Showing posts from 2016

So much love

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Touching Animal Souls: Out with the old. Thank you 2016, and goodnight!!...

Touching Animal Souls: Out with the old. Thank you 2016, and goodnight!!...: 2016 my dear year! Cannot say I will miss you.  However, the lessons I learned in your passage will remain etched in my soul where they...

Out with the old. Thank you 2016, and goodnight!!!

2016 my dear year!

Cannot say I will miss you.  However, the lessons I learned in your passage will remain etched in my soul where they were sometimes harshly engraved.  I would love to personify you and blame you.  And yet, you have even taken the blame out of me.  So I feel left swaying in your aftermath. 

So many people have left the planet.  Some by choice.  Animals have passed on and new animals have joined the family.  Family changes have been enormous with all sorts of 'shake up's' along the way.  Work has remained a questioning challenge.  Interactions in general have been awakening - not always comfortable. 

So - good bye.  And just for the hell of it - good riddance...

Deep breath

But that is not true.  In real truth - thank you. 

There have been some good moments.  Some great glasses of wine, swims in the sea, long runs and walks, time with so many beautiful creatures, painting classes, long chats with strangers, and friends, moments, moments, moments.  When…

Break the rules!

Funny story.  Driving into Durban city on a really busy Saturday - I reached the first set of robots.  Seeing pedestrians and cars deluxe ahead.  The traffic light turned red as I approached.  And at the same time, a traffic officer stood to reinforce the stop cue.  I smiled.  Only in South Africa...  We need double stop cues.  Because, granted, there is not much respect for road rules.  Not necessarily a good thing...  But it did get me thinking about rules.
This is my worst rule.  No dogs allowed.  Makes my hackles rise whenever I see it.  When I heard from my Catholic nun teacher that dogs don't go to heaven my questioning of the entire spirit system began.  quite sure I don't want to spend eternity without these guys.  Feel the same way about beaches and other spaces where my dogs and animals are not welcome.  I fully believe that if we allowed it, and focussed instead on responsible relationships with the animals in our world, our world would be a better place.  A gentler…

Empty Boat

I notice when I am reactive - as you all do - that my favourite beings are not as comely as they would normally be.  If I am training - it does not go as planned.  And I know - after those interactions with the bestest friends in the world - that I may have left some unnecessary residue.

 Not cool.
Broken communication that has resulted in a little less trust and a slightly poorer relationship.  Chances are - I have not seen things from the animal's point of view because I have been too busy in my own story.  Or, as the case may be - in my own boat.  Why a boat?

I read a stunning little parable.  Goes something like this.  If I am sailing around in a boat and I bump into someone else in their boat - I am likely to feel something and possibly even react.  Guilt, anger, shame, whatever the subconscious is calling for.  If, however, the boat was empty, I would probably do what needed doing, without energy.  The parable calls us - TO BE THE EMPTY BOAT.

The goal - let others pass throu…


Being truly harmless – that was the contemplation.  It may be that to be truly harmless we are being truly fearless.  I feel myself around others.  When they are trying to protect themselves in relation with others still, so hold back in relationship with me.  Goodness.   I know how that feels.  To constantly be sitting on the fence trying to make everyone happy.  I also know how it feels to be honest to a fault.  What do we prefer – brutal honesty?  Or humane lies?Let’s go back to standing in front of an animal.  Humane lies – well that is just not going to work.  They can see straight through us.  Just the way we can see straight through each other.  They can see that we are not meaning what we are pretending.  So that will not work.What is brutal honesty.  Is it honesty?  Or is the energy that delivers that honesty what is being communicated.  Being brutal may be the issue.   Either there is guilt behind the delivery.   Feeling bad that you may be letting someone know something the…

Sense of humour

Mashatu has a sore foot. So needs some medicine. I crushed the tabs and wrapped them in coconut oil. Mixed them with the first bit of his food. He loves his food. Seems however he is a bit of a connoisseur.  He tried so hard. Puffing and snorting. I sat patiently in front of him waiting to fill up his bowl once the medicine was down. Two more bits to go.  Big snort. He clearly had to tell me something. I just stared at the two bits. Willing him to eat them.  So he picked up his bowl and threw it at me. 😄😁😉😃.  Funny boy. 

Sent from my Samsung Galaxy smartphone.
A week of wonder.  Awe for raw humanity.  Noticing realness where I forgot to look for it's substance.  A young orphan boy in the middle of writing his final school exams was kicked out of his home with his deaf seven-year-old sister – because he could not pay rent.  Found wondering the streets at midnight.  My old car creaking up the driveway leaving me feeling out of control of material concerns that I rely upon to 'do my life'.  Plodding around uninspired - at work feeling a true sense of my time being directed to do 'less than tasks'.  A mentor that inspired my book taking his own life.  A guru who is a wellness expert becoming ill.  A friend overcome with grief at a loss resulting in an unexpected relationship moment.  Another friend's talents disrespected - lack of empathy translating into dismissive regard for human value.  My trusty steed of a car actually breaking down.  Hearing that a friend of my son lost his father.
These sentences are all true …

