Author Archives: Harley

More Fun With the Oscars!

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It’s Oscar time again!  As you may recall, last year my colleague Otis and I teamed up for a special blog about the canine world’s top Oscar picks.  I am sorry to say that Otis, a black Newfoundland, had declined to participate in the Oscars this year, joining many who are staying away because of the lack of diversity among the Oscar nominees.  I respect and support Otis’s decision in this matter and hope that next year there he will enthusiastically join me again.  Otis did ask that I convey his sincerest best wishes to this year’s host, Chris Rockweiler.

As I noted last year, we dogs are typically not allowed in movie theaters[1]or on the “Red Carpet”.[2]  Yet we persevere and use our innate investigative skills to obtain needed information.  Thus, my Oscar picks are based on what information I have been able to sniff out through the public sources available to me.[3]

There were many fine performances among those nominated for best actor this year, including the favored nominee Leonardo di-Corgi-o.  I simply cannot support this candidate as I hear his movie portrayed many casualties to the animal world.   I am also intrigued by the nomination of Eddie Red-mange in the “Great Dane-ish Girl”.  Is this movie about a human who really wants to be a big dog? My pick is Matt Dalmation for his role as a stranded astronaut.  Next time he goes into space, he should bring a dog with him and maybe it will be easier to find his way home.

The best actress category is also full of excellent performances.    The favorite nominee may be Bri-ard Larson in “Room”, but another talented actress is Char Pei Rampling for her performance in “45 Years”.  Is this dog years or human years?  My pick is the talented Cate Basset, who has won many awards, including the Oscar for her terrific performance in “Shih Tzu Jasmine”.

There are also many talented stars in the best supporting categories.  Among the males, the standouts are Christian Aierbale, Mark Ruff Ruff-alo and Sylvester Sta-bone.  Although Sylvester is the name of a popular cat, I still hope that Mr. Sta-bone will get the award for his performance in “Breed”, a movie about a boxer.

One of the favorite nominees for the best supporting actress is Kate Whippet in the movie “Steve Jobs”.  It takes a great actress to succeed in a movie that is only about apples, right?  Alicia Vik-Cairn Terrier was nominated for her excellent performance in the “Great Dane-ish Girl”.   My pick?  Jennifer Jason Col-lie in the “The Hateful Crate”.  I am a staunch opponent to crate training.  How can I protect the premises if I am locked up?

And now the moment you have all been waiting for:  Harley’s Best Picture Pick.  Although all of the eight nominated movies have received much favorable press, three stand out for me.  There is “The Big Short-haired Pointer”.  I am glad to see there is a movie about a dog that takes on Wall Street and wins[4].   Then there is “Mad Max:  Furry Road”.  I am not sure what this movie is about, but I like its name.   “Max” is the name of many of my canine colleagues.  My pick is “Spot-light”, which I assume is a movie about a dog named Spot who has lost a lot of weight.  I applaud the movie industry for recognizing the health and fitness goals of members of my species.

As a dog of a certain age, I would like to close this year’s blog with a special tribute to the seasoned actors and actresses who are still living and who have won at least three Oscars.[5]  They include the iconic Meryl Sheepdog, Jack Russell Nicholson and Spaniel Day Lewis.  They prove time and time again that old dogs are still full of new tricks!

Otis, I hope you will join me next year!

Otis: A dog of principle

Otis: A dog of principle

Your best friend,

Harley

[1] Thankfully, my service dog colleagues are allowed to accompany their human partners into theatres.  That’s a little progress!

[2] Some of us are not allowed on any carpets!

[3] My record from last year was not good:  I did not pick a single winner.  Do I detect a whiff of anti-canine bias in the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences?

[4] You might be thinking: “What about the Wolf of Wall Street”?  Please!  Not my species!

[5] Cat Hepburn won four Oscars, but I am not including feline winners.

A Valentine’s Day Proposition

Harley valentine's day

This Valentine’s Day I am making a proposition to you:  I want you to have a special love affair.  You can follow this provocative suggestion no matter what your marital status, and no matter if you are already in a loving and permanent relationship with another living being.

Do I have your attention??

I want you to have a love affair with the truth.

