|October 27, 2013||Posted by Ruth under Lifestyle, LOLs & BOLs, Music, Pup culture, Seasonal, Training/Behavior, Videos|
I love a good ghost story, especially if it’s dipped in reality.
For example, it’s fascinating to read that a nearby landmark, the Bodega Bay schoolhouse featured in Hitchcock’s “The Birds”, just might be a haunted home. A classic episode of Syfy’s “Ghost Hunters” is another fun fright. Why? Dolls & clowns creep me out. (I can’t point to any specific childhood trauma that stems from.) So I related to GH’s lead spook chaser, Jason Hawes, when he commented on a framed doll during an investigation, saying, “That’s the creepiest baby I’ve ever seen.” Later, upon reviewing a recording (EVP) of that moment, they heard an eerie child’s voice answer, “It’s not that creepy!” (Believe me, I tried but failed to find a clip of this for you. It’s episode 5.2 from Star Island, in case you want to catch it.) That ghostly quote is now a running joke in our house whenever we spot a ridiculously sinister doll. It’s all in good fun.
Speaking of good fun, in case “The Birds” was before your time, here’s the schoolhouse scene. Note: This still might be too scary for kids to watch. In that way, Hitchcock is timeless. Enjoy….
What if you had a personal experience, in your home? Would you be scared?
I’ve had a few “unexplained” moments. Have you? Most of them involved my much-loved departed pets. You’d think they would be terrifying experiences, but they’re oddly calming & comforting. Go with me on this: These are just the facts of my experience. Most recently, a few years ago, I got up @ 2:30 a.m. to go to the bathroom. (TMI? Sorry.) As I got back in bed, I heard the meow of my dear cat, Alex, emanating clearly & loudly from right next to me on the bed. (You know your pet’s voice without error, right? Right.) It was the same tone he used to get my attention in life, and it came from his preferred spot on the bed. Yes, I was wide awake. Yes, I know the difference between a meow coming from my bed or from outside. No, I didn’t have another pet in the house @ the time. No, I wasn’t still traumatized by losing sweet Alex a few years earlier. I’m sure of the time because I looked @ the clock when it happened. I’m not crazy; I’m certain of what I heard. And, you know what? It wasn’t that creepy.
Unlike dolls & clowns, there’s nothing spooky about my little boo, Rusty, either.
He’s a brave soul, but nighttime walks can unnerve both of us. Facing shorter days, we set out to make our evening strolls safer. Now, Rusty’s got day-to-night swagger in his new bow tie & evening bling. We took back the night. Not at all creepy, just uber cute.
A quick note about Rusty’s Vivid LED collar: It’s a size small – the smallest available. It’s meant to fit necks 12.5 – 16.5″. Rusty weighs about 13 pounds, and it’s too big for him. Fastened as snug as possible, it still slips over his head while buckled. That’s one reason why I attach his leash to his harness instead of the collar. The other is that I prefer harnesses to neck collars. Harnesses are healthier because they disperse any leash tension over a dog’s body, rather than focusing it on his neck. Having said that, despite the amazon.com reviews of the Vivid collar, it works perfectly. It has varied settings, from a steady glow to the fast blink I used for effect. It’s well made, nicely padded & rechargeable. Safety first: When you’re not walking your dog, remove the collar & keep it out of Pup’s reach.
How do you & your pets spend Halloween? Do you have any favorite winter gear for your pets? Any creepy stories you’d like to share?
You’re welcome to visit our FB page & post fall pics of your pets. We’d love to hear from you.
Boo! xxoo ~Ruth & Rusty~
|September 28, 2013||Posted by Ruth under Inspirational & motivational, Lifestyle, Recipes, Soul food, Training/Behavior|
It was a peaceful day at our house.
I was writing, and Rusty was sleeping in his cup bed on the ottoman-with-a-view by the window. Rusty stirred, got up to turn around in his bed, and screamed in pain. The sound went through me like a knife. Pet-parents, you know what I mean: I swear I felt his gut-wrenching cry in my soul.
What on Earth just happened?!
Rusty raced into my office, and, for the first time ever, hid out of reach in the corner under my desk. I followed him, only to find him shaking in pain. Had he been bitten by a bug? Had he tweaked a toe repositioning in his bed? Whatever it was, it was bad. I knew we’d be racing to the vet as soon as I could talk him into putting his pain aside long enough to put his faith in me.
Off to the vet we went.
Of course, it was off-hours for Rusty’s regular doctor. So I nervously drove to the 24-hour vet hospital. We parked. Rusty hopped out of the car and strutted into the place like nothing had ever happened. (Typical, right? Adrenaline’s an amazing pain mask.) He was hostile to the sweet nurse who took his temp, but he made up with her. No one took his response to the indignity his poodle butt had just endured personally. I sat on the floor with him as we waited for the vet. Would I like the vet? How sharp would her diagnostic skills be? Would her approach be invasive or compassionate? Aware that Rusty would absorb my feelings & thoughts, I hoped for the best & remembered to breathe.
When the vet entered the room, I knew we were in good hands.
As she sat on the floor with us, I was relieved to see a familiar face. I worked with her as a veterinary nurse decades ago, so I knew that Rusty would be helped by one of the best vets in the county. The course of action she recommended was pain medication & a wait-and-see approach. If he didn’t improve, she would explore a tentative diagnosis of masticatory myostitis. Fortunately, her initial assessment paid off. The acute pain of unknown cause was in his jaw. But Rusty rallied without further treatment, thanks to a savvy, discerning vet. Fingers & paws crossed, it won’t be back. Whew.
All better, right? Not quite.
Poodles are smart; that’s one of the many things I adore about Rusty. While he was healing, he learned to keep his mouth shut to minimize discomfort. So that meant no chewing, no fetch, no catch, no tug, no yawns, and no smiles. Long after he was pain-free, he was still play-free. Rusty lost his poodle mojo.
