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How to cope with the effects of a traumatic experience.

Shelby asks:

My life was normal until I was on my way to work, waiting for my shuttle service, and my phone got snatched. I have been living at my parents’ for so many years. But that night changed my life. I am so thankful that the robbers did not hurt me physically and just took my phone. Along with my phone is my ID which contains my photo, address, birthday etc. Ever since then, I’ve felt like someone is watching me always and is waiting for the chance to harm me again. And worst, I always feel like there are some people who will hurt my child too. I lost trust in everyone and I feel like any of them might harm or hurt my child or me. I can’t sleep, I can’t focus on my job. Please help me find the way to cope.

Hi Shelby –

You are dealing with something very specific, called Trauma.  People often refer to it as PTSD, meaning Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, but I don’t know that you’re having a real “disorder.”  You just are in the effects of this awful trauma.

Now let me make something clear about this – Trauma is not about what happened to you; it’s about the effect it had on you.  So when someone tells you, “You’re overreacting – lots of worse things happen to people every day,” it’s not that they’re exactly wrong, but they’re missing the point!  Yes, some people would order a new phone and shrug this experience off.  But they’re not you.  This incident cut to your core, making you distrustful of everyone and frightened of life.  The word psychologists use is “Hypervigilant,” meaning you’re always on the watch, and can’t relax and enjoy your life.

There are many treatments out there for trauma.  For some people, some deep breathing is enough.  For others, a massage, a glass of wine, and a good talk with a caring friend works.  Or of course I’m going to suggest a dog – both for the calming walks and for the barking protector with big teeth!

But for others, those aren’t enough.  There are psychotherapists everywhere who specialize in methods of trauma-reduction.  For some people, fascinating methods like specialized tapping on their face and body, or eye movements, can help heal the damage the trauma did to their nervous system.  For others, it might be a more in-depth work (perhaps the robbery triggered a memory in you of another violation to your safety when you were young, and accessing that memory will relieve your more recent anxiety).

I’m a pretty happy pup, and have likely caused more traumas than I’ve suffered!  But I have a few slight cases.  For example, when I was a puppy, Handsome tried to befriend me to a medium-sized long-haired black dog he loved, who attacked and tried to kill me before he got me away from her.  I was okay, but to this day, when I see a long-haired black dog bigger than me, I instantly fall onto my back and pee submissively, from the deep-seated terror in my memory.

There’s nothing wrong with your mind, Shelby.  You’re sane and smart.  But this incident has caused you the same sort of damage another person might get from an attack, a car accident, or being near a bomb explosion.  

I urge you to find a therapist of some sort to help you through this.  You’re not wrong to be bothered by being robbed, but you want to live a happier life in the future, and good trauma treatment can get that for you.

(Though I still say buying a dog is a GREAT idea as well!)

All my very best,


How to stay positive in a negative-minded world

Katarina asks:

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

Hi Katarina –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

            That’s your choice.

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

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

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

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

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

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

            It sure works for me!

            Wishing you the very best,


How to tell someone that your sexual history has changed

David g asks: I met a girl at a camp about 3 years ago.
We started texting and we began to like each other. So we have been like that since then, no relationship, no meeting up, no kissing. It was just a texting thing even though we are not distant from each other. We just get to see each other on Sundays because we attend the same church. During our early days of texting, we shared our secrets. And at that time I was a virgin so I told her so and she liked me because of that. So somewhere this year, she had to be in school for her final exams. I entered college in September last year. So while she was in school, there was no communication between us. There were just a few times she called me and we spoke for a few minutes. So while I was in school and she was also in school, a lot of things happened because we weren’t really communicating with each other and a lot of girls kept coming my way while she was away even though I still had feelings for her. I broke my virginity and had sex a number of times. As of now she has completed school and we’re the same way we used to be before. But I’m really scared I might lose her if I tell her all what I did while she was in school. She would be very disappointed in me but I love her very much. What would you suggest I do?

Hi David g –

I guess you have three choices – you could break up with her, you could stay with her and not tell the truth, or you could stay with her and tell her the truth.  Let’s look at those.

First, breaking up.  It sure sounds like you’re attached to her, even though you two have had such a distant relationship, especially in this last year when you were in school.  So while you could break up with her, it sounds like you don’t want to.

