Puppy Freddy is at this moment (I try to get my teachings about living in the NOW… as often as possible) benefiting from my magnificent discovery! After consulting the books on puppy training by the dedicated Monks of New Skete, (who have been breeding and training German Shepherd dogs for over thirty years) I persuaded Ms. Em to do their inseeing exercise. You can try it too. Get down of the floor and look around … then look UP!
By doing this you get into the puppy perspective. Do you see the huge, looming potted plant with those enticing, droopy leaves? Notice that electrical cable-salad… all multicolored and twisting deliciously around the desk. Ah yes! The DESK… where something omnipotent rules the huge space that is your new human’s den? Are you able to see (and curb your instinct to investigate) those yummy-smelling leather contraptions that your human wears over his two back paws? Is this impossible to imagine? Try it.
This is the visual part of the empathy exercise that the Monks of New Skete advise those with a new puppy to practice. They have labeled this process: “Inseeing.” This term implies far more than just the visual aspect of interacting with your puppy. Here is a definition I found taken from an article by Morgan Van Wyck who has raised and trained his golden retriever Deva the New Skete way. Check out his article adapted from the Shambala Sun Magazine (Please note that all bold type is my idea of what’s important here).
The monks and dogs of New Skete
by Morgan Van Wyck
“The monastic experience calls one to go beyond words and to live, as Brother Christopher puts it, “a life without division.” It is an important point, since only in this way can one appreciate the extent to which, in the process of raising and training dogs, the monks have also enriched their own spiritual practice. Frequently, for example, the monks speak about the discipline of “inseeing,” a term they borrowed from their readings of the German poet Rilke.
Father Laurence, the abbot of New Skete, regards inseeing as the true meeting place of the contemplative mind with the natural world: “Inseeing is being willing to look at another living thing in a way that allows for seeing it in and of itself. It is respecting this ‘other’ for what it is, without trying to change it or own it. In this struggle to deepen one’s understanding one is enriched, given life, no matter how limited one’s success in this endeavor.”
This sounds good doesn’t it? Oh, if E. could have done that with me. If she could have found it in her heart to respect me, to look into me or just once in a while take the time to ask herself why I was behaving badly in certain situations. Had this been the case, there would have been no reason for her to write our book: Learning to Live with Fritz. Why? Because I am sure my dizzy opera diva and I would have gotten along better. I would have felt understood. I would have appreciated the peacefulness, the moments of silent human-canine communication. I would not have felt the need to teach such dramatic lessons. This empathy between us did not exist because Ms. Em was too involved with her divorce and her move back to Europe to save her flagging career. Along with those two life-changing events… meeting and recognizing the greatest love of her life was paramount in her mind and heart. She was an emotional basket case. Need I say more? She thought of me, merely as a traveling companion and mascot. I had to get her attention, didn’t I?
I cheerfully acknowledge torturing and embarrassing her so often because this was the only way I could teach her the lessons she so desperately needed to learn. All my tutorials were intentionally crafted to teach her about Being Here Now and living in the present moment. Be honest. This moment is the only moment that you-and all humans living on Planet Earth have. Can you change anything you did or said five minutes ago? (… and don’t you wish you could?) I rest my case.
All I was saying to E. was… “Slow down. Smell the flowers. Stay present. Concentrate on what you are doing, saying, hearing and seeing … right now.” Voila! What could be easier to comprehend? However, as any Zen Master will imply (but will never outright tell you)… the simplest lessons are the hardest to ‘get.’ I wanted her to THINK about who she was toting around with her. What impact was I (the tiny, bellicose and despotic Maltese nutcase) making on her psyche? I tried to make her see that the way she was scurrying around trying to make all the pieces of her life fit together… was pure nonsense. She never thought about what I might have been trying to tell her! E. didn’t think about this until I was long gone and she felt the vacuum of my absence. Don’t let this happen to you and your dog … please.
Inseeing means to take your dog seriously. Your dog is not a plaything, although he loves to play. Your pup is not your possession, although you paid a lot of money for her, or rescued him from a shelter. An Inseeing statement of purpose might go like this:
“We are in this together. Let us join forces for friendship and companionship and live our lives from this moment on as equal partners in sharing and learning about each other.”
