Category Archives for "Life Skills"

What to do when you’re wrongly accused of sexism

Vedanova asks:

One thing that really bugs me is how easily things get misinterpreted as sexist. I admit I have treated girls ‘a certain way’ because they were girls in the past, but now I have improved and I try to treat everyone the same regardless of their sex, or for that matter, anything. But I still get accused of it.  For example, a couple of days ago, when playing basketball, I didn’t pass the ball to a girl, it wasn’t because I am a sexist or anything. It is just a game and I am not thinking about gender when making split-second decisions. But people jump to conclusions and label me as sexist, and it doesn’t feel good of being accused of something that you did not do. Just please tell me how to handle these kinds of situations.

Hi Vedanova –

Your sexism question is difficult and complex, I agree.  The history of the human race is one of oppression, and women (just as with racial and sexual and religious minorities and so many others) have every right to be furious at how they’ve been treated over the centuries.  In my country, this issue reached a height a few years ago, when everyone expected us to inaugurate the first female president, and instead the country got a male who regularly insulted women, and had even bragged about assaulting them.  So instead of women feeling more accomplished, they felt more under attack than they had in decades.

So does that mean you need to pass the basketball only to women?  Does it mean you have to apologize constantly for being male?  Does it mean you are always wrong?  Of course not.

But there’s something you can do, that very few men do, that would raise you in these women’s eyes. And that is to ask. Without defensiveness, just honestly, ask, for example, that woman (after the game of course) what you did that bothered her. If she says you should always pass her the ball, then there’s not much you can do with that. But if she says “No one had passed me the ball once, the whole game, and I was open,” you can tell her what you told me, that you made an instant choice and didn’t see that she was open. And then you can tell her that you certainly realize how much it must SUCK to be ignored on the court, and say that you will try to look for her when you get the ball next time. 

What would that accomplish?  It would make her feel HEARD. And CARED ABOUT. More than anything else, the frustration for people trying to move past oppression is that it seems no one is taking them seriously  (At its craziest extreme, you’ve probably heard about the movement in my country over the past five years or so, “Black Lives Matter.” MATTER?! A whole section of the population feeling, with some reason, that many don’t even feel their lives mean a thing. That’s INSANE – and racism, sexism, etc. are all insanities!).

The very best thing, of course, that you can do when you talk with a woman about this is if you DO see a mistake you’ve been making. “Wow, I just always assume girls are bad at math.  That’s awful.  Thanks for waking me up, and showing me that that’s not always true!” That’ll make that woman feel GREAT. And in a small way, your doing that will change the world for the better.

Of course the great irony in this is that you know very well what they’re going through, as you’re a member of a sexual minority as well.  Even though things have shifted in you over the past three years, you’re still a male who has craved to wear women’s clothing, who has been attracted to men, and who still is attracted to some men. 

The change in the world is happening, and people all along the sexuality spectrum are beginning to speak up and declare themselves in new ways.  So the woman who feels okay calling you sexist is just a little further along in empowerment than you are.  But deep down, you and she are fighting the same battle.

Honor it and honor her.

As I honor you, so very very much!  


How to help a friend who’s in such pain they say they don’t want help

pkt asks:  A few weeks ago we found out that my bf’s little brother has a cancerous brain tumor. Doctors said it would be too risky to operate and there is no possibility of any treatment .He went into a coma but thankfully recovered from it.  But His condition is not getting better, and my bf was devastated. He is very sensitive, especially when it comes to his family. And I feel very very scared. I can’t bear to watch him in pain. I don’t want him to get hurt. During the last few weeks, I have tried to be there for him, but I just moved for college and we are doing long distance so I feel helpless here. I want to be with him and comfort him, and calling and texting feels insufficient. My bf is doing well but I know he is hurting inside, and I don’t know what to do. I avoid asking questions about his brother because it hurts him to speak about it. Also he panics and gets angry and says things like “Why do care so much? i don’t need you – my family and I will face it together!” and it hurts because I consider him my family but he doesn’t.  I understand he’s hurting so I don’t say anything. When we found out about his brother’s condition, I used to constantly check up on him and ask, “Are you well?” “How is your brother?” “Take care,” “I’m always here if you want to talk,” “We will face this together,” “Calm down,” etc., but that just doesn’t seem enough to me. Since this I have been really anxious. Even now if my bf doesn’t reply for a hour or two I I feel scared that something has happened to him or his brother. Shirelle I don’t want to feel this way, and I don’t want to see him in pain, and his brother… It breaks my heart because they don’t deserve this. I hope by some miracle everything will be okay. I pray that his little brother will fight this. Is there anything else I can do for him? I feel like if I constantly don’t talk/try to comfort him he will think I don’t care. How do I stop being this anxious??

Hi pkt –

Thanks for your question about this absolutely terrible situation with your boyfriend and his brother.

You probably know I recently lost my best friend to cancer.  So this question really connects for me.

I have both good news and bad news for you, to your question about what you can and should do.  (I wish I had enough medical knowledge to give you good news about your boyfriend’s brother, but I honestly don’t know enough to say anything on that.)