When I was a kid, I badly injured my foot in a bicycle accident.
I limped around for months. I learned to rely on my good leg, exclusively. One day, as I was walking down the hall, I lost my balance. Not thinking, I planted my injured foot on the floor to steady myself. Ouch?! That would surely hurt like hell……wait a minute. I was pain free. I had learned not to try for fear of pain. By sheer accident, I realized my mistake: learned helplessness.
Learned helplessness is a powerful force.
Why try if I’m comfy right here? After all, last time I checked, trying hurt. Or trying was hard. Or trying led to mistakes others punished. Sound familiar? People and animals experience this. As a trainer, it’s my job to know when to coach a pet and guardian out of learned helplessness. Can they physically do it? If so, what’s holding them back? Often, it’s a “truth” that the owner has created for her & her pet. Really common “truths”: My dog doesn’t do stairs; I have to carry him. Or, my dog’s a picky eater; I have to hand feed him. Or, he doesn’t listen to me unless I have food in my hands. People believe these “truths” and act them out with their pets, day after day. Pets rise to our expectations. Expect less, they give less. Change your truth & expect more, and your pet will rise to the occasion. Bonus: this works with family members and coworkers, too!
Learned helplessness had a grip on Rusty.
I knew he didn’t hurt anymore, so it was time to push him. What to do? Hmmm….. got it! When we adopted him, he obsessed over bell balls to the exclusion of all other toys. We gradually took them away so he could discover the joy of exploring a full toy box. Time to rekindle the obsession: bring the bell ball back! Since Rusty LOVES new toys, I went on a shopping mission…..
I armed myself with an arsenal guaranteed to revive poodle mojo.
Bell balls; small, squishy Raspberry balls; crumbly, healthy treats; and a ridiculous pink flamingo decorated the house. (I don’t buy my rough & tumble poodle pink toys. My issue, not his; I know.) Rusty needed to chew & shake toys again. Pink aside, the flamingo was perfect: flat, soft, squeaky & flappy. I called Rusty, then shook the bell ball. He lit up like he’d found a long-lost friend! He grabbed the ball, carried it into his bed, & left it there. That was anti-climactic. But he had opened his mouth to carry the ball; I was on the right track. Later that day, I rang the ball again. This time, I give him the Raspberry ball. It’s smaller, grippable, squishy, and crazy bouncy. Rusty was in love! Soon he was fetching, catching & chewing – all with one toy. He completely ignored the heavier, larger bell ball. (Fine with me. That thing’s a Hartz product, made of toxic, reactive Chinese rubber.) The next day, I jingled the bell ball again. His eyes wide, I gave him the pink flamingo. Poodle heaven & mission accomplished: He shakes, chews & carries that thing with him everywhere! He hasn’t looked back. Woohoo!!
Thanks for reading about how we conquered pain, fear & learned helplessness. We hope it helps you & your pets!
Ready for the treats Rusty promised? In honor of our post praising the power of balls, I made some balls. The first recipe celebrates Rusty’s health:
Rusty’s Peanut Butter Granola Balls
1 cup uncooked organic rolled oats (not instant)
1/8 cup pumpkin seeds
1/8 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 Tbsp. flax seeds
1/8 cup grated coconut
2 1/2 Tbsp. grated carrots
1/2 Tbsp. coconut oil
1/2 Tbsp. honey
1 egg, slightly beaten
5/8 cup unsalted, unsweetened organic peanut butter, @ room temperature
3/8 cup fat-free, plain Greek yogurt
Preheat oven to 325. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Slightly grind the seeds together in a food processor or coffee grinder. Combine all the dry ingredients, including the grated carrots, in a medium bowl. Heat the coconut oil & the honey just until they’re liquid. Blend the peanut butter & the yogurt in the food processor. Add the egg, oil & honey. Process again.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry in the bowl. Mix with a wooden spoon. Shape into 1 1/4-inch balls & place on baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes, turn the balls so they brown evenly, and bake for 15 more minutes, or until they’re golden brown. Cool on a rack. Store them in an airtight container. If they’re not gobbled up asap, freeze ’em!
Makes about 3 dozen. ~Adapted from The Bark~
With oats & peanut butter left, I made these uber-easy treats for my newly gluten-free hubby. Balls for both the guys in my life, I say. And pink flamingos all around! That really needs to be a girly drink, right?
No-bake Peanut Butter Balls
1 cup organic, rolled oats (uncooked)
2/3 cup toasted coconut flakes
1/2 cup unsalted, sugar free organic peanut butter, @ room temperature
1/2 cup ground flaxseed
1/2 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chunks or chips
1/3 cup honey
1 Tbsp chia seeds
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp sea salt flakes
Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Refrigerate for an hour so the mixture is easier to work with. Roll into 1 1/2 inch balls. Store in an airtight container for up to a week, either in the frig or @ room temp. (I like my balls cold. Yum!)
Makes about 16. ~Adapted from So, How’s It Taste?~
Do you say “can’t” & “won’t” when you think about yourself or your pet? How about “never” or “always”?
Negatives & absolutes are rarely truths. They are often symptoms of learned helplessness. Challenge them: break out of that rut! Have you and/or your pet conquered ruts? How did you snap out of it? What got you going & lit you up? Do tell! xxoo ~Ruth & Rusty~
©2013 The Soulful Pet
|August 21, 2013||Posted by Ruth under Inspirational & motivational, Lifestyle, LOLs & BOLs, Pup culture, Seasonal, Training/Behavior, Videos, Worthy reads|
I don’t know a trainer who isn’t restless around puppy season. (For me, that includes kitten season, too.)
That what’s-cuter-than-kittens? time of year is upon us again. Are you expecting the pitter-patter of four tiny furry paws in your home? You’re in for a simultaneously adorable, confounding, & sleep deprived rest-of-the-year. So I would be remiss if I didn’t temporarily don my critter-coach cap out of sheer compassion for you: I just wrote the instruction manuals you’ll need for your new family member. (Trust me: I’d be an uber-wealthy chica if had coin for every time I heard, “She didn’t come with a manual!”)
