Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Ellie's public debut for dog-assisted pain management

Ellie, our 'once-was-incorrigible' rescue girl made her public debut at the 2010 Muscular Dystrophy Association Christmas party in Tucson.

She was outstanding.

In this set of pictures, she is responding to my friend, Laura Coursey, of EQuality Dog Training, who is teaching her about how head pressure on hands relieves Laura's neuropathy pain.

You can see that Ellie is intensely focused on Laura, even in the midst of this huge gathering.

She also took some time out to greet children who came to see her, and taught the children how to ask to touch using a different variation of the head rest technique. What a gal.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Do dogs do math?

For a lot of people, at least for many of my statistics students, math proves to be a significant challenge. But then there's Ellie, who today seemed to do the math in order to get to her reward as quickly as possible, by traversing the shortest distance possible, even when the shortest distance isn't a straight line.

This morning, Ellie and I practiced recalls in the back yard. I'm keeping recalls pretty simple for now.
  • "Come" means to come to me and sit in front of me.
  • "By me" means to come and sit at my left side, facing in the same direction I'm facing.
She is nearly 100% reliable with both behaviors in the house so we are adding distance and distraction by practicing outside.

Given that we live in Arizona, our back yard is pretty much a old (yet functional) pool The pool is pretty useful for creating angles and distance for the recalls. Cats, birds, dragonflies and bees do a pretty good job of providing the distraction element.

Cueing Ellie into a "Sit or Down-Stay", I take up various positions around the pool and give her recall cues. Typically, if I'm facing her, I give the "Come" and if I'm facing any other direction, I'll give her the "By me" but I do mix it up to keep it interesting.

Ellie decided to keep it interesting by choosing her own direction, for approach - the shortest distance on the ground.

So, for example, I might give her a "Come", and instead of just running towards me (around the pool), she opted to turn around, come up from behind, and face me for her reward. She also opted to run towards me and change her position for the "By Me". The maneuvers are more complicated for her, but the time is shorter.

Next up is to see how often she does and to research to see what other information there might be out there on dogs determining distance and time. Doe she just mix it up to keep it interesting for her? Is it all random (I think not.) Is it an innate instinct? And maybe I need to brush up on my trigonometry.

What do you think?

Monday, July 5, 2010

No braggin', just sayin' - She's the cutest dog

She hikes, and carries her own water, she swims, she leaps over park water fountains, she meditates, and she just keeps smilin'.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Dog parks, longe lines, and dogs making choices

It's Sunday morning, and Ellie and I go for our Meditation Walk. She settles in quickly, curious about her world of walkers, runners, birds, and the sounds of barking at the dog park that lies to west, beyond the ball field and tennis courts.

She's happy, tongue lolling, eye soft. She stops to let people by, with a doggie smile and containing her exuberance to her wagging tail.

Today I've brought my longe line, which we use for horses. My plan is to give her plenty of line, so she can more freely pursue her interests, and I can reward her for attention to me, and we can practice her recall away from home, working on distance. Her recall, offline and in the house and yard, is nearly 100%. I've got a few kinks to work out here, as she took off after some birds, and got too hard of a jerk back to the ground, but in general I accomplished what I wanted to accomplish. Time for the dog park.

As we got closer to the park, I saw there were about 7 dogs. Some she knows, some I had not seen before. She was her usual excited self as we made our way to the gates. I let her in to the ante-area, took off the leash, and the dogs rushed up to greet her through the fence. Two of the dogs were quite assertive, and then the other dogs arrived. Rather than just take her in, I decided to wait this out, to see what Ellie's choice would be. We've noticed that she gets overwhelmed with more than a few dogs, and we've noticed that she is uncomfortable around very assertive dogs.

After sniffing fence, sniffing noses, and making eye contact, she went to the gate - the gate to the outside, and waited. Pretty clear. I snapped on her leash, and we walked quietly home.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Yoga Dog: It's a good job if you can get it

Ellie and I are exploring how yoga as a model for dog training works. The definition of yoga, from the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, 1.2: Yogas citta vritti nirodha, interpreted as : Yoga is the ability to focus the mind on one thing without distraction. (Desikachar, Heart of Yoga).