The bad news is that your boyfriend and his family are going through the deepest torments of Hell.  Cancer is awful in anyone, but humans (and dogs) are programmed to believe that children will thrive, that everyone’s kids will outlive them, and that people have the power to help each other all the time.  And this situation goes against all those beliefs.  This is everyone’s worst and deepest fear coming true right in front of them, and there’s nothing they can do to stop it.  Yes they’re doing all they can medically, and I hope they’re finding some spiritual connection (like your prayers) to help, but in the end, they’re helpless.

And because of that, you are too.  Those mean things your boyfriend said to you about not being included are just his pain talking.  He knows you care, and can’t let your love in right now while he’s going through all this.  (Aria’s friend Ugmo recently told me that he’s realizing he isn’t allowing himself to remember all the fun times he had with Aria, and is only remembering her being fearful and weak – because when he remembers her joy it hurts too much!)  There is nothing right you can do, because all your boyfriend and his family want is solutions, and you don’t have the ability to fix his poor brother – to make his life easier or to save it.

But at the same time, I have good news for you.  Just as there’s nothing “right” you can do, you also can’t do anything wrong, as long as you act from love.  Calling him, telling him you care, asking how he’s doing – it’s all good.  Also giving him space when you sense he needs it, is a wonderful way of showing love.  

Even your anxiety is a showing of love.  And someday, when he’s able to hear it, you telling him how much this tortures you will be a statement to him of how much he matters to you.

And yes, I’m all for praying.  Pull in whatever divine miracles you can – I can attest they do happen – and give that poor suffering kid your love in that way too.

pkt, I wish life offered answers to everything, but this is one of those cases where it doesn’t.  What we can do, though, is to love.  To love in our hearts, and to actively love by our actions.  And although it seems not enough, it’s actually everything.

Just as I’m sending all the love I have in my hyperactive doggy heart to you – and wishing you, your boyfriend, his family, and especially his brother, all the very best possible, including miracles that no one sees as possible just yet.

With all my heart,


Why do men have to make the first move? Or do they?

Vedanova asks:  Why is that most of the times the male has to propose or make the first move and face the risk of rejection? It feels really unfair to me. Is it because of some evolutionary reason in humans (which I most likely think it is) or anything else? And also, please tell me, what can I do?

Hi Vedanova –

I’m going to say something very different from what I’ve tended to say to you before.  In our earlier conversations, I told you how little we dogs care about traditional gender roles.  But there is one very basic role we dogs do tend to have, and that’s about The Chase.  I’m a very aggressive player, but when I meet a boy dog, I let him know I want to play and then I run away, and hope and expect that he’ll chase me.  And boy dogs who meet me usually expect to be the “aggressor” in play and run after me.  Now, if he’s fast enough, once he catches me, then all is equal and we tumble over each other and play-fight and have a great time.  But if a boy dog just sits there, or runs from me, it feels kind of incomplete to me.  I expect the boy to chase me.  And I think, even with all the gender roles changing in people, there’s still some of that in you all as well.  It’s not that a woman can’t ask a man out (a few have asked out Handsome over the years), but when they do it’s a statement of assertion, of independence, of “I can do this.”  And yes they can!  But the normal rule – which is tough on both men and women – is that the man offers and the woman chooses.  It’s not nearly as fun as running around the dog park, but that’s just because, to my mind, you humans don’t play nearly enough!  

However, I do want you to realize, when you say that it seems unfair, that it is equally unfair to both men and women.  Men, you’re right, set themselves up for rejection every time.  But women, in that role, sit around waiting for the phone to ring – which means they feel rejected ALL THE TIME unless it’s ringing a lot!  

What I’d say to watch for is the human equivalent of me going up and nipping at a boy dog and then running away.  Does a girl come up and talk to you in a fun way and then leave?  Does one look at you, and make sure you see her looking at you, and then look away?  Does one drop something near you in hopes you’ll pick it up?  ALL of these are signals that she might like you to pursue her.  And if you don’t respond by pursuing her, then you’re the one doing the rejecting – at least in her mind!

But that doesn’t mean you can’t play the same game.  When she talks to you in a fun way and walks away, you can do the same to her.  Same with the eyes.  And if she drops something and wants you to pick it up, you can do so, look into her eyes, say something funny, and walk away – which will make it her job to do the next step.

And that, my friend, is another thing that’s true for all humans.  You will be doing, in the truest sense, a DANCE!

1 Wouldn’t it be Worse! – a way to handle frustrations and disappointment

       I was out walking with Handsome a few days ago, when a car sped past us, cutting off another car, and nearly hitting a parked one.  Handsome muttered to me, “That idiot thinks being late to where he’s going is the worst thing that could happen to him.”

       I’ll bet he was right.  I’ll bet that driver didn’t even imagine all the awful things that might have happened just on our block.  Side-swiping a car, hitting a person they didn’t see stepping out, or… I’m shuddering at the thought… what if I’d managed to wriggle out of my collar and run across the street to chase a squirrel just as he was speeding around…!

       We got home, and Handsome sat down at his computer, and, as usual, started stressing out.  A check he’d written hadn’t gotten cashed because he’d accidentally written the date as still 2023.  His phone was malfunctioning, and he knew it would take at least an hour of waiting to get the phone company to do anything about it.  And a friend of his had said Handsome had done something he hadn’t done, making him defensive. 

