Saturday, October 25, 2008

Protruding Benefactors?

This week we had a session with both my healing touch person and a healing-touch-for-animals person who is also an "animal communicator." I'll need to be in the right mood to describe that session.

For now I just need to mention that I returned to feng shui for a little while tonight and noticed something interesting: although I've always known my house is unevenly distributed (according to the ba gua) with a protruding area in the "helpful people" area. What I didn't notice is that in some translations "helpful people" also includes "guardian angels." For months I've thought about the struggle with the dog-interaction in terms of what the universe is attempting to teach me; I've even called the dogs my guardian angels. So it seems worth remarking that my crisis at home right now is directly related to an over-emphasis in (or over-abundant activity from) my "guardian angels." These life-changing creatures of mine.

The ba gua also reveals a gap in my knowledge area.

No surprise there.

So as I look around for parts of my house that need fixing/cleaning and so forth, I'm tempted to focus on the areas associated with Benefactors, then Knowledge, then maybe the Children or Animals area. The animals area I didn't know about til tonight. Evidently the Fame area (which has the right structural proportions but is the messiest area of my house right now--owing to it being the place I made all my pre-tax-preparation piles) happens also to be the area associated with Animals. This is learned while perusing various ba gua images for use on this blog posting.

So maybe that means I should tidy my Animals area first, eh?

Image source:


Monday, October 13, 2008

A Series of Unfortunate Events

I spent the day waiting for dog school. Buddy began Canine Good Citizen class tonight. We enrolled in the class because the "intervention-night" trainer recommended it and because it seemed to me that if we could get him to pass the CGC exam it would "certify" Buddy as not a bad dog, which is the reputation he's earned by biting the co-worker who entered my front door without me and by fighting with Petunia and by wearing something my neighbor thought was a muzzle.

And now by pitching a fight with three or four dogs in class.

Oh Lord.

I spent the day waiting for dog school. I read some more chapters of Control Unleashed and was inspired by what the trainer described as "Twilight Time": making time to connect with your dog before an obedience class or an agility contest. Arriving early, giving the dog a TTouch massage, being calm and quiet together. I see it as a way to equalize your energy especially before an activity that could involve lots of stress and interaction with other humans and dogs. Sounds like just the thing we need.

I spent the day waiting for dog school. It started at 6:30. At 5 it was too early to start Twilight Time so I did some schoolwork, sent some emails to my department and to my students. And then it was 6:00. It was raining. I hadn't cut up Buddy's special food I planned to use as his training treats. (The trainer made me withhold meals from him all day in preparation for the class.) I was going to be late for class.


So I played soft music in the car and tried to be calm and to visualize a good class. I did this CGC class at this same school a few years ago with Petunia and knew exactly what to expect.

We got there and must have been at least 10 minutes late. The small room was crammed with people and dogs. Big dogs. Lots of dogs. It was hot and the people were supposed to be walking their dogs briskly at heel around the room but dogs were sniffing each other and stopping and starting and Buddy was disoriented and distracted and whined at a dog or two and then got into a snarling match with a German Shepherd and soon after lunged at a big boxer and then at a small herding somethingorother and then it was all a blur. My heart was thumping against my chest and the instructor pulled Buddy into the middle of the room to use as a model for handling a "reactive dog" and a "dog-aggressive dog" and I just wanted to take my little boy dog out of the room and away from this intense unhappy place and be quiet and alone.

I remembered how the class was crowded when Petunia took it and I remembered not liking the class. And now I asked myself, "Why am I here? Why am I doing this to myself and to my dog?" I wanted to weep. I tried to do the click-to-calm stuff but everything happened so fast. Again and again. It wasn't just Buddy that was lunging and reacting. A few others were doing it also. But I couldn't keep it together.

