Monday, March 23, 2009

The Helen Fund

What makes a house a home? It's not just the construction, although when you're dealt a disability of physical challenges, it can be. It's not just the furniture, or the wall hangings, or the rugs, or the plates and vases and knick knacks and overflowing boxes of old photos you haven't yet put into albums and the albums you did get to and various projects of your creation in development and the food in the pantry and flower filled pots on your steps and the color scheme you picked for the western facing part of the house and the right tools to improve and the things you have forgotten about but still store in your space. It's not just the shared memories of good times and bad; it's the literal and often metaphorical foundation of your life -- a reflection of your passions, desires, sensibilities, stability.

To lose almost everything of that in a single stroke of catastrophe coupled with fierce pride and self determination and a desire to live off the grid has happened to Helen. She got out with her life and her two dogs, one a service dog. She lost her two beloved cats and everything in and including her house.

I live a life where I recognize deeply that I can fulfill my passions and be surrounded by comfort without benefit of a huge bank account but by the things that I measure of value -- the comfort of supporitve and loving relationships, healthy and amazing daughters who endlessly enchant me, my menagerie of animals who almost equally enchant me, even my soft and comfy furniture kept safe by the roof, four walls and floor of my house. I don't know how I would be if tested by a similar catastrophic event, but I know that networking is the key to change and that sometimes it's okay to accept help.

If you live or know someone in West Virginia of thereabouts who might be able to help out, please send the link to The Helen Fund. And remember to give a loved one a hug, or a pat on the head or a belly rub.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Time Management and Birthday Celebrations

Dogs live in the here and now. Right here. Right now. Sometimes, nay, often, it's hard for people to grasp that. But to me the evidence is clear. It's not just that dogs don't exhibit litigiousness or hire henchdogs to do their dirty work.

When It's over, whatever "It" is, it's over. Sometimes "It" is scary or annoying and seems to take a very long time but in reality those "It" behaviors often just take moments or seconds and usually aren't that serious. I assure clients with unruly or immature dogs that their dogs are not lying in their beds at night thinking up new ways to piss them off the next day (now cats on the otherhand...)!

On yet another otherhand, though, I'm finding it hard for my brain to grok, truly grok, how nearly 10 years has elapsed so quickly. My little ones from 2000 have grown -- one into the queen and my eldest canine -- the other my littlest princess (and youngest daughter still...phew!).

Today my daughter wore the birthday crown and entered into double digits. When I find myself moaning about how much time I spend sweeping up the dust bunnies from shedding dependents or picking up after the kids or figuring out if it's gogurt or string cheese that they stopped wanting in their school lunches I'm going to try to stop and instead savor that I'm in a phase where I'm not dealing with house training and teething or dirty diapers and car seats.

Probably the next time I'll be thinking of this will be when I get my next puppy or -- gasp -- become a grandmother.

Eek. I think I shall practice doggieness and just live in the here and now. Happy Birthday Sophie!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


I'm heading into the home stretch now, less than a month left to slog through Turbo Tax (probably THE most user friendly program I've met even though it seems to end up wanting a slice of my soul) and sort out all that info they want -- the expenses from the cost of goods and profit margins and leftover inventory and what really were legitimate deductions to sort out 2008.

I think for those of us in the dog training and ancillary world of groomers and handlers and Delta Society Evaluators and Pet Therapy Volunteers and veterinarians and vet techs and boutique owners -- heck, anyone with a dog in their hearts and lives -- I have deduced that the WK9 itemized form makes perfect sense. Now if I can just get the folks at Turbo Tax to slip it into the menu of options and have the IRS approve! Maybe once Barack Obama settles in on the dog of the dreams for his girls (remember Barack, it's for the girls!), he can push through some legislation to make it so.

So while my own bottom line is as financially shaky as many out there, I can look back at the year of experiences as another notch in the belt that I don't have to act out the safety plan (yet!) of going out into the world and getting a "real" job. This is as real as I want it to be! And getting up each day with joy to greet the world of animals is as good as it gets! So forget the W2, bring on Schedule C!

Monday, March 16, 2009


As sure as my yard becoming a mud pit or my sighting this morning of a cardinal is a harbinger to the coming change of season here in my neck of the woods, or city rivers of heavily Irish populations are being colored green to celebrate St. Patrick's Day signal it elsewhere, or even the looming deadline for filing income taxes in the U.S. is a spring rite for many, so too is the increase in calls from people wondering why their dog is so increasingly out of control.

All I can say is chant a mantra of calm that works for you and remember Pillar I (need I remind you it's Distractions Distractions Distractions) is the first Pillar for a reason!

Try to find the awe of your dog either discovering or rediscovering the sights, sounds, smells and feel under their pawpads of spring with the accompanying mud, warmer temps for many of us, more critters waking up or coming back and definitely increased foot traffic as more and more people are starting to come out of their homes and greet the longer days.

Remember The Six Things All Dogs Should Know and practice practice practice so when it becomes a needed behavior, it's been taught. Don't get mad at the canine in your care if he runs off to chase the squirrel or she stops to sniff every vertical surface on your route, but make sure he knows how to come back when you call him NO MATTER WHAT or you find the balance between letting her savor the smells and getting walk in!

If it works for you and your dog, sign up for a spring class and have fun incorporating learning during a highly distracting time of year! Check out your local offerings and be sure to find one that allows off leash play time and uses positive methods!

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

The Benevolent Leader (TBL)

I've been developing a routine lately (Pillar 4) of intense contemplation interrupted with bursts of writing activity only periodically interrupted by Life's Other Responsibilities (Pillars I-III) -- parenting 3 daughters, caring for my menagerie, and oh yeah, earning a living to pay the bills and all that other mundane stuff. I'm fully ensconced in the writing of content and the editing of video and the management of the currently 'invitation only' user group for my emerging tome, THE SIX PILLARS OF DOG TRAINING WISDOM and I'm marveling at how the whole process is impacting my own relationships in interesting and great ways.

So a week ago my very nearly 16 year old daughter returned from her week long trip to Southern California. Her hand selected gift for me -- a sign purchased at The San Diego Zoo -- which was placed on my vision board. I meditated on it until suddenly an -- an epiphany.

As I'm putting together the puzzle pieces for creating a formula that's user friendly, workable, measurable and doable, I've been grasping at an overall header to communicate the positive, non force based approach I endorse. Keeping with an effort to remain mnemonic, I have come up with The Benevolent Leader (TBL) versus The Annoying Thing (TAT). Today we'll talk about What Is A Benevolent Leader. More on TAT to follow in a future blog entry!

A Benevolent Leader is one who thinks about what he wants from those under his care, not behaviors she doesn't want. That those behaviors are shaped into the lifestyle of the individual, couple or family and current environment in a mindful, thought out way, even if the acquisition of the dog was impulsive and serendipitous. That the benevolent leader, like the dog, lives in the here and now but unlike the dog, can anticipate the future and prepare for it (Pillar 5).

And above all, The Benevolent Leader uses leadership built on trust and confidence, not betrayal and fear.