enough to be mature and make changes (whatever they may be). Morbidly enough, I do get in that mindset sometimes although it’s very rare now, as I do want to live a good fulfilling life. I don’t want my life to be a sad one. Second came love from other people. As time old tales keep telling you, love cannot fix you or your problems. The problem still exists even if someone loves you or if you love someone else. Finally, I’ve come to terms with the fact that it’s me. It’s me that needs to get myself out of this situation. The thing that stops me the most is my mom. She’s always been trying to ensure I don’t leave her. I think it’s because she doesn’t want to be left alone with my dad, who she shares no connection with and feels like a slave to as he is the breadwinner. Although I do feel guilty about wanting to leave this situation and move away (to another country which I love, not because of wanting distance), I don’t see any other option. By staying back, I end up giving up on my dreams, staying stuck in this continuous time loop, and may resort back to my old ways. I do think the way out is by actually physically leaving. But I don’t want my mom’s heart and soul to break as I do. I’ve come to the understanding that her life and situation is not and was never my responsibility; it was hers. I try to make her understand that she is the only one who can improve her life and situation, but my mom cannot see out of her ways. So, I can’t but help feeling guilty. I know you’ve been able to find a flaw in my way of thinking before, and I want to know what you think it is. Where my thought pattern is wrong and where it is right. If I’m right or where I am wrong.

Hi Wooff!

Oh I see you as so flawless, you would never believe!  

Though I do have a very small disagreement with something you say – or maybe an addition to it.

Marriage is a very funny, very profound, thing.  Couples who seem perfect find they can’t stand living together, and other couples who seem just awful for each other actually depend on each other in many ways.  Someday I recommend you read or see the play (or the movie) Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.  You can’t imagine a more horrible, destructive couple – yet they’ve stayed together.  

My point is this – to you, divorce might be the best answer for your parents.  But this is their choice.  Either one could leave the other if they chose, and neither has.  For whatever reason, every day, they choose to stay together.

Is that because one of them is weak?  Maybe, but you’re saying both are unhappy.  So maybe it’s because, for all the problems you see, there’s something each of them values and depends on in the other.  

I’m not here to say they’re right or wrong, but it is their choice.

And that mindset of mine is exactly why I don’t just agree with you, I urge you to follow through on your dreams.  Your mother has made her choices in her life; they’re not yours.  You don’t just have the right to move on; you need to.  Whether that’s moving to another country or just to another home, or even staying there but working on your personal growth, you owe this to yourself.  And, ironically, to them.

Haven’t they spent your entire lifetime providing for you, educating you, supporting you?  For all the lousy things you see in their marriage, IT CREATED YOU, and for that alone it is WONDERFUL.  

If you do move away, they might bicker more, or they might start treating each other better because they can’t focus on you.  They might fall in love again, or they might divorce.  I don’t know, and neither do you.

But you have YOUR life to lead, my friend.  Your adventures to take, your loves (right and wrong) to fall into, your mistakes to make.  

Love your parents.  They’re clearly good people and deserve that.  But don’t live for them.  Ironically, living for them would be the one way you could make all their work in raising you meaningless.  Instead, honor them by living a life greater than they can.

(And ironically, that would “kill” your old self much more than a suicide would have, and not destroy their lives as your death most certainly would).

All my very best,


Should you stay in a relationship with someone who says it can’t last long-term?

Suzyz asks:

I have been with my boyfriend for over a year and I love him very much.  We belong to different religions. He sometimes says he will be with be and sometimes says that there will be a lot of problems we could not face and stay strong. He says he would have to separate from his family which he can’t do. He says let’s just be together till time permits and then we will go our separate ways. When I try to reason, he says that this is life and you have to move on. I know I am going to lose him but why is this happening to me?  If he can’t stay with me in the future because of his parents, then why not leave me today? I just don’t have the courage to stop talking to him or end this relationship. We are in the same college and class which only makes the situation worse.  Plz help, I am tired of crying. 

Hi Suzyz –

I’m so sorry! I hate it when my friends cry!

Have you ever heard of John Gray?  He wrote a famous book called Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, and a number of sequels to it.  At one point, he wrote about the question of whether couples should share interests, or have an “opposites attract” dynamic.  

His answer was that it doesn’t matter.  That it can be delightful when both of you like horror movies or football, and it can be fun when you disagree about lots of things. But, he argued, what matters is that the partners share Values. Core moral values.  Especially if they’re thinking of having and raising children.

So she loves reading sappy romantic novels while he plays violent first-person-shooter video games?  That can be okay, if they agree about those big issues – like whether it’s ever okay to break the law, or about religion in their lives.  

That last one is a big one.  Because you can disagree about politics and just avoid discussing it, but religion is about values, and about eternity.

So you can probably see where I’m going with this.  You say you’re in college.  Well that’s a good age for casual dating – so if you want to have someone to go to dancing with, then all I care about is that he treats you respectfully. But if you’re thinking about a serious partnership – then my simple answer is No.  You have different religions, and he’s treating you like I treat a chew toy – enjoying it but tearing it to bits and leaving it strewn around the yard.

