Category Archives for "Scary Stuff"

Not Quite Human – a plea from all us dogs

I’m a dog.  I’m not more than a dog, and I’m not less than a dog.

And by the fact that you’re reading this, I’m going to assume that you’re a human.  Not more than a human and not less than a human.

Simple, isn’t it?

Yet there’s a very particular activity that has dominated most of human history, in which you, and every other person who’s ever lived, can be considered less than a human.  Can you imagine what that activity is?

If you guessed War, you’re right. 

Almost all human beings are born with an ingrained sense of empathy, the ability to relate on a deep level to the feelings of others.  Really to resonate with them, the way a musical note will make strings set for that note vibrate just from its sound contacting them.

And people also have a strong sense of morality.  Maybe you’ve stolen something from someone, but I’ll bet you knew you were doing something “wrong” (even if you thought you deserved it!).  Or if you’ve hurt someone, even if you had to (say by breaking up with them when you saw the relationship wasn’t working), you felt bad for their pain.  Yes, even if you covered that bad feeling up. So you see, people tend to be pretty great overall.

Because of this, military leaders learned many centuries ago that the only way to get an army to fight another army to the death is to train their soldiers to think of the opposing soldiers as something less than themselves.  As less than human.  And thereby unworthy of empathy or morality, at least when it comes to taking their lives.

Now I’ve said here many times that all dogs hate war.  We hate the mass killing, we hate the noise and destruction, and we hate the miserable feelings war brings out in the humans involved. And of course we hate what usually comes along with war – famine, pestilence, poverty…

And dehumanization.

Why should we care?  We’re not human. It’s not our problem, right?

Well, first of all, we tend to adore humans, so seeing those we think so highly of put down bugs us.  But beyond that, we realize that if a person can regard another person as less than, it’s not long before they’ll regard us that way too. 

There was a horrific video that got sent around during the US-Iraq war, of an American soldier laughingly throwing a puppy off a cliff. Was this man a psychopath? Probably not.  Most likely, he had just taken his lessons too deeply and too far. I hope he’s gotten the help he needs; the puppy is in a better place but I imagine will never forget its final terror.

I will always support anyone protecting their land and their people, however hard that means they have to fight. After all, that’s just what we dogs do every day. But once dehumanization creeps in, that’s when things go bad.

A great example of mass dehumanization occurred recently in the awful horror taking place in Israel.  Even after millennia of conflicts there, the killings that started with the Hamas attacks last October have shocked the world.  (I’m not here to pick sides; I hate all attacks on the innocent, always).  But after Israel retaliated by attacking the Gaza Strip, to a point of over 30,000 deaths, they did a bombing that killed some international aid workers who were there bringing food to the starving people.

Of course it’s awful that those people were killed.  But the international outcry for those few deaths was greater than it had been for the 30,000 Palestinians.  Even the Israeli leaders had to admit this was too much.

Are you seeing it?  People regarded those heroic aid workers as HUMAN, and the other 30,000 as NOT QUITE.  It’s as if someone sprayed poison to kill a bunch of fleas, but it accidentally killed some beautiful dogs too.

Again, I’m not taking sides here.  If the Hamas fighters had seen Israelis as fully human, they could never have perpetrated those awful attacks in October.  The war mentality infects everyone, every time.

And everywhere. Any war that’s ever occurred starts, and then continues, with this attitude, this belief.

And when the war is over, and peace has been declared, do both sides suddenly forget that mindset, and consider their former enemy fully human again?  No.  They might opt to work together, but that prejudice can’t be erased, any more than I can see a squirrel as my equal, or they see me as a bushy-tailed acorn-eater.

Of course dehumanization doesn’t only exist in war.  We see it in racism everywhere, in caste systems (whether openly acknowledged or more hidden), in sexism, you name it.  And it STINKS wherever it rears its ugly head.  But those don’t usually (I emphasize “USUALLY”) result in dehumanizing to the degree of mass killing.

I’m a dreamer. I hope every war in the world ends soon. I hope people everywhere start to heal from their pain and their trauma. I hope every injured person is fixed up, every hostage is released, and every exploded home is rebuilt.

But more than this, I hope – with all my heart but not much faith – that humans learn to move past the idiocy of dehumanization, and to shun the leaders who urge it.  If you guys can rise to that noble a level of humility, and admit that each of you is worthy, just imagine how great the world could be.

Imagine everyone living without fear of attacks.

Imagine the improvement in the climate when constant bombings and shootings stop.

Imagine the good that could be done with all the money now spent on killing and destruction.

A famous songwriter and his wife, known for the word “Imagine” said it simply: War is Over, If You Want It. 

Want it more than you want to think you’re more human than someone else.  It won’t solve everything, but it’s certainly a start.

We dogs – and the rest of the animals on the planet – are waiting for you guys to get it.


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…


The Aquarian Apocalypse …a fable for our times…

            Certain kinds of stories transcend place and time.  For example, did you know that almost every land on Earth has some version of Cinderella, long before they’d have heard them from each other? 

            One that seems to show up in every culture that existed around the ancient Mediterranean is of The Great Flood.  You know it – that humans were so awful that God (or the Gods) flooded the whole world out, but one man was so good that he was warned in advance from above, and built a great ship on which he saved one member of every species of animal, along with his family.

            Another sort of story we hear about is where God (or the Gods) test people, and punish or kill everyone who doesn’t give the right response.  The Jewish story of the Passover might be the best known of this (due to exciting movies of it like The Ten Commandments!).  In it, God sends a plague that kills the first-born of every family that doesn’t put a sign of devotion on their doors, but it ‘passes over’ the homes that do.  Pretty harsh, huh!

            Then there’s another sort of apocalyptic warning tale. It’s more modern, and showed up a lot in stories written after the invention of the atomic bomb.  In these, either mankind learns from disasters to master its newfound power and move forward, or it doesn’t and is ruined (by those disasters), or it’s warned in apocalyptic terms of just how dangerous this new power is.  In other words, the stories all have the same moral: “If we don’t learn how to stop fighting each other, we’re going the way of the dinosaurs!”

            I was thinking about these three kinds of stories recently, when it hit me that we may be living through a fourth one – one that isn’t being written or filmed; it’s literally happening to us. 

            You see, odd as it may seem, we’ve actually survived the other ones.  Whatever awfulness humans were doing before The Great Flood, it hasn’t been repeated, so you guys must have improved!  And while horrible acts have been perpetrated on people for their faith over the last 2500 years, the world seems to have survived the vengeance of their deities. 

            And maybe most amazing of all, the human race, for all its flaws, has gone 75 years without using atomic weapons on each other.  Pretty astounding when you think of it!

            So I guess the overall moral here is that, slowly but surely, humans do learn their lessons.  But there’s always room for growth, right?