In clicker training, we teach a dog a new behavior, and then work towards the dog being able to accomplish that behavior for duration, distance, and under distraction. So, it seems as if clicker training and the definition of yoga would work quite well together. (They do.)

But here's the thing, we humans are the ones who are always deciding what the distraction is. What if we question that assumption - that its all about us?

Today Ellie and I went out for our Meditation Walk. In Meditation Walk, I put away the clicker, I put away the treats, and I announce, "time for meditation". I hold the leash loosely (say that quickly 3 times) and in both hands, the leash in front of my body, balancing my hands to the leash. I take a long exhale, and we walk our variable pattern at the ball field, around the bleacher, around the bench for the disabled, changing direction periodically.

People come and go, we might stop, wait, and then start again. If she gets so interested in that dog, that runner, then I just stop and count my exhales. When she turns her attention back towards me, we begin our walk again. We do our meditation for about 15 minutes today, then I tell her, "Good dog." and I take her to the grass for some doggie sniff time.

Ellie actually seems to like Meditation Walk. The idea of the walk, for me, is to be out in the world, being in the world, at the same time that I am mindful of my breathing, the pressure of my feet against the ground, the balance of lightness and firmness in my connection to Ellie. I am aware of her actions, and part of Meditation Walk is to help her be as aware of my actions, without my having to tell her. Maybe she's more aware of me than I can tell, I suspect sometimes yes, sometimes not, her attention, like my own, drifting around at times, at other times, focusing, focused.

Today, she sniffed a single piece of grass for the space of 4 long breaths (mine) - which is just under a minute (when I'm deliberately breathing long). The definition of yoga, in the sniff of a single blade of grass. Who is teaching who?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Do dogs have expectations?

When I brush my teeth in the morning, Ellie goes to her kennel. She's done that since day 1 of bringing her home from Central Arizona Animal Rescue. Somewhere along the way, in the language of dog training, she associated the cue of 'human brushes teeth' to her behavior of going into the kennel.

Is that an expectation?

Once we break out the Camelbaks, Ellie goes into a flurry of activity, back and forth to the door, whining. There's a whole slew of activity that takes place before we get to wherever we are going.

I pick up my keys to drive to teach my next yoga class. Ellie takes herself off to her kennel for a biscuit, some fresh water.

I pick up my keys to run some errands, and Ellie runs to the door. Open the door, she runs to the gate. If she gets to go for a ride, the excited whining starts.

Expectation. Or simple association? Is there a difference?

What do you think, and what actions of your dog drive how you think about it?

Monday, April 26, 2010

Losing ground, gaining perspective. Click!

Today was one of those days, one of those days where you wonder why in the world you ever thought you were a dog trainer. Then, realizing that the pain from this healing sprained ankle is useful in this work of working with dogs in a yogic way.

Ellie's training over the last three weeks has been more sporadic, and more focused on running through the basics in the house and the back yard. With no distraction other than the occasional cat-in-the-way, she cruises through her come, sit, down, by me, close and off-leash cues. She's had a few dog park visits and some swims in the pool and some toy-tossing and has been learning her jump-on-cue to work off some of her energy.

Today we went back to our walking meditation, which had been coming along so beautifully before my ankle injury. At least, that was the intention.

Alas, Ellie was distracted by everything, all of the park walkers, dogs, the two guys practicing martial arts way off in the distance, the bird overhead. It took us about 10 minutes to make our way to the park, which is about 1 minute away from the house. I had to break out the clicker just to reward her for a semblance of attention.

I don't usually click during walking meditation. It's a common misconception among people who are unfamiliar with clicker training that you forever click for simple behaviors. Once the dog or horse understands the behavior, you don't need to always click and reward for that same behavior. It's useful, though, to occasionally do so, just as a little reminder.

But, several minutes into what is usually a rhythmic breathing and walking at a comfortable pace in a familiar pattern, I realized I needed to make a change. Ellie was back at her old lunging, leaping, and one dog-walker asked me, "Is your dog under control?" She was, but.

That mental state of wanting 'my dog to behave so I don't look like a fool' came up loud and messy. My breathing became shallower. I realized that my ankle was throbbing with pain and my stance was out of balance.