Second, keeping the truth from her.  I have a big problem with this one, because it seems to me that, like when I steal a piece of pizza off of the table when no one’s looking, the truth always gets discovered (especially if I burp).  This girl loved two things about you when you met – that you were open, sharing secrets, and that you were a virgin (I’m assuming she was too).  You even go to the same church.  This relationship is based in a sense of shared values and morality.  So while I’m sure you’re right, that she wouldn’t like hearing that you’re no longer a virgin, I imagine she’d be much more upset to find out you were lying to her.  Also, it’s hard to think that she didn’t imagine this might have happened while you were away and not communicating.  So I’m really thinking that trying to keep the truth from her is just going to make things awful – if you succeed, you’ll always worry about it, and if you don’t, you’ll pay the same cost as if you told her.

And third, telling her.  As you say, she won’t like it.  But your doing this will show the same values she loved in you – your morality and honesty.  And she has to acknowledge that she was distant from you.  It’s not like you two were in constant contact or engaged to be married. 

In fact, this relationship you’ve had with no physical contact?  I’m thinking it’s time for that to end!  We dogs don’t really understand love without kisses and pats and hugs.  I think what you’ve done shows nobility, but it’s time to move on.  And the fact that you’ve done these things away from her might be what it takes to get her to move to, at the very least, some friendly embracing.

So I’m on Team TellHer.  If she can’t take it, and rejects you for it, then that tells us something about her – that maybe she isn’t a great bet for a long-term relationship (since eventually something ALWAYS comes along to disappoint everyone in any sort of couple).  But if she can, if she accepts the truth of who you are, and (especially) if she makes some changes, then I think you might find this was a great thing that happened.  Maybe the best.

Hoping this is the case!


1 Wagging Your Tail – the best cheap gift you can give

Picture two different situations.  In the first, you walk into a room where you find a large dog.  You’re both startled, but the pooch stands up, tail wagging, and looks at you with wide eyes and an open mouth, its pink tongue slightly hanging out.  In the second you walk into the same room, and encounter the same dog, but the mutt stays on the ground, staring up at you, unblinking, tail still, mouth closed, eyes unexpressive.  Which situation would you rather be in?  And what would you do differently in one room or the other?

I’m going to guess that you’ll feel a lot more comfortable in the first room.  You might even walk up to the dog, or kneel down and call the pup over to you for a head-pat.  The second dog hasn’t done anything mean or threatening, but you’re just left unsure, and will probably give that pooch a lot of space.  No hugs, no pats, no ear-scratches, no tummy rubs.  And who could blame you?  After all, we have a lot of teeth!

I bring this up because of something I’m noticing about the people around me.  So many are sad, scared, lonely, or frightened in this hectic world, and the one thing that can most easily ease their nervousness comes in too short a supply: Smiles.

Smiles work in the human brain just like those doggy behaviors I described.  Babies learn when their eyes first focus that a smiling face means all sorts of good things – safety, warmth, food, and of course that most important one, diaper changes!  (Sorry, little bit of doggy humor there!  No, that most important thing for a baby, of course, is Love)

As children grow, smiles become, if anything, more important.  Remember going to school and being greeted by a sweet warm smile from your teacher?  And how that felt?  And remember being greeted by another teacher’s scowl, or a blank face looking you over to judge you?  And how that felt?  And if you ever had to go to the hospital, how much safer and more confident you felt if the doctor or nurse gave you a friendly beaming, instead of just sternly focusing on your wound or illness?

And then, yeah, you knew I’d get to this, there’s that point when you start wanting someone, maybe of the opposite sex, to like you.  Or let me rephrase that – when you care more about them liking you than ANYTHING ELSE IN THE WORLD!  And a smile from that special person can make your whole day, and not getting it leaves you just crushed.

Now of course there are mean smiles, cruel smiles, hateful smiles.  We’ve all seen them.  A sneer at you when you fail at something.  A grin showing the glee someone feels over feeling better than you.  Or, maybe worst of all, a fake “say cheese” pretending kindness while hiding bad intent.

And because of these, it makes sense to sometimes distrust a smile.  Which is really sad.