The Animal's Point of View

How often do we really consider things from the animal’s point of view when we work with them.  Even if we don’t formally train them, do we imagine what they are going through?Consider, for example ‘horse riding schools’ where people are taught to ride horses – as though the horses are cars.  “Pull up here when you want it to stop… bump it here with your heels when you want it to go…”Or the general advice that is provided, and implemented by dog behaviour specialists.  The packaged insert that says – “Dogs should not sleep on your bed.  They need to know that you are the boss.”These are two obvious examples of how we apply ‘one size fits all’ methodology without considering the sentient being in front of us.  But there are less obvious situations too.  Where we actually fail to see what is going on because we are too busy in our own agendas.We have stories that get in the way. We don’t feel worthy or need to prove ourselves to the world, so when the dog gets out of hand, we see it as …

anthropomorphism - putting human qualities onto animals. Is this a concept we can use?

Us animal people work to ensure the best for the animals in our care.  That is why we do what we do.  Sometimes, we care too much to see things with the clarity required.  This oftentimes happens when we are faced with a challenge in relation with them and we justify or excuse the challenge with a label, and then look no further for understanding.  My new puppy friend Sage has killed a chicken.  For someone who is practising vegan eating, this is a hectic occasion.  I am so sad for the chicken and feel so bad that this bird and all the others have been usurped from their confident roosts at the front door.  There are ducks and geese in the yard too.  I could excuse Sage’s behaviour, and label her as a killer or a problem dog.  I was advised by a friend to tie a dead chicken around her neck for a week.  I could find a new home for Sage because she is ‘a menace’.  Is there an alternative?  We are working on this.  Suffice is to say the chickens have been rehomed in the meantime, while I…

Moments without comparison are perfect

Hearts may not heal.

Conditional Relationships

In our modern lifestyles, success is paramount and the moment is forgotten.  We are striving to achieve.  It is bred into us from extra maths and ballet lessons at the age of 6 to the successful degrees we will achieve to the best job and the smartest car.  It can be a stressful life.  Our self-worth is conditional.  We are only judged to be enough, if we are that wall street banker, or the owner of the cool car, or if we wear the best labels.  And we document the journey to stardom in selfies that reflect an apparent barrenless existence.  Perhaps we know how stressful it can be to be in relationship with someone on the off chance that they will make us feel better.  We work to make them happy.  Or make them feel proud of us.  And we do this, usually because we have – at some stage, been parented by someone (not necessarily a parent), who made us feel less than, and only worthy – on condition that… .  Animals, according to popular theology – are there for our gain.  Does this theolog…


A week away in a foreign land. Where the interactions have been abundantly insightful and the lessons for me, once again, enormous. When teaching ethical communication with animals, one cannot help but reflect. Feel clear and ready to ensure my daily reality is refreshed.

So this a blog to thank the Czech Republic animal lovers. And to encourage other animal lovers out there to visit this generous place.

Imagine a place where dogs are allowed in the subways and busses. Where the city funds initiatives to teach school children how to effectively meet dogs on walks. Where every park space is always littered with people sharing moments with their best friends.  Where there are water bowls for dogs wherever you go. Even in the zoo. Where it is common that dogs are allowed to live in apartment buildings. Where I share a train cabin with two people and a dog. Where a family home visit includes a visit with dogs and cats. When in the middle of my seminar in the dog school we are interrupted …

Sage welcome home

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Home. With the best welcome ever

Sent from my Samsung Galaxy smartphone.

Travelling wannabee

When I travel I feel free to look at the world differently. I pack clothes I don't usually wear. And wear earings from the bottom of my jewelry box and even apply make up now and then.  I choose to skip the evening ritual cigarette and will communicate information to friends and family that I usually would not share. 

I also find the odd moments where I experience stress. I will leave much earlier to catch a bus and a train than is necessary. Much much earlier. And when I am meeting with people my introvert heart hammer thuds in my ears. I consciously calm myself down. Search for what is familiar and easy. Break down what needs doing into steps. Work to avoid crazy anticipation angst.

What does this have to do with animals? Seasoned theorists may have noted some training lingo already.

This is my lesson. The animals in my life require adventure. Not once in a while. But everyday.  Just small incremental fun times where they get to experience something novel. Why?

Because the more f…

Share - for the sake of love

Consciousness is a lovely concept. After all a wise man reminded me this week that 'awareness is greater than...'

If we live and learn and work together we will stride ahead. Progress towards light living where people and animals commune closely. In love. Understanding. On a planet where defense is not necessary.

Danger enters when we try and own the wisdom. When we define ourselves according to how much responsibility we have. When,in relationship with animals, our identity is the relationship. Then we get stuck. We cannot see the animal and the animals needs. We are too on busy holding on so tight. Constricting the flow. Stopping the experience.  Hammering in on the moment and insisting it is ours. Claiming the fame. Feeling is charged in this state. Because control is an illusion. And identity an elusive idea. And we can never control what others think of us.  Desperate clinging. Fear-based sadness. A waste of energy.