This agitated and unbalanced state is one I'm well acquainted with, although usually I'm seeing it in clients. It isn't that I don't fall into agitated and unbalanced states, it's just that it happens less and less the longer and more attentively I practice my yoga.

Now, it was me. Instead of serving my dog by breathing more rhythmically, exhaling longer, and being aware of my feet, legs, hips and connection to the earth, I was contributing to her agitation and lack of attention. When this happens with a client, I'm able to assist the client to stop and breathe and take a few moments to collect. With a client or student, we might spend a little time addressing what they are experiencing, and perhaps make some changes to help the person and the dog to be more comfortable and / or present.

So, I had this little observation conversation with myself. I just stopped, took 5 long exhales. When Ellie looked at me, I clicked and rewarded her. When she came to my side, I clicked and rewarded her. With her at my side, I evaluated the state of my ankle and thus my posture. I made a conscious choice to switch to the the Gentle Leader, which has the effect of reducing her pulling behavior.

We went back to our walking meditation, but this time I clicked and rewarded her for staying close. We walked in our pattern for about 5 minutes, then I let her do her sniff-walk as her big reward.

We walked home, and it only took us 1 minute.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Dog Yoga according to Ellie

When I first started trying to practice yoga, Ellie would get so excited with me being on the floor, that I put her outside to play in the yard. The other day, she lay down with me as I did a relaxation with legs up the wall.

Today, I decided I would just do my practice, and see where she was. As I started to do standing poses, she jumped up on me, so I removed her from the room. I decided to open the room when I began pranayama, breathing regulation practice, just as an experiment.

I can only imagine how cute she must have looked, as she rested her paw in my open palm, then rested her head on her own paw. I kept my eyes closed and kept breathing, and she stayed right with me, for about 10 minutes. She withdrew for awhile and I settled into a meditation.

Then, I felt her gently place one of her tattered rope chewies across my arm and quietly leave the room.

Dog does yoga - what do you think? I'd like to read your comments.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Ellie finds relaxation through yoga

Ellie isn't known to be the most relaxed dog. She is happiest, it seems, in the midst of movement. Always, before today, when I went to do my yoga practice, I would need to have her go outside, or hang out in her kennel, or behind a cross pen. She would mouth at me, get excited when I got on the floor, and run for her toys.

Today was different. Taking my own advice, I decided to take a break from doing taxes and lay down with my legs up the wall. She followed me into the yoga space (some cleared out floor in my 8 x 10 office/bead studio/yoga studio) and when my legs went up the wall, she lay calmly down at my head and gave me a few licks on the palm of my hand. She stayed with me for about 5 minutes, then quietly left. I found her laying belly up in her kennel in a perfect doggie svasana.

Maybe it doesn't seem like much, but it sure made me happy, and ready and refreshed to hit those tax records again. And Ellie's relaxing by my side.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Which is the happiest dog?

Take a look at these pictures of Ellie, and then vote (using the poll at the righ) for which picture (blue scarf or not blue scarf) shows the happy dog.

I would love it if you would use the comment section to let me know what helps you to your conclusion.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Vegan Dog Biscuit Recipe

Recipe ingredients:
Applesauce, pureed carrots, blackstrap molasses, oat bran, rolled oats, wheat germ, flour, coarse ground cornmeal, flaxseeds that come mixed with little dried blueberries, and anise seed.

Mix up the applesauce, carrot puree, and molasses. Add in the dry ingredients, saving the flour for last. You just want to incorporate the flour (whole wheat or even rice flour is just fine) just enough so the dough is rollable. Roll out on a mixture of the corn meal and flour. Cut with biscuit cutter, or do what I do for clicker-trainer sized treats. Roll out your sheet, placed on buttered pan, and cut with a dough cutter into tiny bite-sizes. (Great for little dogs). Bake at 325 until firm. (20-30 minutes) I like really small treats, because I do clicker train. I also like to use a small dog bone cutter and make thin little crackers, easy to break into pieces, 1 or 2 just perfect for a little clicker session.

Nope, no measurements.

No measurements, because if you are going to go to the trouble to make homemade nutritious treats for your dog, I think you have to make them by smell and texture, because that's what is fun for your dog.