Also, there’s the problem that giving smiles signals an openness, an availability.  After all, what if that tail-wagging dog I described didn’t want to be petted?  Its friendly “smile” pulled it into a situation it didn’t want at all, right?  So I’m certainly not saying you should smile all the time, at everyone.

(In fact, this brings up a good point. Some dogs are actually frightened by people giving them big toothy smiles – they look like snarling fangs to them. Just as some people who’ve been attacked by angry dogs are scared when I run up and jump on them. Best to, with new dogs, keep your lips together in your enchanted grin. But with people, you can show all the teeth you like!)

All I want is for you to realize the incredible power you have, right there in the corners of your mouth.  After all, with just the slightest use of those muscles, you can change lives.

Haven’t you had a time when you were really nervous, maybe before giving a report at school or playing a tough game in a sport, and someone’s smile gave you the confidence you needed to give it your best?

Or when you walked into a group of strangers, hoping to feel welcomed, and someone’s snarl or disinterested blank expression left you devastated, and unable to join the conversation?

And haven’t you come to someone at a time you felt full of remorse and guilt, praying they’d accept you.  And when you got their warm smile, your whole world opened up, knowing you had escaped a cold future of disdain?

You know that old song that goes “I see friends shaking hands, saying ‘How do you do,’ They’re really saying ‘I love you’?”  Well I’d argue that a handshake and a casual greeting are fine, but it’s really the smile that accompanies them that says those three beautiful words.  (Funny, since the guy who sang it arguably had the brightest smile in the history of your species!)

Yes, smiling is a way to say to a total stranger, “I don’t know you, but I give you love, to the degree I can.”  Just like a tail-wag and a sniff.

Now these days, where I live, there’s so much tension around.  The weather’s crazy, politics is just upended, and then there’s the issue of the holidays.  Everyone’s in a rush to get to parties, do their shopping, or make a little more money to get through this time.  And while all that should be happy, I just see angry drivers, impatient arguments, and general resentment all over. 

And what can change that?  Well nothing can completely fix it, but I do find that a friendly smile does more than just about anything else. 

Try it.  When walking down that cold rainy sidewalk, smile at the person walking toward you.  When stepping aside to let more people in that crowded elevator, give them all a grin.  And when you’re stuck in a gridlocked intersection, shine your best smile at the other drivers. 

I think you’ll find that, in many cases, they laugh.  Not at you, but with you.  You see, your smile says to them “I know this situation is ridiculous, my friend, so bad it’s funny.”  And that makes them see the humor in it too.

And while you both might be out spending a month’s salary on some special gift for some special someone, it might be that smile, and that laugh, that truly prove to be the best gifts you give all year.  At least the most needed.  At a very reasonable price!

Now again, sure, if you’re in a situation that doesn’t feel completely safe, and you think it might be best if you don’t smile, then that’s fine – there’s no need to.  But I know what I’d hope for then.  While you keep yourself more protected, and keep your face down, someone else there – someone more comfortable than you, more at ease – sees this, and gives you a big grin, telling you you’re safe and even liked.

And that, seeing that, you feel safe enough to give a nice small smile back.  Or, for that matter, a giant grin! 

After all, when we dogs wag our tails at you, we’re hoping for a reaction too.  Maybe even a treat. 

And smiling back is about as welcome as a slice of pizza!

Should you stay with your upcoming baby’s father even though he’s acting distant?

Zel-bell asks: I am 8 months pregnant and my boyfriend has taken me for granted since the day I found out. He supports me with buying baby stuff etc., but he chooses his friends and nice times above me. I keep on giving him chances, but he just doesn’t adore me. He keeps making empty promises, so I decided to leave him. Can you help me get over him?

Hi Zel-bell –

I am not a big one for telling people to stay in the wrong relationship, but in your case I’m going to make an exception.  For a couple of reasons.

First, it is very normal for men to pull away a bit during their woman’s pregnancy.  It’s not that they don’t care about the woman, or about the upcoming baby.  It’s that this change is so huge that they need to withdraw a bit.  The fact that this guy is buying things tells me he cares at least about his future son or daughter.  But you’re absolutely correct that he needs to pay more attention to you – and you should tell him so, in no uncertain terms!  You are his future – you will always be the mother of his child!  So if you’re still together, he needs to learn new ways to be with you.  And if he thinks you’re a little boring to hang out with now, just wait till you’re raising an infant!  He’ll need to be there a lot, while you’re exhausted, irritable, and in pain, with a screaming kid!  So in other words, I’m suggesting that he needs to grow up a bit, rather than for you two to split up.

