Wednesday, December 15, 2010

What I Learned from My Dog

What I Learned from My Dog

And What I learned at the dog park
Kathleen Mary Andersen

for Opinion Magazine (Dec 2010)

Your dog has a lesson for you! What can “You?” the highly evolved human species who can read, write, speak and make rational decisions, learn from this creature with a 2 year old mentality? Your dog, whether his name is Fifi, Brutus, Gigs, Rocky, Mr Taterhead, Yogi, Blotto, Pecker, Monkeybrains, Dumpy or Sgt Poopooalot (guess how this dog got his name) can teach you some valuable information on how to behave.

The classroom: Dog Park 101 I adopted an Aussie Shepard “Luke” in Sept 2010. My niece introduced me to the dog park. I have come to the conclusion that the dog park is a classroom not only for dog behavior but a lesson for humans as well. You can observe the behavior of small dogs, big dogs, silly looking dogs but hardly mean dogs. It’s a dog social mecca for your dogs natural instinct and ability.

Dog smelling: “Meet and Greet”

As humans when we meet and greet, we shake hands, hug, kiss or touch in some way. This is to establish a starting point to where the relationship will continue from that point on. Dogs meet and greet by smelling each other (yes their genital parts) and no matter how well they know another dog or even in the middle of playing, they take the time to smell each other during especially rough play. Why? We actually do not know for sure, but we do know it helps reestablish the situation, each other’s position and attitude. Dogs need to smell something when stressed. After all, how do they know that other dog they have been playing with has changed his friendly behavior into something more aggressive. Or that piece of rotten meat someone threw out isn’t really so tasty.

Smell and touch is an electrical stimulation. In the animal kingdom, including humans, it signals a change in sensory perception. We pass smells through our olfactory to “test” whether something is good or not so good for us. Doesn’t our brain feel a sense of “happy” when smelling something good like a perfume or cologne, a whiff of a home baked pie or in contrast something rotten in your refrigerator? The external world is felt on the inside by smell, taste and the use of our cells to create a ground for what we are seeing. I have noticed that my dog does recognizes certain dogs at a distance when they arrive at the park, which questions how far can dogs smell. Smelling, for animals and human animals is primal.

Dog and Owner Bondng Unconditional love. Your dog is happy to see you when you come home, even if you haven't been there for a couple of minutes, a couple of days or a couple of months. They doesn’t question “and just exactly where have you been”, “what the heck did you do with your hair” “you are late and I am hungry” or “my you look simply terrible”! This animal is simply happy to be in the moment and to see you again. For you… matter what you look like, how fat or skinny you are, what your hair color is, nor how short or tall you are. And speaking of moment, dogs and cats for example are excellent at living in the moment. I observe my dog going from “I need to sit with my head on your lap and be pet” to “oh, I think I saw the cat walk by the door and I need to go and verify” and back to “did I hear a fork and plate noise while I was gone?” all in 60 seconds flat.

Why as humans do punish ourselves over our past mistakes, ponder the future, fear things we don’t even know exist while our dog just thinks about what is happening in the here and now. Perhaps they are in the thought process of “all we have is the now” philosophy.

Back to the dog park

I think every dog loves the dog park. They, like humans enjoy the interaction with objects of the same species. Smell, touch and feel are important. Maybe they don’t have hands or arms to reach out and interact the same way we do but their needs are really like our needs. We all need to be touched, loved and appreciated. And the love and touch I am referring to is not necessarily in a marriage, a relationship or even sex. It is just that simple motion of bonding with another person. And we do use all our senses to sum up out own bonding situation.

In a number of species in the animal kingdom, whether it is wolves, cows, birds or elephants, relationships are formed and mostly always, these groups will eat, sleep and play together as a team. Didn’t primal man have the same method? However now we seem to be evolving more into isolation from each other, looking for more ways to separate our primal behavior from our true nature, especially touch and feel.

