Nov 212018
 

Hi, my name is Lazarus Jones, and I’m a dog. Actually, I used to be a dog. Now I’m a dead dog. And, yes, I’m talking to you from the other side.

Apparently, some people don’t like to read books about dogs because in the book we always die. Well, duh. Newsflash: our species doesn’t live as long as yours. Sorry. I don’t mean to sound rude, but I don’t like hearing that. After all, if that’s logical then so is the idea that people shouldn’t “get” dogs. Or, that we shouldn’t eat cookies because, unless you’re a labberdog, at some point you gotta stop. There are lots of things in humanish that still baffle me… that’s why I decided to write this book.

What? A dead dog writing a book? How can that be?

Actually, it’s pretty simple. In my case, once I got here, I got turned into a moose. Oh, wait… that’s not the right word. Muse. That’s it. That means I can put stories into humans, or at least into one particular human. Cool, huh?

Here’s the thing. It is true that humans outlive their dogs and, believe you me, we are deeply sorry for that. In fact, several of us are circulating a petition to Dog Almighty to see if we can get that clause changed. In the meantime, we’re all stuck with the way it is.

Those of you who are very fluent in doggish know this: that the one-way trip to the veterinarian is not always the end. Some of us have figured out how to stay with you and a few of you are learning how to notice the messages we send. You need to find out more about this. But first? People keep asking how I got here.

Those of you who are very fluent in doggish know this: that the one-way trip to the veterinarian is not always the end. Click To Tweet

At first, when the police and the lady with the papers came to save my baby human from the drug house, I was happy all over… until I realized they weren’t going to let me go with her. When they said “animal control”… I took a deep breath, pushed past them and bolted as fast as I could, directly into the path of a fast moving vehicle. I knew the driver wouldn’t be able to stop and I’d be on my way back to my baby much sooner this way.

Remember those churches that did all that hateful stuff and said Dog Almighty told them to do it? Ever since then, it has been against the rules for us to give out too many details but, I’ll do my best.

When I got to the other side, the first order of business was to meet with one of the Minder Dogs to get sorted.

Oh. I forgot. If you’re reading this, you’re probably a human, and you might be worried about sorting. Don’t. There’s no wrong way to connect with Dog Almighty, and there’s no hot, torture place that’s any worse than a Florida theme park in July. Sorting puts us in the right classes so we can be more effective if we’re lucky enough to get another ride on the earthy-go-round.

The Minder Dog looked at my record and sighed.

“Wow. Advanced Decision-Making and Intermediate Impulse Control. It looks like you had decent grades in both of those courses — until the final exam.”

So she paired me up with Mally. The last time he had a body he was working as a police dog. Maybe that’s why he asked so many questions.

“Do you think humans can picture themselves here?” he asked.

“I think they spend a lot of time pondering about it,” I replied, “Especially as they get older.” I stretched, taking up more space on the couch. “I wonder what they’d think of this part.”

“You mean the Watching of the Loved Ones? I’ll bet even if they can imagine it, they would think about looking in on birthdays and holidays. Especially the Meat Holidays,” he said. A bubble formed on his lip. It shimmered briefly before turning into a full-blown stream of drool.

I knew that different breeds of people had different Meat Holidays, but I think Mallie and I had only incarnated in North America. He sometimes kidded me that being a retriever was responsible for my choice of the Turkey Day as my favorite.

I knew that different breeds of people had different Meat Holidays, but I think Mallie and I had only incarnated in North America. Click To Tweet

My mind drifted from the Meat Holidays to my favorite episodes. I would watch them again and again if I could. And, camped out here in Eternity, this was not such a far-fetched idea, was it?

“Jones?”

Apparently, I’d missed a question from my bestie.

“Huh?”

“Remember the time we watched your girl Bethany bite that kid on the playground? I forget… Why’d she do that?”

He knew. He was just trying to help me focus.

“It was right after she got ‘dopted, wasn’t it?” Mally asked, bonking me with his muzzle.

“Yeah. She was so excited about being furever with her Grandma that she bounced and yapped like a terrier, didn’t she?”

We both grinned. I continued.

“Then Connor Bienemann from the 3rd grade made fun of her. Said Grandma wasn’t a real parent and that her ‘doption was just a longer foster placement.”

“She shoulda bit him harder. And maybe on the neck,” said the former K-9. “I still can’t believe they quarantined her for such a small bite.”

“I know, I know. We sporting dogs are soft on crime.” I laughed a little. “Besides, it wasn’t quarantine, silly. I think it’s called the pal’s office.”