Second, you may be feeling more negative about the situation because you’re in lots of discomfort, you’re not sleeping enough, and your hormones are going wild!  I’m not saying that you’re wrong to be irritated with him, but you might be more irritated now than you otherwise would, which means it might be a bad time to make a huge decision that affects your, and your baby’s, lives forever.

And Third, I want you to be a little selfish.  In a few weeks, you’re going to need ALL THE HELP YOU CAN GET!  Do you really want him not around?  Unless you have a tremendously organized setup, early motherhood is about as hard as anything you’ll ever do.  Keep him around, and get him to bring those friends he enjoys so much over too!  One can cook you dinner while another washes sheets and diapers, and another watches the baby while you sleep, and another helps to pay the hospital bill!

So my overall advice, Zel-bell, is that you just stay with him for now.  If, a few months after the baby’s born, you still feel the same way, then sure, you can make the choice to break up.  But right now I don’t see how it would help you at all (I don’t think you’ll be doing any dating in the next couple of months!), and it could really hurt your life.

Instead, I’d say to focus on the baby.  And improve your relationship any way you can, but… that baby!  That’s the most exciting thing in the whole world!  And it’s coming to you VERY VERY SOON!

Congratulations and All The Very Best Luck!


The End of Democracy? a system on the brink of failure

The End of Democracy? a system on the brink of failure

            Of all the concepts humans have created, I think Democracy must be the most human.  No other species works this way.  Bees are born Workers, Drones, or Queens, and we dogs work out our leadership by fighting, sometimes to the death.  You see, all the rest of us species take leadership as something ordained by strength, not by the willingness of the group.  And because we all understand that, the group is actually willing to follow that leader!

            But you folks have come up with this amazing idea, that if the majority of your group wants something, the rest of the group ought to accept that as the decision.  It does wonders for Peace, which is one of my favorite causes.  After all, as much as they may dislike each other, we can assume that, next month, Boris Johnson and his supporters won’t be fighting Jeremy Corbin and his to bloody messes in the streets!  And Democracy probably does, more often than not, result in the best results for each society that adopts it.

            And yet, always, it has proven imperfect.  Not because people make the wrong choices, but because they’ve never let it work as it should.

            In ancient Greece, where the idea first took a major hold, only adult male citizens were allowed to vote – not women, not kids or teens, not non-citizens, and not slaves (who totaled over half the people there!).  Later incarnations, like in France and England, tried to merge Democracy with their Monarchic traditions.  And the United States, which likes to brag about how much it spreads Democracy around the world, spent most of its first 200 years not letting women or non-white men vote. 

            But the past doesn’t really matter in all this.  After all, Handsome wouldn’t let me have the house to myself today if I still had the problems I did as a little puppy – pooping and peeing and chewing everything up all over the place.  And similarly, just because something was done in a wrong way a couple of centuries ago doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done right today.

            But today, Democracy has problems the ancient Greeks, and revolutionary French and Americans, never dreamed of.  Today people around the world are told they can vote, but if they actually show up to do so, are threatened or beaten.  Polling places are placed near the people governments want to vote, and way too far away from those they don’t.  And now we’ve got this crazy cyberattack nonsense, where people from other countries will create social media to get people to vote against their own interests, or even just to add chaos to a country to weaken it.  And then, when a government is voted in by those methods, of course they’ll do all they can to keep them from being changed, knowing they might then lose re-election. 

            So what’s the human race to do?  Should Democracy be tossed aside, as something that served people well for a long time but has outlasted its usefulness, like tobacco and the horse-and-carriage?  (Or, what I’d like to see, coal mining and terrorism?)  Or is there hope for it, a way for it to improve and get a little closer to the ideal it began as?

            It’s a tough question.  When what was once the world’s greatest empire is on the verge of voting itself into near-irrelevance and poverty, and the dominant nation of the last century is a year away from likely re-electing a criminal gangster the world laughs at, both due largely due to foreign online interference, it’s hard to argue that their systems are better than, say, a stable monarchy.  And other countries, like Turkey and The Philippines, are electing leaders that act like dictators or monarchs, grabbing more and more power for themselves, making us onlookers wonder what good Democracy ever offered in the first place.

