It’s the Year of the Dog!

The Chinese Zodiac has proclaimed this the Year of the Dog!  According to an authoritative source[1],  the Chinese legend is that many years ago Buddha summoned all the animals of the world and honored the twelve who came[2] by naming a year for them.  Then each animal shared its characteristics with the people born in its year. This year, February 16 marked the beginning of the Year of the Dog.    I am especially lucky to have been born in 2006, the last Year of the Dog.

According to the Chinese Zodiac, the dog is loyal and honest, generous and works well with others.[3]  If you were born in 1922, 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, or 2006, you are a dog.  Do you recognize these qualities in yourself?

How can you celebrate the year of the Dog?  I have a few recommendations.

First, of course, think about ways you can make this year extra special for the dog in your life.  Let me make this easy.  All we want is to be with you.  A little extra time with your canine partner is the best gift you can give and the perfect way to honor the Year of the Dog.  Really!

And if you can’t be with the dog you love, love the dog you’re with[4].  There are so many opportunities to help my collie-gues in need.   Can you  help displaced dogs get back on their paws?[5]

Second, observe the Year of the Dog by trying to embrace our species’ best qualities and habits.  Here are several ways you can be more doglike.

*  Start every day with a good stretch.

* Never hesitate to let someone know how happy you are to see them.  We dogs have mastered this.  Greet the people you care about with genuine joy.

*  In a similar manner, let people know when you need some extra care and attention. My favorite technique is to nuzzle my snout gently on the closest human extremity within reach.  (Please see photo for a demonstration of this technique.)

*  Concentrate on what you are doing.  There really isn’t any such thing as multi-tasking.  When we dogs are tracking a bank robber, we track a bank robber.  We don’t stop to chase a squirrel up a tree.  Isn’t that why you trust us with these important assignments?  Likewise, I urge you to be dogged in maintaining a singular focus on your important tasks.  In the long run you will get more done.

* Take a walk at least once a day.  It is especially enriching to do this with someone whose company you enjoy.

* Nap often.

*  Trust your instincts.  If something doesn’t smell right, it probably isn’t.

* Focus on what’s real.  The electronic devices that some humans stare at all day long are not real.  They may provide useful information and convenience[6], but they must not replace face-to-face interactions.

What’s real?  Being in the presence of and communicating directly with living creatures.  Gathering your team together to work through a challenge.  Hearing the voice of someone dear to you.   A soft spot for a nap.  A fresh breeze in your face. The aroma of roasting meat.  The sound of laughter.

I would love to hear how you may have embraced some of this canine wisdom.  No matter your species, I hope you will celebrate the Year of the Dog!

Your best friend,

Harley

[1] Table placemat from Golden Chopsticks restaurant.

[2] I note with interest that there is no Year of the Cat.  I can offer no explanation as to why the cat did not respond to Buddha’s call; I leave that to your imagination.

[3] The zodiac also says the dog is sometimes critical.  I will try to be more tolerant of my feline brethren.

[4] To quote the famous song by Corgi, Stills and Nash.

[5] My favorite is the Grosse Pointe Animal Adoption Society, which gave me my second chance on life.

[6] For example, I am particularly supportive of online dog treat sites.

I Have Exceeded My Life Expectancy. Now What?

One of my human teammates recently read in what claimed to be an authoritative book on dog breeds, that the average life expectancy of a Boxer is 8 to 10 years.  Her distress was palpable, as yours truly has surpassed the big “1-0”.  Indeed, I will be 11 human years this August (in case you want to send something).   As I was basking in the sun and ruminating on my potentially imminent demise, a bunny bounded through my field of operation.  I decided to give the fluffy invader a good hard chase and send a message:   “Harley’s not going anywhere!”   It felt great to be on the job protecting the property.  (No animals were harmed during the writing of this blog).   I guess the authority’s average life expectancy is only as good as the papers it’s written on.  I suggest the paper would be put to better use lining a litter box.

I have observed that some humans believe their career has a “life expectancy”.  Is your work tenure expected to conform to someone else’s assumptions?  Is some analyst defining when your contributions are no longer valued based not on your performance, but on some formula involving years of service and age?  What do you do if your expectations for the length of your work life do not align with those around you?

Show ‘em what you got!   Sharpen your skills.  Be a continuous learner.   Tackle a new area of expertise.  Stay current with emerging technologies.   Give a tough project a good hard chase.   Above all else, don’t let some “authority” define your professional life expectancy.

If you find that your contributions are not valued, consider that you may be on the wrong team.  Fetch your things and join a smarter pack.  Or become your own boss.  Don’t become a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Take some candid career advice from an old working dog:  you can learn new tricks at any age if you believe that you can.

Your best friend,

Harley

Be Kind to Mothers!

On Mother’s Day, stop and sniff the flowers with a special person.


Happy Mother’s Day!  This is a special day for me too.  Even though I left my birth mother at a very early age,  my human family rescued me on Mother’s Day  weekend five years ago.  Every year on this day I am thankful for all of the love, support and care they have provided over the years.  And isn’t this why we celebrate Mothers today?

