Happy to report my third book of poetry is now available at iUniverse and Amazon. Check it out!
This is Eve; another sweetheart at the stray rescue kennel. Eve is a 9-yr old, 46-pound, female Terrier, American Staffordshire mix who has mellowed a lot over the years but is still described as “high energy”. Compared to the other dogs I normally walk, Eve is much easier to hold on to and she evens lollygags at times because she’s not in that much of hurry to return to her apartment once she’s outside.
Take today, for example, we were walking toward a major street and it was apparent that we would not make the green crosswalk light in time. I nodded to Eve and acknowledged, “we’re not going to make it in time so we’ll just take our time getting there.” Suddenly, I had a flash of insight. Once again a dog was teaching me the dharma. “No need to hurry, let’s just enjoy the present moment together.”
I smiled and Eve broke eye contact to sniff the base of another tree on our route. Must be some pee-mail to “read” from a previous dog who passed by this way before us. Yes, even urine has its messages to offer but I will leave the decoding to Eve and keep my eye on traffic.
Thank you Eve for a very pleasant walk this morning.
This is Wayne. Standing up and looking out his apartment door window. He is VERY eager to come out! He desperately wants some fresh air, a chance to defecate outdoors and receive whatever reward treats you might want to give him for good behavior. He will also appreciate his apartment being cleaned, fresh water provided, and a welcome home treat on his pillow when he returns. Would you like to give him, and his apartment cleaner, 30 minutes of “free time”?
Wayne is a nearly 5-yr old, 48-pound Terrier Mix, who can jump at least another 18 inches higher than this picture shows when he thinks you will open the door for him to leave. He’s a sweetheart who shows his appreciation vigorously when you accept his invitation for love.
Fortunately, he’s big enough that you cannot see the fecal matter and urine behind him that needs cleaning up. But don’t worry, there’s more of that he would love to leave outside on his walk around the city neighborhood that surrounds this stray rescue kennel.
When I entered his apartment this morning, like I have the three previous Wednesday mornings before this, he delightfully jumps and circles and tries his darnedest to stay still for a second so I can put on the two leads needed to walk him. One lead around his neck and chest as a harness to hold and guide him safely and another longer lead loosely around his neck as a back-up security leash if needed.
Once he is “secured” he quickly confirms that I have treats in my pocket and lets me know he’s ready when I am to taste-test them for me. He doesn’t get a treat now; that will come later when he pees or poops outside. He knows that too. We both know the routine or basis of our relationship and yet he just loves to nuzzle me and I love to scratch his ears and pet him vigorously before we leave his apartment.
Thirty minutes of walking joy ahead of us and today is especially nice because the sky is blue, the morning temps are in the 40s and climbing and there’s plenty of sunshine ahead. Look out world, or at least downtown St. Louis, Wayne and his walker are coming out!
The Supreme, a three-year old, 51-pound, female Terrier/Pitbull Mix, currently lives in a six by five foot “apartment” at the Pine Street Shelter, Marquis Suite section of the 100-apartment dog rescue and medical facility. Her short bio recommends that her “fur-ever” adopting parent be someone who does not have cats, nor any other pets, so that they can provide full attention to her. I know from first-hand experience that she does require and demand full-time attention – and you cannot help loving this dog for it!
First, just a little background information:
Every Wednesday morning since last August I have been volunteering at Stray Rescue STL as a dogwalker. This means I arrive early morning to walk usually four different dogs for approximately 30 minutes each while their apartments are being cleaned by staff. Since this rescue kennel is located in downtown St. Louis, a walker needs to be attentive to traffic and prepared to bag poop whenever and wherever it is produced. The “mechanics” of being a dogwalker are important but are unlikely to ever overshadow the joy of spending time with a dog that appreciates any attention they can get during their morning walk of freedom from their apartment.
Before I could become a volunteer dogwalker I had to attend an orientation session to learn the “mechanics”. I was one of eight people under consideration, as our Orienteer, explained how to properly harness a dog, the importance of never letting go of the two leads, and the need for gentle but firm attention to safely walk the city streets before returning the dog to the kennel door where they were initially released to you. The orientation session took approximately 90 minutes to receive the instruction that including taking turns walking a beautiful and friendly German Shepherd who seemed to be the most gentle animal possible.
