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How My Dog Trained Me

Recently, I stood up close and personal to a hawk which swooped down to attack the plastic heron standing guard over my fish pond. He saw me, obviously embarrassed by his mistake, and flew back up into the expansive blue sky. I could have been on the Discovery Channel! That Hawk got me thinking about mother nature versus human nature and I remembered that a couple of years ago, when I was trying to housebreak my puppy, a Cockapoo, (mixture of cocker spaniel and poodle), the tables were turned on me. Bailey, like many puppies, was stubborn about being housebroken and resisted any sort of training in human etiquette. Joyous, uninhibited, friendly and gentle, she more than made up for the frequent territorial markings in the house: the living room carpet, the family room tiles and my daughter’s bed.

I love to walk freely, no shoes or socks, feeling the different floor textures of my home -stony tiles, wooden floors and soft carpeting. One early summer morning, dressed for the day and barefoot, I brought my reading material to the breakfast table to get a head start on some exciting new research studies. Coffee in hand, I sat down next to my daughter who began to loudly slurp her cereal and milk, a great attention getter. She flicked on the TV to watch one of her shows, as I sipped and read, oblivious to the background noise. Suddenly, my daughter laughed loudly breaking the frame of my concentration. “What is it now?”

“Mommy, look Bailey is peeing on your foot!” I looked down at my foot and as my brain connected my nervous system to my visual field, I felt a warm liquid drizzling down my ankle.” “How come you didn’t feel the dog peeing on your leg?” My daughter couldn’t stop laughing. I gave Bailey a this-time-you-have-gone-too-far look.

Being rather open with my diverse friends, I related the incident in an understated, matter-of-fact tone, hoping to get a positive spin. The reaction was always the same: “You’ve got to be kidding.” However, upon pressing the matter, the analysis split into two opposite camps: “Are you so unaware and disconnected that you didn’t feel…” That’s when this camp broke into wild laughter unable to complete the sentence. The second camp: “What powerful focus. I envy that. You were so engrossed in your reading that you didn’t feel…” At the same point this camp broke into wild laughter.

After much soul-searching, reflecting on that warm, fluid moment, I know that the truth lies somewhere in-between. Yes, we all have a powerful ability to concentrate and tune out distraction, but we also have the shadow ability to disconnect from our feelings. The shadow self has much to teach us. And perhaps, the greatest teacher of all is nature. By forcing nature to conform to our rules, domesticating it to our perception of how things should be, we are unleashing its wild side, compelling it to assert itself. The hawk and I both had our moment of embarrassment.

Also, we tend to get overly involved in our work upsetting the work/home balance. For example; I thought that by sitting next to my daughter and reading that I was actually present to her. I was physically there, but not present, like a parent attending a school trip and talking on her cell phone the whole time. Bailey obviously pointed that out!

Everyone can rest assured this bit of household history has never repeated itself. Oh, and let me not forget to mention that the dog is finally trained.

Is anyone in your life relieving himself on you? Is the universe sending you a message?
Debbie Mandel, MA is the author of Changing Habits: The Caregivers' Total Workout and Turn On Your Inner Light: Fitness for Body, Mind and Soul, a stress-reduction specialist, motivational speaker, a personal trainer and mind/body lecturer. She is the host of the weekly Turn On Your Inner Light Show on WGBB AM1240 in New York City , produces a weekly wellness newsletter, and has been featured on radio/ TV and print media. To learn more visit:
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