At the dog park I noticed it is important to watch different dog body part motion and what the activities lead to. Are ears erect, do the tails point or wag, is the nose up in the air? Any dog owner is aware of a tail tucked in between the hind legs. And even a bobbed tail dog like mine, can tuck in his tail. What about the eyes. I have noticed that dogs do not generally look each other straight in the eyes as we humans do. It is a form of aggression. Like horses, they will move their ears independently, one front and one back to cover the entire peripheral area, catching a sound in front and in back.

Dogs do take a square and tall posture when trying to assert dominance. “Humping” is only one method to assert their rank. I have seen dogs who will come up to my dog Luke and put on paw over his shoulder and then move closer in for a dominant position. Dogs use the ancestral gestures of dominance to act as a bully; or to turn off a possible aggression or even when they feel a human might be "attacking" them irrationally (dog thought) versus (human thought) “why did you pee on the carpet”. If you think about it, humans set these guidelines that are not always necessarily “practical” to a dog’s natural instinct nor especially rational thinking. Perhaps rational thinking is detrimental to man’s evolution.

In wolf pack studies, the higher member never demonstrates his position unless he is “uncertain” of himself. Do humans who lack confidence, pretend to be dominate when in reality they have insecurities?

In animal studies and observing at the dog park, a bend on the front legs also known as the play bow, a yip (usually this is dog to human talk), a tail wag or a paw up in the air to another dog means simply “"None of the biting, stalking, or humping I'm about to do is serious, this is just fun, OK?" Humping during play is not a sexual thing, especially with dogs that have been altered or neutered. It is a more complex behavior than simply overcoming the dominant dog in a pack but a feel of "where do I belong in this group of dogs" I don’t really even know but I am having fun playing with.

Dog Smiles

I swear my dog smiles. He does have his “happy” face. Anyone can tell when your dog is happy, with mouth open, relaxed lips. In comparison, a dog who wants to show aggression will pull their lips back, teeth showing and nose crinkled. We’ve all seen “play” dog fighting mode and “real” dog fighting mode. Dogs passing each other on leases will sometimes “bark” to show frustration.

A sniffing dog with his nose to the ground is hardly a dog who is not exhibiting aggression. He is far too in the moment of finding a “treasure”. Likewise nose licking is a calming method a dog will use to bring the situation into a less threatening situation. Playing dogs will often “shake off” after play before they begin another round. Then it’s the ritual of dog butt smelling before another round begins. Dogs that live in the same household as other dogs will periodically smell each other when the other dog will get up for water or food. It’s a reassurance to almost say “what have you been eating, doing, drinking or what have you been into”.

What I learned from the dog (from

Allow the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face to be pure ecstasy.

When you see someone you love, always run to greet them.

Set boundaries when others are invading your space.

Run, romp, and play daily.

Eat with gusto and enthusiasm.

Be loyal.

When someone is having a bad day, be silent. sit close by and nuzzle them gently.

Thrive on attention and let people touch you.

Avoid biting when a simple growl will do.

When you’re happy, dance around and wag your entire body.

No matter how often you’re scolded, don’t buy into the guilt thing and pout…. run right back love your friends and family

Delight in the simple joys of a long walk.

Dog Ownership

Being a dog owner has lots of rewards especially if you pay attention to what these incredible creatures have to share with their owners. You can’t buy loyalty and love but you can buy or adopt a dog. It comes with the territory. “We should look at a creature who has never read a book”. They can change your world and how you see the world around you.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Betrayed By Love

Can There Be Love After Betrayal?

Kathleen Mary Andersen
For “Opinion Magazine”
July, 2010

"We always come back to ourselves,
which is where we must find what we
need to be safe and happy before we
can share love with anyone again."

When we love or care deeply about something or someone -- we have opened the door to betrayal. Relationships are seldom easy and they do not provide a promise of safety, no matter what we imagine in the joyful early stages. In spite of the bruises I have felt, I still remain a romantic at heart. Loving someone forces us to stretch and grow, hurt and heal in a way that no other experience provides. However, taking things at face value will never be the same once that dream has shattered by betrayal.

