Archive for April, 2009

Do Dogs Dream?

Dreaming? Or Not Dreaming?

Dreaming? Or Not Dreaming?

I remember clearly talking to a small shaggy Toto-type dog a few years ago and his telling me that he loved to sleep because when he was asleep he always dreamed he was flying. Actually I don’t think he said he dreamed he was flying; I think he said he was flying. And he proceeded to describe and show me what it looked like and where he went and how he felt. What he showed me was . . . well . . . out of this world. This little guy was soaring all over the place with his ears flapping in the wind, grinning ear to ear, ………………having the time of his life!

Personally, it is always a big deal for me when I dream I’m flying — especially if I become “lucid” during the dream (or “conscious” some people call it) without waking up and can more or less take control and enjoy the flight. The dog I talked to was obviously lucid all the time whilst flying, and he loved every minute of it. How I envy him!

Flying in a dream and being conscious of it is kind of like having a dream come true in “real” life. Both are euphoric experiences. If we could just figure out the catalyst for both we’d be on Cloud Nine all the time, both literally and figuratively. We could create any reality we wanted and have any dream we desired come true.

How does that work?

One of my heroes, and favorite writers, John David Mann makes a great point:

“Your dreams are not some­thing that exist independent of you; they are an extension of you. Your dreams are the expression of who you are today, minus the limitations (real or imagined) of your current reality.”

Hmmm . . . that would seem to indicate that maybe the only thing holding us back from achieving our dreams is our own feelings about our shortcomings, right? Right . . . I think.

To get a handle on this and on how we create our own reality, studying quantum physics might help. OR, much easier, reviewing the more simplistic distillations of same that are coming out of many different sources these days. One of my favorites is the Abraham-Hicks material which is mostly based on what’s called the “Law of Attraction.”

Simply stated (my words here), what we focus on is what we get. So if you spend most of your time in your head focusing on 1. negative stuff, or 2. regretting what you don’t have, or 3. pining for something you want, all you’re going to attract is more of number 1, 2, or 3. Period. Check it out and read up on it. And start practicing switching brain channels from tragic dramas to romantic comedies when you find yourself over-burdened by negativity.

Now all dogs are not foot-loose and fancy free. As we well know, many of them have had a hard time in life and so carry a lot of emotional baggage and fears around with them. I don’t know what they dream of. I’ll have to take a poll some day. I imagine they have nightmares sometimes, just like we do. But many other dogs are free spirits and, it is comforting to learn from our shaggy little friend, possess the great talent of dreaming dreamy things — like flying, if they want.

What could be more uplifting than that?

So dream on . . . and may all your dreams come true!


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Charlie – Genghis Khan?

Genghis Khan?

Uh, excuse me -- Did you say Genghis Khan?

The conversation went very fast:

“Who do you think you’re like, Charlie?”

“Genghis Khan” (Charlie replied without missing a beat).

I was totally bowled over by this response, as Charlie is the most loving dog you ever met.

“Why, Charlie?!”

“Because he was a great lover, . . . but he could really raise hell!!!!”

Whoa-ho! Now I could never have made this up in a million years. I’m not really that familiar with Genghis Khan and don’t remember much from my history lessons about him except that he killed a lot of people. I certainly never think about him, and I didn’t see the recent popular movie about his life. So I went and Googled Genghis  and, guess what: he was supposedly a great lover who left multitudes of progeny! And we all know what he did on the warpath! Eek! I started thinking about Charlie’s response, and it made perfect sense.

Charlie is my 6-year-old Golden Retriever/Chow mix. He was found running on the road at midnight at about 6 months of age, unneutered, no collar, and I am the lucky duck who wound up with him a couple of weeks after he was found. And I do mean every word of that. Charlie walks on water as far as I’m concerned. He is love in the flesh.

This love thing is, clearly, the Golden Retriever in Charlie. I think all who know the breed would agree that that personality trait is the epitome of the Golden Retriever personality. That’s probably why the Golden is one of, if not THE, most popular dog in America right now.

