Teachings of Dog: No 29 – The Journey is the Destination

I am fascinated by the different approaches that the dogs have to their walks. Theo is excited by everything – and if something excited him on the previous walk, then he will remember and get even more excited as we approach the same place in the walk, obviously hoping that the same pheasant, hare or whatever will leap out again at the same spot (and if it did, he would probably explode with joy). He has a constant air of anticipation – “what excitement will happen next?” seems to be his motto.

Lily is mainly concerned with keeping her eye on us; if we stop for any reason, she will hurry across, jumping up and putting a paw on our leg, gazing up in mute, gentle enquiry with her beautiful black eyes.

Daisy, on the other hand, is a keen student of nature and takes her research seriously. When she finds something worthy of study, it will occupy her entire attention so that she becomes completely deaf to our calls, or to the fact that we are now a considerable distance ahead. Eventually, one of us will be forced to hurry back and encourage her on her way – at which point she will look up at us in amazement that we are not sharing her fascination. She will then dance along the path until, a few yards further along, she comes across the next object worthy of study… To Daisy, the journey truly is the destination.

Daisy’s Teachings:

  • The present moment is all we have – our lives are just a series of present moments. Taking time to be in the moment is a true antidote to stress – we are not worrying about the past, or being anxious about the future, but just being with what is. Enjoy the journey.

The Teachings of Dog – No 28: Hearing the signals

Somewhere between 5.01pm and 5.05pm every day, Daisy will start to bark.  It’s an occasional “woof”, sometimes interspersed with the odd “grrr”, designed to attract attention, and it means simply – “It’s now officially supper o’clock.  Feed me.”  I’ve always been fascinated by how accurately her little body clock can tell the time; even the hour change doesn’t seem to confuse her.

In our modern world, it seems that people often forget to pay attention to their bodies; many even lose the ability.  How often have you found yourself tired, irritable and grumpy because you didn’t have time for lunch – then as soon as you eat something you realise you are not tired and grumpy at all; you were just hungry!

Our bodies have a natural rhythm and we can re-train ourselves to listen and pay attention to the signals we are sending ourselves from our unconscious mind.  The Hawaiians have a saying that if we don’t pay attention, then we will pay with pain – and this is certainly true for our bodies.

Daisy’s Teachings:

  • Take care of yourself and pay attention to your body – eat when you start to feel hungry, don’t wait until you are famished; drink when you are thirsty; take a rest when you feel tired – even a five minute break can make all the difference.

The Teachings of Dog: No 26 – What Gets You Out of Bed in the Morning?

From time to time, we allow all three of the canine members of staff to have a sleep-over in our bedroom…  Daisy and Lily like to sleep in the middle of the bed (although I have occasionally woken in the night with Daisy lying across my neck like a scarf) and Theo sleeps in his bed in the corner of the room… or at least he is supposed to.  In practice, he will wait until we are asleep and then climb stealthily onto the bottom of the bed, hoping that we won’t notice.

Daisy is usually the first to awaken (generally before the alarm goes off), and likes to start her day with her morning exercises of upside down rolling, accompanied by tiny growls of pleasure.  If we make the slightest movement to demonstrate that we are awake, however, this will then send Lily and Theo into ecstatic transports of delight, involving much leaping around and general joyousness at our appearance from the realms of sleep.

What are your first thoughts when you awaken in the morning?  The thoughts you choose to have in your head will colour your entire day…. If you start off believing you will have a bad day, then your unconscious mind will obligingly provide you with evidence throughout the day to support this belief – and you will have created a self-fulfilling prophecy.

What if, instead, you decide to start your day with enthusiasm, gratitude and curiosity…?

The Teachings of Dog – No 22: Why break the habit of a lifetime?