I got obsessively busy yesterday, posting 5 new how-to articles on The Soulful Pet’s sister site, Critter Consulting.
That’s where I hung out, pre-burnout. I braved the eyelid twitches & quicksand of necessary yet non-creative writing for you. And, much to my surprise, I survived. (Good girl! & Woohoo!) You may recognize these posts as my flyers that vets, shelters & some conscientious breeders put in their new-pet packages for over a decade. Now, they’re minty fresh: reworked & re-imagined, loaded with info & links, and fully printable. Only the best for y’all!
- “When You Bring a New Puppy Home”
- “Suggested Puppy Supplies”
- “House training 101”
- “When You Bring a New Cat or Kitten Home”
- “Prepare Your Home for a New Feline”
- “Adopt an Adult Cat” – Wait, that’s 6 and you said 5, girl! Yes, I added this classic as a reminder that adult pets need homes, too. Shelters are filled with lovely animals who find themselves there for many reasons. Let’s dispel the myth that they are “broken” & “risky”. Heck, we all have a story. We’re all flawed. (Did I mention obsessive?) And we’re all loveable.
What do you mean you’re not expecting a fur-kid?! Grrrr & hackles up!
Don’t you know that shelters & rescues are brimming with sweet little beings right now? Surely you know that the soul you’ll someday shake your head & swear that you can’t imagine life without is patiently waiting there for you – right? Please don’t tell me I just spent all day yesterday putting these how-to posts together for no reason. Get it together & check yourself. Adopt!!
Too much? My bad. If you can’t adopt, donate.
Give your heart, your brains, your mad skills, your goods, or your coin to the angels who care for critters-in-need. Giving will change your life. Really, it will. You’ll see…..
BTW – Did you even ask your current pets if they want to share you with someone new?
If you’re lucky & they agreed, you’ll want to read more from Critter Consulting’s always-updated resource list. There, you’ll find Dr. Lorie Huston’s new, 4-paws-up piece, “Keeping the Peace in a Multi-Cat Household”; Pat Miller’s “How to Teach Your Dog to Get Along in a Multi-Species Household“; and Mardi Richmond’s “Mixed-Aged Dog Packs“. All brilliant ladies with savvy advice….. brilliant!
My Rusty prefers the bachelor lifestyle. He picked two flicks to illustrate how adopting a second pet can go fab – or very, very bad. Enjoy!
Did you rescue or adopt a pet? We’d love to hear how they’ve touched your life!
Please share your story in the comments. Woofs & wags to you & your fur-kids! xo ~Ruth & Rusty~
©2013 The Soulful Pet
|July 30, 2013||Posted by Ruth under Inspirational & motivational, Lifestyle, Pup culture, Training/Behavior, Videos, Worthy reads|
So the Pope said this today:
It’s not a huge shift in the Catholic church’s position, but it’s a start.
Believe me, I didn’t wake up this morning thinking that I’d feature the Pope on this blog…. ever. But when he asked, “Who am I to judge?”, this post was born.
I’m not into organized religion. There, I said it.
My dad’s Catholic and my mom’s Methodist. I did double time in both churches as a kid. Eventually, I identified more with Methodists. The Latin spoken rituals-without-explanation and the belief that animals don’t have souls drove me-as-a-child away from the Catholic church. Eventually, I became jaded to structured religion because it fear mongers and judges. Do as I say or you’re going to you-know-where. Fire & brimstone, yada yada yada. They are so sure that they know. That certainty starts wars and alienates good people (women, the LGBTQ community, independent thinkers, scientists, etc.). That’s my take on my experience. I completely respect your love for your religion.
The truth is, no one knows the truth.
I think we’re all on a journey of discovery and self-awareness. That journey is best guided by Socrates’ golden rule: “Do not do to others what angers you if done to you by others.” I simplify it to: “Be kind.” My dear hubby is fond of quoting his dad (& Buddha): “Is what you’re saying kind, necessary and true?” Vets abide by the Hippocratic concept, “First, do no harm.” Anyway you slice it, through time, most religions espouse a version of the golden rule. For that reason, I see it as an undeniable truth.
To follow this rule, you can’t judge others, can you? Thankfully, that makes life easier.
I love Molly Friedenfeld’s thoughts on this. In “The Book of Simple Human Truths“, she explains: “Golden Rule Living is the great simplifier. It places us in another soul’s shoes, taking what can appear to be a complex decision that involves another and streamlining it to a one-step process of deciding, “If I wouldn’t like this done to me, then I shall not do it to another.””
The sword of judging others is double-edged: You also believe you are being judged.
That belief can lead to sometimes paralyzing social fears. It also causes you to self-censor & to live your life for others. Back to my dear mom. She lived the judged life as a preacher’s kid, playing inside the lines of others’ approval. I think she’s still trying to shake that censorship. Her story partially informed my feelings about religion. (For that I’m grateful, Mom.) Steve Maraboli says it well in “Life, the Truth, and Being Free“: ““How would your life be different if… you stopped making negative judgmental assumptions about people you encounter? Let today be the day… you look for the good in everyone you meet and respect their journey.” Life’s too short, people. Just let it go. Accept others for who they are. In doing so, accept yourself.
In my 20 years as a pet behaviorist, I’ve worked with thousands of people from all walks of life.
As with their pets, I can’t help humans if I judge them. You’re not “wrong” if you let your pet sleep in your bed. You’re not “bad” if you let Kitty lick the bottom of your ice cream bowl. (Though you may have a lactose intolerance mess to clean up later.) You’re not confessing pet guardian “sins” if you tell me you enjoy your dog’s enthusiastic, pogo-stick greetings or slobbery canine kisses. A green trainer judges & scolds her clients. But you can’t teach or touch another’s soul if you judge. The best teachers expose a bit of their humanity to their students. We laugh & confess that we’ve shared similar human moments with our pets. Personally, I enjoy a good howl with Rusty. YOLO and Ah-roo!
