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…
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?
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 hierarchy 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.
Here on the edge of the North York Moors it might sometimes seem as if time stands still while the rest of the world passes us by... but of course even here we are not immune from change…
A recent change, which might seem small in the scheme of things, was chronicled in an earlier Teachings of Dog – our full-time canine members of staff are now down from five to three and, it has to be said, things are a lot quieter round here…! It is remarkably interesting how differently the dogs behave depending on who else is around, and this sudden reduction in their numbers has really brought this to the fore. Theo and Lily now play and chase as they used to do before Poppy came along – when Poppy visits, Lily is more or less ignored by Theo. Lily will vociferously defend me against “intruders” (aka “visitors”!) if Theo is around, but without Theo she becomes quiet and welcoming. (Daisy remains pretty much Daisy, regardless of who is there!)
What about us? Do we also behave differently around different people? We certainly do... I was speaking with a new client this afternoon who was wanting help with some problems he is experiencing at work. Most of the time he is fine, but when in the company of certain colleagues he goes to pieces and loses his confidence completely; we’ve probably all experienced something similar at some point in our lives.
In NLP terms, this is known as “Perception is Projection” – in other words, we project our own “stuff” onto other people, which is then reflected back at us. For example, if a person unconsciously reminds us of someone we met in the past who made us feel a certain way, we are likely to recreate those feelings without consciously realising why – we project the attributes of the original person onto the new person and have the perception that they are the cause of our feelings.
Snippets the poodle gave an excellent demonstration of this – when she first came to us she was afraid of men, so any man who came into the house was, in her perception, a truly terrifying being.
When we become consciously aware of an unwanted projection it then becomes possible to do something about it, either by acknowledging that this person is not the same person as the original person who made us feel this way, or by addressing the underlying “stuff” within ourselves (often a limiting belief) that created the feeling in the first place.
Amongst the canine members of staff, however, doubtless Theo will continue to be best friends with Lily unless Poppy is around; Poppy will be very, very quiet when by herself, but act as a noise catalyst (or should that be “dogalyst”?) when with the others; Lily will have to be forcibly restrained until visitors are safely inside the hallway if Theo is around, and Daisy will remain Daisy, regardless of all the rest of us… until such time as another junior canine member of staff arrives, to shake up the mix yet again!
My niece has finally found herself a lovely cottage with an equally lovely landlady who allows her to have her dogs. So Poppy and Snippets moved to their new abode a couple of weeks ago and have now become part-time, visiting only at weekends and on Thursdays. We find it very strange having such a sudden reduction in our canine members of staff; watching “House” is no longer the same without Poppy to bark at the end credits (and we still have no idea why!) but the other dogs have adapted seamlessly and appear perfectly content in their reduced numbers… and when their friends arrive at the weekend, it’s as if they were never away.
We all adapt to change in different ways; for many it is a huge source of stress and anxiety. The dogs demonstrate such a beautifully elegant behavioural flexibility; for them, what matters is what is happening right now and they react accordingly. We spend so much of our lives being stressed about the past or anxious about the future, and often forget that the present moment is an antidote to that stress and anxiety. What can happen when we allow ourselves to be totally in the Now; accepting what is, with gratitude, wonder and curiosity…?
The other day I came across the following story, from the wonderful author and therapist, Bill O’Hanlon.
Some years ago, at the therapy group practice where Bill worked, a couple had sought relationship counselling. They were very embittered with one another, but couldn’t get a divorce because they had a dog that was the centre of their lives and neither of them was willing to give up even partial custody.
When the therapist worked with them, he discovered that the wife resented her husband’s habit of coming home from work, not even acknowledging her when he walked through the door, but heading straight upstairs to shower. By the time he arrived back downstairs she would be so livid that they would get into a terrible argument.
The therapist asked what the dog did when the husband arrived home, which was different from what the wife did. It turned out that the dog would run to the door, greet the husband and get a nice rubbing in return. The wife would wait in the other room for her husband to seek her out, which he didn’t do.
The husband complained that the wife was not physically affectionate. He longed for her to cuddle up next to him on the sofa while they were watching television, and would complain sarcastically that he must have body odour when she sat some distance away from him.
The therapist discovered that the dog was very assertive when he wanted affection; he would come over, sit next to the person from whom he wanted affection and push his nose under their arm if they were distracted or unresponsive, until they gave him a cuddle.
The couple was given this task: they were to study the dog and make him their teacher and guru. When they saw how he got what he wanted from their partner, they were to model that behaviour and try it out with their partner. They had great fun with this and began to turn their relationship around, no longer wanting a divorce.
For any relationship that you would like to shift in a positive or better direction, Bill suggests that you could think of an animal whose behaviour you could model – or, as he says, let Dog be your co-pilot…
“Do not borrow trouble – the rate of interest is too high.” – Anne of Green Gables
With five canine members of staff in the household, there is often drama and excitement of some sort, and yesterday it was Daisy’s turn for the spotlight… Her accidental ingestion of something unfortunate on an empty stomach interrupted our leisurely Sunday morning rituals and resulted in frantic phonecalls to the vet and a speedy drive to the exceptionally kind and wise Stephen Hudson at Grace Lane Vets.
The drive normally takes half an hour – to me, in the driving seat, one hand occasionally straying to caress the tiny, furry head at my side, it seemed to take an age. My imagination , always fertile, was propelled into overdrive as increasingly creative and disastrous images played out in my mind. I seemed to be stuck behind every slow-moving vehicle in North Yorkshire, including a large number of classic cars en route to a rally, for whom 40mph was a seldom-attained speed…
When we finally arrived, Stephen greeted me with a smile and the news that his research had revealed it was pretty harmless to dogs, especially in the tiny amount which Daisy had eaten, so it wouldn’t even be necessary to make her sick. Daisy, cuddled up in my arms, disagreed with her medical advisor and summed up her opinion of her disturbed morning by returning her forbidden snack, with interest, over my shoulder. Returning home, at a much less frantic pace, she then happily tucked into her belated breakfast and danced out into the garden – her usual, carefree, dandelion-seed self.