       He muttered one thing after another under his breath, and eventually, as we dogs are very sensitive to energies, I had to leave the room and lie down far away from him.  I hate doing that – what if he was eating something and dropped some and I wasn’t there to eat it?!

       But lying on that other room’s rug, I started to think about the silly tension he was in, and that stupid driver.  Those two humans have something in common, though I hate to insult my beloved guy.  They both lack imagination!

       You see, we dogs hardly ever feel long-term stress.  We’ll go absolutely nuts when we see another dog walking outside our home, but that tension goes away once the dog does.  And those of us who’ve been abused or neglected live in fear of what we can’t control, just like a person.   But what we don’t do is worry about what might happen later, sometime far from now. 

       When Handsome leaves me at home, I sleep, watch the squirrels, chew on things… all while deeply wishing he’d come back so I could feel fully secure.  But I don’t think about what might happen if he didn’t come home.

       Now you humans have the opposite problem.  Your giant minds allow you to picture lots of scenarios.  If you were in my situation, you might think you’d never be fed again, that you’d be trapped in the yard and starve to death, that someone bad would come by and you’d have no one to yell at them to go away (oh wait, actually that’s MY job!). 

       But what I saw in that driver, and in Handsome, is that their imaginations didn’t go far enough!

       Maybe that driver was imagining being late to work, and getting yelled at by their boss.  But as I said above, one could imagine many worse problems than that.

       And Handsome at his desk?  Upset that he might have to pay a late fee for that check?  Why didn’t he think about all that cyber-crime we hear about on the news and imagine how bad it would be if all the money in his bank were wiped out!  He’s upset he has to spend an hour waiting for the phone company?  Why not think about what it would be like if all his phone service was gone, and everyone else’s too? He’s bothered that his friend accused him wrongly of something?  What about imagining if one of his friends went crazy, like in one of those movies, and came at him with a big knife or an axe?!  Or if his friend just dropped him completely, and never spoke to him again?

       Awful as these imaginings are, I know that if he let his brain go to them, his stress would actually reduce instantly!  What you think is the “Worst Case Scenario” almost certainly isn’t.

       Now don’t get me wrong.  There are people today living in true worst-cases.  In Israel and Gaza, in Ukraine, in Myanmar, in the Maghreb, and other war-torn horrors.  People starving to death, people being killed by their own governments.  I’m not recommending to these people that they cheer up and wag their tails – they are truly living in Hell. 

       But for the rest of you…  When that boy you are crazy about breaks up with you, I know it feels like the world’s ending, but really he’s just proving that he wasn’t the partner you deserve. Wouldn’t it be worse to marry him and find out he’s a serial killer?!  Have some fun with that! 

When you fail that test that keeps you from moving forward into the career you’ve always dreamt of, go ahead and cry it out, but then realize that another career will be a better fit for you.  Wouldn’t it be worse to work in that dream field, but only with people who don’t like you and who treat you horribly?  I’ve seen that happen and it’s rotten!

And when you get a bodily injury that will stay with you for life, that just stinks!  But at least you get to live on with it, right?

Here’s another way to look at it.  A lot of people say that the worst pain any person can ever go through is the loss of their child.  I have no trouble believing that.  But I’m going to bet you know someone who’s lost their kid, maybe not in childhood but at least by outliving them. They HAVE suffered that pain, they DO suffer that pain… and yet they go on, somehow, into the next day.  They HAVE suffered the “worst case,” and they’re here.  Damaged, sure, but still able to look for meaning and happiness in their lives.

So what’s the “worst case” for you?  To be late for work, or to hit and kill a stranger with your car?  To find a bunch of irritations on your computer, or to… have your dog walk away to avoid your bad vibes?!

In summary: Life can get better.  All you need to do is to imagine how it can get so much worse!

PS: That was my full essay, but Handsome just read it and asked me about that one line about my running into the street to chase a cat.  “What’s the worst case for you, Shirelle?  Letting the cat go, or getting hit by a car as you chase her?”

Okay.  I guess we dogs can be dumb about this one too.

Arrggh… I just HATE it when he’s right! 

2 My Heroes! – the humans I look up to most

         We dogs tend to idolize our humans, so I of course see Handsome as the most wonderful being ever (which coincidentally is just the way he sees me!).  But he’s not my only hero.  I have a lot. 

         First of all, anyone who gives me food, ever, is my hero (or heroine – I’m using the word “hero” regardless of gender) at that moment, with all my heart.  Or anyone giving me a tummy rub for that matter.

         And secondly, I see a lot of dogs and people who do amazingly brave things.  Rescuers, crimefighters, firefighters, defenders of their country, all that.  We domestic dogs often get credited with being selfless, but those beings show a caring for others beyond themselves that makes even us gasp.

         But I find another group of humans particularly stunning. And I want to talk about them today:  Healthcare Workers.