You. Can. Do. Better!

And so can he.  Better for him to find a woman who fits his religion (who’ll probably then turn his life upside down by being ten times as demanding as you’d ever have been!), while you find a good guy who respects you, works to understand you, and maybe even shares your religious beliefs.

Some questions are hard.  This one’s easy.  For me anyway.

For you, now comes the hard part.  Especially as you’re in classes together.  And it will hurt like blazes, I know – especially as you love him so much.  But once you’ve freed each other, your lives will be so much better! 

Best of luck with it,


What to do when you unintentionally offend someone

AayuTheLegend asks: I get sooooo annoyed by the girls in my class. They take a double meaning to everything I say. And get angry. Like once I said “Do u wanna grab a cup of coffee?” I got a reply saying, “You don’t respect me, you objectify me!” I wasn’t even looking at her that way. I just wanted to be a friend. I mean how should I calm myself down?

Hi AayuTheLegend –

Now of course there’s a lot I don’t know about the situation.  Maybe you’d done something that bothered this girl before, or maybe she’d had something awful happen to her that morning.

But I’m going to assume neither is true.  I’m going to assume both of you were fully innocent in this situation.  So if that’s the case, how did it happen?

My friend, you need to look at the world of a school from outside (the way I do).  Especially a high school or university.  As female beauty is too often judged these days, that’s the age when girls/women are their most attractive.  And hormonally, that’s when boys/men are their most focused on sex.  So young ladies are constantly aware, maybe more than any other time in their lives, of how they’re being looked at, judged, craved, rejected, all that.  And that’s assuming everyone’s being completely polite.

But I find that often that’s not the case.  Boys at this age (I won’t say “men”) can also be mean and crude, and feel a stupid sense of strength by showing off their objectification of womenfolk.  My human friend Handsome tells me that there was a house at the university he went to, where boys would sit out on a balcony and hold up numbers as the ladies walked by, rating them from one to ten. 

And this would be rough enough, but then you need to add in how females get these messages all day anyway!  From constant media saying you need to be as thin as Taylor Swift, as curvy as Kim Kardashian, and as tall as a supermodel.  And while this is happening to boys more now too (What?  You don’t have an eightpack like Zac Ephron?), for girls it’s far worse.  I’ll bet you’d be okay with showing up at school looking sloppy some morning after you’d overslept.  Imagine if you were then judged for that for the rest of the year; THAT’S what the girls go through!  (And judged as harshly, or worse, by other girls than by the boys!).

So all this is to say, my guess is that’s where that girl was when you made your friendly offer to her.  She was so sick of it all – so miserably DONE with being judged on all these stupid grounds, valued only for her beauty instead of the qualities she cares about, and here a nice boy walked up to her and asked her (and not a group of people) to have coffee. 

And here’s the irony – while she was sick of being pre-judged, she was pre-judging YOU!  You may have wanted to discuss the Chemistry homework, or to ask about a political opinion she’d shared in class.  But because you were a member of the group that had treated her only as a member of a group, she snapped at you!

My friend, you started your letter by saying how annoyed you are by the girls in your class, who take a double-meaning to everything.  My suggestion is that you start getting annoyed with the people in the world, who take at least a double-meaning to everything instead!  And so, when a young woman reacts in this way to you, you’re able to say, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to come off as that kind of guy.  I really just wanted to talk with you about something you said in class.  But I sure understand how you’d be sick of being objectified.  Me too.  People can have such stupid values.”  Then when she stares at you, open-mouthed, because she can’t believe you’re saying something so aware, throw in “I can see this is a bad time.  But maybe some other time I’d love to talk.  Maybe about objectification.”  Smile, turn, and walk away. 

AayuTheLegend, you would become a legend in her mind at that moment!  The nonsensical system that she’s feeling so oppressed by?  You’d have blown a hole in it forever!

Oh and by the way, outside of the occasional bath and (I HATE THESE) toenail clipping, nothing is ever done for my looks.  I don’t diet, no makeup, nothing.  And every day I hear comments on how beautiful I am.  In at least this area, we dogs live a way better life than you humans give yourselves!

Thanks again!


4 Your Commencement: graduating into a new world

One of the sadder side-effects of this pandemic (far less than the tolls of death and illness, and economic pain, but still real) is what it’s done to the final year of school for so many students.  Athletes unable to shine in the sports they’ve mastered, performers not getting the chance to act and sing in the roles they’ve worked so hard on, romances not getting to show off at their proms… and everyone missing out on the big deal – to celebrate graduation.

Now of course, they’ll still get their diplomas.  No one’s taking that away.  It’s not like one of those dreams I’ve seen Handsome wake from in a trembling sweat, where he has to retake classes in his high school!  It’s just that ceremonies and rituals have a great meaning for you humans, and a whole generation is missing out on this one.