There is no deeper fulfillment than love; and, therefore, betrayal can drop us to our knees and make us believe that we will never trust again. So what is “betrayal”? Could it be the life script we have produced, does not have the endings or emotions we thought we wrote? We want to make sure we do not have another miserable relationship ending. When the real ending happens, we are crushed. We cry, we hurt, we are in pain. The hero – “yourself” faces defeat and anguish. This is not the way I envisioned it.Then suddenly what emerges is the reality of what the relationship really was. The areas we glossed over, covered with sand to hide the flaws -- suddenly comes to light and is clear. Ok, maybe things were not so perfect. We can write our part in the play of life but we cannot write another person’s character lines, nor take responsibility for the change of script.

Any one of us can experience betrayal in our personal relationships. No one is immune. Whether we have been hurt in our family relationships, our marriage, our business or our friendships, we can emerge from the pain with greater self-worth, reclaim our lives, and learn to love and trust again. We begin a new “play” of love but maybe leave openings for the “improv” from the other person. Unfortunately, many people try to shield themselves in ultimately destructive ways especially testing everyone they meet.

Trust is built in stages. We start out trusting cautiously. Over time, if our experiences and instincts allow it, we may begin to trust unconditionally. We are likely to trust someone who meets our deepest emotional needs. If there is a sexual relationship, the bond may become very deep. We feel safe and therefore allow ourselves to become vulnerable. If we discover suddenly that what we thought was true is not true (for example, that someone was dependable when he or she proves not to be) we experience emotional chaos. Trust is often the most difficult element to recover. It can be a vicious cycle.

We may feel betrayed when an "unspoken contract" is broken. Sexual, physical or emotional disappointments feel like betrayals because we have the unspoken belief that our partner will keep us safe in all ways. We assume that we won't be misled or deceived; therefore, if someone keeps important information from us because it might be upsetting, it is betrayal. If your partner withholds his or her true feelings about their emotions or we are not loved for who we really are, it is a betrayal. But this is the “script” we wrote, not the script with interaction from someone else who is the author of their own play or life drama.

Reactions to betrayal are similar to reactions to death. These reactions might include shock and denial, shame and self-blame, hostility, anger, vengeance, jealousy, or seeking refuge in judgments and interpretations. There are no wrong reactions in this grieving process, but some people get stuck. Sticking in “stuck mode” of hate may allow you to avoid feeling pain. Anger becomes an armor from a loss of feeling and the death of our spirit. It is amazing that our feelings or directly our “ego” feels more pain that perhaps a cut on your hand.

If you are hanging on to one of these reactions long after the betrayal and seem to be obsessing about it, stuck in the grief process, you may need help to begin healing. Getting unstuck allows you to explore your inner experience and discover the cause of your reactions. What are we really grieving? Someone we knew was wrong for us? Was this opinion the one that that led to this end. Did we have unrealistic expectations, romantic fantasies, fear of failing, fear of being alone. Childhood fears do carry over to our adult life. Did we grow up being told “do not to be a failure”. It is unrealistic to think that a relationship doesn't require a lifetime of work. And the win and lose in relationship isn’t always up to just us.

So, you have been betrayed! Felt that your life has fallen apart. Carry around what feels like a big hole in the middle of our body. A hole where our heart used to be. We can use this devastating experience to increase our self-worth, reclaim our life, and learn to love and trust again. Begin by admitting and accepting that what happened is only the opinion of another person, not necessarily how things are. Did the other person have a ditty bag full of personal issues and “baggage”?

In the end, we always come back to ourselves. This is where we must find what we need to be safe and happy before we can share love with anyone. The popular musician Sting said that his best writing was born of pain. Creativity can teach us about ourselves and re-engage us with life.
Develop a support system that is independent of any future primary love relationship. One of the criteria for a healthy relationship is that both of you can live without it. Your relationship cannot be all that sustains you. Next, examine any possible role that you played in the betrayal. This deepens your understanding of yourself and helps insure that you won't repeat your mistakes. Did you not recognize the warning signs? You may have to explore childhood experiences that have conditioned you to behave in ways that prevent you from getting your adult needs met. Finally, commit to improving communication and dialogue in all your relationships. This is skill building. Whether you are a man or a woman, it is irresponsible to assume that if you are not good at communication, others will make allowances. It is your responsibility to know yourself, your feelings, your desires, your needs, and be able to communicate them. We are all capable of increasing our emotional intelligence and our ability to communicate it. Communication isn’t always verbal, it can be in writing as well. Say or write what is on your mind.