The newbie trainer who was part of the intervention and who is also enrolled in my foundations agility class with Buddy took me aside to help me get control of myself and of Buddy. She said "click him for looking at you" and I did and she said "click him for looking at other dogs" but the room was tiny and any place he looked other than me could arguably be looking at dogs but I tried to click at all his room-ward head movements also and she said "click him for looking at other dogs and then for looking at you" and got into some logically cadenced explanation of what she meant but honestly I couldn't follow her. The room is small. He's either looking toward the dogs or looking away from the dogs and if he's looking away he's looking in my general direction so when do I not click in that situation? I tried to stay calm and click and the nice newbie stuck with me and whispered in my ear about how some of the other dogs had been bad in other classes and I don't know if any of that helped me or not. I just wanted to cry. I felt grateful to Newbie for staying with me and helping me calm down, or at least get rid of my whale eyes or whatever. But later she casually said to another student that Buddy "hates other dogs" which was a cruel thing to say and an oversimplification and made me angry.

So we survived the class.

Now what?

I'm having basically good experiences with Buddy on our increased walks and playdates with the pug and at agility. Why put us through this?

It's not for the certification anymore. Now the only reason I'll return next Monday is to see if Twilight Time makes things better and to stay on the perimeter of the class, outside of the regular class activities, and just to click-to-calm exercises with him for an hour during the class. It could be a really good way to do click-to-calm training.

But swear to God I will drop this class if it feels bad again next week. I realize I have to push things farther than I have been if I'm going to stand a chance of changing how the dogs react to one another and, i suppose to other dogs. But I never want to feel this utter wretched failure again. This awful, awful vulnerability and chaos surrounding my dog. And if we do ever go for a CGC it will not be with this instructor.

And P.S. I'm writing to the [local nonprofit that's sucking the life out of me] and officially resigning as a board member. I'm not going to transition slowly off the board like I'd planned. My dance card of soul-sucking activities is too full for both.

Oh, and P.P.S. My old hair stylist was there with her dog (we always used to talk dogs when she did my hair--which got too ash blond and she wouldn't listen to me about not wanting ash colors plus she was a gazillion dollars so I dropped her) and her dog was perfect (in fact, her dog was the one the instructor pulled into the center of the circle to demonstrate some sort of perfect walking thing) and she was perfect and her husband was perfect and she saw my hair that she hadn't done so now I've got stylist-switch trauma to boot.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Competitive Dog People

Both dogs were wonderful in their agility classes today. Petunia is a prodigy--amazingly good despite my klutzy handling; Buddy was asked to demonstrate everything first in his foundations class, which was flattering. But what really mattered to me was that both dogs behaved just fine around the other dogs in class. At the end of the day, what makes me happy and peaceful is feeling they're okay in the world of humans and dogs outside our own home.

I love our trainer, who is all about making everything positive and fun and isn't totally competition-oriented.

I'm not too comfortable with those competitive dog people: the ones who adopt dogs for competition, who talk about their dogs' physical structure as a strategic competitive asset and their energy in terms of "drive."

I bought a couple of books on agility training for dogs with "issues" (both basically good but published by a company who must have a line-editor who did not major in English in college. The syntax and usage bug me now and then. (For example, in both books the author uses "that" instead of "who" when referring to people--two different authors, mind you; it's the editor for sure.) One is Control Unleashed and the other is Shaping Success.

Anyhoo, beyond the editorial glitches what alienates me as a reader is each author's emphasis on agility as a performance sport moreso than as simply a fun activity. CU does gratefully have a passage that entreats dog owners not to push their dogs into a sport they don't seem to love. But SS is especially for and about serious competitors. And the author describes her iffy underdog's impressive lineage (from flyball and obedience champs) in a way that I understand but don't really relate to. I realize there are good, conscientious breeders in the world but I don't much enjoy reading about purebred dogs because so many millions of dogs are killed every year--dogs that deserve a decent life and aren't adopted while breeders keep breeding and breeding more dogs. And choosing a dog as if it were a bottle of wine . . . okay, I know the author doesn't mean it to sound so boutiquey but still the author loses me when she tucks little sniffs of disappointment and dismay into her narrative about how this dog that somehow should have been more perfect because of its parents ended up being unpredictable and challenging. As if she or the dog is more heroic because the unexpected behavior is coming from a purebred dog . . . I dunno.