But are they really?  Aren’t they experiencing a different graduation, far more profound than the goofy pomposity where people wear flat hats?  They have the whole current world watching as they graduate into a whole new world, a changed reality.

And instead of listening to (probably) boring speeches by their teachers or somebody they’ve never heard of who graduated from their school before they were born, they’re watching new art forms and technologies bloom, made for them.

But wait, I’m not just talking about the 18-year-olds, the Class of 2020.  I’m barking at the entire human race out there.  You ALL are graduating!  You have finished learning whatever you could in the Pre-Coronavirus world, and are being released into a new one – one you don’t fully understand, with new responsibilities, new hopes, and new fears.  It’s what high-school and university graduates have always experienced, but now it’s everyone.

Just like all high schoolers ever, all of humanity has felt victimized these last months, like the world expects everything of them and isn’t giving them the support they need.  And I’m not going to tell anyone they’ve been wrong to feel this.  But the change is on. 

And just as university graduates always have, you’re being told you’re expected to be responsible leaders now, while deep down you know you’re not prepared for that. 

So you current students (or for those who’re older, looking back on when you were), when you were in school, did you ever cheat on a Biology exam without learning the material?  Did you squeak through a History class without really understanding it?  Did you drop that Math course halfway before it was done? 

Too bad.  You’re out of school.  You’re heading into the world with exactly the knowledge you have.  No more…

…But also… No less!  You are more prepared than you know, and have learned thousands of lessons along your awkward journey, just like everyone else.

So Congratulations, and Happy Graduation!


But when I say that you’re graduating, what does that really mean?  If you could attend a ceremony now, what would it really be about, in your life?

This week, I got an amazing letter from tuktuk, one of my Pack members.  It said more about the meaning of graduation than any speech I’ve ever heard.  And it’s just a description of a… well I’ll let her tell you…

I had a dream. At my school, when we graduate, we have a formal farewell, where teachers talk about the students.  In my dream, we were having that ceremony in the playground. I was standing with a friend D, and my other friends were also there.

And suddenly I saw the younger version of a friend, and D started calling him out, and he waved back.  Then we realized that all of our younger versions were playing in the round. So, I went to find my younger version. I was having a hard time finding her. Then, the bell rang and all the kids were lined up and there I found myself.

I called her out and talked to her. I asked her to not to repeat the mistakes I did when I was young, and to be happy. And she asked me to do the same, and not to look back, and to focus on my future.

Then everyone were gathering in the ground, and I saw my mother from a distance and wanted to show her my younger version. I went to her and showed her mini-me, and then I asked her to click a picture of me with her.

Then I woke up. The dream was strange and made me happy. I want to know the meaning behind my dream.

Well, as you can guess, I told her that I thought that dream held more meaning than this doggy brain can possibly grasp.  But I just LOVE the idea that the most important guest at a graduation isn’t your friends or your family, but you – the you of your past, and the you of your future. 

What would you tell that younger you if you could today?  And what would they tell you?  What would you tell your future you?  And what might they say to you?

The advice is going to be different for everyone.  Did you spend high school studying all the time and avoiding a social life?  Well if so, wouldn’t you tell that version of you to put the books away some night and go make a fool of yourself at a party?  Or did you spend school playing video games and sneaking out to vape with friends?  Maybe you’d tell that you, “Stop wasting your time!  Do something useful!” 

And what would you tell the you that’s moving forward now?  I think tuktuk’s advice is great, to focus on the future and not the mistakes of the past (though of course they’ll keep coming back, as they always do!). 

For example, did you accidentally go out last week without a mask?  Did you hug a friend when you weren’t supposed to?  Well, you could focus on “I’m such an air-head!  I could have caused someone’s death!  I’m so horrible!”  Or you could say, “Hmm… I need to learn from that.  Maybe I’ll get an extra mask and keep it in my pocket in case I forget again.”  And “I need to stay more focused, and not hug people though I want to so badly!”  That’s a much healthier way to deal with those screwups. 

Because, my friends, every one of us is our present, our past, and our future, right now.  I am so in awe of the end of tuktuk’s dream – getting a picture of herself with her younger self, taken by her mother.  What a great definition of your eternal self! 

I recommended to her, and I do to all of you, to put some time aside and follow through on that idea.  However you’d do it.  Draw a picture of you and your younger self.  Or use your brilliance on computers to create a photograph of you two together.  Or maybe write a play where you two meet and talk.  Whatever you create will be your truth, right now.  And maybe add your future self in there as well.

The world is new every day, my friends.  And each of you get to be a part of creating what it will be.  This virus will go down, or maybe even go away.  What matters is what the post-pandemic world will be.  And that’s up to you.

Talk to your past, your future, your parents and friends, and most importantly to your present selves.  Whether you’re 9 or 99, the most exciting moment ever, full of more potential than ever before, is right now.

So throw that goofy hat in the air, give a joyous yell, and leap into it! It’s YOURS!