You may wonder if your best friend Harley has been dipping into the fermented kibble.  Not so!  But I have been paying a lot of attention to human media lately and I am concerned that for some members of your species, the truth has become a question of interpretation, a guideline instead of a rule[1], a matter of style, or worse yet, optional.  It troubles me that fact checking the pronouncements of humans who aspire to powerful leadership positions has become a full time job for many.

What happened to telling the truth?

We dogs are incapable of guile[2].   We think it, we bark it.  Oh sure, we occasionally overreact to a perceived threat, like a postal delivery or a squirrel, but our communications are always a good faith desire to communicate accurate information based on our astute factual observations.  You trust us to be true.  This is the foundation of our strong bond with humans.  Many of us work side-by-side with humans and some of you literally place your lives in our paws.  That is about as true as it gets!

I ask you to consider the people in your personal and professional life.  Perhaps they fall into different categories.  There are people who tell you something and you secretly roll your eyes and feel the instinctive need to verify every word, every time, to be sure it is true.  Would you stake your career on this person’s work product?  Would you give this person a critical assignment?  If your life depended on it, would you trust this person’s word?

I hope you also know people whose words you can always “take to the bank”.   Good or bad, you can trust that the information you get is true and unbiased.  What kind of person do you want to be around?  What kind of person do you want to be?  What is the example that you set?   Do you create a culture in your professional and personal life that supports a commitment to the truth?  It’s not easy.  It might result in more uncertainty, more work, and more investigation.  It’s easy to be sure of yourself when you don’t dig past the surface.  You might have to admit you don’t have all the answers.  But in the end, it’s the only way to be.

Why this Valentine’s Day message about being a lover of the truth?  Because truthfulness is an essential ingredient to trust.  And trust is what makes every kind of relationship great.

And, since it’s Valentine’s Day I want to say:  I love my people!  And that’s the truth!

Your best friend,

Harley

[1] I recall the popular line about the Pirates’ Code from the movie Pitt Bulls of the Caribbean:  “The code is more what you’d call guidelines than actual rules.”

[2] In the interests of harmony on Valentine’s Day, I will decline to comment on whether all species that live with humans are trustworthy.

The Groundhog is Back!

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Last year on this day I warned of the dangers of “workplace groundhogs”.   I am republishing that blog below because I can now see with greater clarity that the groundhog problem goes far beyond the workplace.

By “groundhog”  I am referring to someone who enjoys the perception that he has superior insights or skills, without any facts to back him up. People follow and reward the groundhog because they are afraid to challenge him.  He seems so sure of himself.  He must know what he is talking about, right??

Recent events convince me that there are groundhogs  at very high levels of our political system.  I won’t mention any names, but I am so concerned about the lack of substance by certain people who aspire to be powerful leaders, that I have been prompted to study the U.S. Constitution to see if I am eligible to run for public office. My people are working on it.  More about that later!

For now, I renew my advice from last year’s blog:  Dig deep for the truth, my friends!

Your best friend,

Harley

Beware of the Groundhogs in the Workplace!

A Little Small Advice for 2016

Canine Credentials

Canine Credentials

There is nothing like getting a shiny new dog license to remind you that a new year has begun.  I am chagrined to be so far into 2016 without having formulated my goals and objectives for the year.  I started last year with seven resolutions![1]  I have had a hard time putting my paw on why I am struggling to set goals this year.  Finally it hit me right on the snout.   I was overwhelmed by the magnitude of recent world, national and local events. There seemed to be so much that needed to be fixed, that I simply could not imagine how I could make a difference.

Upon deeper reflection, I can see that I was trying to bite off more than I could chew.  I was so paralyzed by the thought of how much there was to do, that I simply could not do anything.  Then two important words came to me: Think small!  Focus on one or two realistic goals and get going.  To quote the famous canine American humorist and writer, Bark Twain:   “The secret of getting ahead is getting started.  The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming task into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.”

Does this sound like advice you can use?  Whether it is the start of a new year, or an ongoing project or problem, sometimes you have to think small.  Over time you can accomplish great things by the successful completion of a series of small steps.

With respect to some common new year’s goals, here are a few suggestions for thinking small.

If you are trying to lose weight, why don’t you replace a bagel or muffin with an extra piece of fruit in the morning?  Commit to taking the stairs instead of the elevator when you are going up or down one story.  One story might turn into two or three by the end of the year.

Is there someone in your life that would be thankful to have ten minutes of your time a week?  A phone call?  A cup of coffee with a stressed colleague?   Ten short minutes of your life may make a bit difference to someone else.