            Well, what about our current coronavirus apocalypse?  Is there anything we can learn from it?  It hasn’t decimated the entire world, or picked favorites based on ethnicity or faith.  And it hasn’t created any devastating wars, yet.

            Is this something completely new?  Something promising to raise humanity to a higher level?


            I argued in the last Pawprint about how sad and furious I was that people’s laziness and stupidity had allowed the virus to grow and spread for so long that it killed one of my favorite people.  And yes, I’m still very angry about that.

            But what if we look at it another way?  What if the whole human race is being taught a lesson, one you need more than ever?  What if it’s on purpose that this disease demands something all new from everyone?

            Not to care for yourselves, or your families, or even all of humanity.  But to care for “the other.”

            So here’s the story I’m suggesting.  A new fable:

            One morning, the Great Dog in the Sky looked down at the world She had created, and said, “Humans have evolved well.  They no longer do such unspeakable things that I need to eliminate them and start over, and they now treat other religions well enough that I don’t need to kill their children; and they’ve even shown some restraint in how they fight each other.  But while they’ve improved in some ways, they have gotten worse in one.  They are selfish than ever!”

            And of course, She was correct.  The growth in their intelligence and skills had made humans less dependent on their tribes, and more focused on themselves and those closest to them – to the degree of often not caring about anyone else.  They figured “somebody” would take care of anyone in pain, and smugly assumed that any poor or destitute person must deserve it.  They no longer were trying to eliminate everyone who was different from them, but they had not yet learned to truly love each other, in the way the world needed.

            So She sent down a new plague.  A plague unlike any before.  This plague hurt or killed some people, but infected far more, without showing any symptoms.  And once humans learned the basic facts about it, they realized something new – that the only way to beat the new plague would be to wear masks, keep distant, and keep clean.  Not to protect themselves, but to protect each other!

            At first, most humans didn’t grasp this concept.  “But if I’m feeling okay, then I can’t be sick, so there’s nothing wrong with my going about my life as usual,” they insisted.  But then bit by bit they learned.  They went to a fun party and came home, and unintentionally infected and killed their grandparents.  They took their daughter to a religious ceremony to teach them moral lessons, after which she gave her best friend lung damage for life.  They screamed for their favorite team at a sports event, resulting in local hospitals filling their beds with patients on breathing machines, while other people died waiting to get let in.

            And meanwhile, they also suffered the lack of everything they loved doing together.  Restaurants and concerts and plays and movies and sports events.  And even going to school.  All of these got stopped because of the danger caused by people who didn’t know they were contagious.

            And so, bit by bit, the people learned.  They started acting as if they were sick, even if they were almost certain they weren’t.  They politely gave room to those they were walking past.  They wore masks even though the nasty things were uncomfortable and made their faces break out.  They sanitized themselves before and after encountering everyone.

            And even those who got vaccinated, guaranteeing them that they’d not be hurt by the disease, kept masked and distant and clean, in case they might carry the disease and spread it to others.

            And as enough people learned to act in such an unselfish way, the Great Dog chose to reward them with a lovely treat: she started to take the virus away. 

And slowly, just as the flood and earlier plagues had receded, the world began to re-open.  Schools enabled youngsters to meet and play and grow together.  Theaters and restaurants took people in to give them joy and sustenance.  Gatherings increased, with embraces and jostling and mosh pits and fistfights – everything everyone had enjoyed before.

            But with a new understanding. 

            You see, humans had been telling each other that the key to happiness was to treat others the way you wanted to be treated, to love your neighbor as yourself, for millennia.  Now they learned the next level of that – that you have to actually take care of each other!  Just wishing the other well isn’t enough. 

            And the world was better forever after.

            Do you like this story?  I do!

See, If a dog howls in pain, other dogs will join in and howl along with them.  That’s our pack mindset.  If a dog smells fatal illness in another, they might try to kill them, instinctively acting on the harsher side of our pack rules.

            Where humans are heading is to another level.  To say “It doesn’t matter whether I sense it or not, I need to alter my behavior for my fellow human.  That’s the only way to have the world I want.”

            In other words, the key to each person’s selfish desires is to act unselfishly!  You want your job back?  You want movies and concerts back?  You want to start meeting cute attractive people in public again, so one of them might be all you desire?  Then take care of the person next to you!  Everyone needs to do just this!  That’s the only way it can happen!

            And that’s the lesson the whole world’s been getting taught for the past year.  The sooner more people learn it, the sooner everyone gets better off.  And the longer people insist on sticking to their old mindsets…  well, you know.

            Oh, but there are two aspects to my idea I’ve forgotten to include.  First, this has actually been predicted.  Not the stupid virus, but the place I like to think the world is moving.  Astrologers and some religions have spoken for years about the Aquarian Age – an era that will involve mutual understanding, after the past era, the Piscean Age, of conquest and domination.  Don’t look for one specific date; the idea is that we’re in a period of transition into it.  Depending on where you read, this transition might take decades or it might take centuries!  But every time people learn to think of others in their actions more, that’s a great step forward into it.

            And the second aspect?  Oh that’s the best part of the story.  When the Great Dog in the Sky saw that humanity had learned and grown, she threw a great party up there – a party for all who had perished in this recent plague.  And all of them felt pride about being part of this wonderful change, and sang and danced to all the songs they’d most loved in their times on Earth, and beamed down love on those still here below.  Which led to them deciding that the song they wanted to dance to the most, regardless of their musical tastes, was of course…

            So why not get up and dance with them!  I do!



8 My Friend Mutt – the need to use your full mind

My dear friends, I usually write you from a place of tail-wagging joy.  Though sometimes I have written you from sadness, or from anger.  But today I’m maybe the saddest and angriest I’ve ever been.

One of my very best friends ever passed away a couple of weeks ago.  I hate loss, and, like all pups, get very attached to those I love, so a friend’s death is always going to hurt my heart.  But what makes me so angry is that this loss was completely unnecessary – my friend should have lived for many more years.  In fact, I’d argue my friend was murdered.  But not by one individual – he was murdered by an energy, a concept.  My friend was murdered by Stupid.

I’ll explain that in a moment, but first let me tell you about my friend.

Mutt was a friendly cheerful guy who always had a song in his head and an awful joke to tell.  His real name wasn’t Mutt, but that’s what his granddaughter called him when she was a baby, and of course I loved the name, since it made us sound related!  He was strong, energetic (played tennis three times a week), and a great friend to all who knew him, while a devoted caretaker to friends and family. 

A few years ago, he and his wife moved into an apartment which, for the past ten months, has done better than anywhere I know of at keeping their residents safe from the coronavirus.  The people who ran it enforced very strict rules, not letting any visitors in, testing the people who worked there, and quarantining anyone who went out for any reason.  With this, they managed to go nine months without any resident becoming infected with Covid-19.  But then one person, somehow, caught it.  And then, a week or so later, Mutt caught it too. 

