Dog Parks: Metaphors & Life Lessons

Dog Parks: Metaphors & Life Lessons

I just returned grumpily from the dog park; I can't say the same for my dog, he always looks pretty happy! I take Rocky to the park because he is a McNab rescue, and has loads of energy that needs to be expressed socially with other dogs (as well as on runs, hikes, and in training, etc.). Sometimes he finds a great match at the park and engages in doggie “boxing,” and a game of chase, important rest and sleep inducers (for dogs, that is). 

Lessons: 1) Set up private play dates with dogs whom you know he is a good match. 2) Get your dog in some other “job” to occupy his mind. 3) Vary where you take the dog and what you do together.

I figure this is my duty to my dog to keep him calmer and happier. But what does it do to us humans? I wasn’t sure if I really wanted to go to the park (I could have gone for a long walk instead with Rocky) and didn’t listen to that intuition, and something doesn’t go right at the park, or an ignorant human ends up irritated at me or someone else.  This is when I say “I hate the dog park!"

Lessons: 1) Listen to your intuition. 2)  Never respond to “shoulds.” They are always a recipe for problems/disaster. 3) Go to the park when you know the dog’s favorite playmate will be there. 4) Let go of negative relationships and places, surround yourself with people and places who support and uplift you! 5) HAVE FUN and LIVE LIFE FULLY! 

When I first arrived at the park, a woman asked me if I had just seen “the dog fight.” Apparently she had broken up a fight between two dogs, a black lab mix who had a Corgie by the throat/scruff and wouldn’t let go even while she pulled him on his collar (apparently there was no blood, and I didn’t hear any screaming or cursing). Instead the Corgie was lifted into the air by the Lab’s mouth and he/she kept it’s grip.  The extraordinary thing here is the woman that broke up the fight, neither of the dogs were hers; the owners of the dogs in this fight just stood by, apathetic, ignorant or frozen.

Lessons: 1) Dog Parks are not for everyone, human or dogs. 2) Just because someone owns/adopts a dog, doesn’t mean they know anything about dogs, dog behavior or giving dogs good boundaries. 3) Their dog’s behavior is mirroring their own; how good are their own personal boundaries, empathy, and their willingness to learn about their dog? 4) The gap between consciousness/unconsciousness and compassion/fear is growing wider.


Dog Parks: Metaphors & Life Lessons


There weren’t many dogs for Rocky to play with, and the one big dog, who finally gave into Rocky’s sometimes obnoxious play barks (which some humans can misconstrue as aggressive), chased him and barked at him, scaring him into submission. Rocky didn’t want to play with that dog anymore!

Lessons: 1) Be careful what you wish for! 2) But life's too short NOT to go for the biggest and most challenging anyway! 3) If at first you don't succeed, try another path.

A few minutes later some submissive dogs arrived at the park. If Rocky is a little anxious and a dog is very submissive or unneutered, barky Rocky may seem “aggressive” to an ignorant human as the submissive dog, shakes, quivers, whines and hides. Dogs who are are balanced and well socialized, know how to dissipate this energy. One way of mitigating submissive/dominant energy is the dog will roll over and expose their stomach, dissipating the energy into “whatever.” This poor little submissive dog didn’t have a clue, but could have learned if given the chance. But her human? No, she was overly protective of her baby dog and yelled at me “control your dog!” I laughed and got out my trusty behavior modifier, the squirt gun. I told the human that Rocky’s barks were play, but she strutted off like the anti-social behavior of her dog.

Lessons: 1) Some humans treat their dogs like babies (again, they do not understand doggie behavior dynamics) and make the situation worse for their dog. 2) Maybe she (the human) was having a grumpy day, 3)  Many people live in fear and telling people what to do with their dogs is a form of feeling in control. 

 What does Rocky’s behavior say about me? I certainly have found my voice and not afraid to say things, confront and push boundaries with anyone.  Life’s too short to keep quiet, and Rocky is an excellent teacher in this department! 