I note with interest that last week was “Be Kind to Animals Week”.  I am moved that kindness to animals is promoted, but I am also curious why animals get a week of attention, while Mom is honored for only one day.   Then it hit me: Do humans really need a special week to be kind to animals?  My experience with your species suggests that the answer is “No”.  You are kind because you are kind.  And do we need a special day to honor mothers?  I am sure you can see where I am going with this!

Please be kind to Mom, today and everyday!

Your best friend,

Harley

On The Eve of the Inauguration, Some Candid Canine Advice for the New President

You may have noticed that yours truly has been absent from the blogosphere for several weeks.  To be candid, I was very surprised by the results of the U.S. presidential election and I struggled to find my voice.  Recently, however, I have been deeply moved by the very wise words of President Bark Obama that we all must work together to help the new administration succeed.  His example has inspired me to shake off my reservations and focus on moving forward for the common good.  So, to the new president, I want to share some candid canine advice for successful leadership.

First, a strong leader knows there is a time to be a big dog and a time to lie low.  The judicious use of power builds trust, mutual respect and opens important lines of communication.  In contrast, a bully flaunts power.  Fear prompts people to tell the bully what he wants to hear, not what he needs to know.  Meanwhile, they look for another big dog to fight for them.   And remember, if you growl at everything that passes by, no one will take you seriously. When a leader is prudent in the exercise of power, his status is not diminished. This big dog will strike when needed and when that happens, it is understood that the action was warranted.

Root out factions in your organization. The world is burdened by innumerable manmade factions that prevent people from seeing the perspective and valuable contributions of those who are different.   Factions are inimical to the common good.   Enhance your team by combining diverse points of view, backgrounds and strengths.

Watch and learn from the dogs who have been around the block many times before.  There is no substitute for experience.

Bark less, listen more. Looking back on my life, I cannot recall a single instance when I learned anything of value while my jowls were flapping.

And now, a few lessons from obedience school:

Sit. Stay. Use restraint in your immediate reaction to events and criticism.  Think before you unleash your response.  A small amount of time spent in thoughtful reflection and contemplation may save much more time than will be needed to explain what a poorly considered comment was intended to mean.

Heal. This is not a typo. I mean “heal” not “heel”.   Much has been said about the need for healing in our country.  Healing can’t be done through an executive order.  Healing requires listening, understanding the diverse views and needs of this great nation, and demonstrating a genuine interest in the welfare of all citizens and in the common good.

On behalf of your faithful canine constituents, we wish you success and good health.

Your best friend,

Harley

An Important Election Message From Your Best Friend

A National Dog!

A proud American dog!

The election is less than a week away and this American dog has an important message for you:  VOTE!!!!

No matter what your political affiliation, whether you are a Re-pup-lican, a Demo-cat or a Lab-ertarian, VOTE!!!!  Yes, I am violating my own rule against ridiculous dog puns, but I have observed that this election is getting way too tense and I want to lighten things up a little.  JUST VOTE!!!

American humans are so privileged to live in a country with real elections.  If you don’t vote because you don’t like the candidates or you don’t trust the election process, you are disregarding the immense sacrifice so many of your fellow citizens have made to give you this precious right.

You may wonder why I am so interested in the political affairs of humans.   Let me share my perspective on two very important issues for us dogs.

First is the environment.  Human decisions that affect the environment have an immense impact on all living creatures.  We breathe the same air you breathe.   We drink the same water.  When you feel the heat, we feel it too.  On behalf of the entire animal kingdom, I urge you to support policies that will protect the planet we share.

Second is health care.  Your health care is our health care.  When you are not healthy, we feel it too.  Your ability to care for us is diminished.   We don’t get the exercise we need.  We sense your pain and we worry about you.  A medical crisis may cause you to suffer financially and you may no longer be able to provide for us.  Sadly, I know many canine colleagues who lost their loving homes because of medical catastrophes in their human families.

When you vote this year, remember that we are all in this together.

Your best friend,

Harley

A National Dog!

A National Dog!

It’s National Dog Day!  I can’t wait to see what my human team has planned .  If you do something special today to celebrate the unique bond between dogs and humans send me a photo and I will share it with my readers.  Send your photo to harleys.boxer.briefings@gmail.com.

Your best friend,

Harley

Who are the Champions on Your Team?

Olympic dog

My human team has been completely absorbed by the Olympic Games for the last two weeks.  I must admit I have been drawn in as well.  As we watch the competition together, I am struck by the diversity of human athletes.  Male and female.  Huge and tiny.  Burly and slender.  First timers and one athlete for whom this is the seventh Olympic appearance.  Some work in packs.  Others are lone wolves.  They are on land, on water, in the air and some are teamed up with another species.[1]

For many, to be a champion they have to be the fastest, highest, strongest, or most precise.  Maybe sheer endurance is what is needed.  The best in the decathlon and heptathlon are usually not the best in the world at any one event, but they win by excelling at many things.

