Reverence and awe for creation

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“All animals, all beings, deserve respectful consideration simply for the fact that they exist. Whether animals think and feel, and what they know, is irrelevant. Reverence and awe for creation should guide human actions, along with a humble acknowledgment that humans have limited knowledge about the mysteries of our own existence.”

— Marc Bekoff, The Animal Manifesto

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Reverence and awe for creation: A beautiful and important sentiment.

Happy weekend, everyone! Pyrrha is opening up more and more each day. She has actually started to PLAY, which is so heartwarming that I can’t even talk about it without wanting to tear up a little. But more on that later. Take care!

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Other nations caught with ourselves

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“We need another and a wise and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals. Remote from universal nature, and living by complicated artifice, man in civilization surveys the creature through the glass of his knowledge and sees thereby a feather magnified and the whole image in distortion. We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate of having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein we err, and greatly err. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth.”

— Harry Beston, The Outermost House

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Kind of a dramatic quote for today, but I like its basic meaning and premise. Happy Friday, everyone! I’m really excited today, because tonight we get to briefly meet Lyndi. Our home visit still won’t happen until next week, but her foster could tell that I was super-eager to meet her, so we get to see her ahead of schedule. I really hope she could be the ONE… We’ll see! Of course, I’ll keep you posted… in the midst of all the moving madness. Have a great weekend, and happy Mother’s Day!

How dogs humble us

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I am not one to over-romanticize dogs or think of them as supernatural sages trapped in furry bodies. They are dogs. They are just another Earth-grounded species. But they have a lot to teach us about ourselves. Lately, I’ve been thinking about all of the ways that dogs make us less self-absorbed humans.

Why spending time with dogs makes us more humble and bearable people:

  • Dogs make us exercise servant leadership. We have to stoop down and pick up their poop with our hands. We pull ticks out of their fur. We clean up their vomit on the carpet. We are reminded that we are not so very important.
  • Dogs make us realize how poor our communication skills really are. There is nothing more humbling than trying to train a dog something new and realizing that we are not coming across very clearly.
  • Dogs remind us that they forgive more swiftly and more completely than we do.
  • Dogs have more trust in us than we have in ourselves.
  • Dogs make us realize that all the things we get stressed out about might not actually be life-and-death situations. What is really important right now? In a dog’s eyes: You need to throw that ball for me another 1,500 times. That’s all that really needs to happen today. Just relax.

How does your dog humble you?

Review: Bones Would Rain from the Sky

Bones Would Rain from the Sky, by Suzanne Clothier

Suzanne Clothier is a dog trainer, but Bones Would Rain from the Sky is not a dog-training manual. Rather, this book is Clothier’s lovely and heartfelt guide about how to have a more intimate relationship with your dog.

The book’s title and premise of “deepening our relationships with dogs” sounds hokey, but Clothier does provide some very practical and hands-on advice about communicating and living with canines. Her stories are insightful and her calm, holistic approach to training is refreshing to read. She doesn’t get hung up on doing the exact right thing; she doesn’t seem to fret about all of the things we might be missing. Instead, the constant mantra of this book is to slow down, listen, and try to understand your dog a little bit better.

I was most struck my Clothier’s gentle and extremely humble tone. I’ve found that dog trainers, like most self-proclaimed “experts,” almost never admit to making mistakes. So many dog trainers would never share their errors with you–or even admit that they were capable of making mistakes (cough, cough, Cesar Millan). It’s easy to think that these great dog trainers don’t ever mess up. Clothier is quick to point out that this is not the case. She graciously shares the times she lost her temper with foster dogs or made a hasty decision based on incorrect information. Rather than diminishing her credibility as a trainer, these disclosures strengthened my trust in Clothier as a wise dog parent.

Overall, I really enjoyed this thorough and philosophical approach to human-canine relationships. I would recommend this book to people who were already solid in their knowledge of positive training techniques and didn’t really need a step-by-step training manual. I think it would be a fantastic addition to the more knowledgeable dog parent’s repertoire of canine reading.

Clothier is a graceful and wise trainer and caretaker and her dogs are very lucky animals. I hope that I will be able to eventually exude the same peace and confidence with my future dogs.

Review: For the Love of a Dog

For the Love of a Dog, by Patricia McConnell

I think Patricia McConnell is my hero. This is only the second book of hers that I have read, but I loved it just as much as The Other End of the Leash and would recommend For the Love of a Dog heartily to all dog owners.

For the Love of a Dog focuses intently on the exchange of emotions between humans and their dogs. It is less of a training book and more of a emotional manual for navigating the feelings of dogs. And I found it to be an indispensable guide to the sentiments and desires of our canine companions.

In my months of reading dog books, one of the big warnings that often comes from trainers is the danger of applying “human” emotions to dogs. While I do think there is a danger in treating our dogs like humans, or believing that they think like humans, the dangers of anthropomorphism are often more subtle than we are cultured to expect. McConnell writes well about this injunction of anthropomorphizing our animals. She points out that we are often quick to assign base emotions to our dogs–feelings like anger, rage, and possessiveness–but we are reluctant to say that dogs can have finer feelings, like devotion, grief, and joy. This is a great loss, McConnell says, and it undermines our emotional intelligence with our dogs.

McConnell demonstrates the fine balance between interpreting canine emotion and falsely applying human feelings. Her expertise as a dog trainer and animal behaviorist is applied to teach her readers how to know the difference. I feel like I have a much deeper appreciation of the emotional complexities of dogs and I am more reluctant to underestimate them after having read this book.

As I’ve mentioned before, McConnell is a great writer and I always enjoy reading her generous stories about the dogs she’s worked with and life with her own dogs on her Wisconsin farm. I think this book should be required reading for anyone who shares their life with a dog and wants to know more about what is going on inside. McConnell’s wisdom and advice have the potential to transform the ways that we interact with our dogs. For the Love of a Dog provides a strong reminder that, when we are interacting with our dogs, rigid training regimens and stubborn mindsets are far less valuable than humility and insight.

Happy weekend!