         There are all sorts of healthcare workers out there.  Doctors, surgeons, nurses, chiropractors, acupuncturists – I love them all and owe my life to them.  And so does Handsome.  And so, I’m pretty sure, do you.  Even if you haven’t ever had a life-threatening illness or injury, have these people kept you alive through their care?  Or was one of your parents saved from something that endangered their life before you were born? Well, then if it weren’t for the devoted workers who saved them, you’d never have been here at all, right?!

         I don’t think there’s anything easy about working in medicine or health. For starters, even I know those required classes are hard!  Handsome often tells me he would have loved to become a veterinarian, if only he wouldn’t have had to pass Introductory Biology – and the study gets a lot harder after that.

         Then we all hear about how much work those professionals have to go through once they’ve finished their study (I know it’s very romanticized, but if you’ve ever watched Grey’s Anatomy, that shows some of the crazy work that medical interns are put through).  Long shifts, food we dogs might turn our noses up at, ungrateful or even mean patients, and lots of grotesque sights and smells.

         And then there’s what we know is the very worst part: the guarantee of failure. No human or animal lives forever, and those who try to keep us going face death in their patients all the time.  Or even failures that aren’t death – injuries that never fully heal, or diseases that permanently maim someone – all of it is heartbreaking.  We always hear people say they’re afraid to get a pet because it’s so sad when they die; imagine facing that every day at work.

         My best friend Aria died last year of a cruel cancer. The oncologists who worked with her lose dogs and cats to that disease constantly. Somehow they soldier on through it (and yes I use that word on purpose – these souls are soldiers in a war that never ends). Imagine being a heart surgeon, or a specialist in geriatric (a big word for old people) healthcare.  You’re fighting against time every day, and time will always win eventually.

         We saw probably the greatest example of the bravery of healthcare workers ever a few years ago, during the height of the COVID pandemic.  These incredible people went in to emergency rooms, intensive care units, or even just their regular offices every day, facing, fighting, and daring exposure to a disease people knew hardly anything about.  Then, as we all saw, a bunch of yahoos all over the world made it worse by spreading misinformation about the disease, encouraging people not to mask or distance, lying that vaccinations didn’t work (I hate shots and fully understand those who chose to not get vaccinated, but that does not mean those painful injections aren’t saving countless lives), and even attacking healthcare workers for doing those great noble deeds.

         And now we hear about people leaving the health industry, burned out by these exhausting years.  What a horrible awful disgusting fact that is – they should be honored and lionized, not struggling with finding a new career that doesn’t mean as much to them.

         But in the end, I have to stick with what’s personal to me (I know, that’s an odd word, but “dogal” doesn’t exist!):  I love every veterinarian and vet assistant in the world. 

I love the ones who have a natural gift that makes us love them, and those who don’t, and so have to work harder at it. 

I love the ones who make me feel good, and the ones who have to spray things up my nose and stick needles into me, and even cut me open. 

I love the ones who run clinics and the ones who only walk the dogs around or pet the cats, and the ones who just sign patients in at the front desk. 

I love the ones in cities and those who travel around to farms.

I love the ones who help horses, lions, gerbils, parakeets, elephants, donkeys, pigs, barramundis, and yes, even cats.  But you know I most most most most love the ones who help us dogs.

So I have two requests for you, dear reader.  First, if you’re young and thinking of what to do with your life, please think hard about going into healthcare. We don’t know the future of a lot of professions, but this one’s going to be around as long as any animal is still living.

And second, to all of you, please let your healthcare worker, of whatever sort, know how appreciative you are of them, of the work they put in just to get here, and of all they’re doing for you. 

They deserve it, and, who knows, today might be the day they most need to hear it from you.

The Boy – and Girl – Next Door: defining the undefinable

You know those words that you’ve known all your life but are really hard to define to someone?  What does Marriage mean?  How do you define Politics?  And while we’re at it, what is a Neighborhood?  It’s funny how much humans have these words, and use them constantly, without having them perfectly clear in their head.

Recently my friend Handsome was talking with his friend FiFi about how one area he’d seen felt like a neighborhood while another didn’t. And FiFi asked him why.  What was his definition of “neighborhood?”

He was stymied.  “Well, we all know what a neighborhood is, don’t we?  It’s where… well… you know, you’re close and friendly and do stuff together and…”

But I knew he was wrong instantly.  We’ve had neighbors who were unfriendly, some he wouldn’t want to do things with, and some who were completely awful.  So it’s not that. 

About a day later, he sat down with me and said “Shirelle, I figured out what a neighborhood is. It’s a place where children can go to each other’s homes and play.” 

But then he thought more.  “But can’t there be a neighborhood without kids?”

I can see where he’s struggling.  The street we live on now didn’t feel much like a neighborhood when we moved in.  Then a few years later, although most people kept to themselves, it did.  Now some of it was because Handsome had been nice, and lots of them were terrific people.  But I really think it was mostly my doing!  I’m way friendlier than he is, and… well… let’s admit it… cuter too!

But during the stupid virus, most of the people nearby who were friendly with us moved away, and now it doesn’t feel much like a neighborhood at all. 