BTW: this dog had been abused by its former owner and left behind in an dilapidated parking lot. Attached to a short chain that was attached to some chain-link fencing, the dog had been forced to sit on the hot Summer tarmac its own urine and feces for days without food or water. He suffered urine burns to his back legs that left painful scarring that marred both his appearance and his walking gait. Despite this human mis-treatment, he loved spending time with humans and appreciated every gentle touch and dog treat provided. It took approximately six months before someone adopted him.
At the end of the orientation session, our Orienteer responded to any and all questions. For example:
Q: Are all dogs as gentle as this German Shepherd?
A: No, dogs are rated by behavior and volunteers only work with the gentlest dogs available among the 100+ housed in the kennel.
Q: What are some of the challenges to be prepared for as a dogwalker?
A: Some dogs are “dog reactive” meaning they behave fine as long as they are kept at least 30 feet away from other dogs. Some dogs are “people reactive” meaning once they accept the person holding their lead they are not interested in being close to any other human. Reactive behavior is barking, lunging and at worst attacking the “threat” they perceive from the other animal or human. Note: some strangers are enthralled when they see a dog and just want to pet them but that “good intention” cannot be satisfied because the dog can easily feel overwhelmed and threatened by too many people getting close to them at one time. So, when walking a dog, you need to change direction if you see another dog or person getting too close. It’s best to avoid a possible confrontation and retrace your steps or take another route.
Q: Has a walker ever lost hold of the leads allowing the dog to run away?
A: Yes. If this happens the walker should notify staff immediately so they can begin the search to re-rescue the dog before any harm to the dog or others occurs. Escaped dogs will often run to construction areas or seek places to hide to avoid harm.
Q: Has a dog ever attacked a dogwalker?
A: Not exactly….
- Sometimes a dog is so powerful it tries to lunge forward (after a car, squirrel, bird, whatever) and can pull the dogwalker off their feet. If a dogwalker falls down it’s important to hang on the lead so the dog doesn’t get away. This can be challenging with some of the larger dogs; especially those with pit bull or boxer DNA.
- Sometimes a dog can be stubborn and refuse to move forward and/or follow your lead at some point during the walk. They may need a break or want to sniff a particular area a little longer before moving on.
- If a dogwalker is too forceful in moving the dog before it wants to be moved a dog might snap or even bite the dogwalker. Gentle but firm guidance is needed to restart the walk and maintain control.
Note: at the end of every walk it’s important that the dogwalker report to staff how the dog did on the walk. For example, how many pees and/or poops occurred or whether there were any challenges encountered. This information is helpful for recording behavior and informing other walkers what to expect or avoid in the future.
Getting back to The Supreme. Most dogs are rescued without identification so Staff name them. Names often recognize the dog’s demeanor or the location they were found. The Supreme is a dog named after her demeanor. She considers herself the Alpha Female and will take the lead if you don’t clearly establish yourself as her leader. She can quickly get into a crouch and plow forward like a miniature tank attempting to force her will on where she wants to go. She is on the lookout for food or a favorite walking route that may have been rewarding on previous walks.
The Supreme can be very challenging so it did not surprise me that I had not been introduced to her in my first five months as a dogwalker. It was a compliment to my past experience that the Staff felt I was now ready to walk her. Little did I know that this would not be like my first three Pitbulls of the day. This was going to be a test.
To start, I harnessed her in her apartment, or should I say, just outside her apartment, as she charged through the open door I was attempting to enter. She wanted out NOW and wasn’t keen on wasting any time. Once I had the two leads around her neck and chest, I took her out of the building and turned eastward to walk down the back alley towards the first street we would encounter. She immediately began to plow and wanted to walk faster. Had we been on my own property, out in the country, I would have enjoyed running with her but this was downtown St. Louis and far too busy and dangerous for that entertainment. So, I held firmly and we approached the sidewalk where I would determine our next turn.
Looking both ways for any oncoming traffic wasn’t a simple matter. This first street had many parked cars on both sides of the road and I knew from past experience that a smaller vehicle could easily surprise us if we weren’t careful stepping into the street. In the meantime, The Supreme pulled on the leads impatiently. She wanted to cross the street NOW but I wasn’t ready yet. BTW: this whole interaction took only seconds but in her world she needed to cross this street quicker than I was prepared to do.