If E. had known about Inseeing she might have discovered something about herself and I would not have taken such drastic measures to get her attention… but then, as I said before… our book would not have been written and this blog would not exist. Now I ask you… hasn’t everything turned out perfectly? You bet. Ms. Em learned all about unconditional love and I received a much deserved bonus of ruling over this Dog Blog as Whispering Fritz! Spiritual journeys are rarely trouble-free and as straightforward as we would like them to be.
Well, I did it. I got puppy Freddy picked out, picked up and taken home in spite of E.’s nervousness about the entire gigantic (it took seven years for me to convince her) project. This is Ms. Em’s chance to do it right this time instead of producing (through her crass know-it-all tendencies) another crazy little dog. Almost all dog trainers, whisperers and psychologists agree that it is never the dog creating the behaviors these experts are called in to analyze and/or to remedy. In Learning to Live with Fritz the dizzy diva plays a mea culpa role. She freely admits all the errors in her thinking and takes full credit for the emotional traumas she unwittingly caused
(her dog Fritz) in attempting to explain why I turned out the way I did. I was the despotic, dominant, Boss Dog who taught her how to love unconditionally. I pushed her to her limits. I entered her life with my eccentric and willful personality fully trained … but as a strict teacher … never as a dog. I have to admit, I did a sublime job on my unwilling student. In the end (by Jove !) she got it
Since I have been concerned about the new pup in E.’s life, and her certain influence over the innocent creature’s developing personality … I took a worldwide survey of dog trainers, dog lovers, dog books etc. until I had the answer to a very important question: Who has compiled, through experience and dedication, the perfect attitude on training a puppy? What E. advises in (our) Chapter Five: Name the Puppy, Train the Puppy … is basically how not to train a new canine family member. Quite a lot of her advice is astute, usable and admirably self-critical. However, the analysis of mistakes (often genuinely hilarious) and the conclusions drawn from a woman’s misadventures with one preprogrammed pup was not answering my question.
Wherever I looked for the perfect training manual … I found shortcomings and a serious neglect of the one most important element in the human-dog
relationship. The spiritual aspect that (like it or not, accept it or not) exists between a dog and his “owner.” Finally I found what I was looking for from the profoundly spiritual and utterly practical Monks of New Skete and their publications. BINGO! Everything I wanted E. to know has been researched and illustrated in a manuscript revised and updated in 2002. I have to admit that I scanned the reviews for the one I liked best. Library Journal says it all: “How to Be Your Dog’s Best Friend is the most readable book on the dog training for the layman that this reviewer has come across. Any person who has ever thought of owning a dog should read this engaging book from cover to cover.” I have to agree. Imagine how delighted I was upon discovering that the monks have also published a book entitled The Art of Raising a Puppy!
Granted, Ms. Em has pleased me with her courage to go the distance on her (my) dream. I can’t say that enough since it was my idea. I worked diligently to persuade her to see why the puppy project was essential for her continued lessons in living in the present moment. On the other hand … I have observed brand new errors in judgment as she attempts to train her beloved Freddy. Trying her best to please the new arrival (already a big mistake) she has unwittingly taught her pup a new word (and unfortunately the incomparable taste of) ‘chicken’ – Freddy has become a trembling mass of insistent instant gratification. Unfortunately for Ms. Em (extended kitchen duty) Freddy is now a genuine chickaholic and refuses all food presented in his supper dish without the expected freshly cooked chicken breast chopped small and sprinkled over the top of his Royal Canin mini bites for puppies.
This is for you Freddy:
My dear Pup,
You have probably noticed that the lady who took you away from your mother completely adores you but is at this time … acting a bit neurotic. You are about to be saved from the ineptness of a frightened mistress trying her best to please you and make you her friend. This is all wrong! She now has come full circle and is sure that she does not know it all … now she is afraid that she knows nothing! Have pity on her. She is thoroughly confused. She is especially nervous about your training and about how you
will turn out. Please understand that in her present state of agitation that it is impossible for her to do anything right. She will be making major mistakes with you. My only advice is: Relax. The cavalry is coming. I will find a way to get her to buy (or download) the above mentioned books, and this time … read them.