This became especially clear a few weeks ago, when Americans celebrate Halloween.  For years, people had driven to our streets on that night, knowing our houses gave out good candy (I’d always get locked in a room so that I wouldn’t scare the children with my barking – even though they’re the ones in the scary outfits!).  But this year, although Handsome and some other people nearby decorated their houses invitingly, our doorbells only rang three times.  Not only aren’t there many children nearby, but others looked at our street and didn’t see enough places with pumpkins out, so they drove to better blocks.  I hardly got to bark at all.

Before this, we lived on a street across from a nursery.  Most of the area was apartments, with people moving in and out quickly, but the nursery was wonderful.  They always gave Handsome free plants, they would stop traffic so he could pull out of our driveway, and they even would run and catch me whenever I’d get out (I was a hyperactive and very curious puppy!) and bring me back to Handsome.  They made it a neighborhood.

But today, Handsome told me about his first neighborhood.  When he was very young, his family lived on a street full of neighborliness.  Everyone knew each other, the families played together, and – check this out: In the winter, the children would fill paper bags halfway with sand and put candles in them, and on Christmas Eve whole blocks would glow from these gorgeous warm lamps along the sidewalk – all made and put out there by the kids. 

But in recent years he’s learned more about it –

about neighbors there who were crazy, who had creepy political views, some who’ve even killed themselves.  So maybe it wasn’t quite as idyllic as he remembers.

So now it’s me asking, what is a neighborhood?

Handsome looked up the word “neighbor” in a dictionary.  It said it’s a noun that means:

  • 1. a person living near or next door to the speaker: “our garden was the envy of the neighbors”
  • 2. a person or place in relation to others near or next to it: “I chatted with my neighbor on the flight to New York”

Now those are all correct.  But you have a different sense of it, don’t you?  I sure do.

The more I think about it, neighborhood is the midpoint between family and community.  Your family is super-close (sometimes too close and everyone gets really annoyed!).  Then you have the people you know at work or such.  They might be nice, and you might be mutually supportive.  But neighbors are in between those two – you go to a neighbor for a cup of sugar or to take a shower when your plumbing’s out.  Not the person in the cubicle across the hall.

But there’s a third dictionary definition.

 Any person in need of one’s help or kindness: “love thy neighbor as thyself”

      I like that one.  Especially as, as we dogs know, EVERY person is in need of help and kindness.  In fact, that’s the way we pups tend to treat people (at least those we’re not scared of).

We hear friendly humans described as “He never met a stranger.”  But does that mean everyone he met he regarded as family?  No that’s too close.  Community?  No that’s too distant. 

While Handsome does want a street with trick-or-treaters, and where people bring one’s dog home, wouldn’t it also be great to just see everyone as your neighbor?  Everywhere?  Maybe it wouldn’t be as full of familiar smells as the block I walk every week, but then everywhere could be your neighborhood.

There used to be a popular children’s television show that I hear about, where the host always began by singing, “It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood.”  And I’m thinking he’s right.  It is a beautiful day in the neighborhood, today.

If you decide it is!

      But wait… What exactly does “beautiful” mean?!

4 Shut Up That Barking! – the epidemic of noise

Have you ever lived next door to a dog?  Even if you like the pooch, what’s the worst thing about living there?  I’m going to guess it’s the noise.  You’re trying to sleep in and out comes the yowling.  Screaming their head off at some nonsense, like, oh, another dog is being walked across the street, or someone’s delivering something to their door, or a burglar is approaching your window – but you never learn that because that dog scared him off!

Nothing gets me yelled at by Handsome as much as my barking.  There are things that concern him more (like my love of chasing some animal into the street), but barking happens so much more.  This could happen when I bark loudly right next to him while he’s working or sleeping (funny how that seems to affect him), or because I’m outdoors telling off a stranger and he knows his neighbors are going to get upset.  Or because we’re on a walk and I see another person and dog coming, and the dog and I go on a rant at each other of “If I weren’t on this leash, I’d rip you apart at the seams!” 

(Even though we both know that, if we weren’t on leashes, we’d probably just sniff and play together!)

But you know what animal makes a lot more noise than we do?  And doesn’t just drive us nuts but themselves as well? 

Yep.  You!

Now first there are the actual sounds you guys make just by doing things. Between your cars, planes, factories, shops, ships, rocketships… you are a very loud species.  And then there’s the noise you make on purpose – musical instruments, speakers, sound systems, headphones (yes we dogs can hear them), alarms, firecrackers, sirens, bombs…  My ancestors tell me this planet used to be really quiet except during thunder and volcanoes.  Today we kind of like the peace those bring, as nature focuses you folks on more important, less self-expressive, activities.

But today I want to talk about another kind of noise.  A sort that doesn’t hurt us dogs’ sensitive ears as much, but breaks our hearts to watch.  The noise of misinformation.

Long ago, certain people realized that creating noise is a great way to avoid responsibility for things.  When scientists discovered that smoking tobacco leads to cancer, the tobacco companies spent billions of dollars putting out stories that said that there were “two sides” to this, that not all scientists agreed.  Well this was a lie.  But they kept their yammering going, and so managed to keep selling their ‘cancer sticks’ for decades.

It’s not unnatural.  Two kids get taken to the school office for fighting at recess.  One says they fought because the other punched them and called their mother a name.  The other says that’s not true.  What’s the principal supposed to do?  One is lying, but there’s no way to know which one.  So whoever’s lying just did a great job of avoiding trouble by making that noise.  Hey if we dogs had the ability to get out of punishment by lying, we’d do it too.  No judgment there.