Remembering the connection to my person was helping me feel a little less homesick. Mal had one more question for me.

“Which time is your favorite?” he asked softly. “Which one made you most grateful we have the Watching of the Loved Ones?”

I was lucky. Our bond was strong, and I had seen many moments of her life. I watched her flash her girlie parts while she pointed and stared at the south pole of her favorite boy. I knew she always stood up for smaller kids, tried to help stray animals, liked vanilla ice cream and wasn’t quite right unless there was a dog nearby. But my favorite moment? Mally knew, and he wanted me to keep it firmly in mind.

“Tell it again, “ he insisted.

As much as Bethany loved her Grandma, her first reaction to moving in was much as it had been each time she’d gone into a stranger’s house. Quiet. Cooperative but wary. She didn’t sleep much but, unlike other little ones her age, didn’t complain about it either. She watched the world around her. I always thought she was looking for me, so I was grateful to have a collie… a colleague on the ground with her. I saw my girl make friends with Grandma’s dog and sneak extra food to share. I was a little jealous but happy to see a fellow dog do a good job. And my girl? She was better off with him there.

“It was a regular day in the middle of the week,” I started.

Mal looked at me expectantly, vibrating like he was about to go for a ride in a cop car.

“Bethany, her Grand, and The Collie had just finished dinner…”

“And???”

“And Bethany went to her room to play with a book,” I said.

“And why is that your favorite?” my dear friend asked.

“Because she didn’t take food from the table to hide in her room,” I said softly. “She had started to believe she would be fed every single day. She felt a little safer and, soon after? She stopped crying into The Collie.”

Mallie and I were quiet, appreciating the enormity of the event.

“That Collie’s a good one… but still I think I could have stopped her from biting that Bienemann kid.”

Sep 252018
 

Not long ago, I was chatting with a friend online and mentioned that I was getting ready to take Bella (my German Shepherd senior citizen) on an adventure. When asked what sort of an adventure I planned to enjoy with my dog, I told her we were either headed for Starbucks’ patio or the Pet Supermarket. If memory serves, that’s when she changed the subject.

I understand that a trip to the patio at a coffee shop or a place that sells gerbils and dog toys is not everyone’s idea of an adventure. Then again, not everyone gets to go to these places with Ms. Bella, Princessa of German Shepherdness. (That’s her official, royal title.)

A trip to the patio at a coffee shop or a place that sells gerbils and dog toys is not everyone's idea of an adventure Click To Tweet

An Affinity for Animals

My social media feeds are often over-loaded with animal videos. The vast majority of those are dogs. A lifelong animal lover, I’ve never questioned the intensity of that connection, but lately, I’ve given a bit of thought to what I get from that affinity.

I appreciate animals doing animal things and having animal adventures– housecats hunting, dogs guarding, and spiders wrapping up their unsuspecting prey. (As long as they do it outside. Apparently, I’ve not evolved enough to appreciate insects in the house. I don’t plan to.) As a newcomer to the South, I’ve discovered cicadas and am in love with their song. I want to learn everything there is to know about them.

I want to learn about the cicadas' song. Click To Tweet

Tiny Creatures, Big Responsibility

We don’t keep honey hives — I’ve never learned how — but have installed mason bee houses in the backyard. I was delighted to learn that our new home state is home to more than 300 varieties of bee and love watching their visits to the masses of wildish flowering plants scattered around the property.

You see, I’ve come to believe that adventures don’t have to be big, frightening and dramatic to be wonderful. Watching those spiders quickly disable and wrap their sometimes-larger prey fills me with a sense of awe. So does the work of the pollinators — and the fact that the future of our ability to feed our planet depends on these tiny creatures.

And outings with the Princess? She is curious about everything. Fearless. Enthusiastic. Joyful about new sights and sounds. She shows me — every single time — that the adventure is in the attitude.

 

 