            And the world itself isn’t looking so great right now.  I doubt there’s ever been a time before when wildfires were raging in both Australia and California (who have opposite seasons), while Venice is flooding and Dallas is freezing and Paris has been breaking heat records.  And all because of something scientists have seen coming for twenty years or more, but voters keep electing charlatans and liars who deny it, and thereby don’t do anything to help stop or slow it.  Islands are disappearing, plants are dying off, and animals are going extinct every day.  It’s nothing less than nightmarish.

            But I’m going to argue for Democracy anyway.  Because it offers one benefit all the other methods of governing don’t: the possibility of change.

            Oh sure, kingdoms and dictatorships have been overthrown through revolutions, but what other form of government allows the people to peacefully say “Hmm, we’ve made a mistake, so let’s fix it now.”  And that doesn’t just mean changing who’s in charge.  It can mean changing a law to allow more people to vote, or their votes to count in different ways.  It can mean electing people who will fight against phony influence in elections.  It can mean voting to find new ways to deal with problems we can’t even conceive of yet.

            You see, the powerful will always do what they can to keep their power.  This doesn’t make them bad people, it just makes sense.  And, at the least, what Democracy does is forces them to give up just enough of that power to enough people, if they want to keep voted in.  At least that’s how it’s often worked over time.

            For those who want a “strongman” in charge, I can tell you that a dog pack is a pretty rough environment.  And for those who want an inherited monarchy, I can tell you worker bees and drones have a great work-ethic but not much imagination, and that if they had nearly as much as dogs or humans, those hives would see upturns all the time.

            So while the greatest Democracies in the world go through this really bad period, I – incapable of voting or being voted for anything – recommend you humans double-down on this one-person-one-vote idea.  That crazy notion that no one of you deserves more of a say than any other.  That eventually the best of you will rise to the top, if no one keeps you from it.

            And then do everything you can to make it so.  

The rest of us are counting on you.

How to help your boyfriend or girlfriend through terrible times

Snowball18 asks: My boyfriend just lost his sister 2 months back, and his grandfather is in a serious condition. Right now he just found out he failed his last semester exams, and today, his birthday, he gets to know his parents are probably getting divorced because his mother is still in shock over her daughter’s death and is not behaving normally. He even had suicidal thoughts a day back. I want to support him as much as I can but my parents don’t want me to see him, thinking I am still small (I am 18) and we are in a long distance. I can’t figure out how to help him but I just want him to know I am there for him.

Hi Snowball18 –

Wow that’s just awful!  The poor guy – this is TOO MUCH!

This is as tough as his life will probably ever get – all these hurts and losses and disasters at once.  And so yes, I think you’re right that he needs your help.

But I agree with your parents about something in this, something very important.  They say that you’re “small.”  And they’re right.

I don’t mean that you’re too young, or that you’re not tall enough, to help him out.  What I mean is that NO ONE can give him what he needs.  No one is “big” enough.

What he needs is for his sister to come back to life.  And his grandfather to heal to full health.  And for his grades to suddenly be much better.  And for his mother to feel better (though she probably would if her daughter suddenly came back) and for that to make their marriage better.  And all this would hopefully be enough to take away those awful thoughts of him killing himself.

But you can’t do any of those.  And neither can I.  No human or dog can.  If he has a faith or religion, this is a time he could really lean on that – not necessarily to pray for a total miracle (like his sister resurrecting), but just for things to be okay (like believing his sister’s at peace in a good place).  But even that involves believing in something bigger than us.

But you, small as you are, can do something.  And something very BIG.  Maybe the biggest thing any human can ever do.

Which is

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Should you stay with long-distance romance or a new one?

Someon asks: I have been dating a boy for a year. It’s a long-distance relationship. 3 to 4 months ago we had a separation regarding some issues which was for a period of a month. Within that very month I got attached to someone else (Mr. X). We have been seeing each other. This too was a long-distance relationship. He came over to meet me. We hanged out together and even we made love. After one year of separation my boyfriend returned and I was happy to get him back. The fact is Mr. X knows about my relationship. Now I have started feeling for Mr. X and don’t wanna lose him – and neither do I want to hurt my boyfriend. What should I exactly do now?

