Category Archives: animals

Chasing Bliss

"Never make someone a priority when all you are to them is an option." -Maya Angelou

“Never make someone a priority when all you are to them is an option.”
-Maya Angelou

She’d been in the back of the truck outside the bar for hours. He would come out at some point, drunk. It smelled like snow was on the way, and Dahlia was cold. She had always waited in the truck; her job was to guard the truck.

It was not a loving relationship with her master. He loved his truck and beer, not her–she could be any dog.

Dahlia felt uncertain about her future as she stood in the bed of the truck, shivering. She was getting older; the situation was very predictable and never going to get better. She could have felt hopeless and full of despair, but Dahlia’s imagination was her best friend. Suddenly she was gripped by an unexpected urge that excited her so much, she almost couldn’t contain herself. So she didn’t. Dahlia looked around. The path was clear. She jumped out of the truck and ran. Dahlia felt there was a better life waiting for her, somewhere.

When her master had brought her home after picking her from the litter seven years earlier, she felt so special. She got bored when he was at work and began to chew on some things to pass the time. He was angry when he got home and found the dissected TV remote control. Then he saw the barely recognizable cowboy boot in the middle of the living room rug. He yelled at her and kicked her until she yelped in pain, before throwing her outside, forever. He didn’t understand her new teeth hurt and she was bored. Dahlia never saw the inside of the house again. He was always mean to her, even though her chewing days were long gone. He paid no attention to her other than giving her some dry food and water. He considered “play” to be taking her with him to watch the truck while he drank with his buddies. She wasn’t going to wait for him to be happy with her.

Being outside had its benefits. She heard all the dog gossip in the neighborhood. She got to chatting with the other neighborhood dogs while he was at work. Everyone had a story to tell. Walks, road trips, naps on the couch, toys and table scraps—especially the food the kids didn’t like. She discovered she had not lucked out in the lifestyle lottery. She had grown to enjoy the outdoors but would have liked to have a choice to go inside when the weather was bad. She was happy for the others—it gave her hope. She wanted to feel loved and appreciated for who she was too. She had a lot of love to offer in return.

After traveling for hours, she was thirsty, hungry, cold and exhausted. Even a bit afraid. It was getting dark. Dahlia found a nice soft place to sleep under a large bush that barely sheltered her from the chilly wind. Before she closed her eyes, she looked up at the moon. She asked that she be shown the way to a joyful life—one meant just for her.

Dahlia awoke to a light dusting of snow surrounding her. It was beautiful and very cold. Her immediate goals were water and something to eat. She walked until she reached a bay where the calm water had frozen over. She ventured out onto the smooth surface and licked the ice. She surveyed the scene, still full of exhilaration over the adventure that awaited her, but worried about food.

A small black thing bouncing through the ice distracted her. What was that little thing? She watched it bounce up, each time a cracking sound. Then, down it went. It moved rhythmically up and down through the ice again, now several yards away. She wanted to chase it, catch it and perhaps eat it! Chasing it was great fun! She never knew where it would pop up, and she became happily lost in the challenge of it all. She did not remember when she felt so blissful.

At the edge of the bay she was confused as the little black thing sped out to deeper water. She was mesmerized as it rose up, exploding out of the water in a spectacular display of power and grace. A whale! She had been chasing a whale! It crashed down into the choppy water and swam back to where she was pacing excitedly on the frozen bay. A gigantic head poked through the water.
“Hey, that was a lot of fun. I bet you weren’t expecting that! What’s your name?”
“Dahlia. I was having so much fun I lost all track of time chasing you! I even forgot how hungry I was,” she said, a little dismayed he was not food.
The whale blinked his enormous eye at Dahlia.
“Wait here,” he said.

The big head was gone. Ripples of icy water sloshed at her paws as she stood on the edge of the frozen bay. She watched the spot where he’d disappeared, having no idea what she was waiting for. Up he came with a burst, spewing a mountain of wiggling fish onto the ice for her to feast on! And feast she did, until she could hold no more. She burped.

“I’m so sorry; you have been so thoughtful and kind! Thank you for the fish. I don’t even know your name.” Dahlia hung her head in embarrassment.
“Tahi. The pleasure has all been mine. I hope we can play again soon!”

