Category Archives for "Relationships"

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! 

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?!

Is it wrong to want your boyfriend to include you?

kiara123 asks:

I’ve been with this boy for almost 2 years now. We’re long distance and I feel like I’ve started to become toxic. I love him a lot but I don’t understand why I get jealous when he’s out partying or planning trips with his friends. I have no friends at all, so I don’t understand how life really is with friends. I know all these feelings are wrong and toxic but I just don’t know how to help it. I try really hard to make myself understand that it’s ok and I never tell him what to do. I don’t wanna be a controlling girlfriend and I want him to be happy, but I can’t seem to get rid of this miserable feeling. His friends drink and smoke a lot and are kind of cheap so that makes me a bit insecure. There are a couple of things that bother me besides this. He uses Snapchat a lot and that’s fine by me. He can snap anybody he wants but he doesn’t send me snaps. I think he sends snaps to everyone except me and that hurts. He does send me a snap separately but it’s just a black screen. It’s not like I wanna know what he’s doing or where he is, it’s just that I don’t want him sending snaps to people and not me.

Hi kiara123 –

I can really relate!  When Handsome goes out to work or to meet with friends, he almost always locks me in the yard.  Sure, he gives me a goodbye kiss and tells me how much he cares about me – but then he heads off and does whatever with all these other people, and sometimes with other dogs!  Do I think he’s purposely being mean to me?  No.  Do I think he’s doing anything out there that would upset me?  No.

But do I like it when he does it?  ABSOLUTELY NOT!

Now in my case, he often doesn’t have a choice.  There are laws about where he can and can’t take a dog.  But that’s not true for you.  So in your case, I have a question:

Why can’t you be there?

If he’s hanging out with all-male groups, especially if they’re doing things you don’t like, okay, I can see that.  But the rest of the time, why is he leaving you behind?  

And I’m asking sincerely.  It might be that he would like to have you around, but feels you would be unhappy there, or make him feel bad for having the fun he’s having.  And if that’s the case, maybe it’s something you could adjust.  For example, while you might not drink or smoke, if you’re with him when he’s doing that, you could be the designated driver, helping everyone get home safely and without any legal trouble.

Or is it that he’s excluding you?  Is he choosing to go out with others, and send pictures to others, keeping you out of it all, for some reason of his own?  If so, I think it would make a lot of sense for you to find out why!  It doesn’t make you a “controlling girlfriend” to ask him.  In fact, it could help your relationship along, by helping you understand him better.

And I’ll throw in another thought.  Maybe it’s time for you to get some friends of your own.  Not that they’d be against your relationship with him, but just friendships alongside it.  So you’d have people to talk with and go out with as well.  Just because you haven’t had such friendships doesn’t mean you couldn’t get some now!

But regardless of that, see if you can get to the bottom of why he’s doing these things.  Just because I’m locked in with no one to talk to but the squirrels and birds doesn’t mean you have to be!

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!!

Will I ever be able to love again?

pkt asks:

My boyfriend and I decided to completely break it off. Because of his family, he feels like there is no chance for us in the future and it will be good if we don’t stay friends because that will help him to move on. I still feel little hopeful about our future but obviously I can’t ask him to go against his family for me or even just lie to his family for now .And I also don’t want him to do something that feels wrong to him. But I feel very scared. We were together for 2 years and I have no idea how I’m going to move forward without him. What if I can’t find a connection like that again? I wanted this to work so badly but we just couldn’t. I don’t want to lose him. I was fine with being friends. I just wanted him to be there in my life. I know he’s right but I don’t know how to move on. Should I be still hopeful about this whole thing or just let it go?

Hi pkt –

I know that fear, and I’ve experienced it, and I see it all the time.  And my answer to you is… yes and no.

My human friend Handsome had a dog when he was 10 to 13 years old who he still idolizes, named Wolfgang.  No dog can ever mean to him what Wolf did.  When Wolf had to be given away, Handsome still says, it created the biggest wound his heart has ever suffered, and it’s never gone away.  Later he had a dog named Ygor who no one but him thought much of.  Ygor lived to be eighteen years old, and Handsome loved him more than anything else in the world.  And that whole part of his heart still loves Ygor as much as ever.  Then I came along.  And Handsome will gladly tell you he’s never loved anything the way he loves me.  But at the same time as he’s had me, he’s fallen in love with girlfriends, he’s loved friends enormously, and he’s been completely devoted to his family whom he adores.  