When asked how, he said, in a cheerful tone, “Oh, probably just by walking down the hall.”  At first he just had a slight cough.  Then he had a couple of falls – strange because he normally wasn’t clumsy.  After a bad one, he was sent to be checked out at a hospital, in case he’d broken anything.  No, his bones were fine, but because they tested everyone who came in, they tested him and he found out he had it.  A week later, he was in a hospital room on oxygen.  Days later, he was in an Intensive Care Unit on lots more oxygen.  And a couple of weeks after that, his lungs gave out and he went to be welcomed above by his parents, his sister, other family and friends, and I can’t imagine how many dogs.

Don’t get me wrong – Mutt had a terrific life.  He enjoyed great health, was successful enough in his work to devote many years to volunteering for causes he cared about, and relished the love of many.  His lifelong passions for nature and music fed his soul every day, and he even left this world listening to a favorite opera.

So why am I so angry?

Because of Stupid.

If Mutt had developed a cancer, or suffered a heart attack, I’d just be writing about here about what he showed us about a beautiful meaningful existence.  And if he’d caught this awful virus when it first took over the planet, I’d have wailed about the tragedy of illness.

But something else happened.

By last May, scientists all around the world knew what we needed to slow this viral spread.  And told us so, in very clear terms.  They knew we would eventually develop vaccines to free humanity from its clutches.  But that, until then, all people everywhere needed to do just a few things to keep its spread down.  You’ve heard these rules all year:  to wash your hands frequently, to wear a mask and stay distanced from others when you’re out of your home, and to avoid crowds.  And especially to remember that this disease can be contagious even when one has no symptoms of it – that anyone, no matter how good you’re feeling at that moment – can be a carrier and transmitter of it… and thereby potentially a killer of someone else.

Of someone innocent.  Of someone maybe strong and healthy.  Of someone perhaps with no dangerous pre-existing condition.  But of someone you’ll have to live the rest of your days knowing you killed.

And far too many people chose to be Stupid.  To ignore those rules.  To take the chance.  And why?  Well, apparently, because they think wearing a mask is just too much work.

Now you know those cones that veterinarians put on us pups after we’ve gotten stitches?  They’re annoying.  Even more so for me because I have such a long nose so I have to wear a really big one.  I totally hate them.  But Handsome has always made sure I have one when I need it, no matter how much it annoys me.

So if I could put up with that, why is it such a big deal for a human to strap a small piece of fabric over their face, especially when they can choose to wear one that has a pretty or fun pattern on it (Handsome loves wearing ones with monsters on them, for example!)?  And if I can put up with staying on a leash when I’m outside our home, why is it so difficult for some humans to keep a safe distance from others?

The answer is it’s not.  Anyone can easily wear a mask and stay distanced (and those who say masks hinder their breathing just need to talk with anyone who saw Mutt in his last days about what real breathing trouble looks like.  Or, if you truly have a serious respiratory issue, then you should be even more cautious of this virus, and find ways to stay completely away from others all the time till it’s gone!). 

But that’s just about being lazy and selfish.  It doesn’t account for Stupid.

All year, all over the world, we’ve heard stories of people arguing that they knew better than the scientists.  Who say that masks impinge their right to personal freedom. Who even go around yelling at those who follow the rules, screaming that they’re wrong to wear masks and keep distanced.  Even some rotten politicians have scorned the safety measures, inspiring their peoples to Stupidity. 

Now I realize that some countries have enforced strict rules on safety, which have largely kept the virus out.  They have shown the truth – that when people obeyed the simple rules the scientists recommended, the virus reduced to a degree that all were safe.  Which is great, but my point is about people who’ve had the freedom to choose what to do – and have chosen Stupid.

You see, if people had chosen safety over Stupid even when their governments didn’t force them to, the same excellent results could have been true everywhere. 

But no.  These Stupid people have spread the virus all year.  These Stupid people have filled hospitals with struggling, gasping, and dying patients.  These Stupid people have kept schools from being able to take children back in, restaurants from being able to provide food and service, churches and mosques and synagogues from being able to give their parishioners the warmth and comfort of group worship, and entertainers the ability to stir audiences to joy.

And, by keeping the virus so prevalent, these Stupid people killed my friend Mutt.

But in the midst of my grief and anger about him, I then think of how far the power of Stupid stretches.

Look at our international squabbles.  How many are because of Stupid?  The Koran, Torah, Bhagavad-Gita, and Bible all tell us to love and take care of each other, but Stupid tells people that their loving God wants them to randomly kill and oppress those who worship differently. 

Humans have all the knowledge they need to slow down climate change, to keep our air and water clean, and to preserve what’s unruined of our planet, and even bring back some things we’ve lost.  But Stupid (led by Greed) keeps telling the world that the scientists are wrong about all this, and to keep the greatest mass suicide in history continuing.

I could go on and on.  And remember, I’m not the one with the great brain!  I can’t do math or write a song.  I’m just sitting around looking at you guys, wishing you’d USE those brains of yours in the best way you can. 

But I’m not getting what I wish for.  In fact, the day before Mutt passed away, I saw the most astonishing demonstration of Stupid I’ve ever seen.  Maybe that anyone’s ever seen.

A politician who’s known to lie a lot lied that he had won an election.  The votes were counted and recounted many times.  Courts had looked at all his arguments, and dismissed them.  Members of his own political party confirmed that, yes, there was no way around it; his opponent had won clearly.  But he kept insisting to his supporters that he’d been the victor, they’d been cheated, and they needed to fight to keep him in his job.

And on that fated day, a number of them did.  They violently broke in to the halls of their own government, threatening and attacking their representatives, resulting in five deaths.  And here’s where I’m really in awe – these people were so Stupid, they did this in front of television cameras, and even took photos of themselves and posted them online.  They broke the most fundamental laws of their country, and went to great efforts to make sure everyone knew about it.

In so doing, they destroyed their own lives.  They’re being arrested and jailed, and will suffer legal punishments.  And that man they did this for?  He’s of course denied that he had anything to do with them – liars lie after all – sacrificing them to save what he can of his own skin.

These Stupid people followed Stupid arguments to the point of doing Stupid things – and countless numbers, including themselves, will suffer because of it. 

I could run down a list of Stupid things I’d like you not to do, but I shouldn’t have to.  Because that’s the whole point: you’re smart and know better.

You see, that’s what I mean by Stupid.  I’m not asking you to suddenly create world peace, just to use your own knowledge to avoid doing Stupid things that inflame needless conflict.  I’m not asking you to invent the way to save the planet, just to do what you already know will help it.  And I’m not asking you to cure the next pandemic disease.  Just to follow what knowledgeable people have told you is the best way to handle this current one.

I’m just asking you to use the brains you have.

Because the world needs you to. 