Your true friend,
One month later our ‘Raiko vom Sonneneck’ was a nearly nine week old Bolonka baby and it was time for E. and her husband to pick up Freddy. Yes, in the meantime milady had to ‘fess up and tell all’. Surprisingly her Big Baritone was not at all displeased! The first thing I whispered to puppy Freddy (while he was still a twinkle in Merlin’s eye) was that his main mission in life was to bond absolutely with needy Ms. Em. She had suffered enough dealing with me and my difficult daily lessons in being here now.
(Aside: In my lifetime I was in love with the man of the house. It was close to an embarrassing sort of hero worship for the Big International Baritone … but as I have intimated before … it was all for Ms. E’s good. She needed to learn how to love unconditionally, even when she was not the object of love returned. Read the book to get the real story on that.)
However, with this little pooch I am determined that Ms. Em’s story is going to be different. This pup (with my intense whisperings and on-the-scene guidance) will without a doubt be a momma’s boy. I arranged the pickup trip, invited a family friend Rainer along to sit in the passenger’s seat along with his very own male Bolonka, Sammy. This was my genius idea to distract from Freddy’s sure fascination with E.s husband. I figured that then she could have the back seat to herself for the sole purpose of bonding; to become the Ersatzmutter to little frightened Freddy. Frightened? Yes. How would you feel watching three of your siblings taken away by large baby-talking, cooing strangers? How would you feel if you were one of the last two puppies left to beloved but strict Momma Felice … awaiting your fate?
I promise this is the last time I will steal a bit from E’s personal journal but she was closer to the situation than I. You’ll have to admit … it reads nicely ….
“The day was bright and sunny as we drove off to the Nabinger home in Sonneneck where the same five lady-Bolonkas awaited our arrival. Again a glorious chorus of barking greeted us. Halleluja! Honestly, I was so nervous I could barely utter a word. It seemed to take forever until we got to see our darling (now five weeks older and more himself) at close range. Freddy was standing alone inside the large airy knee-high cage. He was looking up at us and was better than any photo. There he was! Finally Freddy!
Freddy’s gaze told me he was a cute little bundle of love, full of spunk and fun, a handful to tame … with a dash of determined cleverness and skepticism thrown in for good measure. The instant I saw him again I thought of Bel Mooney’s wonderful memoir: A Small Dog Saved my Life (www.belmooney.co.uk). I wondered if Freddy might change my life. I surely don’t need saving but this snarky little critter might be exactly what I need to get back to myself … the self I lost along the way somewhere in the chaotic years after Fritz was no longer with us. The rush of loving feelings overcame all my rational thought processes as I scooped up my treasure.
I became one with this perfect moment. I was finally and once again here now with the tiny fellow I held in my (not so steady) hands. Everything to this innocent creature was brand new, exciting, interesting … alive and shining. This Freddy was an expert in living in this moment. I was elevated to a new level of consciousness: Pure bliss.
Finally, after Simone Nabinger placed the spanking new halter (much to his chagrin and surprise) and leash on Freddy, we were off with our prize. One poignant moment did occur when Mama Felice seemed to be saying a uncomprehending sort of adieu to her penultimate offspring. As we led him off to our awaiting automobile Felice followed Freddy for just a moment and then seemed to shake her head as she walked slowly back to her home.
Then Freddy was ours. I sat in the backseat cuddling the trembling little fellow who kept trying to find a way to climb out of the speeding steel enclosure. He squeaked a bit here and there but all things considered; I had expected a much more dramatic first drive in a car. I was determined that Freddy’s first experience in an automobile would not be anything like the one I produced for the twelve week old Fritz (Fritznote: See Chapter Five; Learning to Live with Fritz -page 26, paragraph 2 ).
Finally we had our baby at home. He stepped out of his carrier acting just like he owned the place. And then we were once again … three! After seven years without a dog in the house or accompanying us on trains, boats and trains around the world … in virtually every important opera house in the world … we were a triumvirate. Yes … as we were before … I could see it coming: three different military leaders, all claiming to be the sole leader … Oh! … but what FUN!”