The stuff we judge others on is ridiculous. Here goes: I’ll expose a bit of my humanity here.
I’m short with curly hair. (I won’t straighten my hair or wear stilettos for anyone. But I do love a cute shoe.) I’m liberal (Shocking, I know). I’m straight. (But fully LGBTQ supportive.) I’m agnostic. (Not atheist, but spiritual; hence “The Soulful Pet”.) I can’t stomach animal or child abuse. (I will judge your ass if I see you hurting another soul.) I’m ex-vegetarian. (Fell off the wagon when I started cooking for my dogs.) I have a twisted sense of humor, and I love a smart scary movie. (I’ve seen Joss Whedon’s “Cabin in the Woods” 3 times. Say the word & I’m in for the 4th.) I don’t like doggy kisses or licks. (I know what you ate in the yard, Pup.) And I use washcloths. (What? Humor my tangent here. There seems to be an anti-washcloth movement a-foot. As a guest I’ve been harshly denied them. My sanity has been questioned by hosts, post washcloth request: “Why do you want one?” Or my all-time favorite: “Why? Are you afraid to touch yourself?”. Really?! It’s a washcloth, not cause for an inquisition.) But I digress…..
Did you catch yourself judging me? I’ll bet you did. The beauty of it is that I don’t care.
I’m fully aware that there were a few hypocrisies in that last paragraph. There should be conflicts, if I’m being honest & healthy. It’s part of my evolving human condition. I need to be true to myself first. Lie to myself to deflect others’ scrutiny? Confess my human traits to another inherently flawed human as though they’re sins? Ain’t got no time for that.
Some of my best teachers in my journey have been animals.
They don’t judge, and they don’t fear judgement. Take Bruno, the Havanese, for example. Despite his quirks, Rusty calls him BFF. Bruno unabashedly barks at animals on TV. And, he happily eats his poop. Heck, he’ll eat Rusty’s poop, asap. And I do mean ASAP. I don’t judge his little, easily remedied coprophagous ways. But that is why I refuse his doggy kisses when he visits. Bruno, do you kiss your mama with that mouth? Geez!
I’ll leave you with this thought:
“No one has it all figured out, especially not the people who are acting like they do and judging you because of it. Pretending to be something you aren’t because you’re trying to please a bunch of judgmental hypocrites and shitheads is not the way to be happy. Living the life you want to live is. It really is that simple.” ~Tucker Max~ “Assholes Finish First“
What’s your truth? (Any pet confessions?) What philosophy guides you? How do you deal with the temptation to judge and the judgements of others?
I’d love to hear your thoughts. No judgement here, I promise. Just keep it civil. Haters will be judged swiftly via the delete key. xxoo ~Ruth~
©2013 The Soulful Pet
|July 20, 2013||Posted by Ruth under Inspirational & motivational, Lifestyle, Pup culture, Training/Behavior, Videos, Worthy reads|
What happens when life becomes one dimensional? You burnout. I did.
I lost the balance in life between caring for others & caring for myself. My existence became about my work. As much as I loved it, a girl can not live on work alone. My schedule was filled with work; my days “off”, evenings & time with my hubby were all clouded by work. And my reading list was all about….. you guessed it: work. As a child & teen, I was a voracious reader of classics, novels & non-fiction, of all genres. The more variety, the better. This adulthood myopic must-read approach was killing me. Enough!
Last year, I put down the clickers & leashes to get 3D-whole again.
I started filling in the other dimensions of my life that were starved. My sustenance is rediscovered, pre-burnout things that feed my soul. If you’ve followed me so far, you know them: Hiking; trail running; quality time with my patient husband & good friends; music; baking; gardening; nature & animals (of course); writing; & …. reading. I had to unplug from the grind and reconnect with myself through these things.
For the longest time, I didn’t have a summer reading list.
I couldn’t have told you what I wanted to read that wasn’t related to training how-to’s. (My office bookshelves are filled with those must-reads. They’re important, but they weren’t good for me anymore.) This year is different. This year, I have a summer reading list. It’s my prescription to me, for me. I give myself permission to read what I want, when I want. Sounds pretty basic, right? For me, it’s a reawakening. It’s a reading renaissance!
I’m happy to share my restorative want-to-read-list with you. Here it is, divided into my soul’s areas of interest that needed rekindling:
Baking – I reviewed these gems in my post, “On burnout, bangs, baking, blogs & books….“.
Gardening & cocktails – Yes, they DO go together! There’s nothing better than a weekend cocktail made with herbs from your garden or your fave farmer’s market. Add my hubby’s grilled flank steak and my garden-fresh caprese salad, and I’m a happy girl. (Rusty’s thrilled too; he never misses a chance to taste test steak.)
- “Shake, Stir, Pour” by Katie Loeb
- “Edible Cocktails” by Natalie Bovis
- “Market-fresh Mixology by Bridget Albert
- “Artisanal Cocktails” by Scott Beattie
Celebrating our bonds with pets – Not the how-to’s, but the whole reason why.
- “The Secret Life of Dog Catchers” by Shirley Zindler
Shirley’s a sweet, courageous local gal. She describes her book as “a love story about animals & people”. She donates a portion of its sales to animal causes. (I’ve gifted her book 3 times already.) Jessica Dolce, creator of DINOS, wrote a wonderful review/interview. She wanted to take Shirley out for a margarita after reading her book, to hear more of her stories. Me, too. See? Full circle stuff. Watch Shirley describe her book for her successful Kickstarter campaign:
More on our bonds with pets:
- “The Radical Practice of Loving Everyone” by Michael J. Chase
Rusty gave you a heads-up peek @ this one via video in his May post.