With that, he turned and disappeared under the water. Dahlia smiled as she wandered off with her bulging belly. What a difference a simple act of kindness made, she thought as she felt her spirits buoyed. Now she needed to find better shelter than the bush she’d slept under.
She spotted a grouping of rocks a short distance away and walked with new energy to investigate. As she walked around the huge, grey boulders she saw nothing that could be considered shelter. She spied a small opening near the bottom of one of the rocks. It looked barely big enough to fit her and her full tummy. She squeezed herself under it, burying her claws into the ground to pull herself inside. Dahlia was amazed to see that once inside the rocks, there was a cavern. A perfectly sheltered, hollow area where she could stand up easily and walk around. An ideal new home. She promptly turned three times, laid down and took a long nap.

Tahi and Dahlia grew very close over the months; they were inseparable. Tahi would take Dahlia for exciting rides on his back and bring her bounty from the sea. Dahlia would lick his salty face with loving kisses of gratitude. She’d run in circles on the beach, barking while he frolicked in the waves, putting on a show for her.

One night, nestled in her cavern, she was struck with how easily things started to go right, months ago. It was only when she decided she deserved better that she found better. When she followed her happiness, it grew into something unimaginable. Her happiness was her guide; it pointed where she needed to go next. All of her needs that she had worried over had been fulfilled in the most remarkable ways. She’d put forth effort, but it was enjoyable. She couldn’t explain it. She laid her head down to sleep as Tahi wished her a soulful good night off in the distance.

Respond to every call that excites your spirit.

-Rumi

The Stuff

"You have to take risks. We will only understand the miracle of life fully when we allow the unexpected to happen." -Paulo Coelho

“You have to take risks. We will only understand the miracle of life fully when we allow the unexpected to happen.” -Paulo Coelho

Georgina worried. She worried about her friend Frank. Frank was a blackbird with a very cavalier attitude toward life. Frank didn’t even have a five-year plan for his life. “Life loves you!” Frank always said.

Georgina grew up under the constant threat of, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!” As a result, Georgina actually had a 30-year plan for her life. Her life would not be a failure. But that was before the tsunami.

Georgina sat on a Styrofoam board and watched her ruined belongings drift by her, one by one, taunting her presumed control over every aspect of her life. In truth, not one year ever went according to the 30-year plan. Something always interfered, and her control over her life seemed to mostly be limited to damage control. This year was no exception, and she figured it set her back at least 10 years.

She looked up at the sky and watched Frank soaring high then low. He was having a great time looking at all the debris. Each a valued possession of his good friend Georgina, only a day before.

She needed to replace her stuff. All of it had taken years to accumulate. She was wearing her beloved red cowboy boots when the wave hit, and she was grateful to still have them. She was mostly grateful both she and Frank were okay. She would start anew, yes, a plan to replace her stuff! But then she was gripped with an uneasy feeling. She looked at the items that identified her life, floating by, mocking her. She realized all her planning and controlling made her so attached to the outcome of everything and how it would come to be, that she actually felt like a failure when it didn’t work out as she had planned. Her life was a failure.

Frank took a playful swoop by her.
“It’s just stuff!” he shouted as he climbed high into the sky.

Georgina spent so much time trying to control Frank, trying to get him to worry enough to make a five-year plan. She wanted him to live more like her and stop living moment-to-moment. Until now, she had never realized that Frank had never wanted for a thing. He looked at it all as a great series of events, meant to happen. He never worried about anything, and worry was her middle name. There was always something to worry about. Frank saw everything that happened as a game to find the hidden gift in it all. He always enjoyed Georgina’s friendship and company—he never gave advice. As far as he was concerned, nothing had changed. They were now sharing this great adventure together.

The thought of replacing her stuff was tiring. As she drifted, her eyelids heavy, her red boots full of water—turbulence was suddenly everywhere! She sat up on her board and watched in amazement as a stunning, chocolate brown horse galloped across the surface of the water. She had a saddle made from the shell of a sea turtle and an ornate harness of butterflies and branches. She trotted in a circle, eyeing Georgina on her Styrofoam float. Frank watched from above in awe and zoomed in to hear the conversation.

“Well, as I see it, you have two choices. Stay here, or hop on my back,” the horse said in a sweet and calm voice.
“But where will you take me? All my stuff is here. I can’t just leave—this is my life,” Georgina said, infuriated at the suggestion she leave her stuff.

