I didn’t run out of steam in my last blog: Pet in Cabin. I ran out of space. I am still steamed up about what occurred on those two long, international Freddy flights.
As it is, I am confined to venting through writing this blog for E. What rankles me, rattles my chain, is that even with the expensive price tag on his ticket, Freddy was forced not only to endure humiliation and physical pain (never being allowed to legally relieve himself) but also a few insults, threats and derisive laughter from airline employees and airport personnel! Granted, Ms. Em knew from the beginning what was required of a pet traveling as cabin baggage in an airplane. What she and Freddy were not acquainted with were the insufferable airport rules governing any and all four-footed creatures within their hallowed halls.
To be fair, I have to mention the one compassionate person that Ms. Em and Freddy encountered on their round trip nightmare flights from Europe to the USA. Just to remind you, I am reprinting some background… what came before… with an excerpt from my original diatribe: Pet in Cabin.
“The trip back to Europe was more eventful and even more distressing since after a while poor Freddy had an idea about what was to come. All was well until the pilot announced that a storm was brewing, that the plane had to wait it out … and this took 2 hours while patient Freddy remained taciturn in his friendly carrier. When the pilot announced to the hot and chagrined passengers that they might miss their next connections Freddy started to cry, and so loudly that the Steward warned Ms. Em that she might not be able to get on her long overseas flight with such a yowling animal! E. begged the man not reveal this to anyone officially … that she would calm her dog … somehow.”
… and she did… by performing an illegal action and allowing Freddy to pee on a puppy pad in the women’s restroom after which she was accosted and threatened with a $500 fine for her act of kindness.
Here’s what happened on the overseas flight just when nervous Ms. Em and frantic Freddy began to suspect that there were no sympathetic “good” people out there in the airline and airport world. The purser on their overnight flight back to Europe proved them wrong.
It was the purser who saved what might have been an intolerable nine hours for all her passengers. By the time the aircraft had reached its cruising altitude, inconsolable Freddy was truly living in the NOW; his own private Hell. He was whimpering and whining … then out and out yelping to be let out of his carrier. E. was frightened and mortified. Nothing I could whisper to her calmed the hysterical puppy-mom. Her agitated state only contributed to Freddy’s frenzied cries for freedom. Just as E. was sure that the plane would either turn around or parachute the two of them out of there, a lovely, tall woman with a decided aura of command identified herself as the purser of the flight and asked how she might help.
You might (as Ms. Em did) be asking the question: “What is a purser?”
“An airline, or flight, purser usually oversees the flight attendants to ensure that passengers are safe and comfortable. He or she may confirm that all baggage is safely secured and all passengers are served refreshments efficiently. The purser also makes sure that safety procedures are carefully obeyed at all times. Sometimes called the cabin manager, he or she may also be called on if there is a disturbance in the cabin, and may need to complete detailed reports after the flight lands.”
This woman had the authority to change the rules for the benefit of all. She told Ms. Em that in spite of what the green tag (the signed agreement attached to the carrier) stated, that she as flight purser was allowing Freddy to escape from his prison. Lapdog Freddy could fulfill his dearest wish. The good Samaritan purser personally brought a bowl of water and an extra soft pillow to make the pup and his mom more comfortable. Freddy’s wide-eyed amazement and peaceful sigh of relief as he was lifted up and out of his confinement seemed to thrill everyone witnessing the drama. The rest of the long flight was blessedly uneventful. I felt compelled to add this little story, this light at the end of the tunnel … to be fair. There are dog lovers, humanists and compassionate hearts out there too!
However, if you love your pet and might someday travel long distances with your beloved and respected family member (in a Pet in Cabin approved carrier) take action!
And that was to be my concluding sentence for this blog … until I had a thought: I am advising readers to take action without recommending a plan of action. I had to chew on that for only a minute or two. Ah-ha! Of course! Logical deduction brought me to the idea of contacting the Humane Society or SPCA International.
Wishing to be informed about what I was recommending, I scanned the sites. Horrified… I watched only a few of The Humane Society’s rescue videos. Suddenly I realized that no matter how angry I am about Freddy’s Pet in Cabin experience that there are other pups out there suffering in ways no one could ever imagine.
My advice is to watch this puppy mill rescue video at the risk of your heart and sanity. I was appalled as well as heartbroken. I also came to the realization that what poor Freddy suffered is nothing in comparison to the abuse actually occurring in puppy mills all over the US and in Europe. How is it possible that we have so many cruel and ignorant, unfeeling people who feel entitled to torture animals for profit? Watch this video… and weep.
Write an email or use this site http://www.aspca.org/Home/Fight-Animal-Cruelty/report-animal-cruelty to learn how to report suspected animal cruelty anywhere.
I created this dog blog to generate even more interest in my book Learning to Live with Fritz which was ‘authored’ by E. Rawlins, my opera diva mistress. Note the use of the quotation marks above. I was the voice dictating, editing and rewriting her manuscript to make sure she got it right. Finally, I was satisfied that her comical memoir was self-critical and entertaining enough to appeal not only to dog lovers but to opera buffs and individuals interested in the spiritual aspect of their hairy housemates. Let me just cut to the chase: Buy the book or download the eBook… you won’t regret it!
Now I can get to my real topic of the day: How I found out about the Monks of New Skete, their German shepherd dogs, training manuals, books and general philosophy… including their beautiful practice of Inseeing, the relationship of human to companion animal… soul to soul. Yes, you read this correctly… as in non-separation.
Susan hosts her own unpredictable and eclectic radio show: The Sound Kitchen… where you never know WHAT you’ll be served! It is an international listener interactive radio program; it features essays on various topics written by listeners from all over the world, interviews with artists, scientists, peace activists, and offers an exciting weekly quiz.
The subject of the interview was E.’s poetry collection: Rather Light Candles Than Rage Against the Darkness and featured her reading of “I don’t know how to hate you” (page 67) a prose poem describing a cultural collision and its surprising outcome. *
It was The Sound Kitchen’s Susan Owensby who contacted E. by email after reading Learning to Live with Fritz.
“Your book stirred up so many emotions! Sad, happy – even the little green monster (why didn’t Burton or Taylor or Heloise send ME messages?), but after a good week’s’ digestion, this is what your book has brought to me: the readiness to have a dog again. You have certainly heard of The Monks of New Skete – the dog Brothers? I just remembered them the other day. Anyway, I just got their books and am loving them … You should read them.”
Of course (!) E. learned about the Brothers from the fabulous Ms.Owensby… but it was I… I was the one who consistently whispered reminder after reminder… until E. actually bought the Monk’s books and saved our sweet Freddy’s future… just in the nick of time.
Although through E.’s ineptness… Freddy has become a true chickaholic, this could work out to be (hopefully) his greatest character defect. He will certainly be socialized and more lovingly trained with the helpful guidance of the Brothers and Ms. Owensby on our side… that is if I have anything to say about it.
*Listen to Susan Owensby’s The Sound Kitchen Sunday 30 May 2010 – Interview and poetry reading with E. Rawlins
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!”