You can have a big impact on the environment with small steps.  Taking a few minutes to recycle and small reductions in your use of energy really add up over time.  Please remember humans are not the only species that needs a healthy planet!

So what is my “think small” goal for 2016?  I am going to try, to the greatest extent possible, to be more tolerant of the human who brings the letters and magazines to my house every day.  I must confess, in the past I have been extremely inhospitable to her.  Yet the members of my human team seem thankful for the objects she brings so I am going to try to be more welcoming.  Or at least less hostile!

In closing, I would like to remind you of the words of the ancient canine philosopher Lao Shih Tzu:  “The dog walk of a thousand miles begins with one step.”

Your best friend,

Harley

[1] See Harley’s Seven Resolutions for the New Year.

 

Three More Wishes for the Holidays!

DSC_6149Last year at this time, I published my Five Wishes for the Holiday Season.  When I give them a fresh look, I feel they still reflect what is in my heart for all of you. So I am republishing them with this blog.  Yet I wanted to add three more wishes this year. Here they are, short and sweet.

1.  Put First Things First.   You know what I am talking about!  If you don’t know what the first things in your life are, I suggest you make it a “first thing” to think about that!

A gift that wows or the perfect appetizer[1] are nice to have, but if you are going to this much trouble for such incidentals, it is probably because there is a first thing out there that is important to you.  Be sure the first things are not taking second place.

2.  Give the gift of yourself.  At this time of year, the way you use your time says a lot about what is important to you.   Spending a little time with the people you care about is the greatest gift you can give.

I would like to share a recent personal experience in this regard.  A member of my human family recently had a major surgery and was incapacitated for a brief period of time.  Human medicine does not tolerate much direct canine involvement in treatment[2].  All I could do was be there.  24/7.  We spent hours together in silence, side-by-side, with me performing an occasional “drive by” sniff to be sure she was okay.  Her scratch behind my ears told me that she appreciated the company.  I sensed I made her more comfortable which promoted  her healing.

Sometimes Just being there is the best thing you can do for a person.  I know what you are thinking:  Isn’t this just putting first things first?   Yes!

3.  Remember the Reason for the Season.  At this time of year many religions and cultures observe important holidays and traditions.  Whatever your faith or beliefs, keep them at the center of your celebration.  This is hard to do!  But dig deeper this year.  Perhaps you can incorporate a new tradition of prayer or reflection into your holiday gathering to strengthen the spiritual connection.

My human team observes the Christmas season.  For my readers celebrating Christmas, let me remind you that the Twelve Days of Christmas starts today.  There is still much time to share with family, friends, and of course, your faithful canine companion.

Your Best Friend,

Harley

[1] I am second to none in my delight over a tasty appetizer, especially a juicy meaty beauty that slips off the tray into my field of operation.

[2] For example, our wound care techniques are summarily rejected.

Harley’s Five Wishes for the Holiday Season

Harley in christmas tie

During the holidays, I am focusing on home life rather than the workplace, and you should too! We dogs love the holiday season. We hope for more quality time with our people and there are lots of interesting smells and sounds all around us.

These are my five holiday wishes for my people.

1. While you are away from the workplace, TURN THE CELL PHONE OFF! (even just for a few hours each day). Please do not stare at, or talk into, this thing while you are walking with me. This is OUR time. I am sure your children or other loved ones feel the same way. (This does not apply to emergency veterinarians.)

2. Greet strangers with genuine warmth. It’s contagious! If you feel awkward doing this, pretend you are in a Charles Dickens movie. ( Helpful hint: An admiring comment about a canine companion is a great conversation starter any time of year.)

3. If you eat something you should not have eaten, or simply eat too much, don’t make a big deal about it. You don’t have to tell everyone what a chow hound you are. In all candor, no one wants to hear about it. If you can’t stand the guilt, don’t do it again.

Similarly, if your family dog eats something he shouldn’t have, say hypothetically a juicy slice of tenderloin left too close to the table’s edge or a fallen cocktail sausage that was not retrieved with sufficient speed (my eyes are tearing up at the thought) LET IT GO! (Unless, of course, it is toxic or dangerous.) We dogs like a little holiday cheer too.