In Handsome’s book about what I taught him, he lists one of my major lessons as “Ignorance Is Not A Virtue.”  But if you wish to sit at home and be ignorant and not do anything about it, I suppose that won’t hurt anyone.  The danger is when a person chooses ignorance, and then acts on it.

Someone somewhere chose to behave in a way that, directly or indirectly, gave Mutt the disease that killed him.  Did they do that by going maskless, not washing, partying in crowds?  I don’t know.  I just know they did it by being Stupid.  By honoring Stupid.  By choosing to let Stupid run their lives.

Don’t be that way.  Don’t be Stupid.  Use your full brain.  Be your full self.  And if you catch yourself being momentarily Stupid (hey everyone does at times) then just change to acting Smarter.

You just get this one life in this body, with this brain.  Not using it is worse than a mistake.  It’s really kind of a sin when you think of it.

And I’m tired of being sad and angry.  So even if it’s just for me – please – embrace your Smart, and tell Stupid to go straight to…  to where I know my dear Mutt will never be sent!

6 Gratitude Anyway – sticking positive in negative’s face

Gratitude Anyway – sticking positive in negative’s face!

            I was getting depressed.

            All the people around me have been down or stressed or terrified for months.  And we dogs are big empaths (which means we feel what you guys are feeling), so I’ve been down too.

            But that was just from the stupid virus.  Now it’s worse – the continuation of the lockdown far past what anyone envisioned, the billions of people suffering from this around the world, the continuing death rate from the illness but also from accidents and murders from people’s stress and misery, all the fear going around…  it’s enough to make a tail unwaggable.

            But that’s not the way I choose to live.  So I decided to change my feelings.

            I can’t change what’s happening around me, of course, but I know that I’ll be more energetic, and more helpful, if I can also focus on good things, and feel grateful for them.  And there ARE still so many of them, despite everything.

            So I gave myself a task: Come up with 100 things I’m grateful for.  Grateful for right now, at this exact moment.  It wasn’t easy, but I did it.  And do you know what?  I felt better right away.

            So maybe you can try it too.  Stay upset, stay angry; we need that to beat this awfulness.  But also, appreciate what you’ve got that’s absolutely wonderful.  And struggle to think of it.  It is possible, I promise!

            Here’s mine:

Scientists are working for a vaccine.

Most people are behaving intelligently to slow the virus down.

The lockdown has been great for pet adoptions – many shelters have been emptied by people enjoying raising puppies and kittens in their time at home.

The lockdown has kept you guys home so much more, which we love.

Taylor Swift put out a new album that many say is her best ever (though I haven’t heard it yet)

I’m very hopeful about the upcoming US election, that new people will take charge who reduce the amount of poison in our air and water, and work to combat global climate change.

There’s Handsome.  Always there’s Handsome.


Trees.  I love trees so much – the shade, the squirrels, the place to squat or lift my leg…

Water.  Maybe there’s nothing more important out there.

YOU!  My pack, my readers, and every question I get from any of you!

Animal Rescuers.

The couch I’m not supposed to climb on but I do when Handsome’s not at home

Zoom, FaceTime, Doxy… imagine how much worse this lockdown would be if you guys didn’t have these!

Dogs Don’t Get COVID-19.  (at least so far)

Cheese.  All kinds.

Squirrels.  How boring life would be without them!


Unlike you guys, we can bend around and lick and chew just about anywhere that hurts or itches or is dirty!


My neighborhood – especially the dogs I get to see occasionally.

Buster Keaton’s movie Steamboat Bill, Jr.  Handsome had never seen it before, and it was glorious to sit in the room with him when he watched it in breathless awe last month.


The people who pick up our garbage and recycling and drive it away.

Leashes.  I know it sounds weird, but I’ve explained this before – they give me safety with some freedom.

Veterinarians.  I know that sounds weird too, but they’ve saved my life numerous times, whether I liked their methods or not.

Groomers…  well, really I don’t like doing that at all, but I do appreciate their being as nice as they can!

My house.  And all shelters.  For so many reasons.

My friend Dilla, who makes the funniest sounds and has a tongue that sticks out the side of his mouth.

My friend Aria, who melts my heart and teaches me new things all the time.

My friend Kuma, the best playmate I ever had.

Opera.  Of all the music Handsome plays in our home, this is the closest to what my heart is like.  Passionate, dramatic, and loud!

Grass.  To roll in, to run in, to sniff and pee on.

Memories.  Of lost friends, of great meals, of the best vacations.

Dog Parks!



Beverly Cleary – the great children’s book author who always has done such a good job of helping her readers understand weird kids (and dogs!)

Trumpets.  I’ve always loved the sound of trumpets!  No matter how well or badly they’re played.

Bruno Mars.  Because if I could be a human, he’s the kind of human I’d want to be!

Dog Food.  Duh.

Treats.  Double-Duh.

Whatever it is in the human brain that makes so many of you want to befriend us, adopt us, care for us, play with us, fall in love with us. 

Speed Limits on cars!


Ice Cream.  And because Handsome doesn’t like to eat too much dairy… all those fake ice creams!  Based in almonds, coconut, soy, cashews… all of them YUMMY! (the little bits he shares with me)

The shower in our house, which on hot days like today is the coolest place to lie down, with my back against the tile wall

My ability to run

My ability to jump

My ability to bark (even though it annoys people)

My ability to lick people’s faces

My ability to wag my tail!

The fact that, however smart he might be in other ways, Handsome’s love for me makes him too stupid to kick me out of the house for making noise and shedding hair all over the place.

The smell of chocolate (Handsome won’t let me eat it but… wow!)

Cool night air

Warm sunshine

Ear scratches

Head scratches

Nice soft stroking petting

Huge overwhelming hugs

Tummy rubs

And best of all, tummy KISSES!

Every moment someone I love comes to my home

The fun of barking at anyone I don’t know who walks by my home!

Governments and Charities who help their people devastated by this tough economy

Health care workers risking their lives to help people with this horrible virus

Scientists working to find treatments to help people with this horrible virus

Scientists working to find a vaccine for this horrible virus (I know I said that before, but isn’t it worth two counts?!)

Chew Toys


Tennis balls

Harnesses for us dogs that tie us to cars’ seatbelts so we’re safe in case of an accident

My doggy optimism that tells me things will get better eventually

The fact that even if people can’t get together as they used to right now, they can still laugh, cry, and dance.


People who push to make this world a better place

People who risk their lives to keep this world safe for others

Dogs who do both

The feel of the ground when I lie on it

The smell of the ground when I lie on it

The sound of the earth when I lie on it

Other dogs’ butts!  Hey, just because you don’t appreciate them doesn’t mean I can’t!

The way some guys are so wildly attracted to women

The way some women are so wildly attracted to guys

The way some guys are so wildly attracted to guys

The way some women are so wildly attracted to women

The way we doggies are so wildly attracted to all you people!

The way so many of you people are so wildly attracted to us doggies!