As I think about Petunia possibly competing in agility I worry about it being stressful--exciting but in a bad way. She seems so triumphant and engaged during her little practice exercises in class. I want her to be able to feel that way more often. But I don't want to get ambitious about all this. I don't want competition to be the goal. I don't want to get swept up in P's promising potential and become one of those snobby conformance people. They exist in obedience and in agility too. People who expect perfection from their dogs. I'm just not into that. Rules and structure only matter to me because they seem to be needed for a reconcilable household. But heaven help me if I ever consider it essential for my dogs to pick up metal dumbbells in their mouths or win ribbons.


Thursday, October 09, 2008

My Paperwork, Myself . . . Some Context

What sifting through my tax clutter has reminded me about my recent homelife:

In addition to remodeling my house, refinancing it, and divorcing my
husband, in 2007 I had something like four transvaginal ultrasounds
for ovarian cysts, took hopefully-deductible "continuing education"
lessons in oriental painting, and attended conferences in:

* New York
* Chicago
* Taos
* Beijing

Plus taught two classes in Singapore.

So maybe it's not entirely unexpected that my dogs and I need grounding and structure right now.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008


Not "clarity" yet, but clarification about our jobs.

Petunia's job is feng shui.

I've always seen this. Her gift with people and with spaces has always been her ability to energize nooks and crannies, sweeping dead energy aside, animating the faces of people who might otherwise feel ignored. She is joy.

During our unhealthiness, this energy has become misdirected or diffused, she is sweeping across spaces to reinforce barriers between herself and Buddy; she is uncomfortable with dogs entering her personal space and with areas she perceives as her space. My work with Petunia is to help her recognize her true work, which is actually more complex and interesting than her perceived work.

Buddy's job is compassion.

This, too, I've always seen but hadn't quite articulated to myself. Buddy knows this is his job, too, but during our troubled times he began to misinterpret his role as physical protection rather than compassion.

When I first encountered Buddy he was a neighborhood stray that didn't look like a stray. As Petunia and I would walk through the neighborhood day after day we would see him poised in a neighbor's yard, not as a guard dog but more of a guardian angel, an avatar of tranquility. He was peaceful and elegant. Observant but not suspicious. He moved from house to house but we only knew that because we would see him sitting peacefully in one yard or another. In each place he seemed to belong, to be in the right place.

My narrative for him now is that Buddy was bringing compassion to each place and to those who lived there. Compassion is the name for the connection I felt with him from our very first contact, and it is the name for the way he helped me through the separation and divorce. Petunia was empathy, but Buddy was compassion.

So my work with Buddy is to help him do his true work as well.

Clarifying these jobs in my own heart and mind is helping me relate to the dogs differently this morning.

Let's face it, all attentive dog owners tell stories to themselves about their dogs: who they are and what they do. If I'm weaving an elaborate metaphysical narrative so be it. If I know any truth at all about my situation it's that the dogs need clarity from me; they need a clear message from me about who does what in our home and in the spaces beyond it as well.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Our Jobs

I forgot to mention this:

I've decided Petunia's very clear job in our home is to spread joy everywhere.
She's doing a crappy job of it right now, growling at Buddy and making him feel oppressed.

Buddy's job is to bring us calmness and serenity.
Instead right now he's slinking around like a beaten-down stray. I worry about how he'll interact with other dogs in class. He got into a growling-lunging tiff with a pretty golden retriever named Maggie from around the corner and we passed one another walking on-lead. WTF?

* * *

So then what's my job?

To be the calm-assertive leader, structuring our lives--keeping our physical space open and safe and clean, establishing rituals and routines that nurture and protect and enrich and entertain us, being a model of harmony and strength.
I've been sucking at my job too.

