Category Archives: Random Thoughts

I’ve Moved!

To all you lovely people who have been ‘following’ my blog, I’ve now moved to a self-hosted wordpress.org website.  I’m still working it out, but I think it means that I lose all my previous followers.  So if you would like to keep following my blog, please re-subscribe by hitting the follow button again.  I remain at http://www.humanrescuesdog.com

Thanks! 

Could Dogs Be A Solution For Bullying?

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The scope of the problem

One in four Australian children, in years 4 to 9,  report being bullied every few weeks (Australian Covert Prevalence Bullying Study).  Older children are more susceptible to cyber bullying. Children who are bullied may grow up with low self-esteem, and the effects of bullying can haunt them for the rest of their lives.  For those of you who have had a difficult time growing up, you will know all too well the lingering effects of bullying.

Luckily there has been more focus on it in the media.  Various initiatives have been started to reduce bullying in schools.  Parents and teachers are more aware of the early warning signs that a child may be bullied.

How can dogs help bullied children?

I think dogs might be an under-used resource in helping children who have been bullied.  How can dogs help?

Have a look at Dogs of Character, a marvelous initiative in Texas.  Previously abused dogs, who have been rehabilitated, are brought in to school assemblies and spend time with children.  The aim is to help children understand that you can survive traumatic experiences and have a beautiful life afterwards.  For those children who are themselves the bullies, seeing an abused dog may lead them to reconsider their bullying.

How dogs can impact the social development of children

Caring for a dog may, in itself, be a healing experience for a bullied child.  The child that feels unloved, unwanted and criticised, finds in his canine companion unconditional love and acceptance. The child learns to love and learns what it is to be loved.  Another effect of dog ownership, if the child is adequately educated on responsible pet ownership, is that the child learns to treat animals with respect.  I think this is the first step in becoming an empathic person, who is sensitive to the needs of others.

A child psychologist in New Mexico published a paper in 2000, where he looked at the impact of dog ownership on 10-12 year olds.  He found a significant difference in empathy and self-esteem between the adolescents who owned a dog and those who did not.

Society is becoming increasingly narcissistic (just look at the abundance of reality TV shows).  I love to imagine a future where every child understands that he is not the centre of the world and that great good can come from treating your fellow earthlings with respect.

If you think your child may be bullied, visit Bullying No Way.

Have you found any positive changes in your child as a result of dog ownership?  Do you think dogs can help bullied children? What are your childhood memories of dogs?

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How To Write A Book About A Dog – And Make Millions Doing It!

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I was at the airport bookshop today and noticed that three of the bestselling books were about dogs.  You know the ones…”heartwarming story of how Fido saved man’s life” etc.  It got me thinking about how genuine some of these tales are.  Most of us have loved dogs deeply and yet few have thought to write about their experiences and make a few bucks off it.  Am I being too cynical? Here’s my formula for writing one of your own:

1.  Call it a ‘memoir’. 

People love true stories.    Make sure you write ‘true story’ on the cover; even better, write ‘the amazing true story’ or ‘the unbelievable true story’.  Doesn’t matter if some of the details don’t add up.  People will get lost in the emotion and forget the loopholes in the plot.

2. Choose a cute dog.

Nobody wants to hear how much you love your Doberman.  Small and fluffy works best (think poodle).  Bigger dogs can work, but make sure they are popular dogs eg golden retrievers or labradors.  A cute name helps too.  “Banjo” is good.  “Cujo” is bad.

3. Throw in some “life lessons” for good measure.

It’s always great if your dog has taught you the meaning of life. If your dog hasn’t, it’s OK, just make some stuff up and attribute it to the dog.  Try and keep these lessons as non-specific as possible.   “Make sure you floss your teeth every night so that you don’t end up with bacterial endocarditis” = boring and too practical.  “My dog has taught me how to really love someone” …now we’re talking! So how do you really love someone? No need to go into details here.  Think big picture people!

If you want to know if the ‘life lessons’ will resonate with people, try to read it in a slow, South American drawl.  E.g. “My mama always taught me that only a dog can teach a man about life…Charlie was that dog for me, and in all the years I knew him, he never let me down…” (think My Dog Skip).

4.  Include a sob story. 

You can’t write about how you and your dog lived happily ever after. No-one wants to read that.  Make someone get cancer or die (either you or your dog).   Failing that, talk about how difficult it was for you to deal with your dog’s naughty behaviours.  Be careful here.  You want ‘naughty but adorable’ eg some chewing of furniture.  Don’t talk about how your dog became aggressive and bit the neighbour’s child, and then turned on you.  That’s just too much.

I hope this guide has been helpful for those of you who want to become published.  Good luck and look forward to reading your next novel!

Do you have any other tips for the aspiring writer of dog memoirs?

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7 Warning Signs That You’re A Crazy Dog Person

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1.  When you look at your dog’s face, you want to cover it in kisses.

 And you tell your boss this. And your boss hates dogs.