The way (amusingly incomprehensible to me) so many of you people are so wildly attracted to nasty old kitty cats!

The stars in the sky at night

The clouds in the sky at daytime


The fact that history tells us no plague lasts forever


The new really amazing vegan meat substitutes that taste so much like the real things, but without anyone getting hurt!

Happy Couples

Good Marriages

Amicable Divorces

Did I mention how grateful I am for Handsome?

Did I mention how grateful I am for YOU?

And okay, #101 – a third shoutout to those scientists working so hard to get us to a new world where we don’t have to worry about this stupid virus anymore!!!!

So what do you think?  Can you do that too?

I know you can!


6 The Future Is Now …how to handle the new unreality

…how to handle the new unreality

I realized something this week.  The future is here.

            Of course, the present day is ALWAYS what the future used to be – today is always what was tomorrow yesterday.  And while some things about today are just what we expected (the sun came up today, you are mostly what your parents thought you’d be by now, and people are talking on telephones with visuals as has been predicted for at least a hundred years), some things are not.  Some things are really different from what you guys thought 2020 would be like!

            For example, my human friend Handsome told me that, when he was a child, everyone expected that by now people would be traveling through space all the time.  You’d take flying saucers to work, or vacation on the moon.  No one imagined back then that this decade would be one of just more traffic of cars and airplanes.

            Similarly, futurists imagined everyone would be eating more efficient food by now, not creating awful global problems with overcrowded yards and processing plants for giant populations of livestock.

            And while many imagined people carrying around communication devices they could talk through, I don’t think anyone over fifty years ago remotely imagined that so many people would have portable supercomputers in their pocket, through which they could not only communicate but look up knowledge, play games, and be entertained.

            But there’s one other aspect that has really been on my mind.  You see, Handsome also recently told me about three of the greatest novels of the 20th Century, each describing a frightening future for the world:  Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, George Orwell’s 1984, and Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451.  Each I hear is terrific, and would make wonderful reading for you during this lockdown (and while all have been made into good movies, none of them is said to quite match their books’ horrific brilliance). 

            Each of these writers looked around at the changes the 20th Century brought, and thought, “Uh oh, I see where this is going.”  They envisioned giant, overarching governments that controlled people’s minds from birth, managing their populations efficiently by stifling free expression and thought (For example, “Fahrenheit 451” is the temperature at which paper ignites, which is important to know in a world where all books are being burned!).

            And much of what they envisioned has come true.  Our world does include many societies that censor publications, that lie to their people, that even imprison, exile, or worse people who speak out against their systems.

            So why aren’t these books accurate?  Why, 36 years after the real 1984, is the story so wrong in so many ways?

            Because there’s something else none of these authors (or those of other great dystopian novels from a few decades later, like Player Piano or The Handmaid’s Tale) envisioned.  Something that’s kept their nightmare visions from becoming true, but which has created a different problem than they saw, equally great and equally dangerous:

            Social Media.

            All three of these geniuses thought that all humanity would be controlled by a single-minded group, except for a few rebellious souls who valiantly struggled against it.  But the opposite has happened.

            In societies where governments have tried to lock thought down, rebels have used tools like Twitter and Facebook to share prohibited information and ideas with everyone.  And others have shared movies and documents over the internet that their governments haven’t been able to stop.  For those of us who like to howl freely, this has all looked pretty exciting.

            But at the same time, while it’s been impossible to suppress the truth getting out there, other forces have used social media to spread rumors, disinformation, and straight-out lies to millions of people, mixing it in with the truth to where it’s hard to tell them apart. 

            I don’t know what’s been going on where you live, but here it’s been crazy – and I’m just old enough to have seen the change occur.  For example, every four years, we have a big election for the presidency.  Two elections ago, the main issues were about taxes, healthcare, and defense.  But the last election had all kinds of craziness – posts saying one candidate ran a child sex ring in a pizza parlor, or that another had been videoed with women going pee on him!  Now maybe one, or both, of these could be true.  But we were a long long way from the day when such stories didn’t get released until newspapers and television stations had checked to make sure they were factual, so the people who passed on posts saying these things were real had no idea whether they were right – and they just all went straight into everyone’s social media feeds!

            And since then, we’ve learned that this isn’t just the work of a few lunatics or scandal-mongering haters.  Research shows that big organizations, and even governments, have been working to spread such misinformation all over the world.  Why?  Because chaos gives them the chance to achieve power!

            After all, if I’m in a dog park and someone puts a pizza down, I’m going to have to fend off a bunch of pooches to get more than a bite of it.  But if I can get all of those dogs into a big fight on the other side of the grounds, I can get ALL of that yummy pie just for me! 

            But we’re not talking about a pizza or a dogfight.  We’re talking about the most powerful forces in the world, and the future for all of us – especially for you, who are just beginning your lives’ journeys.

            Four months ago, scientists everywhere around the world gave out almost exactly the same recommendations about this awful virus: Stay distanced from others as much as possible, wash or sanitize constantly, and wear masks to slow the disease’s spread.  And what happened?  Everywhere you looked, disagreement erupted about it, with memes and tweets calling masks a conspiracy, the virus a hoax.  Crowds threatened politicians, even brandishing guns, insisting on their God-given rights to go out with bare faces.

            Why?  Why would anyone do something so stupid?  We dogs will pull on leashes we don’t care for, but we don’t bite our humans and insist on running into traffic!

            It’s because they were told to.  Because those people heard and read TONS of misinformation – about the dangers of masks, about how wearing them would take away their rights, about how the reports of people getting sick and dying were lies. 

            Let’s be clear – the people who originally put this nonsense out are murderers.  Places where people insisted on breaking the rules to frolic together maskless are seeing gigantic rises in sickness and in deaths. 

            If I started a fight in a dogpark so I could get a pizza to myself, a pup could get hurt, or even killed, and that would be my fault.  But getting lies sent around the world to create chaos is way way worse.  And it’s happening, all over the world.

            But here’s the craziest part of it, which I keep seeing.  Those books I talked about before?  People everywhere keep saying that they believe that they came true, but that the brainwashing force is only controlling people they disagree with!  All day I hear people complain “The President lies all the time, and no one catches him at it!” Or “The opposition Deep State controls all the media and everyone’s minds!”  As though only they are smart and attuned enough to realize what the rest of the world can’t see.

            When the truth is that there is no such force.  Sure, there are giant governments and corporations, and there are real conspiracies.  But the overwhelming danger of our time is that facts are disagreed on constantly.  Facts that mean survival to us all.  Facts about science, about medicine, about our leaders.

We dogs can’t do much more than we do now; we need you humans to work together on this virus, on world peace, on climate change – while villains have you debating facts instead of fixing the problems!

            So what to do?

            Well, as with most big issues, I find that the first and most important step anyone can take is to look at themselves.  When you see something posted online, or hear something on the radio or television or computer, that might not be true, do you research it?  Or do you shrug and ignore it?  Or do you pass it on to others?!  If you just do the latter, then you are part of the problem, my friend!