What the Healing Touch Person Said

She listened with compassion to my story about the dogs. How all the dog-behavior books and tv shows and some of my own trainers too point to energy: the need for a dog leader to have calm assertive energy, and the dilemmas arising from a lack of it and the fact that I have never, ever felt whole or strong or calmly assertive.

If this blog were to become a wacky dog memoir the New Age stuff would amuse.

But really is it any wonder I ended up meeting with an alternative healer today, a person who defines her entire role in terms of energy, given that so much of where I am right now seems to be derived from the most turbulent period of my life?

EE and I poured all our troubled energy into Petunia from Day One. She became our intermediary. We weren't entirely comfortable with one another emotionally or physically but we were 100% certain about P. She became the center of everything.

As the marriage further degraded I clearly preferred P's company to my husband's. Later of course the same became true of Buddy. And when I found myself breaking down, screaming in my car, fighting for a way out of my erroneous marriage, my solace was P on my lap and B at my feet. I fled to them.

And then I finally got what I wanted: a home alone with my dogs. And it seemed exactly right. And then this happened. And now here I am. With two dogs who seem to not want to live with one another anymore.

I told the therapist that the dogs are my heart and soul: Buddy my heart, my connection to calm and quiet affection; Petunia my soul, my empath. And she said you can't function with your heart and soul divided from one another. Whether viewed in terms of the dogs or in terms of myself the task seems to be attempting to integrate my heart and soul.

Our conversation drifted between metaphorical interpretations of the dogs' behavior and my own sense that ultimately they are manifesting something from me. At this point it doesn't matter what's causing it; what matters is healing it.

* * *

So here's what I'm left with from today's session:

* I need to give each dog a very clear job to do in our home.
Petunia still believes she is in charge--if not of me, at least of Buddy. Her sphere of influence has expanded. Tonight Buddy absolutely refused to go into the bedroom. Even when she was outside, behind the sliding glass door. He would not turn left and walk toward the bedroom while P was sitting outside the door, watching him. I brought his car crate into the house and set it up in the living room. He hasn't gone inside it. He's hoping to sleep upstairs in the guestroom. That's the opposite end of the house from Petunia. Kind of the way I would go into the downstairs room when EE was upstairs in that one. I try not to trace the parallels overmuch. The bottom line is that they appear to be more estranged than they were before and I don't know if it's because I've neglected their walks the last few days and been so stressed about digging through papers for my taxes or whether it is about reinforcing their separation with the gates or whether it's just them being themselves. But I'm frustrated. Deeply frustrated. And they're breaking my heart. Again.

* I need to integrate my heart and soul.
Whatever that means. Intuitively I do feel they are split. When I try to imagine "my heart's desire" I come up with nothing other than my dogs being happy together. For a short period a year ago I thought romance might be wonderful some day. But I'm back to feeling oppressed by my relationship with EE--a relationship that persists today in the form of our 2007 taxes, which I complain about in another blog. My heart--what does my heart want? It wants to be peaceful and open and safe and quiet and calm. It wants to survive intact. My soul--what does it want? I find myself feeling irritated even writing about all this. I want to say Fuck Fuck Fuck Fuck it all. I'm so deeply frustrated. I'm so mad about ending up this fractured, feeble person. This person who might lose a dog because she can't get her shit together.

* * *

The therapist moved my energy around and whatnot but I'm feeling too irritated to get into all that. Right now I have to decide whether to let my dog sleep outside of a crate tonight or not. And I have to grade a pile of stuff before I can go to sleep for my early class.

And I'm wondering if my frustration and anger and desire to curse like a sailor is somehow a result of the energy stuff--maybe it's like getting a massage and the toxins flowing out of your muscles. Maybe the healer is helping me feel pissed. For good. Something my cognitive therapist has wanted me to feel for years but I've been feeling too guilty and too emotionally responsible for EE to really connect with my own anger.


Friday, October 03, 2008

One thing I've learned for sure from the Dog Whisperer

I never ever pursue my dogs with the leash (or any gear at all).

Now I always wait for them to come to me. And they always do. Eventually.