Dog Parks: Metaphors & Life Lessons

As Rocky and I were leaving the park, there is a little enclosure where you can leash/unleash your dog before entering or leaving the park. Someone was opening that gate to let their dog in before I had Rocky’s leash on! Annoying? Come’on get a clue! I didn’t look up to see who it was that didn’t understand the protocol and said in a terse tone “hold on, wait until I leash Rocky or he may run off!” When I looked up, it was a young girl of about 10 years old...oops, no wonder she didn’t know. Her dog was fine and mellow, mine was/is a wascally wabbit. I was in fear about Rocky being unsecured and annoyed from the last ignorant human I had just dealt with. I should have made an attempt to educate the young lady and apologize for my tone. Poor thing, she looked a little stunned. I did thank her for letting me finish, then held the gate open for her and her dog.

Lessons: 1) Don’t make assumptions about human ignorance from the few bad apples out there. 2) Slow down, look up and smile, it’s amazing how your perception can change. 3) Apologize when you feel like you did something wrong. 4) Explain and educate if necessary, and wish them well on their way.

So, I don’t really hate dog parks; they are just a microcosm of the bigger picture and a potential hotbed of learning. I actually love all the dogs, but the humans are sometimes challenging. Oh well, yet another venue to practice my coaching and educating skills with compassion and without judgment!

Oh and dogs (God spelled backwards) are excellent teachers of unconditional love, humility, boundaries, and sillyness! 

Dog Parks: Metaphors & Life Lessons

©Shelley Carlisle 2012


For the Love of Dog

It's Easter Sunday; what to do on this kidless weekend? No Easter baskets, colored Easter eggs, or plastic eggs with money in them. No Easter egg hunts, Easter Bunny, or JellyBelly beans. No giant chocolate bunny, Cadbury eggs, peanut butter and chocolate eggs, or malted milk eggs. No church. 

That's okay, I have my own sacred space where my spirit thrives! I have discovered the riches of Dog's world: fun, joyful, exuberance, unconditional love, playfulness, presence, in the moment. This is a Dog, and the recipe of life! Dog is my co-pilot, Dog is my companion in learning how to be a grounded leader. Oh, My Dog, I am certainly learning from these wise four leggeds!

Aldo, the pit bull doggie, 11 months old, currently at the Berkeley City Shelter

For the Love of Dog


Today, I had the pleasure of training Aldo at the BAD RAP training program at the Berkeley Animal City Shelter. I have volunteered with many shelters and rescues walking, adopting out and fostering dogs, educating the public, and even served on the board of a shelter. What's special about these two groups is they are working in concert not only to raise awareness and educate the public about the plight of pit bulls and the tarnished reputation that precedes them, but to provide a solid training program that utilizes volunteers to help these dogs find forever homes. Tim Racer commenting on CNN about getting the Michael Vick dogs into home: 

So who was training who today? The trainer said to me "your letting the dog walk you" and that I have to be "funnier and more energetic to get his attention" and that "cooing softly isn't going to get him to move!"  LOL. Alright, so I have a lot to learn, possibly much much more than the dog (well it was my first time seriously training a dog). And I look at those comments as subtle messages for me from the Universe on how to shine my own light, toot my own horn a little more and be solidly grounded in my body, especially if I want to lead these powerful yet gentle souls? 

Leave it up to a sweet black pit bull to teach me, even though I thought my only purpose to train these dogs was to help them be loved, not scorned, and appreciated for the big hearts and smiles they will give to their next family. And when his eyes look into mine, there is such trust, gratitude, and wanting to please, then a treat. And after the training, Aldo is happily tired, rolling in the grass, lounging with paws over my legs, belly up and happy to take a little nap while accepting the body rubs from a person, like me, who is in this for the Love of Dog. A gift of rebirth! 


©Shelley Carlisle 2011


The Upside of (Elective!) Surgery

Why am I smiling in a hospital room with a hospital gown on? Because, I'm getting ready here to do something really great for myself, for my singing health, and immune system....prepping for a tonsillectomy surgery (now who thought this was plastic surgery)! 

The Upside of (Elective!) Surgery


Surgery isn't fun, but I tell you, it's A LOT more "fun" than emergency surgery (I know this is a 'duh' moment), especially a ruptured appendix (in 1992). Here's a little comparison (for brevity's sake, I'll use EL for elective surgery and EM for emergency surgery):

FYI, for those bay area peeps reading this, Marin General did both surgeries, and the tonsillectomy was performed by Dr. Hribar, a young, no-nonsense pro Otolaryngologist! 