And the alternative. Seeing the open-hearted potential.…

Being right is a compromise. Looking, listening and doing what needs doing is the alternative


wisdom sans passion = empty words

So you can sprout wise words all you like.You can be the guru and even be right most of the time.But guess what?The moment you live by the being right rather than the wisdom you sprout, you will stumble. And of course, I am not talking about you.I am talking about me.And a special new teacher in my life.A little girl called Sage.As wise as her name and smarter than me.Like all the critters I know. And of course, once again, not only Sage, but every other guru beast I have ever had the pleasure of meeting.Because she is simply teaching me the lessons I have not listened to from patient teachers who have spent time being real with me in the past.
So.The lesson.To do my passion.Every moment.Like my friend Craig here.An inspiration like so many animal people I know. In recent times I went on a journey of discovery.Got stuck in my head.So my time, as a result, has been filled with a waste of effort and a lack of animal contact time. Lots of theory.My hands are just far too clean.Enter Sage.Alo…

Control freak?

Love is - letting go of the outcome
Are you a control freak?Do you train to control or do you do it because it is where there is an excuse not to be in control? (-:
Imagine that lion trainer forcing that circus lion into the corner with a whip and a chair.Days of old.Imagine that dog being yanked into position using a choke chain.Hearts are cold. Imagine the horse being spurred into a gallop and bitted into a stop.Souls are sold.
These used to be accepted training methods.In some instances, they still may be practised. These are not what we consider training at all.True training is something much more harmonious.We have all dreamed of being Dr Doolittle.Of talking to animals.Truth be told – it’s possible.Using true training. I love it when I hear new information about animal training.When I am challenged to think in new ways.I love to be challenged.And I really love it when I notice that I am being challenged because then I know that objectivity is heading into the space.Being challenged me…

should they miss us? A tribute to Mhlaba

With the age of selfies, have we taken ‘being glorified’ to a whole new level?It begs the question. Am I in it for how I look in relationship with this animal?Or am I in it because I care about this animal?If the second is the answer – Share the love!!!They can feel if you do.

I attended a funeral this weekend.Of a man who worked with us for almost 14 years.He was a trainer with the seals.He had experience doing dog training too.He was exceptional at what he did.Unafraid, clear, calm and loving.The words spoken at his funeral and memorial service earlier in the week all were testament to his amazingness.We have lost a friend, a mentor, a peer, a steadfast incredible person.
He is a Zulu man.And proud of his culture.It is a culture I am familiar with because of where I live, but I am certainly no expert.I do find something quite significant about the Zulu funerals, and this is that they honour the man who has passed, but they are also unashamedly able to express their own personal sadness…

Celebrating Gambit

He recently won the Paaza ambassador animal award. He is 45 years old. So honoured to know him and his family. Blessed too by the fact that he is so loved and loveable. All 480kgs.

Really look to see

imagine painting this picture.  Look at the water light....
We really really need to look to see.  Pay attention.

Had some wonderful lessons recently on this.  First from the all time guru teacher Frodo.  I was busy teaching her to move backwards to a cue.  Basically reverse.  You need to know that Frodo sees and experiences life in much more detail than most of the other dolphins we teach.  And this has led trainers, in the past, to believe she is not very smart.  The truth is - she is way smarter than all of us combined.

When asking her to reverse, she was getting the concept quite nicely.  Then in a session she suddenly began puffing out during the behaviour.  I knew I had not unwittingly reinforced the behaviour of puffing.  But it seemed that she was becoming a little frustrated that I was not acknowledging the puff.  I watched a fellow trainer work with Frodo later in the day - fortunately - because then I saw why the puff.  My colleague was teaching Frodo to blow bubbles in the…

Emo animal people

What provides liberty to do our jobs as animal trainers?  The difference between what is required and what the professional industry expects, is real.  When we are employed as animal keepers, we are told to leave emotion out of the equation.  Or we are criticised for being too emotional.  Our careers are halted because we feel too much. 

Heck, many of us don't even want to go further.  We just want to work with the animals.  Also, there are some really good animal people out there who also make exceptional managers - and why?  Because they not afraid to feel. 

Problem.  Promoted animal managers manage intuitively.  Doing what they do and ensuring that stuff gets done - because the welfare of the animals is the cause.  More than that, intuition is well developed in a good animal trainer.  So they know how to feel what needs doing.  And this does not seem to be the accepted management technique.  So we are sent on management courses...  To put us in a box and teach us to fall in …

A heart-stealing seal - Testament to caring "EMO" animal people

Why is he here.  Washed up on KZN beach.  An Antarctic Fur seal.  Welcome ArctoPart of my job – how lucky am I – is to work with our animal care teams to assist stranded animals.  The job with Arcto has been to teach him to eat fish from our hands, so we can fatten him up and release him when he is healthy.  To get this right, we need to be totally aware of our actions in relation with him, and his reactions in relation to us.  When we approach him he may feel threatened, for example.  So we use this information to tell him what we wish from him.  On our approach, every time he is calm, we leave the space, so increasing his motivation to be calm.  Using this simple method of noting what motivates him, the rehab team, have successfully taught him to eat from us.  I would just like to say, once again, how fortunate I feel to do what I do.  And to be supported by a team that is so sensitive and intent to do what needs doing for the right reason.  For example, observation skills had to be…