We had some old friends round for supper the other evening.  We hadn’t seen them for ages, and they were enchanted to meet the two new part-time canine members of staff, who were visiting us for the weekend.  Fortunately one of my friend’s favourite pastimes is to be submerged beneath a pile of tiny dogs, which is just as well…

Towards the end of supper, we let the dogs into the garden for a spot of milling about.  Shortly afterwards the sound of “ear applause” outside the door alerted us to their return and we opened the door… at which point a black and dripping form hurtled through the open doorway, into the kitchen – and through into the hallway, up the stairs, along the landing, into our bedroom, round the outside of the bed and onto the bed – with all of us in hot and hilarious pursuit.  Tizzie had fallen in the pond again…

It is interesting how we all become creatures of habit.  The very act of doing something over and over in the same way creates a neurological pathway in our brain, so that the behaviour becomes automatic and a habit (or ‘strategy’ in NLP terms) is born.

What if we want to create a new and useful habit, such as daily flossing, or exercise, or self-hypnosis…?  Sometimes the idea of making changes to our existing lifestyle can just seem too big.  Conventional wisdom says that it takes 21 days to make or break a habit – but we can reduce this dramatically through setting a positive, specific goal, and then attaching the new “habit” onto something that we already do.  “Daily flossing” for example can be made more specific by stating is as “flossing every night after cleaning my teeth” – so that it becomes an extension of an existing habit, and not a whole new habit in itself.  Small change is always easier than big change!

In the daylight of Sunday morning, I watched the dogs in the garden.  They all know to avoid the pond, and when returning to the back door from the lawn this necessitates quite a long detour.  Tizzie has evidently decided to create her own new pathway and cut out the loop – and the trackway made by her little feet was easy to see, once you knew it was there… as was the newly-formed (and doubtless inadvertent) slipway, created the night before due to a misplaced foot in the darkness.

Tizzie’s Teachings:

  • New behaviours sometimes take a while to get right every time; remember there is no failure, only feedback.
  • Always look before you leap – even if you think you know where the edge of the pond is.
  • Don’t leave mud to dry – if you take action straight away it will mostly come out in the wash.

 

The Teachings of Dog: No 21 – How Not to Worry

Poor Lily recently developed an infection in one of her toes.  We didn’t realise she had a problem at first – it was snowy outside, and so a certain amount of foot licking was only to be expected – but when this graduated to a fairly persistent chewing, we knew something was amiss and investigated…  At first, I applied a “sock” which worked well… until I went for a shower, at which point it was quietly destroyed in order that the licking could recommence.  After this we had no option.  Lily was going to have to wear “The Cone of Shame”.

After the initial period of confusion, during which certain skills such as stair climbing and jumping onto sofas had to be adjusted accordingly, Lily found one or two benefits to her new sartorial adornment.  Whereas before, when chasing frozen peas across the floor, for example, she had to contend with competition from Theo and Daisy, now her cone acted as both a scoop and an effective barrier, so that once captured, her peas could be consumed in peace.

The main purpose of the cone was, of course, to prevent Lily from worrying constantly at her foot, and thereby making it worse.  This is often what happens when we worry constantly about something – the more we choose to focus on it, the bigger it appears in our mind as we return to it again and again.  In Lily’s case the original problem was only very small; yet it occupied her entire being – and as soon as she was wearing the cone, she appeared to forget about it altogether. 

There are a number of tools which we can use to create our own “cone” – distracting the mind from our worry (and thereby allowing it to reduce in size, or even disappear completely) while at the same time allowing our sense of peace and calmness to expand.  Self-Hypnosis, Meditation, Mindfulness – when used regularly, these, and other methods, can be of immeasurable benefit to both our mental and physical health as we leave our worries outside our “cone” and allow our mind and body to heal from the stress we have created.

A week of wearing her cone (and some expert advice from John at Grace Lane Vets) soon saw Lily’s foot back to normal, and her erstwhile neckwear was consigned once more to the top of the cupboard in the utility room, where hopefully it will remain for a long time to come…

Lily’s Teachings:

  • Constantly worrying about something only makes it worse, as what we choose to focus on expands in our mind.
  • Discovering a way to change your focus can have immeasurable and unexpected benefits.
  • Frozen peas are even more fun when nobody else can reach them.