CAUTION: Drinking too much is a different matter entirely and can lead to irreversible damage to your personal and professional life. While this is no laughing matter, I offer a light illustration of the potential for making a career limiting mistake at the office party.

Office party

What was I thinking?

4. Practice patience. During the holiday season you may feel constantly pressed for time. Any delay may be a source of enormous frustration, but practice seeing the humanity in the frustrating situation. If the person checking out in front of you is having a problem with a credit card, imagine how embarrassing this must be for her and what it is like to live with financial problems, especially at the holiday season. Be thankful that you do not have to worry about this. You can also pull out your smart phone and play an entertaining game while you wait, unless of course you are with your trusty canine companion, in which case you should pass the time lavishing affection on him, which will also calm you down.

5. Do one good thing a day. Just one good thing! Here are some suggestions: Call someone who could use a lift, even if you know you will be on the phone too long. Pet your dog lovingly while you are on the phone and the time will pass. Hold a door open for someone, even if you have to wait a few extra seconds. This is also a good time to greet a stranger with genuine warmth, see #2 above. Drop a donation in a Red Kettle, no matter the amount. Even coins make a cheerful sound to our canine ears, and this organization helps those in need get back on their paws. Another very worthy cause is my pet charity, the Grosse Pointe Animal Adoption Society, which gave me a second chance.

I would love to hear your holiday wishes! Please leave a comment to share.

Your best friend,

Harley

National Mutt Day

Rocky

Rocky

I just learned that yesterday, December 2, was National Mutt Day.  I am very sorry for overlooking this important day for my mixed breed colleagues.  Please see the National Mutt Day website to learn more about the contribution that a “hybrid” can make to your team.

I would like to pay special tribute to my predecessor and role model, Rocky.  He was also rescued by the Grosse Pointe Animal Adoption Society.  He was a highly valued member of my humans’ organization for twelve years.  Although he was of mixed heritage, all who knew him say he was 100% pure of canine heart and a gentleman of dog.  I am honored to follow in his paw steps.

Your Best Friend,

Harley

A Dog for All Seasons

Rocky: A Dog for All Seasons

Give the “Thanksgiving Question” a New Twist

A moral dilemma

A moral dilemma

On Thanksgiving, I am thankful for many things. I have a supportive human team and a safe and warm home.  HarleysBoxerBriefings.com has enjoyed a year of faithful readers who have shared their personal insights on many topics.  I have met many canine colleagues, and my blog has even attracted a few feline followers.  At this time of year, there are many fun visits from human family members and friends,  and most of them are simpatico with my species and may share a little treat with me. The house is filled with the aroma of delicious foods.  Alas, my attempt to make off with the turkey was thwarted.  I didn’t even get a lick!

I am aware that there is a Thanksgiving tradition for many humans to describe some of the reasons one is thankful.   Perhaps your family takes a few minutes to share these reflections before you start the large holiday meal.

I don’t want to spoil this Norman Rockwell moment but let me suggest that for many of my readers, this question is just too easy to answer.   When you think about it, most of us can think of many blessings with just a little effort: a roof over your head, a job that provides for your family’s needs, a new baby or grandchild,  a recent graduate,  or a good friend.

So let’s raise the bar!  (Or raise the bark, in my case.)  Let’s think out of the boxer![1]  Here is my Thanksgiving challenge:  Think of something in your life that began as a great failure or disappointment, a vexing challenge, or a personal problem, that later became something for which you are now very thankful.

Let me give my personal story as an example, I have shared this tail[2] before.  After six years of faithful service with my first human team, my position was eliminated for no apparent reason.  I was alone, frightened and without hope.  Then kind people gave me a new life and helped me find my current position.  I am enormously thankful for everyone who helped me at that difficult time[3].   While I have not forgotten this painful experience, I also realize I would not be the dog I am today if this had not happened.  I am now a member of an organization where my contributions  are highly valued and I am achieving my lifelong dream of writing my own blog.

What about you?  Have you had such an experience?  Perhaps you did not get that high profile job, only to later realize that you achieved much more by taking a different route.   You may have learned something from a failure in a small matter that prevented you from making the same mistake on a much larger project.  Perhaps a personal relationship did not develop into what you had hoped it would be, but you are now very happy with someone you would never have met if you had been involved with someone else.  Or maybe you did not get accepted by your “dream school”, only to later realize  your second choice was really the perfect place for you.