And, it's a time honored tradition that dogs get leftovers, so you use what you have. Pears getting too soft? Mush 'em, use them instead of the applesauce, you get the idea. Use whole foods to start with, shun the onions and garlic (although I might add garlic powder) and see what you can come up with. Peanut butter is good (I prefer smooth, no anything added, because chunky gets in the way of the cutters).

I'm not a vegan, so why do I make vegan dog treats? I have different recipes for dog treats, and most are not vegan, or even vegetarian. I do have friends who are vegan, and although most of my vegan friends do not expect their dogs to also be vegan, I think it's good to have options. The dogs just like what smells, feels, and tastes good, and Ellie approves of her vegan treats.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Dog vs Cat, the saga continues

Bring it...........................It's a draw.

In the ongoing saga of helping our high energy young play-with-me-all-the-time Ellie and our please-leave-me-the-@#$%!-alone older cats, we make progress; two steps forward, and only one step back.

Some mornings are pretty quiet, each in their own corner. Some mornings, not so much, and one or the other might have to retire elsewhere. But, progress gets made.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Doggies can be Vata deranged too...

Today Ellie is lying comfortably by the side of my chair, and I'm casually shaping her quiet, relaxed, and occasionally attentive to me behavior. This is the Ellie we've come to know, energetic, but more able to self-manage with a little positive reinforcement. Thank goodness!

Ellie had a challenging couple of days. Her Wild Child was as wild as when we first brought her home. On Friday night, like a tired toddler, she couldn't seem to manage her energy and seemed relieved when we told her to just go to bed. Saturday, we took off for a 3 mile urban hike to one of our local roadside Mexican food stands. On her previous visit here, she curled up under the table, 'smiled' at patrons, eagerly interacted with children before we left, and just generally had a good time. Yesterday though, she could not concentrate on her walking, and at one point backed up into a low ledge and fell over.

I'm used to her being fully engaged with her environment, but this was different. There was lack of focus, lack of interest even, coupled with a kind of frenetic movement. While she would still wag her tail at the children, it was clear she was not interested in any prolonged interactions. This was actually the first time I had seen her prefer that children not engage with her - she usually eagerly engages with children.

Vata derangement is a term from Ayurvedic medicine. Ayurveda approaches well being through the activity of the doshas, which can be considered as 'types' with a physical, mental, and energetic manifestation. Vata is characterized by air and movement. Although I haven't read Ellie's pulse (that would be something an accomplished Ayurvedic animal expert would do), I'm pretty sure that Ellie is Vata through and through: Movement makes her happy, contented even, she's quick, she's sharp, she's light-boned with expressive eyes.

Too much movement, uncontained, unmanaged, unfocused are signs of a Vata derangement. If it can happen in people, why not in dogs? I got to thinking how there is a kind of expectation that our dogs are always on top of their game, always 'at their best'. But what if they just are having a bad day? If we could grant that, sometimes, they are just not going to be dog-thinking clearly, maybe we'd have fewer dogs that need rescue.

Ellie is back to her usual delightful Vata self today.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Paws of Fury - Turns to Kitty head bump !?!

There he was, Socks the dog crusher, strolling under Ellie's chin, and giving her a little head bump like he used to do with our Gilly.

It's official, Ellie can win anyone over with her joyful exuberance. Still in a bit of shock.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Paws of Fury and Something Else...My Story, Sticking to It

Ellie has made a shift in the nature of her relationships to the cats again. At least, that's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

It isn't that, if she is outside and she spies a cat out of the corner of her eye she doesn't rush towards it. Her drive instinct is REALLY strong. Kafka just hunkers down and ignores her, and Ellie will just move on to something more interesting, which is usually Socks. Socks might run, might jump up on the wall, sit and stare at her from the wall, or maybe walk along the wall. So, he's way more fun, and one might interpret this behavior as Socks having fun, egging her on.

We humans have changed our rules a bit, since Socks made the decision that he wasn't giving up his place in the house to a DOG. With Kafka, we use the cue 'Leave Kafka', should Ellie forget that Kafka is off limits. However, we just let Ellie and Socks work things out for themselves. What typically happens is that Socks will sit, staring at me, on the left side of my work chair, and Ellie hangs around her run on the right side of the chair. Or, Socks will sit in T's lap and stare at Ellie.