In a not-so-sweet voice, the horse said, “Okay, Georgina. You can stay here with all your stuff and watch it deteriorate. Or you can learn how to really live. You never actually own anything in life, except what is inside your heart, of course. We tried to get you to see how it’s done by giving you your good friend Frank. Unfortunately your ego decided since he lacked his own stuff, he had nothing important to share. You needed to make him more like you. Thereby creating more stuff. The way you have been living life leaves no room for serendipity, the spice of life. Planning is fine, if you leave it at that. Controlling, worrying, manipulating others simply blocks life from happening as it should. Now, are you ready to hop on before your toes shrivel?”

Georgina was a little miffed at being called out but knew it was absolutely true. Frank took a swoop by her head. “Life loves you!” he laughed, as he perched between the horse’s ears.
The Horse spoke again, this time with compassion.

“Ask the Universe for what you need. It will always answer, but only when asked. What you need is not always what you want, so don’t be attached to the outcome. Always ask to be led to your next step. Take steps you feel compelled to take toward what you want, and surrender yourself to the serendipity of life. If you don’t think the outcome is a gift, then it isn’t over. It is beyond your imagination and is constantly unfolding. If you look back later, you will see the perfection of it all. How the events of your life have been woven into an absolutely perfect tapestry. Now please, it will be dark soon—hop on!”

Georgina paddled over to the horse. The horse got down low so she could climb on her back. They were immediately back on the surface of the water for the most extraordinary ride, galloping faster than Georgina thought possible. Frank kept up easily and thoroughly enjoyed the situation. Georgina leaned over to the horse’s ear.

“I’d really love to have this cool saddle of yours.”
To which the horse replied, “Georgina, this is a process. The stuff you seek is inside you, not outside. When you no longer want the saddle, we’ll talk.”

With that, she galloped with Georgina and Frank into the hazy horizon.

 

“If you look at what you have in life, you’ll always have more.  If you look at what you don’t have in life, you’ll never have enough.” -Oprah Winfrey

"Technological progress is like an ax in the hands of a pathological criminal." -Albert Einstein

“Technological progress is like an ax in the hands of a pathological criminal.”
-Albert Einstein

Celeste did it to make a point. She actually wondered if anyone would notice.

She had entered her favorite restaurant wearing her favorite boots and carrying her current favorite book. She was greeted and seated at her favorite table on the patio.

Even though the sky looked a bit threatening, she had insisted. She loved the fresh air and natural surroundings.

The place was packed, and she enjoyed all the activity. After receiving her wine, she surveyed the patrons to see if there was anyone she knew. She could not escape the realization that nobody was talking to each other. Heads down, texting, watching movies, playing games, checking emails, and snapping selfies while holding up various fancy drinks. Chunky children sat, mimicking their parents, staring at their video games while their parents stared at their phones. A voice shouted to no one, “I have 52 likes!” Another exclaimed, “I have 2,000 friends now!”

Before Celeste discovered the joys of dining alone with her thoughts, she dined with her friend, Theo. They always had the most interesting conversations about life. But that was before his untimely demise. She was sad that the other diners were not loving and enjoying one another’s company. She thought it would be better to dine alone than to rudely ignore each other, not caring about each other’s lives.

She seemed to be the only one bothered. No wonder there is so much loneliness in the midst of all this connectivity, she thought. She wondered how many “likes” and how many “friends” were enough? What number would make them put down their phones and appreciate the friends and family sitting in front of them? Was it the insatiable ego driving all this madness? She missed the laughter and conversations with her friend. She wondered how many would miss the disembodied online world of friends if it was suddenly gone. What memories would be cherished?

She was curious if they even noticed anything around them. Perhaps they all were stuck in a cyber, self-important, fantasy world. The social deterioration was making her angry. Her anger quickly ignited uncontrollably within her like a volcano. This was not the experience she wanted to have when she went out to eat!

Using the candle at the table, she set the empty chair at her table on fire. She then flung it onto the nearby rocks. She perched herself on the edge of her table to watch. The smell of smoke made a few diners look up. Some turned their backs to her and snapped selfies. Photos of themselves with Celeste posed on the edge of her table, wine in hand, and the chair burning in the background. Someone was making a video of the scene, “Oh baby, this is gonna go viral!”