            In my last newsletter, I wrote about how all of us need to realize that We Belong to each other.  But that doesn’t mean you have to like everything that I like.  So if I say I love listening to Billie Eilish, and you think she sounds like three cats fighting over a dead rat, that’s okay.  But if someone tells you that Ms. Eilish kidnaps children and eats their fingers, please, PLEASE, don’t pass that on without making very sure you’re right.  (Which is likely to be difficult!)

            What would be even better is, if you see your friends posting things like this, do some research, and post it as a comment.  “Hey I looked this up and it’s not actually true.  Here’s what I found.” 

            If you can do that, you’re not just showing everyone you’re kind of smart; you’re doing your part as a warrior for truth, and fighting back against the forces hoping to destroy goodness in the world!  You’re an Avenger!

            Does that sound a bit dramatic?  Well, imagine if it were 1940, and the truth were coming out about what was happening in the Nazi camps.  And just as it came out, so did thousands of memes and posts telling everyone around the world that that wasn’t true.  How many more innocent people would have been killed because those posts kept governments from stopping that evil?

            As I write this, nearly 600,000 people have been recorded worldwide to have died from the Coronavirus.  We can be pretty sure that some governments have lied to keep their numbers down, so the truth may be closer to a million.  A MILLION DEATHS.  And how many of those could have been avoided if the truth were simply recognized as the truth?

            And isn’t it interesting that three of the nations whose last elections are known to have been manipulated by foreign false information on social media – Brazil, the United Kingdom, and the United States – are among the countries with the highest death rates, all with presidents who’ve scoffed at the virus and its danger.

            Social Media isn’t going away, and as I said before, it’s accomplished some incredibly wonderful things.  But it’s also enabled an evil that, I’m saying, is the Future we were warned about, but incorrectly. 

            You humans are the most brilliant creatures to have ever lived on this planet, and you’ve found ways to beat nearly every problem that’s ever come to you.  But you’re also the only creatures that know how to lie, and to see through lies.  So the problem you’re facing now is yourselves, and each other – your own superior minds.

            Can you find ways to handle this, to beat it, to create a brave new world where truth is recognized and valued?

            Or will you keep running around in circles of doubt, allowing chaos to be sown and watching the planet warm up to Fahrenheit 451? 

            It’s up to each and every person on the planet.  So please, do your best.  We’re counting on you. 

            Because if you can make this right, what’s ahead is a future, a newer next future, brighter and more wonderful than any future any of us has ever known.

2 A Sense of Belonging

…the only hope

This is hard for me to put into words.  But I have to.

            I want you to imagine I get off my leash and chase a cat, and catch it and kill it.  Handsome is furious with me.  He feels horrible for the poor kitty, and devastated that he will have to tell the cat’s human friends about it.  And even more, he feels guilty – for not holding me back, and for not training me better.

            Okay, that’s awful, and of course happens with us dogs, cats, and people all the time.  (Don’t get me wrong, I love chasing cats, but it’s just fine with me that Handsome holds me back from doing anything so heartbreaking).

            But I want you to imagine something worse.  Imagine I do this twice.  And when it’s a calico cat that I catch and kill, Handsome is angry and sad and really lets me know it.  But when it’s a Siamese, he kind of shrugs it off.  “Oh well.  You shouldn’t have done that, Shirelle, but it’s only a Siamese, so I’m not going to punish you or anything.”

            THAT is what’s been happening in my country for centuries, to humans – based not on a breed but on skin color, ethnicity, sex and other qualities.  And it breaks my heart.

            I’m sure you have heard about George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, two innocent people who were killed by police officers in the last few weeks here.  Now I’m a big fan of the police, and want them empowered to keep themselves and all of us safe.  But sometimes they can make mistakes, or sometimes a bad one can do something really awful.  Just like everyone else.

            What makes me sad, and furious, and nauseous, is that our society has continued to say that if they do it to someone with white skin that’s a big problem, but if it’s someone of brown or black skin, it’s no big deal!

            Every culture has its faults and its prejudices, just as every person and dog does, but the trick is to try to see them and work through them.  This situation, from names you might know from songs like Medgar Evars and Emmett Till, or maybe even from your history classes like Rodney King, all the way up to today, is actually a mass mental illness.  One that has damaged the human race since it began.

            We animals of smaller brains develop all kinds of prejudices, of course.  I was attacked by a black furry dog twice my size when I was a puppy, so large black furry dogs terrify me.  You almost certainly have similar knee-jerk reactions yourself.

But you humans have bigger brains that can take those judgments and turn them into beliefs and rules.  And that’s where the problem lies.

I would never say one should kill large black dogs, or that they deserve to be treated different to me; I just find them scary, nothing more.  But human brains will come up with the stupidest, most insane concepts – this race should be enslaved, this ethnicity is immoral, this sex can’t lead, this sexual orientation isn’t natural, it just goes on and on!

            And it’s SO DAMNED STUPID!!!  (yes I know, you’ve never heard me use that word before)

            Here’s the fact – you have the individual right to care more about certain people than others, or certain dogs or cats than others, of course.  But in the big picture, no human or dog or cat or lizard is truly worth any more than any other.  Or better than any other.  Poodles tend to be a very smart breed, but there are stupid ones.  I’ve met pit bulls who were sweeter than even me, though they’re bred for fighting.  And believe it or not, I’ve even met calm Chihuahuas (while yes, most are more hyper than a hummingbird on espresso!).

            Passing judgments about anyone’s worth based on their color or anything like that is pure idiocy.  Yes – when you guys do it, it makes you stupider than us pooches, even with your gigantic brains!

            But mass judgment is as natural to you guys as cat-chasing is to us, and nothing I say is going to change that part of your nature.

            What I can do is ask you to rise above it.  And I know only one way to do that: I want you to begin to realize that You Belong.  And We Belong.

            Philosophers and Theologians far more intelligent than I will tell you that our separateness from each other is only an illusion, and that the job of living is to learn that, so we can be together in the next world.  I can’t tell you whether they’re right or wrong about what’s coming.  But I do know this – every human belongs to every other one right now.

            Think about it.  Let’s say you were in a crowd, say watching a World Cup match (oh I hope you can have crowds like that again soon!).  And some crazy man sneaked a big gun into the stadium, and started shooting people randomly.  Your life would somewhat belong to him, right?  He’d have the power to determine whether or not you lived to see your loved ones again, or to see another sunrise.  Now imagine someone next to you saw that man pull that gun out, and grabbed you and shoved you down under the seats, so you weren’t hit by any bullets.  Then your life and fate would belong to that person, right?  At least somewhat?  Or maybe a brave soul jumped up and tackled the shooter and got his gun away from him?  Then every person in that stadium would have to acknowledge that their lives belonged to that hero/heroine in a way.