Both understand the clicker game very well. I click and reward for each minding their own business and I have gradually lengthened the amount of time required for compliance. I will say however, that Socks does tend to be the initiator of this clicker game.

Socks has the patience of Job, so sits until Ellie can't stand it anymore and leaves her spot to see what he's up to. He might ignore her, he might give her a warning stare, or he might leap up and smack the daylights out of her. I half believe that the fun for her has been his utter unpredictability, and how swiftly he shifts from stone buddha cat to paws of fury.

We've noticed how she has shifted from intense drive behavior to more of a play behavior. She tries play bow, she tries to get him to chase her (which is not currently allowed in the house, since it's a wild game).

This morning, something new. Ellie loves her Bunny, a small soft toy with long dangly legs. We play house fetch and house catch with Bunny. Today, she offered Socks her Bunny. Of course, he ignored her. But, she offered Bunny again, and then gave me Bunny. We had a few Bunny tosses, and Socks retired to a chair for a morning nap. She's been hanging close to me, just hanging out as I prepare for the day.

It's subtle, but she's gained a little something in how she understands how relationships work.

At least, that's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

Friday, February 19, 2010

From the Barn to PetSmart -Good Girl Ellie!

Ellie's second trip to the River Valley Ranch, a horse facility on the east side of Tucson. Her first trip was maybe too exciting, what with barking at those big curious creatures, but today? Calm as a cuke, curious, enjoying meeting with the riders warming up for their lesson, and she likes watching the riders on their horses. Watched a lesson, met some old friends (human). Movement is calming for our Miss Ellie.

Stopped at the bank, and there was PetSmart across the way. What the heck, let's take care of another milestone. Clicker, check. Treats, check. I decided to just go in and pick up a small bag of treats and leave, and that's what we did. Ellie got to meet and greet with store clerks, young children, all the great scents of the treat aisle, and another dog barked a greeting at her, and she calmly watched him.

A good day.

The 80/20 'rule' and Downward Dog for Ellie

The 80/20 rule applied to dog training new behaviors goes something like this; at home, Ellie is about 80% reliable with two of her new shaped yoga dog behaviors. Get ready to show the husband the new behaviors being on cue, and that 80% turns to 20%. Or less.

I've been casually capturing and shaping Ellie's doggie play bow to put on cue as 'Puppy Stretch'. The play bow is the dog pose that gave rise (we think) to a common yoga pose known as Adho Mukha Svanasana, otherwise called Downward Facing Dog. In people, it's a great release for stress in the back, especially when done with attention to the action of the pelvis and hip joints in line with opening in the shoulder area.

Dogs already know this, which is probably why they do it on rising from their nap. So, it's a great spinal and hip release for the dog - why not put it on cue and encourage your dog to 'take the pose'. And, since Ellie's job is to be a Yoga Dog, what better asana (pose) for demonstration?

I prefer shaping behaviors whenever I can, so we've shaped puppy stretch. All this means is that, whenever Ellie would do her own stretch, I'd start with clicking and rewarding. Then, I added 'Puppy Stretch' as a cue as she was going into her stretch. Since I wasn't in a hurry to teach her the behavior on cue, I just kept doing this whenever I was there to see it.

Then, I started to ask for the behavior, and I started to do this when I could see that it was a likely behavior for her to do on her own. This is where we are, where I can ask for the behavior, when there are no distractions, and 7-8 times out of 10, she will Puppy Stretch on cue.

Her other behavior, by the way, is 'chin rest', which means for her to place her head on my upper thigh, with some weight. This can be a useful behavior for people in chairs and people who have general pain issues. This is an element of the SynergYoga program I'm working on with my friend, Laura, of Equality Dog Training, where we address chronic pain with the aid of the dog. More on that to come.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Who is teaching Whom?

I thought I was educating Ellie...turns out, I'm the one learning from her utter free spiritedness.

Here's a dog, supposedly 3 years of age, who acts as if she is still a puppy, bringing with that all those behaviors that we train out of our puppies so they are socially responsible citizens.

