Yes, You Can Teach An Old Dog New Tricks

May 11, 2010 by  
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I once wrote about the differences between my dog and me.  The gist of the blog was that while my dog would sit outside my office door waiting for me – even though I was travelling – I was not going to wait outside my husband’s door because I knew he was not ever going to be there.

Today I want to write about how my dog and I are alike.   Or better how dogs and we have the same habitual behavior.

If you train a dog to sit for a treat, they will eventually always do the commend even when you no longer offer the treat.  Pretty simple; dogs learn from repetition.

The same happens to us.  We create habits from events and thought repetition.  Let me zero in on thought repetition.  If I think everything always turns out for the worse, then that will color the way I see life, and how I relate to others.  The habit I’ve created will make me feel down no matter what is happening around me.  In essence we are – just like dogs – creatures of habit.  But unlike dogs, we can teach an old dog new tricks, it just takes discipline.

Let me share a couple of ideas that have worked for this old dog:

1                    –  Make friends with yourself – If you start getting familiar with your psyche you’ll be able to identify what is your “shit” and what isn’t.

2                    –  Take responsibility for your “shit” – this is when you decide you want to make a change.  This is an important step and if you really want to raise the bar tell someone you trust you want to make a change.  By telling someone you’re well on your way to making the change a reality.

3                    –  Be vigilant – Like our dogs we will want to go back to our familiar response system.  It will take love, kindness and discipline to remind ourselves that we want to change.

If you can follow these three steps with compassion for yourself you can make a change in your life.  Big or small, it is all up to you.


A Dog Without An Owner

May 1, 2010 by  
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I am in Brazil visiting my family and have just got off the phone with a childhood friend.  The call was mostly about making plans for tomorrow but before we hung up she said: Debinha (that’s how my friends in Brazil call me) please say something.  I said “what do you mean?” and she responded “I’m feeling like a dog without an owner.”

What she meant was she didn’t feel like she belonged anywhere.  She’s a woman in her forties, who’s not in a relationship, and who lives alone.  I told her we are all dogs without owners.  What I meant to say was feeling lonely came from within not from being or not in a relationship.

When we are feeling well, we entertain and keep ourselves company.  We listen to what we want to do and we follow up on our desires the best way we can.  We feel whole and because we are okay with our own selves, we are also okay with others and the world. Being with others is in addition to the way we are already feeling.

When we are not well, we feel lonely and abandoned.  So feeling like a dog without an owner in reality has little to do with being with others or not.  It really is about ourselves.  Just ask how many times have you felt alone in the middle of a large group of people?

I told my childhood friend to stop thinking and get out of the house.  “Keep yourself in motion.  The more you think how things are not the way you want them to be, the more pity sets in” I said.  I know from experience this type of thinking is unhealthy.  It is the type where we are the masters of the universe and everything that we consider to be wrong is our fault.  It is the thinking that points to our incapacity to find happiness simply because we are no good.

Each one of us has specific reasons why we feel lonely or why we beat ourselves over the head when we are already down on the ground.  But one universal solution to this phenomenon is to not indulge in it.  “Distract yourself when you start thinking about all the wrong things in your life.  Watch TV, go for a walk, call a friend to talk about the funnies but don’t indulge in your pity for yourself” were my parting words to my childhood friend.

Being our own best friend requires a willingness to peel the layers of the onion and look within.  It takes a willingness to give ourselves a hand when we need it instead of running out and looking for someone else to do so.  It takes realizing only ourselves are a constant companion in our lives.  But if we can do that we’ll never feel like a dog without an owner as we are both the dog and the owner.


My Little Dog

July 13, 2009 by  
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I got a dog six months after my husband had his liver transplant.  Both Chris and I were extremely allergic and so we could only have a purebred Poodle or a Portuguese Waterdog.

When I was visiting my parents in Brazil in December of 2006, I passed by a pet store with one of my nieces.  When we walked in a caramel toy Poodle was sitting in a box.

He was just so friendly and loving that I had to bring him back to the US.  Chris was waiting for me at the airport with all kinds of toys for the dog.  I had two dogs before but Chris had never had a pet.

Chris fell in love with the dog.  He couldn’t believe that this little animal was always ready to play and to love. He became so much part of our lives that we no longer travelled if we couldn’t bring the little dog with us.

When Chris’ cancer came back and we were making the first trip to Mayo Rochester, we took the little dog with us.  We told others that the reason we were taking him was because we didn’t know where and with whom to leave the dog with, but the truth was we needed him.  We needed to have this being, full of love and always playful, to help us through the first set of diagnosis and tears.

As the time went on and Chris got sicker, the little dog was his constant companion, always by him and loving him.  Having this little dog giving us so much love helped us to keep going.

It came a time when Chris was too sick and fragile to have him around and I had to make sure the little dog didn’t jump on Chris’ very swollen body. 

When Chris passed, my little dog became very attached to me.  When I laid in bed sometimes not wanting to get up, he laid next to me pulling my hands with his paw and demanding that I pet him.

These days whenever I feel blue I just need to spend sometime with my little dog, his antics bring a smile to my face almost immediately.  And what does he do for me?  He just loves me and I just love him.