Pretty soon everyone was talking to each other about the lunatic who burned the chair. Parents were balancing kids on their shoulders so they could see over the commotion. The burning chair turned into a party! There was laughter as they all shared the experience, high-fived each other, and toasted to the burning chair! What a wonderful time everyone was having together!

“That’s better!” Celeste said smiling, as she sat down, opened her book and took a sip of wine.

Bernice post card

“We’re our own dragons as well as our own heroes, and we have to rescue ourselves from ourselves.” -Tom Robbins

Bernice wanted to be the one who would get up and dance with crazy abandon when the music moved her. No matter who was watching or disapproving.

She didn’t know when she’d become so afraid to live. She’d done everything the others told her she should do to be happy.

Yet it all fell painfully short of making her happy. She could stand on one leg for hours, but so could everyone else. She lived in what the others called the “Safe Zone.” A place where nothing new happened, every day.

She always did exactly as she should, for fear she’d lose the love of the others if she didn’t. She didn’t want to be ostracized. Those were the conditions for maintaining her position. She worried she’d say the wrong thing and offend someone, so she stayed quiet. She stuck to safe conversations about the weather and food.

 

One day, while members of the colony were all pecking for invertebrates, Bernice thought she could hear music. Kettle drums to be exact. She wandered off to see where the music was coming from. Once away from the others, her solitude—combined with the beautiful music—inspired her to strut her stuff.

She did a head flag move stretching her head as high as she could. She turned it from side to side, in rhythm to the distant music. Then she performed a majestic wing salute, spreading her wings and enjoying the feeling of empowerment in the pose.  As she made a savvy move into a twist preen, she closed her eyes, lost in the music. Then she heard the roar.

She stood paralyzed with fear, eyes closed, head buried. The music drummed on cheerfully in the distance. She opened her eyes and watched the lion lick his lips. This was bad. Very, very bad.

They locked eyes. She could smell his breath. Her thoughts raced, and she felt she would burst from the trembling and her beating heart. As she felt the fear, acknowledging it and that it was not going to help her, something came over her. The music played on, and she thought about how she had felt a few minutes ago, dancing to a power that moved her. Her power.
With all the calm she could muster, she said to the lion,

“Would you like to dance?”
“I thought you’d never ask!” he said excitedly.

“You are quite a beautiful and graceful dancer. Maybe you could teach me to do that thing you do with your neck?” he suggested.

They danced under the Banyan trees late into the evening when the music stopped. They thanked one another and parted ways, promising to do it again soon. The lion was a very charismatic partner, Bernice thought to herself. Not what she expected at all.

As she headed back to the lagoon and the colony, it struck her that all of her fears were an illusion. They were based on the preconceived idea that anyone outside the colony was bad news—no exceptions. The others had put that idea in her head because it’s how they were raised too. The lion—Russell was his name—was lovely. The others would definitely not approve, so she definitely planned to tell them all about it!

Bernice decided from then on she was going to live her life fearlessly, no matter what. That’s where she was going to find happiness, in loving her life and approving of her own way to live it.

Illusions

"Drag your thoughts away from your troubles...by the ears, by the heels, or any other way you can manage it." -Mark Twain

“Drag your thoughts away from your troubles…by the ears, by the heels, or any other way you can manage it.” -Mark Twain

Maisie tasted the dirt coating her tongue as she tore away at the earth beneath her twitching paws. Rocks, twigs and roots were hurled aside as she pulled the earth up like flimsy wall-to-wall carpet.

Maisie was lost in her dream world where she was in charge. Again in foster care, again ignored and given minimal attention. Food, water and a pat on the head. She was left to her own imagination during the frequent naps she took to entertain herself.

People always said, “Oh, is she a pit bull? That’s scary,” blah, blah, blah… She had been adopted three times by someone wanting her to fight other dogs. She had become a very adept escape artist, but her survival skills fell short. Here she was in foster care again. It was the same movie. She wasn’t mean. The mean people wanted her to be mean, to fight with other dogs for money. She couldn’t do it—she was a lover.

There were four other dogs in the foster pack. Millie, a four year old red Queensland heeler, who was adorable and truly was mean. Mandy, a quiet, sweet mix of shepherd and at least three other breeds. She had a soft, long, golden coat and was afraid of her own shadow. Sadie, a working girl always looking for something to do, was a Catahoula. Maisie had not seen a Catahoula before. Her short coat was covered with different colored spots in all shapes and sizes from head to toe. She was also very bright, fearless, and a smart conversationalist. And lastly, Banjo. A big, handsome mixed guy with one floppy ear and stripes like a tiger. All the dogs loved him, and he loved them. But the problem was people. He snarled a snaggled tooth grin and growled when they came near him—then laughed as they ran away. They never hung around to hear him laugh at his silly game. He meant nothing by it.