I looked to the left, then to the right, and before I could take my next breath she circled me tightly, lunged forward and launched me into the air and then plunging to the asphalt street below me. Time slowed down as I reached out with my left hand to soften my landing but this was a big mistake. My butt landed on my left hand, crushing my left thumb into the pavement. I wondered if I had broken the thumb because it really hurt but I didn’t have time to think about that right now. My right hand held the two leads that had roped my legs together and I was determined to not let The Supreme out of my grasp. I must have looked like a calf roped and tied by a rodeo rider but my job was to protect the dog. Where was she?
Before I could think twice, The Supreme was licking my face. It was if she was almost apologizing or concerned about my welfare or whatever other anthropomorphizing I might imagine. Yet clearly she was very attentive to me and in no way trying to get away from me.
Comforted by her attention, I looked around sheepishly to see who might have seen my come-uppance but there wasn’t anyone in sight. Slowly I untied my legs and arose to a relieved dog eager to be petted and continue our walk. Delighted that we were okay, The Supreme looked to the street again and tugged, somewhat less vigorously, to indicate she was ready to cross if I was. Together we continued for another 25 minutes or so and enjoyed our time together on this crispy cold winter’s morning.
So what did I learn from The Supreme? What wisdom did she impart to me? A couple of things come to mind:
- While we may tussle with others on occasion, in an emergency we tend to look out for one another. Our first instinct is to help rather than flee.
- Suffering unites us if we let it. There was no need to scold or punish another when calamity ensues. If fact, I ended up laughing at the two of us and how we adapted to each other in this first time encounter.
- Love does conquer all. The Supreme can be intimidating if you let her; however, if you hang on, even for dear life, the inner beauty becomes apparent and the affectionate licking (kissing?) can mend a broken thumb (or heart?) pretty quickly.
My thanks to Stray Rescue STL for dogwalking training and rescuing animals abandoned and/or abused by humans in the past so that I might enjoy the opportunity to meet and walk The Supreme.
With gratitude from a freshman dogwalker.
A winter rainbow comes unexpected which is perhaps the rainbow’s intention
To surprise us with the reminder that the Sun still exists and so do we
Our mission is not finished yet; whatever that mission may be, and we have
“Miles to go before we sleep” as Robert Frost reminds us, as the rainbow reminds us.
Winter has its time and place which is here and now
I am grateful to notice and write down what I see and hear and realize I am grateful for another season and this gift called Life.
This is a wall at Stray Rescue where prospective foster or adoption parents first meet a dog they are interested in possibly taking home. An application is required prior to visiting this room which allows the agency to give a quick review of your situation (residence, reason for wanting a pet, stated level of commitment to pet care, past experience with pets, etc.).
This wall is also a place where prior “fur parents” can acknowledge a pet they obtained through Stray Rescue who is no longer living. Each gold leaf on this “Tree of Life” has a pet’s name to honor their memory for both the “fur parents” and for the staff of the agency who was involved in the placement of the pet with the parent.
On this wall there is a leaf with the name Etta Pearl.
She was a blind, deaf MinPin-Doxie we adopted nearly 14 months ago. See picture below. We were challenged to care for this needy dog but found ourselves “out of our league” when she was diagnosed with “doggie dementia” and/or “sundowner’s syndrome” indicating her final days of life. She walked in small circles and attempted to bite us whenever we tried to direct her to her food or to the outdoors for elimination. She was unhappy and disoriented. She was approaching death and not enjoying the final stage.
We regretfully returned her to Stray Rescue and they regretfully euthanized her which is something they only do in a “last option” situation.
I learned a lot from Etta Pearl and ordered the engraved leaf above in her honor. I now volunteer weekly to walk rescued dogs at Stray Rescue and see this wall each week I am there.
Even in her final weeks with us, Etta Pearl was able to teach me a valuable life lesson. I am grateful for our time together. Thank you Etta Pearl.
Trust me dear reader, my point is not to offend but to point out the obvious. Whenever we espouse one thing but do another, we are a hypocrite. Whenever we hold someone else accountable for their behavior but justify our own, we are a hypocrite. Whenever we pretend to be someone or capable of something when we are not, we are a hypocrite. Please allow me to explain:
Living in a duplicitous world creates the expectation that we be duplicitous ourselves. Expected to wear many hats and play many roles calls for the ability to flex as necessary from child to adult to parent to grandparent, from learner to teacher, from amateur to professional, from paid provider to unpaid volunteer, from gender to agender, from racial to nonracial, etc.