So are you right?  Will you find a connection like this guy again?  Probably you won’t – not exactly like you have with him.  And that’s partly because you’ll never be exactly the same person again, with the same needs, so you’ll connect differently.  But will you connect as strongly again?  I’ll bet you’ll connect with someone else more strongly than you ever did with this guy.  And will you love again?  Oh, only more so!  And will you forget this guy?  No chance.  

The way I see it, when we go off to whatever comes after this lifetime, our hearts are just loaded.  We have the love we felt for our parents and caretakers, the loves we had for our childhood friends, the loves we had for the teenagers we couldn’t stop laughing with (or in my case, couldn’t stop play-fighting with), the loves of our passionate romances, loves of beliefs and causes, loves of books and movies and songs, and if we’re so lucky, the biggest loves of all – for our children.  Does one make another go away?  Nope.  

But that’s our hearts.  Our brains do make room.  You’ll think about this guy all the time for a while, but there’ll be a day you realize you barely thought of him at all.  And then you’ll realize you went a week without thinking of him.  

And then you’ll bump into him on the street, and feel all the love you felt all over again.  But you’ll be strong enough to move on.

One of Handsome’s favorite songwriters said “He not busy being born is busy dying.”  Well you’re still being born, my friend.  And your newborn heart will love again like crazy.  

And here’s my big compliment to you and this guy – it’ll be easier for it to happen because you two have been so good with each other.  This relationship isn’t saddled with lies and betrayal.  No, you both have been honest and up-front and communicative.  Your trust has been rewarded.

So you’re going to be fine.  Not today, not tomorrow.  But you’re going to be okay.

You see, I know.  Because if Handsome was still only able to love Wolfgang and Ygor, I wouldn’t be here at all!

All my very best,


The Pain Worse than Pain – the struggle against stress

            I lost my best friend.

            I’ve spent the last few weeks trying to come up with a way to sugarcoat that, but I can’t find one.  Aria’s cancer got better, then worse, then better, and then lots worse, and finally her human friends had to kindly help her go, so that she wouldn’t suffer more. 

            I’ve told you many times that all dogs hate war.  Well we’re not too fond of cancer either, let me tell you!

            You all know about how much I loved her (and still do), and how much her life was dominated by fear and pain from things she suffered in her early years.  If there’s one blessing to her not being here, it’s that I do believe she’s free of those completely at last, and living in pure fearless joy.  Just what I’m always wishing for you.

            So I don’t know that I have a lot else to tell you.  I’ve told you about her life story – and anyone who wants to know more can always check out the book A Dog of Many Names which tells about those first years, before she was named Aria.  And anyone who’s ever lost anyone they loved knows the pain of grief.  Nothing for me to teach you there.

            But I do want to share something her human friend Ugmo wrote to me.  It’s not something he’s proud of, but he’s okay with me sharing it as he thinks it’s pretty universal, and might help somebody get through a tough time in a better way. 

            So I’m going to go do what I’ve been doing a lot lately – and just lie in my yard and feel the ground, and miss my friend horribly.  It’s the only way I know to truly get through sadness like this – to feel it fully and connect as deeply as I can with the earth that gives and takes all her beings.

            And let Ugmo talk with you about what he learned, in this most painful time of his life.

Hi Shirelle –

I know you miss Aria like blazes.  So do I.  It’s hard to wake in the morning and expect her lying on the bedroom floor, or to open the front door and look to see where she’s hiding from the squirrels – and in each case, to be reminded that she’s not there, and never will be again.  It’s just been a couple of weeks, but my eyes are already tired of crying.

But I have a strange confession to make to you.  It’s not as bad for me now as it was before.

Grief is pure.  Missing is awful but simple.  Crying is searing but relieving to my whole body.