Maisie had seen several other dogs get adopted during her stay. She longed to get adopted by someone kind who would love her and make her a member of their family. She didn’t know how to be loved. She always had to figure out how to survive her owners—and escape.

The doorbell sounded. Chimes echoed through the house. She watched as the foster mom distractedly fixed her dark hair in an invisible mirror, and opened the door. She adjusted her tight shirt, pulling it down over her belly as she ushered in the smiling young couple. Maisie didn’t move from her spot in the corner. She had a perfect vantage point to see all the commotion. The others rushed the nice couple, jumping on them, barking and competing for attention.

Except for Mandy. She sat in front of them, quietly, with her deep brown eyes focused like lasers on the woman. She never took her eyes off her. Maisie felt invisible as she watched. The foster mom was extra charming as Millie nipped the woman’s calf. The woman was still smiling but rubbing her calf as she locked eyes with Mandy. Banjo growled, sending mixed messages with his tail wagging. Sadie tugged at the man’s pant leg in an effort to herd him somewhere. The couple seemed to like Mandy’s ladylike demeanor, and soon asked what the next step would be. As they separated Mandy from the pack, she seemed a mix of nerves and excitement. Her tail whipped back and forth as she walked out the front door with all the humans. The others quickly stopped the performance and went back to what they had been doing. Bone chewing, sleeping, grooming. Mandy was brought back in after a few more minutes, and the next day they came to take her home. Score for Mandy!

Maisie pondered how Mandy had created her future by being totally different from the others. She had quietly let her focus do the work. She created a new life for herself with just her thoughts! She focused on what she wanted. Not on what she didn’t want. She acted like it was a done deal. Maisie realized she had been focused on the fear that another mean person would adopt her, and that was what always happened. How could she learn to do what Mandy did? After all, she was still a “scary pit bull.” Maybe she could make herself look “not” scary?

A couple of days went by before another prospect arrived with the chiming of the bell. Maisie felt she was ready as she focused on the life she wanted. An attractive woman in yoga togs, and a similarly attired little girl—about seven years old—with beautiful red curls entered. They seemed nervous as they followed the foster mom into the house. Maisie got up from her corner and slowly walked towards them, letting the others rush them as usual. Suddenly Millie had pummeled the little girl to the floor. The little girl burst into tears, filling the room with high pitched screams of terror and lots of barking at Millie.

Maisie walked over to the little girl with her biggest, goofiest dog grin and started to gently lick her tears. The little girl hesitantly started to giggle, alternating between a pouty mouth and a smile trying to break through. Pretty soon she was laughing. She wrapped her little arms around Maisie’s neck, announcing loudly, “Mommy, this is the one. She’s so sweet!”

Maisie’s grin got even goofier. The girl’s mother watched the bonding episode with a smile on her face. Then, the smile was gone.
“Oh, is that a pit bull? They scare me.”
Maisie kept her grin as she leaned into her new pal and gave her another sweet kiss, watching the girl’s brow furrow with worry.
“Mommy, I love her! She’s not scary—she kissed my tears and made me laugh!”

Maisie watched the mother’s face now as it softened, unable to see fear in the gaping, coast-to-coast grin. She knew she’d won her over!

The woman turned to the foster mom and said, “That dog clearly loves Maggie and Maggie loves her. There’s nothing left to do but take her home!”

Maisie reclined on the overstuffed, buttery soft leather couch in her new home. Her head resting in the lap of her beloved Maggie as she stroked her ears. Maisie thought about what had happened. The journey of her short life up to this point. How it seemed like a series of lessons, each one necessary. Up until the point she realized that as long as she had the same thoughts, she would keep having the same life. What power she had! She had created a whole new life simply by deciding what she wanted, staying focused, and taking action to get there. So it was all an illusion, like her dreams, created by her thoughts and perceptions.

Maggie asked, “Maisie, do you want to go outside and play?”
Maisie rushed the door with her paws dancing on a hot griddle of excitement. And they played with reckless abandon.