But Charlie also has a really fierce side. And a thinking one (which Goldens are not famous for). We know he’s part Chow because his whole mouth is solid black/purple. But with his magic combination of genes, he is the only one of my large-breed dogs I can trust out loose with me to never run away or get into trouble. He can go on horseback rides with me and stay close and never miss a beat or cue from me. He is incredibly loyal, but not cloying. Protective but not aggressive. Happy but not stupid-silly. Charlie is beautiful and strong, regal and proud. He is all the things everyone wants when they get a large-breed dog. Boy, if someone could just produce a consistent “Charlie” breed, they’d be set for life!

So where in the heck does Genghis Khan come in? Charlie can be SO fierce he can, if he wants to, keep visitors from getting out of their car. About the time Charlie fully matured, we lost our beloved black Lab/Akita mix, Hondo, our alpha leader who had taken Charlie under his wing when Charlie came to live with us. Charlie worshipped Hondo and no doubt learned everything he knows from him (sans the Lab-getting-in-the-garbage-can-thing, thank God).  So when Hondo died I had a long talk with Charlie and told him that he was now to move into Hondo’s position of head honcho/protector. He took over with a mighty will and never looked back. And he did things I had never seen him do before.

You can see why this dog walks on water for me. I adore all my animals, but Charlie is the one I can take with me anywhere and feel safe and protected and yet know he won’t cause a heap of trouble. He’s who I know will run out at dawn and chase off any errant coyotes who are lurking around the chicken yard. And yet he’s the one who lets our new Chihuahua pup, Frida, romp all over him, using him as a ski slope and tug toy. I mean, how much better can you get than that?

So, upon reflection, I think his choice of a parallel in Genghis Khan is right on. The only difference I can think of at this point would be that Genghis probably WOULD have bitten whoever got out of that car!

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Animals Come Straight from the Heart – I Wish We Humans Did

A Sad Puppy

A Really Sad Puppy

You know when your dog is sad — he doesn’t hide it. And he’s just not going to feel better until you love him up and tell him it’s okay. And by the time you do,  you’re both so happy to be beyond the upset that you’re on Cloud 9 and he’s bouncing with playfulness.

Why can’t it work that way between us humans when we get upset with each other?

I recently tried to work through a bump in the road with a long-time friend. I wish one of us were a dog so we could have paralleled the above-described scenario because I don’t feel like it went well. We had had a disagreement where he got his feelings hurt and then I felt pushed away. After a cooling off period we had a lengthy talk and seemingly resolved our “issues.” But I’ve not felt right since and have tried and tried to figure out why. When I awoke this morning I finally had some clarity about it.

I can’t speak for my friend, but I left our conversation feeling like I’d been to a 12-step meeting . . . and I still don’t have a clue as to what’s really going on with him. Most of our discussion was framed in that 12-step kind of language:  how we must take responsibility for our own feelings and actions, not project our emotions onto each other, understand that we had each hurt the other (so we were “even,” one-for-one, tit-for-tat — that detail, oddly, seemed to make everything all right in my friend’s eyes), etc. Now at one point in my life I attended a good many Alanon meetings and gained tremendous insight into myself and my own dysfunctions from them. And as far as I know my friend attends meetings and practices 12-step work continually. I have tremendous respect for these recovery programs. I think they teach us a lot we need to know about handling our emotions and certainly about how to “fight” fair. But you know what? They don’t really help mend the heart.

I personally believe these programs are now somewhat out-of-step with the times in that they more or less insist we are all satellites and can only find happiness from within. It’s true that we must, but we’re not all on this earth together to learn how to exist independently. We know now that our thoughts heavily impact one another, even across the world, so we are not emotional islands. We are supposed to be interdependent and learn how to co-exist peacefully and lovingly.  Having good tools with which to resolve difficulties is one thing, but taking care of each others’ hearts is another.