My problem is when adult humans do it on a large level.  I’m sure you heard about the Al Qaeda attacks on the United States in 2001.  The U.S. was upset and wanted to retaliate against the group that had done it. But the president wanted to go to war against Iraq, a country that had nothing to do with those attacks, and was even run by enemies of Al Qaeda.  So he and his administration started repeating the lie that Iraq was behind the attacks, and preparing to unleash nuclear war on the U.S. (something they were nowhere near capable of doing).  Many Americans and others spoke up about the lie, but they weren’t loud enough to beat the noise.  The U.S. attacked Iraq and started a war that killed maybe a million people.  (Why do I say “maybe?” Well, the noise machine has made sure that no one knows exactly how many deaths there were.)

But as awful as that, and so many similar cases, have been, maybe the worst case of noise ever has been the lies about what’s happened to the Earth’s climate over the last couple hundred years.  Scientists knew about greenhouse gases and man-made global warming in the 1950s.  Yes you read that right – the 1950s!  So what’s happened for the past seven decades?  Noise!  Tons of noise, billions of dollars worth of noise, all to just create doubt about this science.  For profit, for power, for… well, anything but care and love for the human race, for the animals of the earth, for even one’s own children.

And it’s too late.  This last year has shown that the effects of Global Warming are here, as I’m sure you all know.  And no matter how old you are, my reader, the rest of your life will be spent dealing with the effects of this.  Where you live, what you can eat, whether you can eat, what happens to your economy, what the population of your area is like, and of course what it’s like outdoors, will all be determined by this crime against all life.  It will be horrific, it will be incredibly expensive, and it will determine the future of all our species.

Now that’s just fact.  You can – and should – do whatever you can to help, but sadly no one person can reverse what’s happened (not even Greta Thunberg, and if anyone could, it would be that amazing soldier!).

But you know what you can do?  Stop encouraging the noise in your own life!

If you are wondering what’s going on in Gaza, and you click onto social media and see completely conflicting stories about who’s doing what, look somewhere else you trust for your information. 

If you’re voting in an election, look at what the candidates actually say and what they’ve actually done.  Don’t believe something someone says about them just because you hear it (Here’s a start: Volodymyr Zelensky is not a Nazi, and Hillary Clinton does not eat children!).

And even closer to home – if someone at your school posts online that someone else you’ve always found nice is doing something really bad, have some doubt about it.  This may just be noise.  And if rumors start flying where you work that make someone look bad, check that gossip  out before you repeat it.

And my biggest request of you – Don’t be the one to start a noisy lie.  It’s not worthy of you, and it only makes everyone else’s lives worse.

Let us dogs be the ones who annoy everyone with our dumb barking at the wrong times and in the wrong places.  You guys are way more powerful, and your noise causes way more harm.

But even better, let’s all aim for a bit more…


2 When Facts Aren’t Facts … the absurdity of modern testing

         Handsome, my human friend, is sleeping at last.  For a few months, he was barely able to.  And even when he would fall asleep, he’d either be on top of his computer keyboard or holding his laptop in his arms.  He was just frantic.

         All this was about a test he had to take.  He wants to expand his professional license to other states than just our home.  That’s all fine.  And he had to relearn a bunch of stuff from school to do so.  That’s also fine.

         So why was he such a wreck?  Not because the test demanded a ton of knowledge.  No, it was because of how it asked for it.

         Shirelle is:

  1. A dog
  2. The Author of AskShirelle
  3. Handsome’s Best Friend
  4. A chair

This test doesn’t ask for straight-out knowledge.  Rather, it’s supposed to test how he thinks, to see if he’s qualified.  But for all Handsome’s flaws, thinking is something he’s always done well.  In fact, so well that he has a lot of problems with these tests!

they ask him to pick the Best of them, or to offer four bad answers, and have him pick the least-bad of them.

But does that make sense at all?

Everything Everywhere All at Once is about:

  1. The difficulty of running a laundry
  2. A lady getting in a bunch of fights
  3. A bunch of Chinese Americans
  4. Insanity

You see, I’m just a dog, I know, and I don’t have the brains you guys do.  But from what I’ve learned, there are facts and there are opinions.  And other than those two, there are only wrong things.

Are cats mammals?  That’s a fact.  Are cats annoying?  That’s my opinion.  Are cats likely to hunt birds?  That’s a fact.  Are cats likely to be hunted by dogs?  Depends on the dog!  But we’re still in the “fact” realm.  Are cats worth hunting?  That’s an opinion too.  But are cats reptiles?  No, that’s just untrue.

Suggesting that there’s anything else but facts, untruths, and opinions, gets into a realm that… well, causes lots of trouble!

Julius Caesar lived:

  1. In Rome
  2. In the first century B.C.
  3. In a Toga
  4. On a yacht in the Carribean

And when the people giving the test say their goal is to see how well you think, what they’re really testing is if you think just as they do; or rather, if you can read their minds and figure out how they’re thinking.