The human heart can survive many things but when someone we love and trust betrays us, it can painfully shake the very foundation of our faith in humanity. Sometimes it can cause us to loose our sense of “self”, we may spiral into a deep depression or even become withdrawn from others and possibly suicidal. Loss of love hurts! Painful experiences help us learn about ourselves. If you are in the process of self-discovery, your best relationships are yet to come. Choose them wisely and trust again. As the saying goes, “time heals all wounds”.
Kathleen Mary Andersen is a free lance writer living in Seattle. She is the author of “Myth and Mystery of the Pacific Northwest” and “The Crazy Little Thing Called Love”. She has written for “Beyond” and “Quest” magazines in England and has been a free lance writer with Opinion since 2004.

Monday, April 05, 2010

The EDate Revisited 2010

The EDate Revisited
An insight to online dating

Rewind: 2004, I wrote an article called The EDate after working as a relationship coach for author John Gray, “Men are from Mars”. I was an Edate back then but never thought that 6 years later, 2010 I would be an Edate again. Sad but true. Had my heart broken?

Flash Forward: April 2010. I am back into the dating pool wondering if things have changed over the past 6 years. Light bulb, no, not much has changed except everyone I am looking at is “older”. Wiser? No, it’s just that more birthdays have come and gone.

What is different? I think it’s the same game for men, although women are gaining an edge. It’s still the preverbal box of chocolates with men and women looking for the ever elusive chocolate “truffle” in a swarm of maple crème, caramel and nuts. Disappointing? Definitely yes. Demoralizing? Often times yes. Women wanting younger men, yes. Men wanting younger women? Not so much. They tried that and some seem back to finding someone who they can relate to.

Enter the 2000’s. So what makes this unique dating system of the millennium different than meeting someone at a friend’s house or at a single’s group? The first thing would be you get to know someone by their thoughts and written words. That can be a good thing and that can also be deceiving. People do not always speak or write in the words that correlate to their thoughts. Pictures often represent who we might be or want to think people might like, when in reality you need that personality to link both the physical and mental. A photo can be doctored, can be old, and can be someone else’s photo. Do you look the same as you did when you were 20 or 30 or even a year ago. Probably not.

It’s a sad state when we must gauge our needs and wants by a photo.
There are many what is called “handsome” or “beautiful” people who you might never guess without knowing who they are or what comes out of their month. Take for example, Jeff Goldblum. His photos say nothing about his charming and witty personality that makes everything fit in. True for woman as well. Heidi Montague, beautiful before and after plastic surgery but I don’t quite see the “inner” Heidi when she speaks. Flat liner. So we stoop to being judged by our photos and we in turn judge by the photos of probably a lot of nice and sweet men who might never be heard.

Expectations: As a relationship coach listening to people’s problems, I learned that many of us if not all of us put on high expectations of who we think the person we see in the photo really is. Instead of tackling the meeting as just “a meeting” we think that we might find Prince Charming, Cinderella, the perfect girl or boy next door. Is anyone really perfect and can we really know someone by talking with them over a cup of coffee or a glass of wine? Actually have a couple of glasses of wine and your opinion might change!

Who is that person in the photo or list of likes and dislikes? It takes years to find out who anyone is because we are always changing. In science, we and our world, galaxy, solar system are in the state of perpetual change. We as molecules of life are always growing, dying, and changing our state. How can we expect to be the same today as we were yesterday, or 10 years ago?

It could takes years of loving someone before you find out that they have a dark side, a hidden secret. Some kinky fantasy world that goes unnoticed by your state of love and acceptance. I know, you shot a humming bird because it was fighting over your feeder? I had to think about that one. On the other hand, someone you might think is just cold, is tough might be underneath a helpless little puppy just looking for love but putting on a brave front to fool the world.