2.  You sing songs to your dog

E.g. “How much is that doggy in the window?”.  And you teach your dog to bark back, so you can do a cute ‘doggy duet’.  Your friends do not think this is cute. Especially because your dog just sits there, whilst you’re like “I SWEAR! Last time, he was singing back to me and dancing! Are you kidding me, he can do the friggin moonwalk! Hang on, just let me try again…”

3.  You talk to your dog when you walk it.

 And not ‘Charlie, heel’,  but ‘Charlie, you’re a good boy! Are you a good boy? Yes, you are!! Charlie, what’s that? Is that a bird? Wooooh! It’s a bird, are you excited?’  Your neighbours think you’re strange, but pleasant enough.

4.  You teach your dog to walk on your back…

So you can get a doggy massage.

5. You buy a $100 Mason Pearson brush…

So you can brush your golden retriever’s hair.  Meanwhile your own hair has not seen a brush in years.

6.  You say strange things to your husband and he doesn’t bat an eye-lid:

Like, ‘Can you get the scissors, I have to cut the poo off Hannah’s bum-hairs’  (I can tell you, that’s a major mood-killer :)).   And ‘Can you please buy some Oil of Olay, Hannah’s paws are a little dry.’  And, the always-charming, ‘why can’t you be more like a dog’.

7.  When people ask you what you’d save if your house was burning…

 You say “Charlie’s collar from when he was a puppy. Oh, and our wedding pictures.”

Are you a crazy dog person? What sort of things do you do that make people roll their eyes?

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The Zen of Walking Your Dog

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I believe in meditation. Now, when I say “believe”, I don’t mean I actually do it. I have tried, but end up getting stressed because it’s too much pressure to ‘relax’.  I think “I should be relaxing. I should smile.  Relax your shoulders,  relax your toes”. Then the whole thing becomes too much, and I sulk and go eat peanut-butter cookies. I can’t relax. My mother once said, “When you were little, I thought you had ants in your body, because you kept squiggling.” I’m 33 and I’m still ‘squiggling’. When will I stop squiggling?

 

I know meditation is much deeper than relaxation.  But something that works better for me is ‘mindful walking’.  Buddhists practice meditation-in-motion.  The goal is remaining mindful in each step you take – feeling the earth under your feet, hearing the birds, smelling the air, etc. For our purposes, this means feeling that leash in your hand, watching your dog sniff the ground, looking at the leaves, and so on.   Mindfulness means staying in the moment.  Literally, step-by-step. 

I make it sound easy,right? Now the hard part.  Do the above, whilst your pooch is tugging at the leash or growling at a cat.  Stay mindful whilst picking up the dog poo.  Stay present whilst a possibly aggressive off-leash dog runs up to your dog to ‘say hi’. Like I said, piece of cake 🙂

The thing is, life is like that.  I have been doing yoga over the last few months.  I am present, attentive and mindful during yoga.  And for a few hours into the next day, I stay mindful. But then I get a $1000 bill (don’t ask, just don’t ask, still a raw wound) or a stressful phone call, and the mindfulness goes out the window.  To be really mindful, we need to teach ourselves to do it even when life gets hectic. Especially when life is hectic.

Mindfulness has been shown to have countless benefits to our psychological well-being (I won’t bore you with the research, but it’s there).  Let’s start learning it together. Step-by-step.

Try it out on your next walk with your dog and let me know how it went.  

 

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My Shocking and Brilliant Theory

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What’s a cat doing on this blog!  All will be revealed shortly.

I woke up last night with an amazing theory.  It jolted me out of my sleep, and I sat up straight in bed, thinking to myself “The world will never be the same again once people know this.”  It’s very simple, but it works.

You ready for it? Here it is:

There are basically two types of humans.  Those who resemble cats (the felines) and those who resemble dogs (the canines).

Think of 5 people you know.  Any 5.  You will immediately see what I mean.  Chances are, these 5 people will fall into one of these two categories:

The Canines

  • Warm
  • Loyal
  • Generous
  • Happy-go-lucky, glass-half-full
  • Tell you their whole life story soon after meeting you
  • Impulsive
  • Larger-than-life, passionate, sometimes ‘jack of all trades and master of none’ because they have so many interests.

The Felines

  • Cautious
  • Loyalty is hard-won
  • Reserved
  • Obsessive
  • Focused
  • Private, shy.
  • But when more relaxed, can be playful, curious, adventurous and loving.

I think this system should replace all horoscopes.

What do you think? Am I a genius?  Can you think of people in your life that are felines or canines? Which type are you?

Comment on this post to win this gorgeous coffee table book.  I will choose a random winner and will post the results in the next few weeks :

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Why A Dog Is Better Than A Shrink

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You’ve all heard that expression, ‘there is no psychiatrist better than a puppy’ or something? Well, this is sometimes true.  I’m not talking about serious mental illnesses of course.  I’m just thinking of garden-variety boredom or frustration with life.  Here are my reasons why a dog is better than a shrink for these kind of issues:

1.  End the cycle of navel-gazing.

Reality TV shows, ‘memoirs’ of people who’ve done diddly-squat in their lives, sarcastic teenagers in Gossip Girl.  Everyone thinks their life is the most important thing since sliced bread.  Yes, this includes bloggers.  Enough already!!! A dog snaps you out of this quick-smart.  When he needs to be fed, he needs to be fed.  When you want to sleep in and ponder your life, he nudges you to remind you of his morning walk.  What does this have to with shrinks? Well, altruism and caring for something other than yourself have been shown to be essential to mental health.