The best place for a dog to lie down is:

  1. In the doorway, where I can chase down a squirrel if it comes into my yard but I can also run to beg if Handsome starts to eat in the kitchen.
  2. On the couch, because it’s so comfortable.
  3. Anywhere other than the couch, because Handsome gets mad at me if I lie there.
  4. On top of a moving car’s hood.

So which is best, of the above answers?  The doorway is best for chasing and eating, the couch is the most comfortable, the “anywhere else” is good for keeping Handsome happy, and the car hood – well, it might be kind of exciting, but I think we can agree that it’s the worst of the choices.

But how is one expected to know what “best” means?  Again, it seems they’re asking you to assume something that they’re assuming.  To take this to its fullest degree…

4x + 38 =

  1. 42
  2. 59,327
  3. 24
  4. 38

Now sometimes the questions don’t ask for mind-reading.  Instead, very often, they test whether you catch their tricks or not.  A skill which shows that you are qualified to… take tests.  And nothing else.

For example:

Taylor Swift is:

  1. A 32-year-old singer
  2. The writer of the hit songs “Love Story,” “Blank Space,” and “Déjà Vu”
  3. The performer on the world-famous Eros tour
  4. A male photographer in Seattle

Did you get that one right?  Maybe not.  The world-famous singer is currently 33; the Olivia Rodrigo song “Déjà Vu” does credit her as a co-writer but only because it samples one of her songs; and her tour is called Eras, not Eros (though of course you had no idea if I might have made a typographical error).  But yes there IS a man, a photographer, living in Seattle, named Taylor Swift.  You can look it up.  D is the correct answer!

But unless you’re taking a test on Seattle photographers, this trick question ONLY serves to mess with you!

Now not every question on these tests is as awful as what I’ve shared here.  And Handsome actually thinks he might have passed, though he won’t know for a while (but they won’t tell him why it takes so long to grade a multiple-choice test he took on a computer!).

But while he sits there trembling in his crazy mood, I’ve been thinking about the whole mindset behind these tests.  What’s the point of them?  Do they help anything?  Or do they make things way worse. 

A few years ago, a spokesperson for the US President famously excused his lies by saying that they were “Alternative Facts.”  And while many people laughed at this, millions of others accepted it.  And I just wonder if that’s because they had been trained by this mindset!  Once someone accepts that there are “better” correct answers, or “less bad” wrong ones, then actual truth becomes meaningless. 

History has shown that people have often made up their own facts, but they were really spreading lies so well that everyone accepted them as facts (See the speeches of Nazi Germany about the dangers of Jews, for example).  But to me, this is a different version of the same problem.  At a time when you humans are achieving so much in science and technology, I see you also slipping into dumb and disproven mindsets of racism, sexism, and authoritarianism.  All because so many of you can’t agree on what truth is.

So I side with Handsome.  I’d love to see these tests go very far away.  And once that happens, to paraphrase Taylor Swift (the songwriter, not the photographer!), people should Never Ever Ever get back together with them!

Tests that expect the taker to read the mind of the writer of the test are:

  1. Stupid
  2. Invalid
  3. Useless
  4. Pickled Giraffe

What to do when there’s no one to help you through something

Vidhi asks: I feel alone and am confused about what to do.  I feel alone even when I’m around family. I just completed school but didn’t earn any friends. I am sitting idly most of the time. Last year I dealt with the death of my childhood friend so I’m finding it hard to cope. And my parents want some different path for me for courses but I have no interest in that, due to which I’m having daily arguments with them. Along with all these, one of my sister’s married friends tried to assault me. He had kids and stuff and it made me more disturbed, and the fact that all of these things happened and I had no one to turn to or talk to it makes me feel isolated and lonely. I wanted to see a therapist, but I don’t have enough money, and I can’t ask my parents because they clearly won’t agree.

Oh Vidhi –

Everybody feels alone at times but you have three special issues that really make this tough.  Of course, losing a childhood friend is devastating (and I’m assuming your friend was very young too which makes it even more of a heartbreak).  Then this assault is of course wrong on every count, and not being able to talk about it makes it even worse.  And then the fact that you know you’d like a therapist but your parents won’t agree just cements things.  

So let me say it a different way.  OF COURSE you feel alone.  Anyone would after the death of a friend, but in addition you are being kept from expressing the things you need to say, so how could any healthy relationship possibly come along?

Now I can’t do anything about your parents, and of course I can’t bring your lost friend back.  But I do wonder about the other one.  Is there really no one you can tell about that?  I don’t know how old you are, but if you’re still in school, is there a teacher or administrator there you trust, who you could talk with about this (and not mention the name or any identifying information about the man so you don’t have to deal with the school person calling the cops on him or something — unless you want to!).  

My friend you’ve suffered two horrible traumas.  No one would be unaffected by them, or be able to easily move forward after them.  So I really want you to find someone you can talk with about these awful experiences.  And if that can’t be a therapist, I’d sure like it to be someone else.

In the meantime, you can always write me about any of this.  As a dog in, most likely, a different country from you, I’m completely safe, and I promise I won’t betray your trust in any way.  So please feel free to tell me anything you like about either or both of those experiences.