List of Likes and Dislikes. Our likes and dislikes change. If you are not open to new things, how can you possibly know what you might be missing? Perhaps I didn’t like sailboats or getting over my fear of water but once I started to sail, I loved it. It was a whole new world I was introduced to. If I had not spent 6 years with someone who owned a tree plantation I might never be in my current occupation of working on a degree in natural resources. No matter how old you are, I do believe as in the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life”, everyone we cross paths with has a part in who we are.

I am basically an A Type personality being slowed down a bit by age.
But not just age, by learning from a relationship to appreciate the NOW. Life is today, not yesterday and not tomorrow. Plain and simple is good. It’s a calming to your soul when you do not let a moment go by without opening your eyes to the world around you.
Can we get this from one or two meetings with someone we talked to online? The answer is no. Things take time. It took someone who almost died to get me to understand that this moment is all we have in life.

The Time Factor. Maybe that is the problem with our lives today or in online dating. We want it now. Fast, quick, magically have the best relationship of your life happen this minute. The older we get, the more we try pushing that urgency.

Right Choice: In our time criteria, do we expect to find someone who will be just another relationship or do we approach each photo with “is he or she the one”? No one wants to say I was married for x amount of years to the most wonderful person on the planet and I find you who will do….for now. Would you want to date someone who compares you with their happily ever after past that did not happen?

Temporary Princes and Princesses. How many times do daters stick with someone for a couple of weeks while continue seeking online for the “perfect” match? Are we wasting time, your time and their time in putting up or are we giving that person a chance. Will we settle for just “something” any “port in the storm” or will be honest to ourselves that something is missing. Does hope try to win in this game?

Value systems. I took a class from Prof. Morris Massey, a leading expert in human value systems. Massey’s theory basically says that our value systems are formed in the following:
Imprint – Birth to 7 years old
Modeling – 8 to 14 years old
Socialization – 15-21 years old
It’s true. You can understand and relate to almost anyone if you understand their core value system, where they grew up, and the family they grew up in, the world events at that time. It is our value system that makes us who we are and how we act. My mother stored a year of food, a product of a child who grew up in the depression. “We” grew up in the throw it away, replace it generation. It does work, get a new one. Does that influence apply to our relationships in comparison to our parents who hung on until they wanted to kill each other? A divorce was a no no in a lot of families?

What do we want? I have come to the conclusion, whatever you write on your profile, that we are all alike as human beings. We want to love and be loved. We can deny it, hide it, or pretend it doesn’t exist but in the end we need and want love. A mighty lion can even be tamed by the affection of a lioness. Touch, smell and feel will exist no matter how old you are.

It’s obvious in each profile no matter how you phrase it. We want someone and someone special to ask us how we feel, what did you do today, to have someone tell you they love, want, desire and need you. And “needing” is not to be mistaken with helpless need but a desirable need to be with and next to that person, sharing a common bond of language and touch, experiences and fun.

My grandfather was 86 when he died. My family never understood he needed to feel love; he needed a hug and a kiss on the cheek. Just because he was in his 80s did not mean he lost all feelings of love. I saw him sitting with my own son who was age 3, on the couch holding hands and watching cartoons together. I realized just being near a young soul made him feel alive. I never left him without giving him a hug and a kiss. I know he appreciated it.

Where do we go? Admitting we want love and to be loved is a start. We can talk sex, carnal knowledge, etc. but we do need that mental connection as well. I am probably disqualifying anyone in their 20’s right now, that’s a whole different dynamics in dating!

Find out who someone really is. Do not put anticipations, motivations, expectations, and demands on another individual. Take the time to spend quality time with that person. How will you ever know if you can’t make the time to try? So you may have to kiss a lot of frogs or try to find which foot fits the glass slipper. Either way, you might gain not only an insight to yourself but also experience some new things in life. Especially interests.

I like fairy tales, have had my fairy tales cut off by reality bites but I am not giving up on my hopes and dreams. I have had to adjust that things might not be “happily ever after”, maybe its only one chapter at a time in the book of life. Whatever way it ends up, I believe that it’s all good and it’s all part of being in love no matter how many times you have to try.