Hi Someon –

As I’ve said on here a lot, we dogs don’t quite understand long-distance relationships, and certainly don’t like them.  And your case is a perfect example of why. 

From what I see in your letter, your boyfriend (the one you’ve been with for a year) is a perfectly good guy, and probably nothing was wrong with the relationship except the distance.  Then you met Mr. X, who is also a good guy and you grew to really like him.  Then your boyfriend came back to town, but you’re feeling more for Mr. X.

Well, why wouldn’t you?!

I love my human friend Handsome, but if he left town for a year, and I got close to another human, I’d never lose my love for Handsome but I’d grow more attached to the new one.  It’s just the way our brains work – both humans and dogs!

Now if you were married to your boyfriend, or had had a very long relationship with him, I might be saying something different.  But as it is, I think you really don’t have a choice – it sounds to me like you need to

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What to do when you’re stuck in an uninspiring job

Mayumii asks: I am 23 years old and currently employed in an insurance company, but still not stable on my career. I’m still looking for a job that where I think I’ll belong. Honestly, I still don’t know what are the things that I can do. I don’t know what is my strength, I am 3 years graduated yet I am not able to help my family on their needs. Sometimes I think of myself as very useless. I decided to live alone to be independent, but I am always asking my parents for assistance because of lack of money. All I want is just to have a stable job, but I don’t know what are the things that I can do. Sometimes I can’t understand myself.

Hi Mayumii –

I know this is going to sound odd, but your situation is extremely common.  In fact, I think most people who have lives where they get to choose careers (as opposed to, for example, people who grew up on farms, always knowing they’d work there, or people with governments who choose their jobs for them) don’t know by age 23 what they really want to do.

Or rather, they might know what they’d love to do, but have no way of achieving that right away.  Let’s say you wanted to make a living as a filmmaker.  Great!  Well, you’ve finished your university studies, and you can start making short films for YouTube, or to enter into film festivals, and writing screenplays… and none of those activities brings in any money at all.  Now if you keep doing it, you might find some success, and eventually become the next JJ Abrams.  But right now, you’re just in the struggle.

And what if you don’t even have that clear an idea of what you want?  What if you studied business, and you know you’d like to work in that area, but the place you work isn’t very inspiring, and you’re not sure what would be?

Okay.  Again, this is SOOOOO normal!

And there’s one solution: 

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What to do when she says she wants you to fight to win her

Karagita asks: I have been dating a girl for 1 year now, during this time she has had another man trying to woo her. I have tried talking to her about it but all she tells me is that I shouldn’t worry about it and that if I really want her I should fight for her. Do you think I should continue with this relationship? I’m starting to have doubts.

Hi Karagita –

         Well I’m confused, and I imagine you are too!  This guy is trying to woo her – okay, that only tells me you’ve got quite a catch! – but then she tells you two things:

  1. You shouldn’t worry about it


2. You should fight for her.

Well if my human friend Handsome offered me a steak and told me, “Don’t worry about it,” I’d say that meant I could have it.  And if he said “You’ll have to fight for it,” I’d think he meant I needed to fight another dog, or maybe him, for it.  Which means I should worry!

But I’ll be honest with you, I think most likely she’s just having fun.  She does completely intend to stay with you, but she wants to see you get huffy and angry and macho. 

It makes me think of an old song Handsome played me once that goes, “I’ll pretend I’m jealous, of all the fellas, and if that don’t do, then I’ll try something new.”  Sometimes humans like it when their boyfriends or girlfriends act jealous; it makes them feel valued.

So my advice is that you occasionally put on a little show for her, “He’d better stay away from you or I’m gonna teach him some respect,” but deep-down know that you’re fine and she adores you.

But if I’m wrong, and she’s actually giving this guy a chance?  Well then you have to ask yourself the big question: if she’s basing her interests on who the best fighter is, is she really the sort of girl you want?

(Oh and by the way, I’m a GREAT fighter, but I hate fighting; if a dog attacks me I fight them just enough to end the fight, and then see if they’re willing to play with me.  Not that that’s what you should do with this guy; I just like to brag sometimes!)

All my best,


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