Bottom line: Do you think you could make your dog feel better by explaining to him that what he had done triggered some old emotion in you and so your reaction to him was out of proportion to his misstep? Dream on. He’s not going to get happy until he once again feels your love, and that’s that.

I don’t know about my friend, but as for me I don’t feel like we accomplished much. All we did was talk through the ins and outs of “what happened.” And forgiveness was there too. But as far as mending each other’s hearts – nada. I don’t think it happened. At least it didn’t for me.

I think I’ll go hug up some of my animals now and make sure they know how much I love them. And it’s Sunday — a good day to pray and meditate about this.

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We’re In Mourning

Yep. A wily coyote with prey in mouth. I love the coyotes. I just want them to leave my chickens alone!

A wily coyote with prey in mouth. I love the coyotes. I just want them to leave my chickens and cats alone! (AND my chihuahuas.)

Mr. Pants became so adept and cavalier about his outings through the fence that he taught four other chicks his trick. But, not being Zen Buddhists like he is, they were not quite as quick on the draw about how to get back into safety. They just couldn’t seem to remember where that best ingress/egress point was in the fence.

I noticed this going on for a couple of days and was becoming quite perturbed about it and figuring I’d need to get some more chicken wire to shore up the bottom of the fenceline after all. I had hoped the chicks, in their bionic growth spurt, would quickly become too large to fit through the holes and that this would solve the problem. But that didn’t happen right away like I thought it might.

You can probably tell where this story is leading.

Early yesterday morning, just after dawn, Bessie began yelling (in what I now realize was an effort to call me to her aid). After about 15 minutes of this, which is how long it took for the light bulb to finally turn on in my brain, I let Charlie, my heroic Golden Retriever/Chow mix, out, and boy did he take off! By the time I got up to the chicken yard there were still three or four chicks running around outside it like (dare I use this phrase) “chickens with their heads cut off”, and Bessie was wringing her feathers because she had not been successful at getting them back inside to safety. That did take some doing on my part and hers as well, but we finally lured them all back in.

Everybody was up in a heaval, for sure! Bessie immediately herded her babes  inside the hen house and tucked them under cover as best she could. So I couldn’t count them. Sigh. I had a feeling . . .   An hour or so later, when they had all recovered, and whatever the immediate danger had been had passed, they ventured out again, if a little tentatively at first. Sure enough, much to my dismay, there were only nine wee ones instead of ten. I searched everywhere, thinking maybe I’d missed one when herding them inside earlier. But nothing.

We figure a coyote came cruising by at just the right moment, scooped one up, and took off  (hopefully with Charlie on his tail soon thereafter).  Or it could have been one of the large ravens that frequent my barn in the spring — yes, they do eat baby chicks. Ugh. Needless to say it wasn’t Mr. Pants who got, uh, eaten. He’s so darn smart I’m sure he headed for home the instant he realized there was danger!

Bessie was obviously grieving. She is not your regular self-absorbed hen, you know, and she seems to be a very advanced soul, so was well aware of what had transpired and stayed near an outer corner of the yard watching for the missing chick for hours. We felt so badly! Needless to say a quick trip to Lowe’s later and we now have a lot more chicken wire up around the perimeter of the fence, and NObody can get out! We also covered what amounts to an “inner” yard with mesh over the top so that we have at least one safe haven from dive-bombing predatory birds.

I thought this would take care of all our problems but then, about 10:00 a.m. this morning, I happened to walk over to the window that has a view of the chicken yard and watched in horror as a huge black raven ever-so-casually flapped down and landed in the top of the big cedar tree that is smack dab in the middle of the outer chicken yard!

Back to the drawing board — how to create “Chicken Alcatraz.” Martha Stewart was able to do it. Why can’t I?!

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How To Be Robert Redford

Robert Redford?

Robert Redford?

So, Copper, I know you are aware that our friend April says you look just like Robert Redford. What do you think of that?

I like it. I think she’s right.

Do you know who “Robert Redford” is?

I get the idea. I know who I am.