Here are a few concepts worth considering (see sources for each below):
1.The original definition of the word hypocrite is one who considers many possible responses and selects the “right words to use” to fit the situation; or, in other words, an actor, especially one that wears a mask, or debater who considers multiple viewpoints and then selects one to project. Over time, the word took on more negative meanings especially when it was considered in a political context (i.e., politicians lie, are two-faced, and pretend to be or do something they aren’t or won’t).
2.The Greek word hypokrisis means to act or pretend; typically someone pretending to have virtues or morals they don’t possess or hides their genuine beliefs and displays publicly approved attitudes in hopes of convincing others that they are righteous or equally deceptive, sits on a fence to neither accept the reality of not being righteous nor put in efforts to become righteous.
Note: hypocrisy in the above definition is a moral choice and/or a dilemma because individuals aren’t sure what they believe or want to defend. While this might be an honest attempt to be open and flexible, it can also be the result of insecurity. Thus, as we move through our lives and encounter unfamiliar situations we will naturally devolve to hypocrisy for a while.
3.Referencing The Happiness Hypothesis, it is easier to see hypocrisy in others since we delude ourselves into thinking we contribute more and understand more about reality than others. Our “conscious, rational mind” sees what it wants to see and thus justifies what we say and do much easier than justifying what others say and do. Our self-delusion can be helpful for us at times when encountering difficult challenges; however, it is very unhelpful when we see ourselves as having more knowledge and wisdom than others which can easily harm our relationships and decrease our overall happiness. Yet, even when the obvious negative aspects are pointed out to us, we “somehow, each of us clings to the belief that we are the sole exception.”
4.Hypocrisy is cited as the lack of conformity between stated beliefs and one’s own behavior; especially in a hypocritical culture. While hypocrisy is a natural outcome of a bad situation (i.e., a bad system with overpower a good performer every time), “hypocrisy is bad” because it degrades social trust, reduces our ability to work together, communicate and enjoy each other’s company. Hypocrisy hurts all of us even though you don’t always see the consequences of your duplicitous behavior (e.g., talk behind your back or actions sabotaged in business, romance and communal life in general). Some classic examples provided are: Christians who support the War on Terror, parents who support the “white lie”, people giving themselves the right to grow and change but not extending that same right to others, and our naturally poor memories which fail to remember details and thus too casually lump behaviors and people types into one.
And so, ultimately we are all hypocrites at some times. A positive goal is to seek the reduction in our hypocritical behavior. Five recommended actions to accomplish this goal are:
- Write down your beliefs and values and read and recite them regularly;
- Examine your life for inconsistent behavior and start anew with more congruent behavior;
- Recognize the difference between important and urgent and focus on the important;
- Anticipate challenges and identify scenarios for dealing with them; and
- Prepare your responses to potential questions or incidents so that you are better prepared to act consistently with your beliefs.
Once again, we will fail, we will be hypocritical; however, by pausing, reflecting and then taking action we can reduce the number of our failures especially on the most important situations in our lives.
5.Most of us are plenty smart to know the right thing to say and do at the right time and yet we tend to be much better at saying than doing. The “smart talk trap” is a very common trait in modern business and modern technology. Not following through on our smart talk is also very common. Using the excuses of urgency, unfair competition, “need to survive” versus thrive, are all lame and lead to major gaps in integrity. The “knowing-doing gap” can be lessened by improving our memory through careful codification, reducing fear through emphasis on quality, using metrics to reward good judgment, and reducing unhealthy competition to improve collaboration and cooperation. A lot of “motherhood and apple pie” here but real enough if taken seriously.
In summary, we will be hypocritical at times in our life but we can avoid becoming full-time hypocrites by understanding where and when we fail and how best to minimize those failures. I do believe this is worth doing and intend to act on this belief; which is another reason for going public with this post so that I may be held more accountable.
Carry on dear friends.