            Well I hope your life is a bit more mundane than that today.  But don’t you equally belong to every driver who hits, or doesn’t hit, your car?  And doesn’t every other driver on the street equally belong to you, because you hit or don’t hit them? 

            What about when one person is feeling depressed and unloved and unseen, and they  pass someone on the sidewalk who smiles and says good morning, and their dog licks that person’s hand and sniffs their great-smelling pants… and that miserable person’s view on the world suddenly changes.  Can you see how those two people, and that dog, all belong to each other at that moment?

            My friends, seven billion people belong to each other right now.  When one farmer grows a tomato, when one industrialist dumps poisons into clean water, or finds a way not to, and when one performer makes people laugh till they cry, YOU ARE ALL INTERWOVEN. 

            Sure you don’t see it most of the time, but that’s what I’m begging of you:  Realize it now.

            Because if you understand that every person belongs to every other, then when something goes wrong for someone, the idea that it doesn’t matter because of their race or sex or whatever, gets exposed for the insanity it is.

            I’m a very empathic dog.  Maybe not every other pup out there feels as much for people as I do.  But when a woman is lying in bed or a man is buying something at a shop, and the next moment they’re killed, that hurts me.  And when the powerful say that those deaths are no big deal, that hurts me more.  And when tens of thousands of people go out to protest against this, that makes me very happy (though I do get scared about them spreading this stupid virus if they’re not careful!).  And when some jerks use this as a chance to steal free goods or sneakily exacerbate violence, or some police use it as an excuse to shoot or beat innocent people, or a leader uses it as an excuse to order his people gassed and beaten and then lie about them and what they’re doing, I get furious. 

            Because I belong too.  Those people who were killed, the officers that killed them, the protesters, the looters, the shooters, and even the corrupt leaders, all are part of my world.  And yours.

            Of course, we’ve seen the clearest example of this possible in the past few months.  We all know that the one way you people worldwide can interact without spreading the coronavirus is to wear masks and stay distanced.  Yet we see folks all the time insisting they don’t need to cover their mouths because they have no symptoms and they are strong enough to survive the disease.  But of course they don’t know if they got infected ten minutes ago, and that they might right now pass it on to someone far more fragile.  So why do they refuse to wear masks?  Because they don’t believe that We Belong.  It’s so simple – if you love your grandmother, then don’t take a chance on giving the virus to someone next to you who might then give it to their grandmother.  BELONG!

            This year has been awful for the human race in countless ways.  But I hope and pray that it has at least taught us all something.  A virus that appears in one city can dominate the world.  We Belong.  Worldwide pollution can set a continent on fire and kill untold numbers of people and animals.  We Belong.  And a death that, years ago, would have been easily covered up, can galvanize marchers across the globe.  We Belong.

            I’m not telling you what your politics should be, or your religion, or who you need to like or fear.  I wouldn’t dare.

            But the hair on my back is standing up, and my fangs are snarling out, demanding that anyone who reads this gets the message:  Either humbly realize that We Belong, dear humans, or you’ll arrogantly destroy yourselves and all the rest of us.

            And when we’re all gone, no one’s going to care which of us was a calico cat and which was a Siamese. 

            Be kind and be strong, my friends.  The future can be so beautiful if we can just accept the simple fact: You are you and I am me, and we belong to each other.  End of story.  Forever.

            And for that, I love every one of you,


4 Your Commencement: graduating into a new world

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So Congratulations, and Happy Graduation!


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to deal with Depression.

rain asks:

When I stepped in 9th grade I started having thoughts about death, felt hopeless, worthless, like a failure, I was on edge… I didn’t know what I was feeling I was so confused. One day my friend told me you look like a depressed person so I went home and researched depression.  Almost everything that I was feeling was there but I didn’t want to diagnose myself, so I ignored it. I started being more absent in school, didn’t want to leave my home, but when I stayed home my dad was angry and he said very hurtful things which made me worse.  When I was a kid so many people in my life who were considered family touched me in wrong ways, and my parents fought a lot and they still do, so basically everything that went wrong in my life started becoming a weight on me. I felt like a burden to my family because I scored very low in my exams, so I started cutting myself (I have stopped now). So now three years later I have come to a point where I don’t feel anything. The words that should hurt me or anger me don’t anymore. I feel numb and empty.  I can’t focus on anything. I feel like I’m bursting out of myself.  Nothing feels good anymore and I have no goals anymore. I don’t feel passionate about anything. My finals are approaching and I don’t what I am gonna do. I feel like a huge disappointment to my family, and I have started thinking about ending it all by killing myself. But I’ve realized I need help and I want you to give me advice.

Hi rain –

Let me start with one simple fact.  You have Depression.

Your letter, in fact, is basically a textbook definition of Depression.  Psychologists would give it a more specific name (Major Depressive Disorder for starters), but that’s not that important for now.  What’s EXTREMELY important is three things.

First of all, it is 100% normal for teenagers to go through a depressed time.  Human brains actually need it – your whole identity is changing from being a child to being an adult, and your mind needs to kind of “go into the woods for a while” to transition.  We hear adults complain about “sullen teenagers,” but they’re only forgetting that they went through just the same phase when they were young.  It’s a necessary time, and it can be a very useful time – your growing brain and self-awareness can lead to your gaining awareness about the world, empathy for others, your own moral code.  These are great things, and a beautiful benefit from this experience.  (While there are lots of negatives about this too, such as loss of interest in schoolwork, as you’ve found).

But secondly, your Depression is NOT just a normal teenage phase.  If I’m reading you correctly, you were abused by your family, more than once and by different people.  This has led to a Depression that has gone on for years, not just weeks or months.  And you’ve even cut yourself and reached a point of contemplating suicide.  This is an Emergency – your life is literally in danger from this Depression.  And something has to be done.

The first, and most important, thing I want you to do is to find a professional to talk with about your feelings and experiences.  I don’t know where you live, or what your lifestyle is, but a therapist, a psychologist, a religious leader who has training in counseling – any of these will help.  But you need someone, more than just a caring friend, who knows about Depression, and can help you manage it, and eventually work past it.

Secondly, they may recommend some sort of medication to help with the Depression.  I’m a big supporter of such medicines, but ONLY when they’re given by a doctor, with someone who keeps their eye on you!  Anti-Depressant medicines are not one-size-fits-all, and a pill that makes one person’s life five times better could make someone else break out in rashes, not be able to sleep, or get even more depressed.

(There’s also a danger you might relate to, that sometimes people feel as low as you do now, and take a medication that boosts their optimism just a little, to where they don’t feel good yet, but suddenly believe it’s possible to overcome these bad feelings… and this sense of possibility leads them to commit suicide!  Which of course doesn’t actually make anything better.  You see, when they didn’t see any way out, they were actually safer!  So again, I’m all for medicines, but only when prescribed by a medical doctor, and with someone following you closely to make sure they don’t take you the wrong way!)