What would you say one has to be in order to be Robert Redford?

You have to stand tall. Be strong. Be a little sarcastic, but with a good sense of humor. And you have to be a bit tousled. Your hair.

Very interesting. And is this the way you see yourself?


Do you see yourself as handsome? Do you think that is also a prerequisite for being Robert Redford?

I think it is for him probably. But not for me. Because my offerings override just mere appearances.

But do you think you are handsome?

I know I am handsome!

Ah so. How do you know that?

Everyone tells me (duh!). You know I hear everything you all say about me too, when you are discussing me in the third person. That’s why I always turn around and stare at you when you’re talking about me. Sometimes that’s not very polite, you know. I don’t really mind it too much because it is always complimentary, but you have to be careful with what you say. Especially when you talk about my age.

Oh. What about your age? Are we saying things we shouldn’t about your age?

Well, whenever you point me out to someone new you always say something like, “That’s my old guy,” or “That’s Copper, he’s 31,” or ” . . . oldster (!!!),” or “That old guy is 31. Can you believe how good he looks?!” Or “He’s doing really well and he’s going on 32,” or “He’s gimpy so we can’t ride him any more.” Stuff like that.

Eek, I see what you mean. . .

And I’ll have you know that you certainly CAN ride me more! Or at least the small ones can. I am quite fit. The “gimp” thing just doesn’t apply to me. I don’t know what you’re talking about.

I’m sorry! I just notice that sometimes you limp a little so I don’t want to over-burden or challenge your capacities by asking you to be ridden if you shouldn’t be.

I should be, and I want to be. Didn’t you get that last summer? I’m sorry. I’m being a little pushy here.

You’re not being pushy, Copper. You are always very clear about your desires, which I greatly appreciate, so I am very, very happy you are stating this so emphatically for me. Really. Thank you. And we will do as instructed, we will ride you . . . or April will. She’s a “small one.” I promise I will tell her immediately.

Thank you.

No, thank YOU, for talking to me. You know I’m going to post this on the blog for all to see, right?

Right. Why else do you think I would go into such detail about myself? I’m not particularly vain, you know. I just thought since you write about me, and since I am a spokesman, everyone out there should really understand what I’m like. And yeah, I DO think I’m like Robert Redford.

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When to Keep Your Trap Shut

human-mouthThis is a tough one. Especially when you are, ahem, “serving” in a professional capacity.

Here are a few suggestions for when to keep your mouth shut:

*  When you don’t know what to say.

*  When it is none of your business.

*  When you’re dying to say something ugly.

*  When you haven’t been asked.

Okay, so those are the easy ones. But what about those times you have been asked, and you are actually being paid for your opinion?

In animal communication you must be ready, willing, and trained to employ tact and diplomacy. And, if the truth be known, “diplomacy” is one of the most important skills one must have in order to be a professional animal communicator. And this swings both ways: in your communications with the animal involved as well as with that animal’s person. Basically, you, the animal communicator can often be caught in the middle of what is an explosive situation or issue. At such times it becomes very important to know how to interpret the messages back and forth, between animal and owner, in a way that is tactful and diplomatic without compromising the intent or meaning. This can be tricky!

Let me give you an example. Let’s say you have been contacted by Sue, whose cat is peeing outside the litter box. Sue is at her wit’s end and what she basically wants you to convey to the cat is “Shape up or ship out!” Really. She is ready to get rid of this cat.

The cat, Ted, tells you that havoc is reigning in the household. Sue has moved them in with her boyfriend, who is being horribly abusive to them both, and this is the only way Ted knows to get her attention and maybe get her to move out. He lets you know he is also very worried about Sue’s welfare. Ted is so emotionally upset and on edge that his entire system has become out of balance so his urinary tract is now irritated and inflamed.