Here are the four articles and one book that are the sources for this opinion. They are:
- Are We All Hypocrites? by Professor Susi Ferrarello, Ph.D, California State University Are We All Hypocrites? | Psychology Today
- Are we all Hypocrites? By Zainab Olaitan Adegoke Are we all Hypocrites?. Have we ever found ourselves doing what… | by Zainab Olaitan Adegoke | Medium
- We Are All Hypocrites: How We Justify Ourselves, Hannah Aster We Are All Hypocrites: How We Justify Ourselves | Shortform Books
- We’re All Hypocrites, It’s Just a Matter of Scale, by Allen Faulton We’re All Hypocrites, It’s Just a Matter of Scale | by Allen Faulton | Medium
- The Knowing-Doing Gap, Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert I. Sutton, © 2000 President and Fellows of Harvard College, Harvard Business School Press, The Knowing-Doing Gap – Jeffrey Pfeffer
The Tao De Ching has the masterful phrase: “The Tao begot one. One begot two. Two begot three. And three begot the ten thousand things. The ten thousand things carry yin and embrace yang. They achieve harmony by combining these forces.” Chapter 42, Tao Te Ching by Lao Tsu Translated by Gia-Fu Feng and Jane English ©1989 Vantage Books.
It doesn’t take that much thought to realize we have been preceded by our ancestors and will be succeeded by our descendants. We are part of at least ten thousand in our species and lineage alone. Add on to this all the species we eat, drink and breathe in order to continue living and we are quickly surrounded by billions and even trillions (i.e., when you include the bacteria in our own digestive systems). Wow! We are a miniscule part of a gigantic living system on this planet alone.
Recognizing our very tiny part in the “great chain of being” it can quickly become apparent of how unimportant we are, or are we? Does not every link in a chain serve a purpose? If one link is broken does it not affect the immediate links around it, and so forth?
Returning to the Tao Te Ching quote above, one might suppose the “one, two, three” that begin the process might be the Trinity of Christian thinking or some other spiritual triad that precedes Christianity. The rush to religion appears to be natural for our species, in that we are continuously attempting to understand the “world” of which we are a member. What does the Tao Te Ching say about this? How about the very first line: “The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao.” Okay, so maybe we cannot adequately describe or even verbalize the whole truth, “so help us God.” So what then can we do?
Some other quotes from the same book come to mind:
- “The wise, therefore rule by emptying hearts and stuffing bellies, by weakening ambitions and strengthening bones.” Chapter 3. Does this mean “shut up and eat” and “don’t strive for position just keep doing the work immediately set before you?” Serve wherever you are?
- “In dwelling, be close to the land. In meditation, go deep in the heart. In dealing with others, be gentle and kind. In speech, be true. In ruling, be just. In daily life, be competent. In action, be aware of the time and the season. No fight: No blame.” Chapter 8. This reminds me of the great movie Bull Durham when Crash Davis (Kevin Costner’s role) says to the pitcher, Nuke LaLoosh (Tim Robbins role), “Don’t think meat. It’ll only hurt the ballclub.” More doing and less talking?
- “Accept disgrace willingly. Accept misfortune as the human condition….Accept being unimportant. Do not be concerned with loss or gain….Misfortune comes from having a body….Surrender yourself humbly; then you can be trusted to care for all things. Love the world as your own self; then you can truly care for all things.” Chapter 13. Why does this remind me of the t-shirt “Life sucks and then you die”?
- “Give up sainthood, renounce wisdom, and it will be a hundred times better for everyone. Give up kindness, renounce morality, and men will discover filial piety and love. Give up ingenuity, renounce profit, and bandits and thieves will disappear. These three are outward forms alone; they are not sufficient in themselves. It is more important to see the simplicity, to realize one’s true nature, to cast off selfishness and temper desire.” Chapter 19. A lot of giving up and surrendering. I know, it doesn’t sound very American which maybe means it’s a whole lot more true than this American Dream myth unraveling before our eyes.
Hmmm. To the victors go the spoils so then the victors become spoiled? Or were the Beatles right when they sang “Let it be?”
What are you thinking this morning?