The Teachings of Dog: No. 19 – Limitless Beliefs

Tizzie is the newest member of the part-time section of the canine team.  At just six months old, she is also the youngest; a fluffy, diminutive Lhasa Apso with formidable reserves of energy.  Her favourite pastime during her visits is chasing Theo around the garden until they both collapse, exhausted, in the grass, until one of them decides it’s time for the next round.  Tizzie is half his size, but nobody has told her that she can’t win.

Nobody has told her that she’s too small to jump onto the kitchen bench, either – even Daisy, with her balletic leaps, can’t manage the bench – but to tiny Tizzie it’s no obstacle… neither is our big iron bedstead, onto which Daisy and Poppy have to be lifted because it’s too high for them to jump.  It took her a few attempts to work out her perfect strategy; but to Tizzie, for whom failure was not failure, but feedback, it was her goal; and she knew it was achievable.  She just kept on going until she achieved it.

What would you do in life, if you knew you couldn’t fail?  Is whatever has been getting in your way really real, or is it just a belief?  Just think… what could happen if the belief was no longer there…?

Beliefs are not real – they are just ideas we have ceased to question.  It’s perfectly possible to change a belief that is no longer serving you.  So ask yourself – are your beliefs limiting, or limitless?

The Teachings of Dog – No 18: Finding the Right Candidate

One of our part-time canine members of staff has recently left to pursue a new career with her original breeder.  Poppy does not seem to like being an “only dog” when she is at home; a reduced appetite and general air of ennui suggest that she misses her colleague (despite the occasional bullying that was the reason for Snippets’ departure), so Lou is now looking for a suitable candidate to fill the vacancy.

As anyone who has ever recruited staff will know, this is a time fraught with questions and decisions.  Before even beginning the search, it’s essential to consider the precise nature of the position and ask yourself what is important to you about the ideal candidate; what values and attributes should they possess in order that they will be the right one for the post?  Is the position one that involves any reception duties, for example, and if so does this include any requirements of an auditory or vocal nature?  Will they be expected to undertake any secretarial duties such as paper shredding or mail collection?  Is the role of personal trainer an important part of the job, or just someone to assist with the steeper hills?  Does existing training for the position matter, or are you happy to undertake their CPD (Continuing Puppy Development)?  Would an older candidate with more experience be more suitable?  Are you looking for the curious, innovative type, or someone who has a strong interest in sofa-based inner contemplation?

Would you prefer someone with a marked disinclination for going out in the wet and a deep and abiding fascination for researching how long they can stay in bed?  Are any gardening duties required, such as clearing fallen apples and plums, digging the borders or scratching moss from the lawn?  Is the occasional pilfering of supplies of, say, coal, going to be a problem? And, of course, there are the needs of any existing staff members to consider; what are they looking for in a colleague?  Are there any roles they would enjoy sharing, or perhaps passing on to a new member of staff?  Do you have someone who is already in a managerial position who might resent you employing someone of a higher grade, or are they the laid-back and gregarious type with little interest in heirarchy who just loves networking and making new friends?  Are you going to include them in the interview process?

Looking through the various recruitment (ie adoption) agency websites is a good place to start your actual search and, as with any CV, you have to read between the lines and match as many of your required values and attributes as possible…   Eventually, Lou has drawn up a shortlist of candidates for her vacancy and interviewing has begun…

Yesterday’s interviewee seemed very promising indeed on paper; we arranged an appointment at his foster home and took Poppy to meet him.  Unfortunately, however, Poppy’s values concerning, for example, the purpose of her tail, were in direct variance to our candidate’s sustained suggestions, so that a radical and, I might add, vociferous difference of opinion occurred.  Poppy said no – and we listened.

Poppy’s Teachings:

  • Don’t ignore your instincts, however attractive the candidate appears to be
  • Listen to input from your other staff members and be prepared to change your criteria for their benefit, and the benefit of the whole team, if necessary
  • Learn from each applicant, allowing the picture of your ideal candidate to evolve
  • When Poppy says no – Poppy means no.