Archive for December, 2010

This post is part of the #reverb10 project that provides daily topics throughout December to help us reflect on the past year and sets intentions for the year ahead.

Day 31 topic: Core story. What central story is at the core of you, and how do you share it with the world? (Bonus: Consider your reflections from this month. Look through them to discover a thread you may not have noticed until today.)

When examining my life this year, I realized the core of it was was similar to this poem by Billy Collins (although he interpreted his poem differently based on the title). The analogies worked for 2010 in my thought processes: It’s overwhelming. Take the plunge. Oh no, I lost footing. Two steps backward. Think outside the box–keep trying. Whew, I’m ahead–three steps forward! Wobble. Uncertainty. Full speed ahead! Oops, can’t catch up, too far behind. Barely treading. Refuse to give up. Self-doubt. Focus! Resilience! Excitement. Spontenaity. Onward and upward!

For Bartleby the Scrivener

by Billy Collins

Every time we get a big gale around here
some people just refuse to batten down.

We estimate that

ice skating into a sixty
mile an hour wind, fully exerting
the legs and swinging arms

You will be pushed backward
an inch every twenty minutes.

in a few days, depending on
the size of the lake,
the backs of your skates
will touch land.

You will then fall on your ass
and be blown into the forest.

if you gather enough speed by flapping your arms
and keeping your skates pointed

you will catch up to other
flying people who refused to batten down.
You will exchange knowing waves
as you ride the great wind north.

By the way, the one and only time I ice skated, I took down a group of people when I crashed and burned in the middle of a skating party. Long story. But I am planning another ice skating adventure in 2011. Watch out! And happy New Year!

What was the central story at the core of you in 2010?

This post is part of the #reverb10 project that provides daily topics throughout December to help us reflect on the past year and sets intentions for the year ahead.

Day 30 topic: Gift. This month, gifts and gift-giving can seem inescapable. What’s the most memorable gift, tangible or emotional, you received this year?

This year was such a rollercoaster with my dogs’ health. Not a gift in any way, shape, or form.

My dog Luna has chronic e. coli and new urinary tract infections about every 6 weeks–she’s had them since she was about 3 (she’ll be 9 next year). Every culture of hers shows different results.

Luna and Frisbee in their younger years

I’ve had five different vets try to figure out why. She’s had ultrasounds and more tests than I would ever want. Even The Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, The College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University, and The College of Veterinary Medicine at Colorado State University have drawn blanks about her issues; one wants to write about her condition for their veterinary publication. I’ve consulted various western and holistic vets about this condition as well. Next up, an internal scope on January 3.

12-year-old Frisbee has canine osteoarthritis and a condition called spondylosis deformans, or bridging spondylosis. He often walks with his back arched, and his back legs sometimes fail. He’s had acupuncture–which makes him feel great!–and various other treatments. He does all right, but the possibility of growing numerous bone spurs looms.

During the quiet of the night, I hear Frisbee snoring away on his bed, occasionally mumbling as he turns. I hear Luna rustling about, dreaming of chasing squirrels and bunnies. Peaceful. Happy in their dreams. They’re alive! The. Best. Gift. Ever.

This post is part of the #reverb10 project that provides daily topics throughout December to help us reflect on the past year and sets intentions for the year ahead.

Day 29 topic: Defining moment. Describe a defining moment or series of events that has affected your life this year.


Every day has at least one defining moment for me. Some are huge, life-changing moments, the others are smaller, but still help shift my brain in subtle ways.

I’m not ready to open a vein in this public forum, but the burst of this year’s smartphones made me define my boundaries, both personally and professionally. And here comes my rant!

I love technology and how it’s progressed to make our lives easier, increase our world view, and all that comes with it. I was a tech power user for awhile back in the 1980s through the early 2000s. I’m “into” social media. I’m so thrilled to have met some great people through it, gotten a number of clients. That’s so rewarding!

Smartphones R Us

But then there are smartphones. When they first appeared on the scene, I lusted after one. Internet-ready? You bet. Phones that could be one-stop for all personal and business needs? Wowzer! And I only have a cell phone; no land lines for me! A smartphone is the next step. But then, after seeing how my friends–even my best friends–changed their personal behavior by having one, I decided to wait before making the purchase commitment.

Can We Talk?

Conversations in real life, even at nice dinners or cultural events, are  interrupted by either a phone call (“sorry, I have to take this), a ping (“you’ve got mail), a buzz (text message), a high-pitched tone (alarm). Out comes the smartphone, bright light shining. My companion texts away, sliding fingers over the screen to find the right apps, becoming more engrossed. Hey, I would, too! Even walking down the street, on a bus, in a scenic spot, wherever, everyone is peering into their tiny device, perhaps tweeting or facebooking. Maybe purposefully avoiding eye contact, pretending to be busy. Finding information, maybe necessary, maybe not.