- “The Possibility Dogs” by Susannah Charleson
- “The Soul of All Living Creatures: What Animals Can Teach Us about Being Human” by Vint Virga, DVM
- “My Animal, My Self: A Breakthrough Way to Understand How You and Your Animal Reflect Each Other” by Marta Williams
My interest in Marta’s book & animal communication stems from the many undeniable “knowing” moments I’ve had with clients’ pets. She’s also a fellow biologist, which intrigues me. Her workshop is on my to-do list. Open minds, remember? Luckily, Marta’s also a local gal. Heck, I’d like to have a cocktail with her, too. The “tails” she could tell….
Watch Marta discuss “mirroring”, a powerful concept that I coached clients on daily as a behaviorist:
Humor – Because laughter is good for the soul. And my soul’s idea of funny is quirky, irreverent & uncensored.
- “Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang” and “My Horizontal Life” by Chelsea Handler
I’m not as behind as you might think in reading Chelsea’s books. I finished her 2 newest ones first. Before you turn your nose up to her “low-brow” humor and question the entirety of my reading list, know that my mom, preacher’s kid that she is, devoured Chelsea’s latest deliciously uncensored read, “Lies That Chelsea Handler Told Me“. And that’s saying something.
- “Man Up! Tales of My Delusional Self-confidence” by Ross Mathews
I will probably read this one first. I need some belly laughs, and Ross never fails with the funny.
Self-help – Don’t we all need a little life renovation? After all, happier, healthier humans have happier, healthier pets.
I consider Lissa my gremlin-busting guru. Watch her talk about how the mind can heal the body.
(Yes, it’s an hour long. Trust me: You deserve to take the time. Too stressed to watch? Then you NEED to watch.)
Whew! It’s an ambitious list that actually will keep me busy thru 2013 – because life happens. And that’s OK.
Is your reading list filled with have-to’s or want-to’s? Is it a 3D expression of your soul?
Or do you censor your choices for fear of what others might think? ‘Fess up: I’d love to know what you’re reading. No judgement here. Please share in the comments. Together, perhaps we can inspire others!
©2013 The Soulful Pet
|June 16, 2013||Posted by Ruth under Inspirational & motivational, Lifestyle, Seasonal, Training/Behavior, Videos|
This morning, coffee in hand, I struggled with writer’s block & Facebook rules.
Both had me second guessing myself: Why am I writing, and who’s reading it? I began the day, deadline looming, intent on writing a Father’s Day post about why you shouldn’t put off telling important people in your life that you love them. It’s a worthy topic, but it just wasn’t flowing. So I procrastinated a bit and worked on The Soulful Pet’s FB page, instead. But the same pesky questions popped up. For all the good that social media can do, especially for animal welfare, it’s blocked, too. If I don’t promote (pay for) page posts, folks who “like” the page don’t see all of my posts. But they don’t know that. It’s a crap game, really. Facebook is soulless & frustrating, not block-busting. Sadly, it wasn’t a healthy procrastination, and the coffee pot was now empty…..
My mood instantly changed when I watched this video.
It is perhaps the most beautiful, magical video I’ve ever seen: Two souls simply reaching out to each other. I was instantly inspired again. Why? Because it spoke to my soul. And my soul had new, more pressing questions: What kinds of amazing friendships could be born before fear & suspicion are taught/learned? How would our world be different? Why exactly do we hesitate to tell loved ones how important they are to us? As I watched this with tears in my eyes, I knew I had to be in nature today. Writing would wait. Watch:
So I went for a hike in “my church” again.
I was grateful for all the things in life that I love & have reconnected with recently: hikes with good friends, walks with my hubby & dog, trail running, music, writing, reading, and time alone in nature. Burnout was a life block that I conquered. Thankfully, I was only trying to break through a bit of writer’s block now.
I thought about Maya, the adorable girl in the video, as I walked.
I love how she’s so serenely in the flow of her magic moment with the fawn. She’s so sure about what she needs to do to help the fawn. No doubt. No ego. No second guessing. Purely powered by soul. I remember having those moments with animals as a child. And I’ve seen clients’ kids with a natural, open sense for pets. But what about adults? Are they still possible for us? Are we all just too jaded, impatient, suspicious or fearful? I hate to think so…..
Suddenly, it dawned on me that I do still have those moments. We all do, if we’re open to them.
I’ve had many of them in my 20 years as a pet behaviorist. Once, while reviewing a client’s training goals as we relaxed with her dog, I casually mentioned that her dog’s name didn’t seem to “fit” him. She was surprised. (I was, too. I hadn’t said that to anyone, before or since.) She asked what name I thought better suited him. Without thinking, just “knowing”, I mentioned a very unusual pet name that popped into my mind. She stared silently at me. Then she confessed that that was her dog’s name before she changed it. We both realized that this info had never passed between us before. Because we had work to do, we brushed it off & continued the training session. Silly, right? Yet, somehow I’ve never forgotten that moment.
Looking back, I’ve often been told that I’m an animal magnet.
Perhaps you know that feeling, too. Do all of your pets somehow “find you”? It’s like you have a neon sign over your heart & door that announces: “All animals who wander are welcome here.” Me, too. As a trainer, I’ve had countless magnet moments. Pets, often cats, enter the room & introduce themselves to me mid-consult. After acknowledging their greeting, I’ll look up to see shocked expressions on my clients’ faces. That’s always followed by, “I’ve never seen her do that before.” Or – “She never comes out when we have guests.” With their pet cozied up to me, I explain that we created a calm, safe environment, which is attractive to animals. It’s zen, not magic. With practice & patience, we can all tap into it. Truly.
As I walked, I realized that this post was writing itself. It was flowing. But why now?
As with animals, magic happens when you’re true to yourself, in the moment. (That’s the lesson that little Maya’s video teaches.) Writing to please others, to fulfill marketing deadlines, or to earn page “likes” suffocates creativity & contributes to burnout. It also opens doors to gremlins that make me question, “Why write?” No more. I’m writing from my soul.
Fueled by a new determination to openly follow my bliss, I walked on.