What I’m not experiencing now is stress.  Stress that was mixed with grief and terror, so much that I almost couldn’t take it.

As you know, Aria got diagnosed with her cancer about five months ago.  And no one has ever found a cure for this specific one, Hemangiosarcoma.  Other cancers might be eradicated by operations or chemotherapy, or even improving a diet and exercise.  But not this.  Medication and good energy work can slow it down, but it shows back up eventually.  And once it gets to an essential organ, it’s just a matter of time.

That’s what happened with Aria.  She made it about four months, but then, on one awful day, she got very tired and lost her appetite, and I took her to a veterinarian who found that her liver was bleeding, and told me it was hopeless, that we needed to let her go that night.

You hear about the five stages of grief – Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance.  Well I guess I’d had all my denial and anger and bargaining already, so I went straight into depression and acceptance.  I sat in the lobby weeping, waiting for her friend Fifi to show up, as she’d want to be there for the end.  She arrived, and we took Aria into a small room and covered her in kisses and hugs and telling her all the lovely things we could. 

And she… got better!

Seriously, she improved.  Her strength came back a little, she seemed happier, and when the veterinarian came in to get her, she looked down and said “That is not the same dog!”

So after seven hours in the Emergency Room, which I’d expected to include putting her down, we took her home.  It was hard to sleep, because anytime her breathing shifted, I’d wake to see if she was okay.  At one point that night, I was sure she was going down again and ready to take her back to the doctors, but again, she recovered.

In the next few days, this all continues, including my sleeplessness.  She’d seem better, but then refuse to eat, so she got weaker and weaker.  I’d annoy or anger her by trying to get pills down her throat or putting food in front of her nose that she used to love but now found disgusting.  I got to where I was more scared that she’d starve herself to death than that the cancer would get her.  And I could feel that she was feeling my frustration, and afraid of it.

And so I found myself wishing she’d just be done.

Shirelle, this is why I’m writing you.  Because I couldn’t believe that that thought was able to come into my mind.  I loved – and love – Aria more than anything on this earth.  And I wanted every second I could get with my pup.  Nothing in me wanted her gone.  Except that something in me… did!  I could feel it.

What in the world was that?

            It was the voice of my stress, screaming so loud inside me that it overshouted my heart.  For moments, I’d forget what I wanted most – to keep Aria around as long as I could, and give her as much love as I could, and help her get through this as much as I could – and feel, instead, only how much I hated feeling all this worry, this helplessness, this confusion, this stress.

            Now, once I realized this, I was fine.  I still had all those awful feelings, but I never once again experienced wishing for it all to end.  In fact, I realized that I only had one full wish – I wished she had never gotten this cancer!  But since she already had it, I had to live with just partial wishes – that she’d get through the next day without pain, that she’d get a burst of puppy energy, that she’d eat, that she’d be happy a little bit more. 

            And those smaller wishes came true, many times.

            I’ve found, since realizing this about myself, so many others experiencing the same things.  Sure, everyone hates stress, but I mean people doing stupid, self-destructive things just to avoid feeling it.  Getting so uptight in a close game they make mistakes and make themselves lose.  Worrying about their teeth being bad so skipping going to the dentist for years.  Fearing they’re not attractive enough to compete with the best-looking person at school, so overeating and quitting exercise. 

            The only reason stress has all this power is because we let it.  The moment we see it for what it is, it becomes much weaker.  And when it does, we can begin again to live our full lives, with our full hearts. 

            Aria died, but I’m so glad I’m not looking back on my soul dying on her first.  Our last weeks were beautiful and joyous and sad and very close.  Stress had tried to take that away from me, but I’m so glad it failed.

            And today?  Well I’m the sad mess I described to you, but I know I’ll get stronger over time.  And Aria is… do you remember a song I played you once, Shirelle, called “Beyond the Horizon?”  That’s her now, I have no doubt.  Loving, feeling love, fearless, and knowing more than you and me put together!  And absolutely free from all the stupid stresses we suffer down here!

            I’ll see her there again, and I know you will too.  Wagging her tail in that circular way, lunging at us with those quick side-shot kisses of hers, and cuddling up for hours on end. 