1. EL is a conscious choice, EM a subconscious "whoopsie," then "shit!"

2. You get to plan EL around family, work, time off. EM just hits you like a brick on the head...."clunk!"

3. You get to pick a doctor in EL. EM provides general internist surgeons named "Looney." This is true.

4. You are happy to be in the hospital in EL, dressed in a special purple designer 'paws' gown with matching socks, waiting in a lazy-boy lounge chair with a special heater (attached to your gown), while checking in on FourSquare as your male nurse in training (my partner Mark Gurvis) sits by you with a big smile. Then the anesthesiologist gives you an anti-nausea 'cocktail' to be followed up with a 'margarita' anesthesia mix!! Whoopee!

5. Every step of the surgery is planned ahead in EL, every question answered ahead of time, and all is known, extremely professional and you are well taken care of. Even the anesthesiologist calls the night before to make sure you are informed. EM is the dreaded suspended unknown...from the 3 weeks the appendix was rupturing and you were diagnosed with 'gas,' to the emergency room waiting for 3 hours in excruciating pain, while they poked, prodded and poked...until they could figure out what was wrong with you--which turned out to be a severe internal infection developed after the rupture! Then Finally they give you the most potent drug available unapproved by the FDA. "Please, Dr. Looney, I'm not laughing anymore at your name, just give me the F%%@^&$ painkiller!" Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh....

6. They tell you that nausea is sometimes common after coming out of anesthesia. Not with this EL. Had the perfect cocktail mixes for the perfect return to nausea for me...nada/zip/zilch!, and I am the 'queasy' type. EM & the ruptured appendix is an entirely different story, because I was very very sick before I went, post surgery, I was not only nauseous and felt like the aliens had just brought me back to earth, but had to have a tube down one nostril (oh, joy) to my stomach to abate the action of 'losing it' since I was so weak. Keeping the IVs plugged into your arm is very important in this state!

7. EL- I was in the recovery room for 2 hours, doted on by the female and my male nurse, thinking about this blog, then went home, not too worse for the wear. Post operation in EM entailed a 10 day hospital stay, 7 of those days on IV only (no food or drink), in and out of morphine hallucination, and family members who feared for my survival. My saviors were my mother rubbing my feet, men I didn't remember dating giving me roses (the morphine was very strong, at least that's my story), hospital roommates much sicker than me that inspired gratitude and my sense of humor, and the "oh shit" morphine button that I could press in case I needed another hit (and they say drug users aren't responsible...). 

There is actually little comparison in the actual recovery time or the amount pain of these two events; the ruptured appendix definitely won that hands down, and even childbirth doesn't compare (I just know this, trust me)! 

However, the purpose and the process is exactly the same:  to help heal oneself, to learn how we got ourselves there in the first place, and to avoid repeating similar events in the future.  I know why I attracted these two events in my life:  for the ruptured appendix, I literally manifest repressed anger and my appendix "blew up."  For the tonsillectomy, the past 7 years I have continually repressed my own creativity (the tonsillitis) due to fear and other challenges; removing the infected tonsils in the area has 'freed' this part of my body from stifling sickness into flowing creativity, or at least I've opened the door. Think I've had some issues with communication and living my life's purpose? You betcha! This has been my life's work!

It's interesting finding a photo of acute tonsillitis...this is what I had, one bigger than the other...everybody's mouth looks SO different (I made an effort to find one not too gross)!


The Upside of (Elective!) Surgery

Of course, just removing dead and useless body parts is not the only key to moving forward (ya think?); taking responsibility for your thinking, attitudes, and beliefs must change or you will keep manifesting challenges the same way. Take a look at your life.  What kind of physical manifestations do you have that are a reflection of your emotional and soul challenges? 

Please share similar experiences you may have had and what did you learn?

I wish for you the manifestation of your soul's purpose, without physical ailments and surgery! 