And then the magic happened. The late-spring flowers seemed more colorful. The air was sweeter. And I wasn’t alone. For a mid-day hike, an uncanny number of deer crossed my path. I had my spotted fawn encounter. It wasn’t as dramatic as little Maya’s moment, but it was still sweet.
I invite you to walk with me for six zen minutes.
Sit back & relax. Breathe. Volume up, full-screen, watch:
This is my newly soul-inspired message, perfect for Father’s Day:
What better way to tell someone that you love them than to believe in them? If your child, like Maya, has magical “knowing” moments, nurture his/her unique gift. My parents did, and I’m so grateful. While I may stray from it occasionally, I’m always at my best when I’m true to it.
We adults can have our magic moments, anywhere, anytime.
Stay childlike & open to that possibility, and you’ll see. Believe & it will happen. When it does, it’s a true gift. Watch.
So what are your magic moments? Share your bliss; you might inspire others as much as little Maya inspired me!
PS – What about Facebook? I’m not playing that game anymore.
I’d love to see you there, but you might not see me. (Follow this graphic to remedy that.) No paid posts for me. I’d rather donate money to rescues & shelters. Hmmm….. how about a Fawn Rescue group? Wanna join me? Writing for a cause works magic for my soul. xxoo ~Ruth~
©2013 The Soulful Pet
|June 11, 2013||Posted by Ruth under Guest bloggers, Inspirational & motivational, Lifestyle, LOLs & BOLs, Pup culture, Training/Behavior, Videos|
Ahh, life’s ingrates. We all know folks who don’t say or send thank-you’s, don’t we?
How do they make you feel? I suspect that a self-actualized soul would be at peace with the mere act of giving. I’m getting there, though I do love to see smiles @ the other end of a present. But to many of us, including my mom, the seemingly ungrateful are confounding. After all, in an online retail world, a nagging question about long-distance giving is bound to surface: Did they even get my gift?
I admire my mom’s creative attempts to persuade people that thank-you’s are the polite thing to do.
Recently, she asked a friend of hers, Bob Scala, if she could share his piece on manners with her “ungrateful” crew (and me). I was charmed by it, so I asked Bob if I could share it with you, and he generously agreed. This is one in a series of self-published essays that he wrote for his grandchildren:
“BopPop’s Thoughts” by Robert Scala, PhD
“Grammy and I were talking the other day about the importance of three very short phrases, “Please, Thank You and Good Job”. In this short note, I want to emphasize “thank you”. It seems that many folks think that good manners are optional. You use them if you have time or if it’s convenient or if it might give you some kind of “edge” over another person. But, good manners are the lubricant that makes every day contacts with people go that much smoother and easier and avoids unnecessary friction and resulting heat. “Thank you” is especially important because it recognizes the worth and value of the other person – the one who gave you something or performed a service or otherwise aided you. It also says to that person that you are not such a big shot that you can look down on that person and ignore his or her presence once they’ve completed their task. In the last several months, Grammy and I have sent wedding presents to three couples – a neighbor child and two couples from our church. No acknowledgement. How does that make us feel? Like we’ve been used; like all we are good for is a gift and once that’s given we disappear? It takes very little time to write a “thank you” note; even less time to say the words to someone who waits on you or otherwise helps you. Keep “Please”, “Thank you” and “Good Job” in your active vocabulary.”
So how do you feel when you aren’t appreciated? Confused? Frustrated? Angry? Sad?
At the very least, will you repeat the gesture? Not likely? Exactly. Now carry this lesson over to training your pets, who feel similarly without fair feedback. Well-timed rewards are a major cornerstone of successful, positive training. Notice & reward desired behaviors the instant that your pet offers them, either on her own, or at your request. Go about your day with treat-filled pockets & a keen eye, and you’ll see that in truth your pet behaves more than not. Suddenly, praise-worthy moments appear everywhere. Presto! Your pet will repeat rewarded behaviors so often that they soon replace undesired behaviors (with some preventative measures). Think of your praise (“Yes!” or “Good!” or click!) followed by a treat as a “Thank you” to your pet. It is the polite thing to do!
Praise is a magic wand & ruby slippers all wrapped up in a simple phrase. Cast your spells wisely.
What’s my mom to do? She’s free to keep giving – or not. The trick is that it’s her choice. She’ll do what feels right & natural for her, as would an unrewarded dog. (So sorry for the canine comparison, Mom. It’s for a good cause.) My loving advice to my mother: Praise the thank-you’s you do get, and release the ones you don’t. Now, how about you? Practice gratefulness & well-placed praise to bring out the best in others, 2 or 4-legged. It’s an instant mood boost for you, a true self-gift. The recipients of your thank-you spells will happily repeat their gestures. In my crystal ball, I see you charming well-trained spouses, partners, children and pets. Abracadabra!
Jimmy Fallon is a praise wizard.
In his weekly practice of writing Thank You Notes, he’s mastered the art of praising anyone for anything. Thank you, Jimmy, for making thank-you’s “classy”, “sophisticated” and, yes, even a little “sexy”. You give us “something to aspire to”.
©2013 The Soulful Pet
|April 18, 2013||Posted by Ruth under Inspirational & motivational, Lifestyle, Seasonal, Training/Behavior, Videos|
It’s been 6 years since I stepped foot in my church.
So breath held, here I go ……
What kept me away? Bluntly: burnout & anxiety.
My little gremlin kept saying, “What if you fall again?” She had a point. The last time I visited my church, I took a frightening tumble. Confidence shattered, knees bloodied, I hobbled home. I was grateful to be in one piece, but my faith in my place in my church waned. Despite that, my soul remembered being fed by my sanctuary. She whispered to me steadily for 6 years, “Go back, girl. You love it there, and it’s good for us both. Go back.”
As I enter, I suddenly trust that I’ll quickly find my place & my path again.