2. Save your mind and your hips

Lying down on your therapist’s couch for an hour and talking about life puts pennies in your therapist’s pocket and inches on your hips.  Walking your dog gets you out in the fresh air.  This has countless benefits which have been shown to help with mental health: exposure to vitamin D, a sense of community and belonging with other dog-walkers and the benefits of exercise itself.

3.  Dogs have figured out the meaning of life, so that you don’t have to.

A lot of people see psychiatrists for existential issues.  What is the meaning of my life? Who am I?  What should I be?

Watch a dog closely and you’ll see they’ve figured it out.

Meaning of life = love, fun, play, and food.  Who am I? = I am what I am right at this moment, a dog.  What should I be? = No need to worry about that, ’cause it hasn’t happened yet.

 All a dog needs to be happy is shelter, food and loving companionship.  Most of us have all three, but we still want more.  Charlie says hi.

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How A Dog Can Save Your Marriage

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I realise it can cut both ways.  I can imagine that, for some couples, the extra financial stress and responsibilities of dog ownership can hurt the relationship.

But my experience has been different. I have found 4 surprising things that improved in my marriage as a result of dog ownership:

  • I don’t like to fight with my husband in front of the dogs.  Call me crazy.  But I feel like they deserve better and I know it stresses them out.  So I swallow the waves of irritation and try to resolve the problem peacefully.  We all sleep better at night as a result.
  • I am much more patient with my husband.  I have learnt that, when you love something, be it canine or human, you need to accept it with all it’s quirks.  (Note: My husband will use this information against me the next time I nag him about fixing the roof).  I have learnt that dogs respond best to rewarding good behaviour and ignoring the bad.  Yelling at dogs does not work, and neither does yelling at your spouse.  Trust me on this one, I’ve learnt the hard way.
  • I am so much less high-maintenance 🙂 At the dog park once, my husband watched, almost in slow motion, as my dog rolled around in poo and then ran over to rub herself against me.  I was wearing my favorite dress.  He told me I was smelly but he still thought I was beautiful.  We laughed all the way to the dog groomer’s that day.  Being beautiful to  someone who cares about you is more about small moments of shared laughter than how you look.
  • My husband and I are very different.  We have completely different interests and hobbies.  He’s very private and I’m more ‘out there’.  He’s a ‘devil’s in the details’ kind of person and I’m more ‘big-picture’.  It all balances out in the end.  But through the dogs, we now have so many shared activities.  A simple, but very bonding, experience with your partner is a long walk with your dog through a lovely park, on a beautiful summer day. You see elderly couples walking their dogs and it’s such a sweet sight.

I will always be grateful that I had the good fortune to meet someone who is equally, if not more, passionate about animals than I am.

How has owning a dog affected your relationships?

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T.G.I.F.

The Daily Golden

Here’s to a great, spring-like weekend, hopefully.

This is Comet, and he is happy it’s Friday too!

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Lost In Translation : Dumb Things People Say to A Dog Lover

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I’m generally an easy-going person and I have a sense of humour.   It takes a lot to get under my skin, but if you want to really annoy me, try using some of these lines (all true quotes)

  • “I loooove my dog.  He is a great dog, gets me so much attention from the ladies.  I’m looking for a cute lady-dog to breed him with.  How about your dog Hannah? We can split the profit from the puppies.”      I don’t think he was a bad guy; just ignorant.  People, it is NOT ok to breed your dogs, unless you are a registered and experienced breeder.  There are far too many shelter dogs around to add to the problem; spay and neuter your animals!  Which brings me to my next quote.
  • “Nah, I could never neuter him mate.  He’s a tough little guy.  I wouldn’t want to take his manhood away.”  Repeat after me: Neutering does NOT reduce manhood – yours or your dog’s.  And if your sense of being a man comes from your dog, then you have much bigger problems.
  • “Why don’t you just put him down?” Told to me in jest by a friend when my dog was having surgery.  I was not amused.
  • “You animal people are just nuts.  Spending so much money on a dog. It’s just an animal.”  I hear this all the time.  Some people feel they have the right to tell you how to spend your money. The irony is, when we first got our dogs, people thought we were nuts for getting pet insurance.  They made us feel so ashamed of it, that we stopped the pet insurance, thinking we were being silly.  Two months later, my dog had a bowel obstruction and needed major surgery.  And guess what…no pet insurance.  It was a painful lesson learnt the hard way.

I still find it so difficult to deal with these sort of comments. If you get defensive, then you are perceived as ‘crazy dog lady‘. So to keep the peace, you laugh these comments off.  But why should we have to justify our lifestyle choices? Why is it cool for people to crack jokes about dogs when you could never turn around and make a comment about someone’s spiritual beliefs or children?    At a recent  function, someone found out I was a vegetarian and decided to explain to me exactly what he finds thrilling about a certain violent act towards animals.

How do you deal with these sort of comments? Any witty come-backs you can share?  I could use a good one-liner. What sort of dumb things have people said to you?

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