©Shelley Carlisle 2011


The Incredible Vocal Chords & Communication

The other night, I lay watching a National Geographic show titled, "The Incredible Human Machine." In a segment of the show, ENTs were doing a little study with Steven Tyler's vocal chords before and after his vocal gymnastics in a concert (this is called a video stroboscopy) to show the amazing resilience of these two little muscles in your throat, that can make, or break, your voice. It turns out that on one occasion (amazingly, only one in his long career), Tyler had to cancel a string of concerts due to some temporary damage to his vocal chords, inflicted by the vocal level at which he consistency performs: loudly, using the entire extent of his range, and for a long time...blowing us all away every time, of course . Doctors were able to help him with this temporary damage, but singing at this level is walking a fine line of balance with keeping the vocal chords healthy, while singing your best, every time. 

I studied biology in college for a year, and the more I studied, the more amazed I was at the intelligence, resiliency and healing power our bodies contain, without us thinking or doing anything. Then, when we add our own conscious thought, attitudes and beliefs, that contributes 100% to the health or demise of our physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual selves.

I know this well, as I had a major vocal crisis in 2004, which left me thinking about life, my purpose in my life, and my gift of song and music:  was I going to be able to continue pursuing this dream, or if God forbid, I lost my voice or the capability of my voice what was I going to do then? 

It started at the end of 2003, when I had moved to Santa Fe, NM, and was at the height of my singing confidence in my performances, and having loads of fun. Slowly, I began to lose my voice, in what felt like laryngitis. But I wasn't sick; I had no other symptoms. Since I had no insurance and couldn't afford a local ENT, I trekked to Fort Worth, TX, to get tested at a University there with a progressive vocal research program. It cost me only $75. That was in February 2004; they told me I had the healthiest vocal chords they had seen in a long time (not helpful!). My "laryngitis" was getting worse...

When I spoke, it sounded like an intermittent signal when you can't get good reception on the radio station.  The phone was not my friend since person on the other end couldn't understand what I was saying. The more I tried to make the sound come out, the more the vocal chords "broke." I could not project my voice; I could only talk in a whisper most of the time. I got fired from a great gallery job because of this issue (I looked into wrongful termination). I tried everything from going to the hospital for acid reflux to Qui Gong (that did help on others ways) to heal myself. It was endlessly frustrating, not knowing when my full voice would return, unable to communicate effectively. How was I going to make ends meet, much less live my passion?

It's interesting how the curve balls of life bring us around to healing, knowing and becoming a better person.  I did what I had to do, from delivering phone books and pizzas to finally finding a mentor/counselor job in a foster home for Native American boys (and all the time holding the vision that I would heal from this). The pay was little, but the work and outcome more rewarding than I could have imagined. They hired me even though I had this issue. But 6 teenage, troubled boys in a home with two counselors on for 17 hours per day and a hushed voice to speak with (and being a white woman didn't help!)? I was afraid I'd be swallowed up whole. All of this was happening for a reason (one of my strong beliefs). 

The reason: my life issue has been communication. The throat/vocal chords are the fifth chakra, the center of communication and of expressing oneself (one of the centers of creativity; the second chakra is the other center of creativity). Finding my true voice and speaking/singing/writing it is my life's work; repressing this avenue of expression created physical illness and cuts off my connection with my soul (manifest a ruptured appendix in 1992, from repressed anger).  

Effective communication does not rely on a loud or commanding voice. or one that manipulates or coerces. It requires setting clear boundaries, emulating confidence, and walking your talk. In the midst of this challenging foster setting, I found a new person in me as an empathetic listener and teacher, providing solid leadership and consistency as a role model for these boys in my quiet communication.  It was the beginning of 2005 when my voice started to return! By February, I could project my voice again. All the boys could say to me was "shhhhhhhhhh," your talking too loud! 

I am returning to my passion of singing in a full time manner very soon, after I get my tonsils out on January 25th (another blog). My vocal chords are healthy, but my confidence shot, so it's just a matter of time before it all returns, as long as I am committed to myself (see my January 4th blog on commitment), have clear boundaries (something I worked on A LOT in 2010), and communicate with positivity, joy, sincerity, and enthusiasm, a BIG and important commitment in 2011.

©Shelley Carlisle 2011