No jumping, no mouthing, no chasing cats, no getting on the furniture, be careful with that wagging tail. mind me when that interesting other dog goes past. She manages now to maintain some control for minutes at a time around the cats and she tries hard not to jump (mostly). She only gets on the furniture when I'm not looking, and she does like to show off her good behaviors when at home. But, dare I say, she accomplishes her self-management with a bit of a wry grin and look towards the pool - can we go swimming now?

There's a part of me that envies her complete abandonment in the joy of being a puppy who is an adult dog. That part of me is growing. I wonder how she got to this age with this joyful spirit intact but I sure am glad she did.

Who is the teacher here?

Monday, January 25, 2010

Vet your vet: Ellie likes Dr. Darwooalla, me too!

Consider, if you are looking for a veterinarian, setting up a friendly visit to 'vet the vet'. I was pretty sure I knew the veterinarian I wanted, Dr. Kayoomee Darwooalla (they don't have a website that I can find) of Bernarda Veterinary in Tucson. She was recommended by a friend, the same friend who recommended the housecall veterinarian (Dr. Lee Fike) that we use for critters who find the trip to vet more stressful than their dis-ease.

I'm partial to ayurvedic, traditional Chinese, holistic, complementary, and integrative medicines for animals (and humans). It can be difficult to find a veterinary practice that is integrative, so I'm glad that Bernarda fills that niche.

I requested about 15 minutes for Ellie to meet with Dr. D and the staff, so that Ellie's first trip to the vet would be 'fun'. I made a big production about going to see 'the vet lady' and we packed up our clicker, good treats, and made the short drive over. The waiting area was large and spacious, with some contented cats within a large kennel tucked out of the way. The vet techs were courteous and friendly with Ellie and with me, and we waited in a nice room furnished with futons instead of stainless steel. We practiced learning 'futon' while we waited.

Dr. D came in and I liked her instantly, with her confident, quiet, and smiling demeanor. She gave Ellie the time to come to her and respected Ellie's 'head-ducking' issue. We talked about Ellie's rather unknown past, she listened to her heart, and asked permission to look into her ears. Ellie's pool time has her on the cusp of an ear infection, and the recommendation? Dilute vinegar solution, and they gave me a little bottle marked for correct proportions.

Total cost? $15.80 - a bargain and a happy dog to boot.

Thanks, Dr.D and staff, for being a veterinary space that's comfortable for critters and for humans.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Curbing Cat Chasing: Update

You can see the difference in how Ellie expresses her interest in Socks. And, you can see Socks has transitioned from "Get the #$%@ away from me" to near nonchalance.

It's been a little over 3 months since Ellie a.k.a "Cat Chaser" came to our home. I started clicker training the cue to 'leave kitty' right away and progress was steady, if slow. Socks and Kafka (the kitty members of the family) both have some rudimentary clicker knowledge, so when the clicker came out, they would show up, hang around to get treated for hanging around so I could reward Ellie, then go off to mind their kitty business.

Kafka eventually started ignoring Ellie, so it became relatively easy for the two of them to be in the house together without constant supervision. Socks decided to reclaim the house, and did so relatively belligerently, so I was spending a lot of time clicking and rewarding the two of them, until they could be fairly close without a blow-up.

But, the true progress happened when Socks decided that being close to Ellie could be okay. Its my preference that the animals work out their relationships on their own as much as possible, so I try for as little direct interference as possible. I follow the clicker principle of rewarding what I like, and ignoring what I don't. It helps when the protagonists in our little get-along drama follow the same principles!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Ellie and the Animal Communicator: Part III

How did the session with Janet, an animal communicator, affect Ellie's and my relationship?

In our case, Janet's impressions and perceptions fit pretty closely with what we had surmised after living with Ellie for nearly 3 months. (You can read about that here.) Ellie is a free spirit, a Wild Child.

I took away from the session with Janet a stronger determination to explore how Ellie can express her spiritedness and yet be socially appropriate - how to find that common ground that honors her unique Wild Childness?

The session also helped me to more clearly understand Ellie's dharma, her work, her purpose, in connection to my own work. It isn't so much that I'm teaching her how to do her work, it's that I have to be open to what she has to teach me about partnerships with animals that go beyond obedience to arbitrary sets of rules.