But I also urge you, if there’s a way, to also find a good intelligent boundaried adult.  Someone who won’t betray you in the way your sister’s friend’s husband did.

And know I’m sending you caring, protective light, for you to carry around wherever you go.

All my best,


Too Much of a Good Thing? … how to wish better

Ever heard the old saying “Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it?” 

I have spent most of the past three weeks indoors.  Not because I’m sick or injured or in trouble (yes those do happen, but not in this case!).  But because it’s been raining here.  And I mean raining a LOT! 

I tend to not like the rain much anyway, and I especially don’t like hard rain.  I hate sprinklers and showers, anything where water comes down on top of me – though I’m happy to jump into creeks or the ocean anytime – so a heavy rainfall really irritates me.  But the main reason I’m kept inside so much at times like this is that Handsome doesn’t want me going out and playing in the mud and then tracking it all over our house. He’s happy to take me outdoors to walk and pee and all, but wants to be able to wipe my feet off with a towel when we come back in (which also really irritates me!).

And as I said, we’ve been getting a lot of rain in my state.  Enough that nearby there have been mudslides and landslides and even some people getting killed! 

And this is all after seven years of drought.   Between historic patterns in the western United States that are just returning, and the horrible effects of climate change, it’s been very rough here.  Record-breaking temperatures, lots of fires, and a frightening depletion of the water everyone is counting on for agriculture and just living.

In fact, the drought is one of the main reasons the rains have been so destructive.  When we had more trees, and more plants in general, they held the ground better.  But without them, soils that might otherwise stand up fine are avalanching all over the place!

So please understand – as a Husky-mix, I hate hot weather, and especially hate that we’re having more super-hot days than we did when I was younger.  And fires scare the daylights out of me.  So just like everyone else in California, I’ve been wishing for rain.  Wishing hard.

But wait – we didn’t wish for THIS!  Or did we?

If we’re honest with ourselves, we can admit, we wished for rain.  We didn’t specify a particular amount.  We wanted our reservoirs filled, our groundwater replaced, and we wanted our juicy fruits, healthy vegetables, pretty green lawns, and flowery gardens back.  Of course we did!

Now sadly, our drought has been so drastic that even these crazy rains likely won’t give us all the water we need.  Too much of it’s just running off into the ocean – because we didn’t have any means to hold on to it. 

Which makes me question even more – what’s wrong with what we’re asking?  If prayers and wishes actually do come true (as religious leaders and believers in manifestation have been arguing for millennia), then do we need to get more specific? 

Or did we just need to believe more that they might come true, and do better preparation for it?

Imagine if we’d spent the last seven years building rivers and reservoirs and all sorts of water catchments – and when these rains showed up, we’d grabbed all that water, which could keep us going for maybe a decade of drought!  Great, huh?

But can you imagine how hard that would have been to do?  It would have cost billions of dollars, with people screaming all the time “We’re in a drought and you’re building reservoirs for rains that aren’t happening!  Stop now!”

So by now you’re probably asking, why in the world is a dog asking questions about civil engineering!

Well, that’s not really what I’m after here.  I’m just thinking that, like the people in a drought-ridden community, each and every one of you has things they want.  That they want very very much.  But I don’t know that you’re ready for them!

I’ve seen men go to great lengths to win over beautiful women, who then treated them badly in ways they had no way to handle.  I’ve heard stories of dogs at race tracks who are so fast or clever they actually catch the mechanical rabbit they’re chasing, which of course doesn’t turn out to be the soft pliable bunny they expected!  And haven’t we all heard of people becoming super successful, or even winning a lottery, and then blowing their fortune on self-destructive nonsense, ending up in worse shape than when they started?

So it’s a new year.  And lots of people use that as a time to put out wishes and make resolutions.  Well here’s my wish for you:  Wish big, wish hard, and work like crazy to achieve your goals.

But also think. 

Think even harder than you wish!  Think about what you’d do if you got that money, that job, that person, that rabbit!  Think about what you can do to keep what you’ve won, and also what you can do if you find that what you wanted isn’t something you want to keep.  How much of that money can you put into an intelligent investment instead of spending right away?  Can you change that person, or should you apologetically let them go?  And also ask are you a worthy mate for them if they are right for you – able to keep them wanting to stay in this life with you?  Or do you really want to improve yourself a bit more before you win them?!

For me, I’m very happy with my life just as it is.  So my job is to do what I can to keep it that way.  To stay healthy and not get hurt, to keep cuddling up with Handsome all I can, and to hold myself back from wandering when he accidentally leaves the gate open.  Pretty easy.

But then there are those other things – things we all wish for. 

Let’s wish for world peace – but also the wisdom to know how to handle a peaceful world in ways that make things better, and not just setting us up for more wars.  Let’s wish for a slowdown or stop to climate change, but which includes new technologies so people can continue to enjoy the use of energy that gives us progress. 

And of course, I wish for you that you keep moving forward in your lives – but that you also always remember that when things get difficult, there’s an eager friendly dog out here you can check in with.  Maybe I’ll be able to give you the advice you need, but even if not, I can always send you a big lick on your cheek.

And licks, and kisses, are something – unlike rain – that I don’t believe one can EVER have too much of!!

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