It’s been a beautiful spring weekend here in North Yorkshire. The garden is beginning to come to life and small green shoots are thrusting their way through the bare brown soil – the weeds as well as the garden plants…
Amongst the canine members of staff, Snippets has discovered yet another new joy in life; mysterious holes have started to appear around the base of the fern by the mint bed… Snippets will return to the kitchen with suspiciously muddy paws, tail waving happily and a big smile on her little woolly face.
As the weather improves, the dogs enjoy spending more and more time exploring in the garden. A couple of days ago, this resulted in an exciting and illicit adventure as, unbeknown to me, the back gate through to the adjacent farm yard and fields had been left open…
Theo was the first to return, appearing at the back door with all four legs decorated with a festival of burrs which lent him a rakish and somewhat bizarre appearance. Tutting as to where on earth in the garden he could have collected this unwelcome harvest, I set to work removing them, and only after a few minutes did it dawn on me that the rest of the garden was suspiciously quiet and alarmingly dog-free…
Leaping out of the back door, I found the back gate wide open and, looking through, saw the four other staff members joyfully romping among the stalks of last year’s burdock, diligently collecting the dried seed heads in their fur. They were quite delighted to see me, running back into the garden and bringing with them their sticky velcro harvest for me to remove from feet, legs and tails.
Theo, Lily, Snippets, Poppy & Daisy’s Teachings:
Negative thoughts and beliefs can be compared to the seeds of the weeds that flourish in an uncared-for garden. As these beliefs and thoughts are planted in the mind, so they may grow and flourish, spreading quickly from one mind to another.
Take note of what seeds you are picking up from the world around you – what thoughts and beliefs do you choose to allow to take root in your mind? What seeds are you sowing in the minds of others? Remember that the seeds of happiness, kindness, compassion and love will always bear a good harvest.
Snippets, our newest canine member of staff, has been with us now for just over a week and her personality is starting to blossom as her comfort zones gradually expand. She has discovered the joys of scrabbling excitedly in the scrunchy dead leaves of the crocosmia plant on the terrace, especially when “hiding” from Theo during a game of chase. She was very excited indeed to see Tracy last week for her new makeover, and after a rather drastic short-back-and-sides is now half the dog that she was… the discarded fluff filled an entire carrier bag! A trip to the beach at the weekend with Daisy and Poppy for company raised her to heights of bliss, once she realised that she could safely leave our sides for a run – but even better if we ran with her!
But Snippets has a problem. We had a visit from our lovely business coach, Dr Alun Rees, yesterday, and when he arrived Theo gave his usual vociferous and enthusiastic schnauzer welcome, aided and abetted by the rest of his team. All except Snippets whom, after a spot of loud and horrified barking, shot up the stairs and retreated to the safety of our bed, from where she refused to be moved. We managed to have her in the same room during the evening, when we were all in front of the fire, but even the sight of Theo and Daisy cuddling up next to Alun on the sofa was not enough to convince Snippets that he is really a friendly and gentle dog-loving soul.
Something in Snippets’s unknown past has created for her a belief that all unknown men are to be feared. For the other dogs, this is not their reality; they experienced the same situation and were more than happy to relax in Alun’s company, but Snippets believes it with all the fervency of her little doggy heart and, to her, the fear is very real in her mind because of that belief.
We all have our own worries and fears; most of us are extremely good at the game of “What If?” and can create easily for ourselves some quite scary future “realities”, because reality is subjective. Next time you find yourself doing this, stop for a moment and consider whether or not your fear is really real. Is it actually true, in this moment, or is it just a belief or a thought of something that might happen? What happens if, instead of your “What If” being a negative possibility, you change it to be “What If… something positive”? You may find your fears are less real than you thought they were.
For Snippets, of course, the only way to prove to her that her old belief is not true is with time, patience and a lot of love. Fortunately we can offer her all three of those in abundance, so that hopefully when Alun is back again in April, Snippets will be competing with the others for a place next to him on the sofa.
We never knew poodles were so absorbent. Regular readers of the blog will remember that Lily has paid a couple of unscheduled visits to our pond in the past, but dealing with her weed-bespattered, dripping little form was nothing compared to the epic drama of dealing with a similar incident involving Snippets yesterday evening…
I watched the scene from the kitchen window and was powerless to intervene as she, being curious, jumped up onto the stone edge around the pond and then, with a leap of unsurpassing insouciance and elegance, launched herself innocently into the water which, judging from her reaction, was not quite the medium she had been expecting. Nothing daunted, however, she swam valiantly across the pond and hauled herself out on the far bank – by now liberally festooned with an assortment of weed and leaves, and her fur weighed down by an extremely large sample of pond water.
After a bath in Lily’s usual hot-tub (aka the utility room sink) we then had to repair to the bathroom for specialist intervention with the shower hose – it turns out that poodle fur is very resistant to releasing anything it has captured, so poor Snippets had to endure a good deal of hosing and rinsing until the last vestige of pondlife was exorcised. As we had already discovered, poodle fur is also astonishingly absorbent and three bath sheets were required to dry her – even then we needed another towel for her to sit on during the evening as she continued gently with her dehumidifying process in front of the fire over the next few hours.
She seemed quite content throughout with all the fuss – we’re just hoping she doesn’t decide to increase her possibilities of an Oscar nomination through further performances.
...and the Canine Members of Staff