Everything is immediate. What does it mean to “enjoy the moment?” Is the moment that little screen or our surroundings? Is it interacting with multiple people even though you’re meeting with one? What can’t wait? What’s so pressing? Did we suffer so much before we had this technology?

Smartphones and Dog Training

When this phenomenon started happening in my dog training classes, I was puzzled. This wasn’t a problem with plain old cell phones. They rarely rang in class or when socializing. But lately, those high-tech noises abound. Didn’t people schedule their time for this training? Even in private lessons, ringing phones, buzzing texts, bings and blangs all must be answered. Seems as though there’s no off power button. Who’s paying attention to the dog? To me? Who’s learning anything? Parents take their kids to my classes so they’ll “learn how to work with the dog.” Yet the kids are interacting with the screen, not the dog. Not listening or caring what I say. Yes, the parents brought the kids. “But Fido doesn’t listen to Betsy!” is a common refrain. Yet Betsy’s not listening to Fido, either.

“You can go on without me; I want to take this,” a student said recently. “You can just show me what to do afterwards. Or you can teach my dog without me. I’ll be done in a few minutes.” What? My training goal is to prevent or redirect unwanted behavior. But whose? The dogs need and deserve their owners’ attention. They need to bond. If not now, never, as this owner behavior is bound to continue. The dogs need you to be present, people!

OK, rant done, for those who are still following.

So, my defining moment was two-fold. Phones now must be turned off in my class. And I’m gonna wait a lot longer before I get my smartphone. Turns out I still want to enjoy the moment.

What do you think?

This post is part of the #reverb10 project that provides daily topics throughout December to help us reflect on the past year and sets intentions for the year ahead.

Day 28 topic: Achieve. What’s the thing you most want to achieve next year? How do you imagine you’ll feel when you get it? Free? Happy? Complete? Blissful? Write that feeling down. Then, brainstorm 10 things you can do, or 10 new thoughts you can think, in order to experience that feeling today.

Since I can’t seem to achieve the “bliss out” that my acupuncturist suggests, my next greatest achievement for next year would be to follow the advice of the well-known bumper sticker:

“Wag more, bark less.”

More action. Less talk.

More observation. Less judgment.

More patience. Less criticism.

Observing, listening, paying attention

In general, I’m a good listener and observer. A big part of my job is to hear what guardians say about their dogs’ issues, then observe the dog. Much of the time, the results don’t match–what someone tells me about her dog is not often what I see, based on the dog’s body language, actions, reactions, signals.

But that’s not to say the guardians are wrong. They live with their dog daily and have to deal with issues I don’t. They are trying to cope. They have expectations. They want their dog to fit into their lifestyle. They just don’t know how to make it happen. I’m grateful they call me.

I genuinely believe they’re trying, but in my head, I sometimes get disillusioned and ask “why do they keep wanting a quick fix? Don’t they know it can’t happen overnight?”

Yet–although I am good at explaining the issues determining a plan to modify behaviors (for both guardian and dog), my emotions sometimes get in the way of clear, unbiased thinking. But next year, I plan to take a lesson from my own dogs–clear observation, listening carefully, paying attention to the big picture before taking action. I always advocate for the dog; my goal is to advocate for the guardian just a little more, too–more credit, more praise for what they’re doing right, and practice more inner-dog patience for their not magically knowing what to do.

Achieving win-win=more wags! Who can argue with that?

This post is part of the #reverb10 project that provides daily topics throughout December to help us reflect on the past year and sets intentions for the year ahead.

Today’s topic: Ordinary Joy. Our most profound joy is often experienced during ordinary moments. What was one of your most joyful ordinary moments this year?

OK, who can resist a puppy? Not me. Ordinary moments teaching puppies to socialize bring profound joy to me. Even if I’m having a bad day, going into a class of puppies wipes out everything. I smile. I never tire of it.

Supervising a puppy pack

I don’t even mind when the puppy guardians are grouchy or frustrated. I just help them understand their pups’ little pushing-the-envelope or fearful-of-everything brains. When it comes to puppy breath, their Frito-scented feet, their antics, their sense of wonderment and discovery, I’m in heaven. And the fact that they’re not mine definitely helps! I volunteer at the Humane Society of Boulder Valley’s Friday night puppy socialization groups, in addition to running my own Fang Shui Canines pup classes, because I can never get enough.

I love teaching all ages and temperaments of dogs, helping to shape their behavior into whatever it needs to be.

Showing how to reward for good behavior

Seeing that “lightbulb” go off in their brains is profound. Once that happens, those dogs just want more! A mentally exercised dog is a dog you’ll appreciate.

I am most happy when helping people get a grip on Fido’s issues. It may be a simple solution, or it may take months. I love a challenge; solving it with the guardian and pooch together is an incredible feeling. I am grateful to have found a profession I love!

What’s your most joyful dog story?

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