As I went through the process of restarting my life a few years ago, really simplifying my canvass to blank and then repainting a reality True to Who I Am I found myself wondering, at that time, how I might fund my mission when I couldn’t see myself using my time to make money. It required really going to the heart of what I wanted to do, what I really wished would fill the minutes of my days.
Health… starting with the basics I knew I needed health in my life but that I don’t like ‘exercise’ per se and by the incessant barking contributing to the cacophony of urban life I knew the dogs of my community were feeling as pent up as myself. From these two truths, I reached out to my neighbors on Nextdoor as their neighbor needing to run, happy to take their furry family members out as well – a dog runner! Not a trainer, a workout buddy. For this, I had no price but the neighbors have graciously donated to the mission ever since.
With each dog friendship I was lucky enough to make, I learned so much, all the way back to our coevolution. That there is so much more to our relationship than the go-to phrases among experts like “be the alpha” alludes to.
It’s one thing to take a dog out for a run. Unexpectedly, over time, the dogs taught me that it’s a far more rich, deep and meaningful use of time to understand that it was they who were taking me out for a run. And even beyond that, by way of the wide landscape of physical adventure, there is even more fulfillment in realizing our bond as a true partnership, built around equality, trust, understanding and good communication. The evolution absolutely dissolves the imbalances between us. Imbalances that ‘owners’ cannot stand and cannot ‘train’ out of their dog no matter what they try or even who they hire: aggression, incessant barking, anxiety, whining, leash pulling, lunging at living things like children and crows, ignoring communication, health issues etc. etc.
The families now use the words ‘dog whisperer’ when describing me to people; this is humbling, and is much preferred to ‘trainer’ which I maintain I am not, but respect and good communication are the keys to any magical relationship and so friend is really closer to the truth.
Only a few years ago, I was a person that had never owned more than one rescue dog throughout my childhood. Today, the great landscape of my adventures with dogs has expanded to include a harmonious, self-maintaining pack, where ever my own travels have taken me, enjoying:
- Swims at the beach
- Hikes up mountains or into pitch dark caves
- A nice cup of coffee among the patio regulars of a shop
- A patient rest outside the store while I get some things checked off the list
- Bike rides
- Scooter rolls
- Walks anywhere and everywhere, on leash and off
- A peaceful moment
Beyond these regular, lovely adventures of life together, we’ve also come through some additional layers of experience in some cases such as post-surgery physical rehabilitation and service preparation training.
Merle Made all the Difference
There is a single book, Merle’s Door, which shifted my entire paradigm, catapulting my dog relationships into a far more expansive and fulfilling realm (much like your own experience with dogs can be).
One practical example synthesized from Ted Kerasote’s remarkable saga with Merle:
These wolf pack analogies dog trainers lean so heavily on – they are conclusions based on wolves as observed in captivity, since for the longest time, that is the only place they existed.
Once reintroduction began, back into Yellowstone, biologists were able to learn for the first time the True social intricacies of the wolf pack and they are far more eloquent, egalitarian and dynamic than the historically referenced rigid alpha-male, tight-ship-or-else culture of hierarchy (a strikingly perfect mirror of the fear-based approach we have used to perceive and live out our own human experience in every aspect of our society today, as I write this during the great change and awakening gifted us by Corona).
His writing teaches the living example of our long history of coevolution with dogs. We are who we are because of them, and they are who they are because of us. Our partnership, before this unfulfilling age of disconnection, was perfectly mutually symbiotic – the lesser amount of cells we have within our own olfactory and auditory systems are balanced by the exceptional sophistication and exponentially stronger ones available to our dog/wolf relatives who found the food, water or danger we would stay entirely ignorant to without their lead. While the exceptional strengths of our own reasoning minds, opposable thumbs, and optical systems are the ones that let us finish the hunt, prepare and preserve the food for lean times, and build the shelter from the storm, not just for ourselves but for our families… contributing, furry ones included.
These are the dogs of my own canine revolution:
Kinship With All Life, as profoundly important to my elevated understanding and connection with your dog.