My sanctuary speaks to me: “Where have you been? Welcome back!” My soul wells up with grateful tears. On I walk, remembering……
My church has everything that I need.
In it, there are no walls. Judgement, dress codes, hate, bigotry, & gossip do not live here. It is blissfully inclusive. It does not pretend to be something it’s not. I trust what it shows me.
I find my church to be a wonderful equalizer.
It is a bountiful reminder that we humans do not hold dominion over all living things. We are all integrally connected, part of something bigger than ourselves. We are not superior. We do, however, have a responsibility to gratefully honor & preserve this sublime gift – for all beings.
My fellow parishioners are a varied bunch, here. We respect each other’s rights to exist.
I am spiritual because of them. As I wander down my path, I’m reminded of the countless times I listened to pious humans in churches-with-walls insist (as if they knew for sure) that only humans have souls. In my soul, I know that’s not true. Do you see your pet’s soul? I do, too.
A quick aside: This doe was just 10 feet from me on the side of the trail. We communed for about 10 minutes before going our separate ways. To not frighten her, & to get this pic, I used a body language trick that comes in handy with cats & dogs, too. Keep your side to nervous animals, instead of facing them. You are less of a threat. Fearful pets are more likely to approach non-frontal body language. In fact, facing an approaching dog or cat (also called body blocking), can stop them in their tracks. If you want them to relax & approach (come when called, even), soften your stance & grant space. Study how your pets interact with each other & you. You’ll see wonderful examples of this body language communication translating across species.
I continue on to the alter.
This serene place allows me to collect my thoughts. Here, I am grateful for my sweet husband’s support as I realized my new calling as a writer. Here, I begin to write this post.
Nearby, flowers grace my path.
And sun pours through stained glass windows.
Further on, I find the Shakespearean sermon, scrawled on a pew.
I’m blissfully aware of the lack of walls & human preaching. The sermon is voiced by water, birds & wind: We are all indeed part of something grander.
Finally, I reach my destination. I am at such peace here. This is why I will return.
Tomorrow, Rusty & I will walk together.
I enjoy the solace of my church, but I find grace & joy in my dog, too. Thankfully, he’s all soul, no dogma.
What inspires you? What feeds your soul? Where’s your “church”? Please share…..
©2013 The Soulful Pet
|April 4, 2013||Posted by Ruth under Inspirational & motivational, Lifestyle, Pup culture, Recipes, Seasonal, Soul food, Training/Behavior, Videos|
It’s a relaxing, rainy spring day. I’m cozied up on the couch with coffee & my little guy, Rusty.
It’s also a work-at-home day, so I’m in sweats & fuzzy socks. (Not pretty, just cozy.) I’m writing about “easy” being better. So that should be a no-brainer @ this point, right? Nope, not @ all.
If I listen to that little voice in my head, I’ll start believing that I’m lazy.
We all have that voice. She’s the one who never cuts you any slack. I call her my little gremlin. Basically, she’s a bitch. She’s quick to point out this morning: “Look @ lazy you: you’re not dressed, you didn’t comb your hair, and your couch is your office today. In fact, Gremlin incessantly nags me to clean my actual office. Every second that I’m not doing that seemingly insurmountable task, I feel worse about myself. Why such a hater, Ms. Gremlin?
It’s been an uphill battle for me to learn that easy is better.
I’m slowly beginning to ignore my gremlin. Who does she think she is, anyway? There’s a nicer voice that’s getting louder; she’s kinder & wiser. She’s my coach in this life lesson. (Before you conclude that I’m schizophrenic, Lissa Rankin calls that kind voice that we all have inside our “Inner Pilot Light“.) Here’s my theory: The nasty, nagging, confidence-busting voice is society. The gentler, more accurate voice is your soul. At this stage in my life, I choose to listen when my soul speaks.
We’re plugged into our fast-paced society 24/7. Work is valued, not relaxation.
Society says if it’s not hard work, it’s not worth doing. But we’re stressed & sick. So how’s that really working for us? It’s self sabotage. Enough of that stress, and your soul might have to scream @ you: “Stop, slow down & listen to me now. I know what’s best for you.” You’ll know it if it happens; it’s hard to ignore: frequent sighs, illness/aches & pains, burnout, panic attacks. Listen to your body (& soul) sooner rather than later. (Not sure how stressed you really are? Take this stress test.) Be true to yourself first, not society/family/friends. It’s not selfish; it’s healthy. What comes easy & makes you happy? Ignore your gremlin, fire up your pilot light, and just go do it! Make it a habit. Your new-found, genuine energy will infuse all that you do. You’ll be happier and more successful. Your enthusiasm & inner light will shine on the people & pets around you. It’s contagious & everyone benefits.
So easy is better. Easy isn’t lazy. Easy is in the eye of the beholder.
Think about it: Just because something’s easy for you, doesn’t mean it’s easy for everyone. So, if it’s easy for you, maybe that means you should be doing it, instead. Maybe you’re a natural @ it. Maybe it’s a gift that shouldn’t be ignored. Why swim upstream to do something that’s soul-suckingly hard for you just because other people think you should? Because Gremlin said so? Please.
Sometimes, you have to tease out the “easy-for-you”.
It’s there, ready to come to the surface, but it needs the right setting to express itself. For example, I think best around flowing water. (Such a cliched Aquarian here, really.) I get clarity & ideas in the shower, on a hike by a stream, by my backyard fountain, or on a barefoot beach walk. In fact, I silenced my pesky gremlin today by taking a shower, where this post wrote itself before I turned the water off. Easy doesn’t flow around that 24/7 societal din of TV, phone, computer, etc. Unplug & find your flow.
Go with the flow to find your pet’s “easy”, too. It enriches your time together.