And third, at some point, maybe not now while you’re still at home, you’re going to have to do some therapeutic work about what was done to you.  This will be painful – you’ll re-experience some of the trauma you felt as a child.  But it will be necessary, both to end the Depression and to move on into a better life.

I am SO GLAD, rain, that you reached out to me.  It was brave, and I am deeply grateful for your trust.  If I can help you in any way to find the help you need, I’ll be glad to.  But you’ve already done the first step, just by writing this letter.

I also love the name you picked for yourself.  Because you’ve just had three years of rain.  With big dark clouds, no sunshine, no blue skies, no singing birds.

But you know what’s coming?  Once you’re able to take charge of your life and beat this Depression down? 

Oh, your life will be such clear skies, with such beautiful bright morning sun, and all the birds and butterflies in the air, and the little animals running around grabbing food (and yes, us dogs chasing them with such joy!).

And bright green grasses and new leaves on the trees, and flowers – explosive flowers blasting out colors you can’t even imagine – all because of these three years of rain.

It’s not just going to be okay, rain.  It’s going to be glorious. 

Not yet, I know.  But soon.  Once you can move past this awful, awful time.

Let me know how I can help,


2 Poop and Bad Breath: making sense of the new virus rules

Poop and Bad Breath: making sense of the new virus rules

Among the differences between us dogs and you humans, at least once you reach a certain age, is the way you guys are so squeamish!  Things that seem normal to us, or really terrific, nauseate you.  You never sniff each other’s butts hello, you never roll around on dead animals you find, and you insist on cleaning yourselves with soap and water, instead of using your tongues the way we do!

So you might say we pups live in the world of the gross.  The smells we seek out when you take us for walks are just the ones you go to great lengths to avoid.  And we’re fascinated by watching you work so hard to get rid of them.  Imagine how curious you’d find it if someone took good care of their garden but removed all the prettiest flowers and threw them into the trash.  Well that’s what it’s like for us when you cover up all the most interesting smells and treats!

Now in the past few weeks, I’ve been watching you guys struggle with a completely changed world, a new reality.  Where all the rules are unlike anything that was true two months ago:  DON’T go to school, DON’T shake hands when you meet someone, DON’T go visit your grandparents, just STAY on that couch and watch your iPad and phone!  HUH?!

Lots of you are extremely confused, especially about how best to stay safe: Wash your hands, social distance, wear a mask even though they won’t keep you safe, sanitize, moisturize…  of course you’re all going cuckoo! 

But I have a way, through my gross little brain, to help you out.  It’s all about us dogs (isn’t it always!).  Here goes:

First, if you’ve ever had a dog you take on walks, I hope you’re considerate enough of your neighbors to also bring along a bag or two, to clean up when we poop.  (Yes, I said POOP!  I told you, I’m pushing your nausea envelope today!)  So when we plop out something you guys find stinky and distasteful, you reach down and put it in the bag.  Right?

And you do it perfectly, right?  Only the bag touches our nasty turds, right?  No bit of your finger could possibly accidentally brush against it?  And nothing sticking to the bag could get  onto your hand when you tie the top into a knot, right?  You’re ABSOLUTELY SURE? 

Well, just to test your sureness, how about if a friend of yours offers you a handful of chocolate-covered peanuts.  But you need to hold them in your hand, before you put them in your mouth.

Do you?  I’ll bet you don’t!

In fact, I’ll bet you go, “That’s so nice of you.  Let me wash my hands to make sure there isn’t any dog-doo on them, and then I’ll gladly take those yummy treats and devour them!”  Or maybe it’s “Could you just put them into my mouth?  I’m worried about what’s on my hands.”  Or you even think, “Well I know nothing touched my left hand, so I can eat from that… I think!”

But as long as you don’t put your hands in your mouth, or touch your nose or eyes, or touch anyone else, you probably don’t worry about what might be on you, right?  You might even be on an hour-or-two-long hike with your pooch, and very happy to wait to wash up afterwards.  But you don’t put your poopy hands on your face!  And that’s all that matters!

Now imagine you walk into your home after that walk, and there’s a knock on the door, and without thinking you turn the knob and open it.  You chat with the person there, shut the door, and think, “… hmm… I shouldn’t have touched the knob, there might be some of that doggie’s poo on there.”  So you wash your hands and  the knob, right?  But what if you forgot to at the time, and it’s the next day, and you realize, “Wow I should have washed that doorknob yesterday, when I might have gotten something onto it.”  Do you feel you need to wash it now?  Probably not.  It’s been so long, anything nasty would have dried out or evaporated.

And this is exactly what the experts are saying to do about the coronavirus!  Keep your hands away from your face, wash or sanitize often, and be aware that it can last on other surfaces but just for a time.

In other words, when it comes to your hands, there’s really no mystery about Coronavirus – just TREAT IT LIKE DOG POOP!  Yes it’s potentially much more dangerous if you get it into your system, but the way to treat it is JUST THE SAME.

Okay, now, time for number two!  (Yes, that’s a little joke there for those who get it.  Clever pup, aren’t I!)   And this one’s about Breathing!

Now I think my breath smells just great, but I’m not a new puppy anymore and my mouth has had lots of things in it over the years, and so I have… well… dog breath.  And even it’s not as pungent as some other dogs I’ve known, like those with rotting teeth!  So what would you do if your breath smelled as bad as ours?  How would you keep your friends?!

Well, one thing you could do is to stay a little distance away from everyone.  After all, bad breath is just airborne molecules, that dissipate as it gets further from the nasty mouth.  Some say six feet (or two meters) and some say farther is better.  But either way, just stay far enough away that others can’t smell you.  But to be even safer, why not put a covering over your mouth, to keep all that stink inside, away from others?

Well that, my dear friends, is social distancing, and face masks!  One of the worst things about Covid-19 is that a person can be infected with it but not feel it for a few days.  So when it comes to dealing with others, act as if you know you have it!  And since it, like bad breath, is borne in droplets in air, the way to do that is to stay six feet or more away from others, and wear a mask to keep the nasty stuff in.  (Yes, there are fancier, more technological masks, that actually do help keep the person wearing them safe.  But you don’t need that if you’re following the other rules; leave those for the brave selfless health workers who are getting right up next to people with the disease for hours and days and weeks on end.  They need them; you don’t.)

Now there are those other rules to follow, of course.  Stay home if you can, wash instantly if anyone coughs or sneezes on you, keep healthy, take vitamins and zinc and… oh you don’t need me telling you these things!

But if you can remember the rules of Poop and Bad Breath, you ought to be safe.  Safe enough to get through this awful period, and move on to the sort of world we had and want to have again, a world where all your other problems, like about crushes and dating and anger and betrayal and embarrassment… those GREAT problems, become all we talk about again!

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