I thought that's what I was already doing in my horse and dog work, but Ellie is helping me explore this on a different level. Would I have gotten to this place without our communication session? Maybe, but it would have been a longer journey.

It's still exasperating when she noses my hands off the computer keyboard, but she gives me that look like - haven't you been there long enough? Don't you really want to take a break and PLAY?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

What the Animal Communicator Said (Part II of III).

For context and assumptions and disclaimers, please read this first.

Reading on:

Our session began very quietly. I was in a comfortable chair, Ellie was hanging out on her rug by my feet, having had a walk and a nap. I called Janet, we exchanged a few pleasantries, she asked me if Ellie was present (she didn't actually need to be).

Janet asked if Ellie was slight and I commented she was of slight build, but was a German Shepherd Dog. Janet commented that Ellie was quiet, being reserved, and then Janet started laughing as she got a name 'wild child' (I laughed too). She commented that Ellie was a 'young soul' and quite happy to be a young soul, rather new at being a 'dog soul' and that Ellie thoroughly enjoyed being in her body.
She then went on to say that Ellie had little memory of siblings or puppyhood, wondering if maybe she had been taken from her mother quite early. She also said this wasn't an issue for Ellie, it just was what it was. Actually, for Ellie, said Janet, nothing is much of an issue, she's perfectly happy being who she is, she's happy being with us, happy chasing cats, happy doing whatever.

We started talking about the idea of bonding, which apparently is a somewhat novel idea to Ellie, and Janet and I both agreed that this would be unusual for a German Shepherd Dog. I asked Janet two questions: Is Ellie interested in bonding with humans, me specifically, and what emotional residuals might she have from having been given up by her previous people?

Ellie is intrigued by the whole bonding thing, and is willing to give it a try. She is willing to give anything a try, although she's pretty clear she intends to be who she is. Because she wasn't bonded to the people who gave her up, she doesn't seem to be much concerned with what went on before.

That was pretty much the end of the session.

As my husband, the scientist, says, "That isn't really anything that we didn't already surmise." True, but.

What happens next? In my world(one view), what we learn here is a type of information that likely involves perception and imagination that may or may not be useful. How does and can such information from an alternative perspective become a positive influence in our relationship with Ellie?

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Conversing with the Animal Communicator-Part 1.

If you are curious about animal communicators and how working with an animal communicator might fit in with working and playing with your dog (or other animal), then read on.

As a scientifically trained statistician/poet yogini, I look at working with a good animal communicator as sitting down with a good story. When I want to learn about something, I will usually read non-fiction scholarly works and non-fiction popular works, biographies and auto-biographies. However, I find I learn the most when I read the stories and poems of the people, listen to the music, and engage actively (when possible) with people of the culture.

It's not such a huge step to change the word 'people' into 'beings' and thus step into the story of the animal, in this case, the story of Ellie. Ellie's 'non-fiction' story has two elements, what we know before she came, and then my own observations since her arrival into our multi-species family. Her biography is slim-reading: She was surrendered to the humane society, (I don't know by whom), she's around 3 years old.

I know what I know from my observations - but - I also know that my observations can be 'clouded' from my own experiences (avidya) which is why I practice and study yoga. Working with one's own animals almost invariably involves emotional attachment, which can interfere with clear perception.

It can be helpful to obtain information from other sources, which you can then synthesize with what you already think you know. As with any kind of information, whether it be scientific observation, quantitative statistical analysis, or subjective observation of self, we usually begin with a set of assumptions. Here are the assumptions I make when working with an animal communicator:

1. The animal communicator communicates in human language impressions they receive from the dog - they act as a translator, so the words that are used are to make sense to the person, like interpreting for someone what the poem, "Kublai Khan" means.
2. Animals can communicate with people beyond body language.
3. People and animal communication is not constrained by spatial boundaries.

If I'm not willing to make the assumptions, then it's pointless to work in this modality. But I like exploring different modalities, Ellie and I were give a gift of a session with an animal communicator (Janet, mentioned in the above link) and so I'll report on the actual session in the next post.