Who are the real champions?  That’s an interesting question, isn’t it?  There are competitors for whom anything less than multiple gold medals and new world records is a disappointment.  Many have come to repeat past successes. Others who are unknown become instant celebrities.  We must not lose sight, however, that they are all superb athletes.  Most have achieved a lifelong dream by just being there, just by being an Olympian.

Consider the woman who was the first female sprinter from her country.    She was 23rd of 24 runners in the 100 meter race, but she is first among millions.  A few days ago we watched in amazement as a woman runner, tripped by a close rival who fell, stopped to help her competitor to her feet so both women could complete the race.  I have to confess, as a dog I don’t get that.  It must be a human thing!

Some of the most successful participants, the coaches, never end up on the podium.  They have the reward of being recognized as teaching their athletes to achieve greatness.  In a team event, the group wins when the coach knows how to bring out the best in every member[2].

Are you a leader?  If so, you will excel when you bring out the talents of the champions on your team.  Who are the sprinters who can get things done in a flash when needed?  The archer who can nail the target when precision is what matters.  Who are the decathlon pros who can do many things well?  Do you have the team members with many years of experience to balance those who bring youthful energy to the job?  I hope you have lots of people who can get up and keep going after a fall, and those who will stop to help a colleague who is stumbling.

One of my favorite stories from this year’s Olympic competition is the winner of the men’s 400 meter race.  He was an unlikely winner.  Not only did he have a 74-year-old grandmother for a coach, but he was assigned to the undesirable Lane 8. In the history of the Olympics, no one had ever won the 400 meters race from Lane 8.  Apparently someone forgot to tell him that, as he not only won, but he also broke the world record. Think what your team can do if they focus on the task ahead of them and not on what others think is possible.

I am keenly aware that the means that some athletes use to achieve their results have raised questions of fairness and honesty[3].   In the interests of full transparency, I want to disclose that I did not win any of the medals that I am wearing in my photo.  I borrowed them from one of my human teammates.  Remember, however, that our greatest day-to- day wins do not always result in a medal, a trip to a podium, or even a thank you[4].  Remember that one of the greatest measures of our success is that we keep getting better at what we do and that we constantly set a new personal best.

Your best friend,

Harley

[1] With all due deference to the noble equine competitor, we dogs were man’s best friend long before the original Olympic Games in ancient Greece.  Perhaps the International Olympic Committee could consider adding dogsled races to the Winter Games.   This is not just a doggy pipe dream:  Dog sledding twice has been an Olympic demonstration sport.

[2] It reminds me of a successful dog sled team.  The skilled musher knows how to balance the pack to bring out the best in each dog.  Sorry, I just can’t seem to drop this dogsled issue!

[3] Sadly, it also appears that some have behaved  badly after achieving athletic success.

[4] However, remember to take the time to recognize a job well done.  From a personal perspective, an occasional pat on the head makes my day! (Not to mention the occasional thrill of a juicy reward!)

Honoring a Feline Mama on Mother’s Day

A Rose for Mama

A Rose for Mama

Do I have your attention?

I want to share a special story of motherhood that illustrates the power of maternal love.   A five-day-old puppy lost his mother in a tragic accident.  He was brought to an animal shelter but there was no female dog that could nurse the young pup.   Then a wonderful thing happened.  A young mother cat took the puppy into her litter of kittens and fed the little fellow.  Can you believe it?[1]  You can see the “blended family” with your own eyes in a video from the Michigan Humane Society.

Mother’s Day is a good day to thank all of the people who have nourished you, even if they are not your biological mother.  You know who they are.  A big sister?  A special aunt?  A teacher who really cared about your future?  A mentor who helped you grow personally or professionally?   Maybe even a stranger who helped you at a difficult time?

This humble shelter cat’s beautiful example reminds us that all of the earth’s creatures, regardless of species, are members of one great family. If a cat can welcome an orphaned puppy into her litter, I think each of us can extend a helpful paw and friendship to those who need a little kindness, even if they are from different backgrounds and viewpoints.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Your best friend,

Harley

[1] Can you believe I am singing the praises of a cat?  I guess my old canine heart is softening.

What Has Happened to Basic Human Civility?

DSC_9410 (800x536)

My floppy ears are almost standing on end in response to what I am hearing from human politicians.  The concern is much bigger than a lack of good manners:  it is the complete destruction of basic human civility.   If the shoe were on the other paw, and dogs chose humans as companions rather than vice versa, I can tell you that certain people would be left at the pound because they would not be considered suitable for canine company.  I don’t think I have to tell you who I am talking about.

In August, 2015 I published the blog:  “What Ever Happened to Class?   Why Good Manners Matter”.   I am republishing this this blog with a plea to those of you who are of a like mind to please spread the word and share this message.

What Ever Happened to Class? Why Good Manners Matter.