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May 022018
 

stretch

streCH/  verb  
1. to be made (or be capable of being made) longer or wider without tearing or breaking
As a word nerd, one of my most tempting time wasters is playing around with a dictionary. When I was a kid, it was a favorite gift: onion-skin thin paper and hard, inset thumbnails separating each letter from the next. It even smelled intriguing.
Right now, every form of the word “stretch” is on my mind for a variety of reasons, the primary one being rehab from a relatively minor knee surgery. Still, it was surgery and hurt knees… well, they hurt! From crutches to cane was a relatively simple step, but leaving “the magic wand” behind has not been so simple. Mistakes are signaled by fairly sharp, intense pain. Like everyone else in rehab, my coaches guide me through a balance of ‘stretch and strengthen’ and it’s a lot harder than it looks.
If you’re a regular reader, you won’t be surprised that I started thinking about the ‘stretch’ in other areas of my life. (No, *not* the waistbands that came along with the steroids used to try to prevent surgery. I try not to think much about those.) I think about a stretch as part of a plan for growth, a way to get a little closer every day. As we stretch, we become longer and more flexible, allowing us to accomplish things we were unable to achieve.
Do you remember my Bella? She’s the German Shepherd Dog who suffered from the doggie version of social anxiety. On our walks, she would lash out at dogs — especially the little ones who came out to the ends of their leashes with lots of barking. Going to the veterinarian’s office was tough: lots of dogs in the small waiting area sometimes set off her angry-looking fear reaction. Enjoying the local outdoor cafes seemed like something reserved for others.
Well, just like in physical therapy, we worked with a trainer. She helped us identify where she was comfortable and where she was stressed. Some say growth takes place outside of your comfort zone; I’ve always been a fan of making the comfort zone bigger. So that’s what we did for Miss Bella: little bit, by little bit, we stretched her comfort zone. Like in physical therapy, the relationship between the steps and the end result were not always obvious. We practiced at the vet’s office. And downtown. And when strangers came to the house. We worked on our communication and self-control. The result was increased confidence, kicking off a very positive spiral.
Yesterday, we went to the veterinarian’s office where she was much more interested in getting cookies from the staff than in any little dogs in the lobby. We celebrated by spending a half hour on the patio of a coffee shop where she lay comfortably under the table — and gave me motivation to go home and do more hamstring stretches.
 Please take a moment and let us know how and where you’re trying to stretch right now. Thanks.

 

 

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Apr 182018
 

A good friend and I recently swapped some advice and writing services, including reviewing one another’s bios for a new project. I was pleasantly surprised when she picked up on something I’ve been doing for fun: over on Instagram, I’ve been including lots of dog pictures and have introduced the hashtag #AdviceFromAlex something you may have also seen on my Facebook Author Page. 

You can follow me in either of those places if you like. I love seeing friends in multiple locations around the internet. By the way, if you’re confused by hashtags and looking for some advice to sort it out, please start with this post called Social Media with FLAIR.

Alex Has Lots of Advice

But back to our star. Alex is a deaf dog who came to us about five years ago. And, while he’s taught me a lot that has made me a better dog handler, I really enjoy the rest of his lessons. I hope you do, too.

1. Always be as open as possible. Look around. Be curious. How can people know you if you’re shut down, secretive or seem sneaky? Openness is a form of honesty — what you see is what you get. Besides, sometimes when you’re open, the humans get confused and think you’re asking for a cookie! That often works out well.

 

Openness is a form of honesty -- what you see is what you get. #advicefromalex Click To Tweet

 

2. Help out around the house you live in — laundry is a good place to start. And sometimes you get to try on clothes that belong to other people. (Oh wait. You probably think I’m not a people. We debate about that around here sometimes.) When helping with laundry I recommend sticking with the air dry stuff already on hangers:  the humans can get kinda grumpy when I help dry their black clothes or use the folded stuff as a pillow.

 

Excited About Everything

3. Don’t miss the details. Not hearing means I use my eyes a lot, noticing things others don’t necessarily see. I was excited to meet my furever family: they noticed my heart-shaped nose right away. Of course, if you ask their ‘bedience teacher, I apparently get excited about everything. What’s wrong with enthusiasm? And isn’t it like cookies? More is better, right?

What's wrong with enthusiasm? Click To Tweet

4. Paying attention can lead to lots of great photo-bombing opportunities. And helping your friends. On this day, our friend Nigel was helping Mom by taking a new author photo for her last book. She is kind of shy so I thought a picture of both of us would be better. They didn’t use it but I still like the picture.

He Likes to Help

5. And, being naturally photogenic can lead to modeling opportunities. Here’s An ad I did for one of Mom’s books. I wanted to make sure people whose brains are kicking their butts know that she had made something to help them. She likes helping people.

 

Are you tired of your brain kicking your butt? Letting it talk you into being afraid instead of doing what you want to do? It might be time to take some advice from Alex and get yourself a copy of The Inner Critic Advantage: Making Peace With the Noise in Your Head. Ask for it at your library or grab a copy on Amazon. After all, who doesn’t prefer peaceful self-talk?

Have you ever learned anything from a dog? Do you like Alex’s advice? Which one is your favorite? Let me know in the comments — someone here will read them to him.

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