The month of May offers a wide array of holidays, over a 140 if you’re counting. See May Holidays 2021 – National Today or The Month of May 2021: Holidays, Fun Facts, History, and More | The Old Farmer’s Almanac Talk about an emotional roller coaster; and yet, there are at least four notable days to remember:
- First comes May Day, the first of the month, observed in many countries to celebrate the arrival of the season of Spring but also the Russian revolution of 1917 or a day honoring labor and the shorter workday and work week fought four in the late 1800s. Whether celebrated by pagans, communists or union members it is generally a day of celebration and can sometimes involve dancing, drinking, fire-setting and other general mayhem. Speaking of mayhem which starts with the word “may”, there are a couple of “may” words worth noting this month:
- Mayday, the international general distress call used for water and air transportation; derived from the French phrase “venez m’aider” meaning “come help me”. It’s intention is to signal for assistance in life threatening situations.
- Mayhem, means violent or damaging disorder as well as the crime of maliciously injuring or maiming someone. Not a pleasant word for most to hear or experience.
- Maybe, a word often used by parents or other authorities to suggest that perhaps, there’s a possibility or a mere probability that what is sought might actually be found, that what is desired might actually come about, that what is needed might actually be delivered.
- Then comes Cinco de Mayo, the fifth of May, that celebrates the Mexican army’s victory over the French forces in 1862. Considered a minor holiday in Mexico, it has become a celebration of Mexican culture and heritage in the United States primarily for Mexican-American people. This day is often filled listening to Latin music, visiting Mexican food booths and learning more about Mexican history.
- Don’t forget Mother’s Day, celebrated on the second Sunday of the month. Check out the history of Mother’s Day which officially began in 1907 at History of Mother’s Day: How Mother’s Day Came to Be | The Old Farmer’s Almanac and remember this is supposed to be a “day off” for mothers and a day of peace for all.
- Finally, there is Memorial Day, celebrated on May 31 this year, that often involves flag raising in honor of family members who have died while serving in the military and visiting cemeteries to honor family ancestors who have transitioned beyond this life in general.
Between the celebrations and remembrances, this is a month that covers the full spectrum of emotions and the hope of better things to come like Summer and the transition to whatever the next month or next life might bring.
But let’s not skip to the end of this month or overlook other valuable things worth remembering this time of year. Many of us have important people in our lives celebrating birthdays, anniversaries, and other days worth commemorating.
Sincerely, may we all be peaceful, joyful and grateful each and every day of May 2021.
The Milky Way Galaxy is a collection of 400 billion stars of which one is the fireball we call our Sun. Earth is the third planet from the Sun which is “our” home; our species, homo sapiens, is but one of 8.7 million species on this planet at this time; 6.5 million species on land and 2.2 million living in the ocean. Our conscious awareness of this living organism called the Milky Way is one of the many gifts we have received as miniscule parts of this vast and yet not unique galaxy within the universe of multiple galaxies that we believe exist.
We are not exactly sure of the total number of galaxies in the universe but it is estimated there are at least 200 billion and possibly as many as 2 trillion. The Milky Way galaxy is only an arm of the Laniakea supercluster, one of the largest objects in the known universe stretching 520 million light-years across. Our specific solar system is located about 27,000 light-years from the Galactic Center on the inner edge of the Orion Arm within the Milky Way. Where does our solar system exist inside the Milky Way? Is it at the edge of the Milky Way galaxy? – Quora
The physical body I call “me” is composed of water, earth, fire and air all provided by the physical elements in which I have been “born.” Water represents approximately 60% of my body weight and over one hundred trillion forms of bacteria live on our skin, in our gut and up our nostrils, and so forth. You could say I am composed of more non-human elements than “human.”
I am a product of my biological parents who were products of theirs, and so on. My body is but one of the many bodies existing at this time on this planet. How unique can I be as one of 7.9 billion humans currently residing at this time on this planet in this galaxy.
A macrocosm is the whole of a complex structure, especially the world or universe, contrasted with a small or representative part of it. A microcosm is a miniature with characteristics that exemplify something much larger (e.g., humankind regarded as the epitome of the universe). Narcissism is excessive interest in oneself with a grandiose view of one’s importance in its environment. Hmmm, from the sublime to the ordinary; what an amazing universe we live in.
As I sip my coffee in the early morning hours of this side of the planet on this late-April day listening to my dog snore at my feet as I type these words on my laptop recalling the question I received less than 24 hours ago which was “why do I write”. I recall my two answers. First, because I have to. Second, because I enjoy it.
Why do you write?