            But here, for better and for worse, are just memories.  As Shakespeare wrote, parting is such sweet sorrow.  And that sweet sorrowful dog left so much sweetness and sorrow in my heart, and yours, and those of all who loved her.

            We’re the lucky ones, Shirelle.  We’re the ones with the beautiful pain.  I hope it never goes away.

            Love Always,


Should you accept someone back after they ghost you?

Pkt asks:

My boyfriend ghosted me almost 10 days ago.  We were together for 2 years, and the  last couple of days I’ve been feeling really terrible. We did have a few small fights before he ghosted me, but we sorted them out so I thought everything was fine (and it actually was; we had a really good talk just a day before he blocked me everywhere). So when he blocked me I panicked. I texted him on snapchat and finally he replied by saying “he doesn’t wants to be in a relationship anymore.” That’s the only thing he has said I asked him what happened, but he never replied. I just don’t understand. In the past he did say that our relationship doesn’t have any future, as we come from extremely different family backgrounds, and our families would never approve of it, so he was worried about it, but we are just 18 now and I feel hopeful that maybe in the future they might approve of it. I’ve assured him many times that, no matter what, we will find a way to be together and I’ll be always be there for him. A month ago the same thing happened; he told me his family found out about us and so we broke up. But a few days later he told me that he lied, his family doesn’t know anything, and he was just irritated. We met after that and sort of patched up. After that everything was pretty fine. We did have some small arguments and he kept complaining that he is tired of “my behaviour” and how dumb I am, and how he needs to explain everything to me. He feels like I should automatically understand everything that’s going on in his mind. I am so confused right now. I feel like he at least owes me an
explanation. I don’t know how to move on if I don’t get a closure. I even asked him if I have done something that hurt him, but he just replied “no.” But still I feel like it’s my fault and his silence is just making me restless. Today I called him from my mom’s phone (because he has blocked my number) but he didn’t pick up. I’ve tried everything I could to try to talk to him and make this work, or at least find the reason behind all this. I’ve tried my best to be a better person for both of us, and I’m still trying. All I wanted was for him to be a little bit patient for me, and it’s still not enough. I just want to know what happened.  So how do I let go?
I feel like this is so wrong, like how can he just walk away like that? He knew how much it would hurt me if he just left me like this, without an explanation, but he did it anyway – and it hurts terribly. Is it even worth trying now? Should I give up trying to reach to him? Have we really broken up? What do I do if he ever comes back (I don’t think he ever would, but I’m a very hopeful person)?

Hi pkt –

Of course I don’t know your boyfriend, but two things really stick out to me here.  One, that he has told you that he believes your different backgrounds would preclude your families accepting your relationship, and two that he seems to think he’s told you more than he has, as if he’s expecting you to have read his mind.

These two things together make me think that his family has made very clear to him what he should be doing, including in relationships, and that he’s unhappily decided he needs to obey their wishes and cut things off with you.  And that, very importantly, he thinks he’s explained this to you – even though, for you, he hasn’t explained enough!

So if I’m right, when you write him and ask what’s going on, he just finds it irritating, thinking you ought to know exactly what’s happening since he’s explained it all – Even though he really hasn’t!

And if I’m right… then my advice is to let this go.  And let him go.  Not so much because of whatever differences your families might have, but because he’s not mature enough yet to handle such a situation.  He’s frightened (ghosting is an act of fear) and trying to do what they say is right.  I’m not saying he’s wrong to obey his family, but a more mature man would have handled this in a much clearer, and braver, way. 

There may be a day in the future when he realizes what he’s done.  And that day he might well come back to you, either just to apologize for doing such a clumsy job of things, or to try to restart the relationship.  And if and when he does, I hope you accept his apology, and maybe even him.  We all have to mature at the rate we do (I didn’t stop biting Handsome’s ankles till I was about three!), and he doesn’t sound like a bad guy.

But he’s not what you need right now, or what you deserve.  My suggestion is to enjoy the memories of the times you had together, but now find people who are more able to handle life’s difficulties in a strong and open way.

All my best,


1 2 3 83