In keeping with my Be Here Now raison d’etre, I was relentless in my insistence. I could see that Ms.Em, if not suffering from a certified case of digital dementia was at least a victim of digital delusion. She was spending too much time in the cyber world marketing our book Learning to Live with Fritz to BE HERE NOW! She was forgetting all the lessons I had taught her. In order to remind her of what is real and what living in the present moment means, I whispered, then suggested, then cajoled and finally gave up and commanded in my big boss Mafia voice: Get a PUPPY!” E. finally heard me. The idea became a passion … and suddenly was bigger than both of us.
Freddy entered the Earth Plane on January 4, 2013. He was born under the sign of traditionally headstrong but socially adept Capricorn. Freddy should turn out to be a sweet-tempered (if stubborn and social climbing) lapdog. I definitely was NOT nor would I ever wish to fit into the lapdog category. How could I sacrifice the necessary authoritarian position I earned on the earth plane … to sit placidly on anyone’s lap or to look soulfully into a pair of human eyes? No way.
At long last I got E. into her car and on the road to Weidenthal-Sonneneck in the Pfalz region of Germany (lovely photos on this website: http://www.weidenthal.de/gastinfo.htm ) for her first visit with Freddy. What a thrill! E. was so excited that I was worried about her ability to remain in control of her automobile. It was on this first drive that I gave her the pup’s designated name: I whispered …
This should have calmed her hysteria. It did not. Give me a few points for trying. Nevertheless, relentless doubts assailed her mind as she got closer to that first secret meeting. Ms. Em was so worried about this trip. She had told no living soul, not even her husband … what she was up to. Even with the wonderful beneficent new name I chose for the pup, E. was a nervous wreck. I guess I really did a job on her psyche when I was still pretending to be a dog.
On the German Autobahn, I kept reassuring my reluctant puppy mom that she was getting all green lights from The Universe on this trip. (Yes, I had to make it this dramatic. I listed all the positive signs: the February roads were clear, no traffic jams, no snow, rain or fog to inhibit her progress etc.) She finally reached Sonneneck, pulled up in front of Langeckerstr.12, the Nabinger residence and … but why should I describe her first covert meeting with puppy Freddy when I can take an easier route? Here is a look inside Ms. Em’s personal journal where the ex-diva describes her puppy love at first sight experience with four week old Freddy.
“I knew it was now or never. I rang the Nabinger’s doorbell. Somehow the chorus of five barking Bolonkas was music to my ears. Bernd Nabinger, a tall, dark haired friendly sort opened the door. Bernd then introduced me to his wife Sabine whose dimpled cheeks and a hearty laugh convinced me I was in the right place. They led me into the ‘nursery’; their spacious living room. A huge playpen contained five softly snoring puppies. I took the viewer’s chair sat down. I was very nervous. Sabine picked Freddy up and delicately handed me the tiny lump of white fur.
He was as light as a potato chip! Freddy immediately began to shiver. At first I took this as a negative sign– was he ill, was he cold? No, he was hungry. This could have been the reason for Freddy shivering the first time he met me but then again it could have been a shivering of recognition?
Felice (a beautiful gray and white ladydog) sprang into the playpen fully intent on nursing all five of her offspring. Freddy was the first on the nipple and drank with gusto. Yes, no, yes, no … should I or shouldn’t I say yes to this pup? I had already been instructed to name him Freddy by my ever-present mentor Fritz. My husband knew nothing about my secret mission. I shoved that thought to the back of my mind the minute I learned that Freddy’s sire had the name of MERLIN! Ha! Now this was a definite good sign!
This darling Mr. Magic … named Merlin is the father of my Be Here Now instructor. Sold! I had passed the Nabinger’s inspection with flying colors especially after I held up my copy of Learning to Live with Fritz. I put my 200 Euro down, signed a contract and as a final test I sang the opening lines of Tosca* in my highest loudest soprano singing: “Mario, Mario , Mario…” I had to know if Freddy would react negatively to opera singing. Freddy passed the test. He didn’t move a muscle. He looked up at me adoringly. What a joy to know that Freddy will be able to tolerate sudden loud singing noises since his future will involve quite a lot of that. Now I shall have to confess to my big baritone since Freddy is a reality and will become part of our lives. How will I do it? I am not sure. However, what I am sure of is that I will be counting every minute of the next five weeks until I can take little Raiko (Freddy) vom Sonneneck home.”