As the animal communicator, it is your job to convey what you get. But you know what? You just don’t have to use the words “Shape up or ship out” to that cat! Nor do you have to tell Sue that it is her fault Ted is behaving this way and that she has made him ill. Instead you would begin gently, with Ted for instance, by asking him what’s wrong and why he’s peeing inappropriately. You would let him know that it does displease Sue, greatly in fact (because humans are just like that about pee in the wrong places — they really hate it!), and that she is very distressed about this. Stuff like that. You would ease into the discussion and not even mention the “shipping out” part unless it became a last resort after sharing his information with Sue.

With Sue, you would let her know Ted had shared with you that they had moved in with her boyfriend, and ask her if this was true? You would let her know that he showed you great irritation, perhaps even an infection, in his urinary tract and that he was very tense and anxious. Further, that he seemed to feel the situation in the household was not a happy one, and he was concerned on her behalf.

And on you would go, back and forth between the two until some sort of solution that seemed reasonable to both was reached. In this case, the very fact that Ted showed such concern for Sue might very well open her eyes to her situation and help her overcome it. Above all, conveying their shared concern for one another in your “translations” will help these two both want to find a happy ending to their story.

So, back to the original question: When to keep your trap shut? Having the professional skill of diplomacy and exercising it in one’s personal life and relationships can be two very different matters. So I would add one more point to the above list:

* When in doubt . . .

This is a great time to keep your mouth not only shut but zipped up all the way!

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Is “Mr. Pants” a Buddhist Monk?

A Buddhist Chick?

A Buddhist Chick?

One of Bessie’s chicks has notably long legs and is bigger than all the rest. A friend and I immediately pegged this baby as, horror of horrors, a rooster! I only say “horrors” because all ten chicks I bought were supposed to be hens, which is what I wanted because of the eggs. I have nothing against roosters as a general category of worthy beings, and I have had some admirable ones. But roosters can also be downright NASTY! So I just thought I’d avoid the whole ‘nasty’ thing by buying all female chicks.

Within hours of venturing into the enlarged chicken yard I had erected days after the chicks’ arrival, this little guy figured out that he could quite easily scale the “chick barrier” we had put up along the bottom of the fence and pop out into the real world whenever he wanted, in order to fulfill his exploratory nature and expanding soul (?? this is where the questions come in).  And he could pop back in just as easily, whenever his mother called or I was in the yard offering culinary delights. He really knew what he was doing and went about it with a will!

At first I was alarmed, picturing him as an appetizer for a watchful owl or hawk or one of the coyotes that lurk around the property awaiting their next meal. I thought he was lost and had gotten out by accident. Ha, ha. He proved me so wrong in the next moment when he went to his ingress/egress point and popped back through the fence to join his family.       . . . the laugh is on me, apparently. I quit worrying, and my friend and I dubbed him “Mr. Smarty Pants,”  “Mr. Pants” for short.

After a few days of this my friend asked me, “Leta, how can a baby chicken not even two weeks old be this smart and aware? I mean, um, do you think animals, um,  can be reincarnations of advanced spirits, and stuff like that?”

Aha. Therein lies the question. Some people still don’t think animals even have souls. Needless to say, my answer to that question is a given:  YES! But, in answer to my friend I simply told her what I believe:

Buddhists believe that humans can choose to reincarnate as animals, and Buddhism is a very ancient religion. So who am I to say yes or no to my friend’s question? And yes, I often observe animals who seem to be advanced beyond all possibility. But I never make a judgment about why unless the animal itself tells me firsthand that he or she is an incarnated being, a great master in a past life for example. Then I take them at their word, and listen hard, and enjoy whatever teachings they may have to impart. (And I have learned a lot from these occasional interludes, believe me.)

So is “Mr. Pants” an advanced spirit or not? Is he a rooster or not? As to the second question only time will tell. As to the first, maybe we’ll have a talk with him in a few months when he is grown and see if he imparts any deep, soulful wisdom or if he just crows his head off like his feathery counterparts.

By the way, my friend also felt that little Frida, our new puppy, exhibits the same characteristics of advancement as “Mr. Pants.” We shall see.

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