If you want to teach something new to your pet, begin with something they naturally, easily, do well. For example, catch is not an instinctive game for many dogs. There are trust issues there. Why in the world would you want to keep your face (& sensitive nose) in the direct path of a flying object? I taught Rusty to catch by 1st playing his “easy” game with an “easy” object: fetch with a ball. Then, as that game flowed, I teased out his new “easy”, catch, by gently tossing that ball in the air, past him – not @ him. As his confidence grew, he caught it face-on. You can tease the new “easy” out of your pet in other ways. For example, if your dog loves walks, take brief breaks during the walk to teach a few new commands. If your pet’s invented a favorite game, play their game. Then build on it to teach new games. Remember: Take it easy. Less is more. End while everyone’s still having fun.
Watch Rusty’s easy play:
He taught us his “roll it!” game. We intersperse it with “catch!” and varied play locations. Good times.
When you embrace “easy” as worthwhile, it becomes a lifestyle.
I was baking banana bread the other day, contemplating this concept. Baking is a bit like flowing water for me: an inspirational gremlin-silencer. Suddenly, I decided to make the “easy” variation of the recipe that I’ve followed without fail for 10 years. It tastes better than the original! So why didn’t I do that sooner? It’s a process, people. But I’m getting there. So will you.
Ruth’s “Easy” Banana Bread
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
3 mashed, ripe bananas
1/3 cup + 2 tablespoons plain, low-fat or nonfat Greek yogurt
2/3 cup dark (70% cacao) chocolate chips
2/3 cup toasted, chopped walnuts
Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups, & level with a knife. Combine the flour, baking soda, & salt, stirring with a whisk.
Place sugar & butter in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended (about 1 minute). Add bananas, eggs, & yogurt; beat until blended. Add flour mixture; beat @ low speed just until moist. Fold in chocolate chips & walnuts. Spoon batter into an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack; remove from pan. Cool completely on wire rack. Dig in!
~Adapted from Cooking Light~
Go with your flow. Find your “easy”.
Feed your soul. (Try the banana bread.)
Fan your pilot light until its glimmer silences your gremlin. That game or walk you enjoy with your dog? That might just be your water where ideas flow. Easy comes naturally to animals. Let your pets tease the easy out of you!
©2013 The Soulful Pet
|March 14, 2013||Posted by Ruth under Inspirational & motivational, LOLs & BOLs, Pup culture, Training/Behavior, Videos|
When I decided to write creatively, it was a relief to leave the politically correct how-to’s behind.
I was writing instructional tips that doubled as marketing for my business. That was fine until it began to feel like writing in quicksand, hand-cuffed. Why? Because it wasn’t an honest expression of my soul. I had to switch gears and be true to myself. Letting my inner voice out does mean that I’ll upset some folks. I’m finding, however, that the older I get, the less I care what others think. And that’s a very good thing.
Recently, I mentioned to my mom that I was writing for this site.
She asked with great concern, “You’re going to keep it clean, aren’t you? None of that language, right?” I told her I couldn’t make any promises. Sometimes a girl just has to swear. It’s not healthy to hold that stuff in. Besides, if it’s not overdone, swearing is cathartic & it can reduce pain. So no self-censoring here. As my mom & I talked, I laughed because, in an incredibly tame way, it was reminiscent of Kathy Griffin running her Grammy acceptance speech past her adorable mom, Maggie. Tip that “inspiration juice”, Maggie. Tip it, girl!
(Video is definitely NSFW or sensitive souls, people. See? I warned you. You’re welcome.)
Well-meaning people give bad advice.
In my life, that advice has come from people I love. “You shouldn’t sing.” “You shouldn’t smile.” Or, “Smile more.” (That last one’s maddeningly sexist when it comes from a male.) It took a bit of time to shake those head-spinningly conflicting pearls of “wisdom” off – to do things my way. Ultimately, I’m grateful for those comments steeling me against the folks in my life who said, “But everybody’s doing it.” Not me; I march to the beat of my own drummer. I smile when I want to; I sing @ the top of my lungs (in the car & the shower only); and I swear.
Censoring isn’t limited to language. Certainly not.
People will tell you what to wear/eat/read/think; who to hang with; and what to do with your life – if you let them. Basically, they’ll tell you not to color outside their lines. Keep in mind that their desires to limit you speak volumes about them, not you. My mom shared a story with me that sparked this post: Years ago (ok, decades ago), she walked in on my lovely grandmother telling my father that he shouldn’t let me read “Jaws”. It would be too scary &, after all, I’m a girl. Mom-to-the-rescue informed her that her 12-year-old-daughter could read anything she wanted. (Go, Mom!) But by then, I was already heavily influenced by Tolkien, King, Dahl, Homer & Poe. Benchley’s “Jaws” was paling in comparison, anyway.
You knew this would get around to pets, right? I believe they “swear”, too.
Not sure about that? Have you ever bathed a cat? Enough said. You can reduce your pets’ angst (frustration/fear) by not censoring them. “Listen” to what they say: learn & observe their body language. Stop @ their 1st signs of discomfort. Give them space & time to relax. Let them approach; don’t force anything. And never, ever punish a growl (read as censoring). If you do, your pet may act out on her emotions & bite without warning, because you suppressed her growl. That’s much more dangerous. Be grateful for the growl. Even my precious Rusty has fired a few choice “words” @ me in the past. One of his motivations was being moved from a comfy place on the couch after an exhausting day. He stiffened as I approached, so I stopped. I happily said, “Let’s go!”, and walked away. His mood instantly changed, and he moved himself. We celebrated by heading to the kitchen for a goody. He hasn’t “couch cursed” me since. But I’m a trainer. Get positive, professional help if your pet grumps @ you. And watch this:
Back to “Jaws”: Remember this classic scene?
Well, I think that Rusty & I just might need a bigger ….. swear jar.
(Rusty’s off to a ruff start already.) For the record, my mother is one of the strongest, most independently minded women I know. She might not admit it, but I get my autonomous streak from her. And, I’m proud to say that she’s currently reading the deliciously uncensored book that I gave her, “Lies that Chelsea Handler Told Me“. Go, girl!
©2013 The Soulful Pet