Now I ask you, what can I add to that?
E.Rawlins sings Tosca on her You Tube channel
Thanks to my faithful assistant for keeping up with this blogging activity and to master dog whisperer Cesar Millan for his invaluable tips on puppy training. Check out E.’s views in our book Learning to Live with Fritz. Chapter Five is entitled: Name the Puppy. Train the Puppy! She, of course, blames herself for being a dunce about her utter failure to train me but hey, I was a very special case and that is all I am going to say about that.
Too busy to blog? Yes, indeed. I had to do a lot of stage whispering (getting much louder than I had originally planned) to get Project Freddy going. Whew! What a lot of work. I sincerely overestimated my ability to convince my earth-bound
apprentice that: “GET A PUPPY!” was a command and not a suggestion. This gave me a dose of my own medicine. The Be here Now treatment, the ‘stay present and keep going’ philosophy I teach 24/7 turned out to be a lesson I needed to teach myself. I swear to you … being in the NOW –living constantly and only in the present moment– requires discipline. I had the job completed in my head, a done deal so to speak. Wow! Was that jumping to conclusions! I was a victim of my own arrogance thinking I had more influence over E. then I actually had. Honestly, I thought I had Project Freddy in the bag but it was still necessary for me to spend every moment (of the past fourteen days) insisting.
I was completely worn out by the time I had not-so-subtly guided E. to the Nabinger family’s Bolonka Zwetna website: www.bolonkas-vom-sonneneck.de and still she doubted! Even when I pointed out that time was running out that E. was not getting any younger, that a puppy was just the thing to keep her constantly confronting The NOW. She hesitated … procrastinated. Why? Simple: she was frightened. I have to admit all of this is my fault. Who would really want to sign up for another reign of terror? At long last I persuaded E. that the Nabingers were the dedicated Bolonka breeders who would be responsible for bringing puppy FREDDY, a.k.a. Raiko vom Sonneneck into their home in the Pfalz region of Germany and finally into E.’s busy life.
Simone and Bernd Nabinger are very particular about puppy destination families. They need to meet and intuit the character of those interested parties to whom their li’l darlings will someday go. A lengthy personal ‘in-house’ interview (with breeders, mother dog and potential puppies present) is required before the Nabingers will even consider allowing one of their babies out of their sight. Thus the Sonneneck (translates as Sunny Corner) website targets the local German-speaking community. Certainly they are not expecting folks to fly in from English-speaking countries for a puppy meeting! So, for non-German readers and to make it easier to understand why I chose this breed for my contrite ex-diva, I shall explain in the shortest sweetest version… how the extraordinary Bolonka Zwetna came into existence.
Short but Sweet History of the Bolonka Zwetna
-by Whispering Fritz
The origin of the breed Bolonka is not known. Cross breeding in Russia produced a clever, warm-hearted and spirited little lap dog. Probably the Italian Bolognese and the French Bichon à poil frisé are the source breeds for the Bolonka but our puppy Freddy’s original ancestry is truly up for grabs. These adorable dogs graced the laps of some very famous women. Surely divas all … Among them we have Madame de Pompadour of France, Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia and Maria Theresa of Austria (the only female ruler of the Hapsburg dominions.)Thus, the perfect diva dog! During the 20th century, Russian breeders crossed the Franzuskaya Bolonka (pure white) with small multicolored dogs. Since 1966 the delightful, fun-loving Bolonka Zwetnas have been bred in Germany.
I chose Freddy’s breed in order to keep my whispered promise to E. that it would definitely not be Fritz or a Fritz imitator returning to her. I promised her that she would enjoy her new pup and experience all the JOY and lightheartedness she deserves after completing fifteen years of my difficult course in unconditional love. Once Freddy is on the scene … E. might not be so sure about him. She will be incorrectly connecting dots that lead back to me if Freddy exhibits any weird Fritz habits or despotic behavior. I will have to be on my tippy toes to keep Freddy in line.