Why think about Thanksgiving in this way?   Life is messy.  It is not always a smooth journey.  It is not a 100 meter dash.  It is a cross country run[4], up and down hills, through the woods, with twists and turns around corners where you can’t see what lies ahead.  And even if you get lost, if you keep the faith, you will get to the finish line.  You may learn something new or discover you are stronger than you think.  You may find people cheering you on and helping you find your way.

So this year, celebrate and be thankful for these blessings!  Happy Thanksgiving!

Your best friend,

Harley

 

P.S.  Please feel free to share your personal story.  Also, any recipe for holiday dog treats would be most welcome!

[1] I am fully aware that I am violating my own rule against doggie plays on words and puns.  Blame it on the airborne Tryptophan.

[2] Pun alert.

[3] Please adopt your next pet!

[4] Or a Turkey Trot, in keeping with the season.  By the way, do you get turkey at the end of the race?  I might check it out next year!

Are You in the Autumn of Your Career?

Autumn LeavesI love autumn!  The cooler temperatures give me more energy and a hearty appetite.  The brightly colored leaves on the ground bring interesting new scents from afar.  They make a curious crunching sound when I walk through them.  The spring and summer vegetation is fading yet I see other plants thriving this time of year.

Human pups tumble playfully in the piles of leaves.  It looks like such fun!  I am amused by watching the squirrels frantically scurrying about gathering and hiding provisions for the cold months to come.  I am thankful[1] that my human team provides for all of my needs, yet I know that not all of my canine colleagues are so fortunate.[2]

I have observed that humans love autumn too.  Many say it is their favorite time of year.  I sense for many it is a nostalgic time for reflection and a season with many traditions.  My humans spend more time indoors, and the pace of daily life is just a bit more relaxed.  We enjoy a bit more quality time together watching men throw and kick balls on the electronic device with moving images.  The house is often full of tantalizing warm foods and spicy aromas.

I have heard the term “the autumn of your life.”  I think this can be both a positive or negative term.[3] Are you in the autumn of your career?  Perhaps you are contemplating a major change to your position, or you are taking on a senior role at your job.  Whatever the circumstances, make autumn the best season of your work life!

This may be a time when you can take on new challenges and risks.  The pace of your career may not burn as hotly as it once did, but you can still make an impact.  You can be like the foliage that is most brilliant in the cooler weather.  Bring boldly colored ideas to the table.  Add spice to the discussion.  Have fun!  While others are scurrying around like busy squirrels, your maturity and experience can bring perspective on the big picture and on what is really important.  This is a time for a new kind of boldness – the boldness to be yourself!

How you spend the autumn of your career is up to you.  You can sit like a dried leaf, waiting to be raked up and composted.  Or you can take flight on the swirling wind and soar into a bold and colorful adventure!

Your best friend,

Harley

[1] More about thankfulness in November!

[2] Please support causes that give help find good homes for needy animals.  My pet charity is the Grosse Pointe Animal Adoption Society.

[3] I am nine human-years-old, which is 63 in dog years.  I guess I am also in the autumn of my life.  Does this make me a canine baby boomer?

A Dog’s Reflection on Pup Francis, Dog Lovers, and the Blessing of Genuine People

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Recently my humans were sitting and staying for long periods of time while they watched the electronic device with moving images.  I was curious about their behavior so I joined them.  They were watching a man in white clothing and I thought they referred to him as “Pup Francis”.  This confused me as I could see that he was not a pup; he was an older human.  My breed is naturally investigative, so I kept watching.  What I saw was a man who was kind and attentive to the many humans around him.  When he spoke, I sensed that not everyone agreed with what he was saying but they listened respectfully because his concern for others was sincere.  We dogs are excellent judges of character.  I immediately detected that the man genuinely loved people.  Although I did not see him with members of my species, I instinctively knew he was a dog lover too!

I can spot a dog lover a mile away.  As one approaches me, he talks softly while he gently extends his closed hand so that I can sniff and get comfortable.  Once we have established a rapport, he may give me a little rub under my chin or a dreamy scratch behind my ear.  He cares about my needs and this establishes a relationship of mutual respect and trust.  I can spot a phony too!  Telltale signs are the fake cooing and “good boy” as he inches toward me. He gives me an exaggerated pat on the head while looking around to confirm he has an audience for his canine benevolence.  Then, when no one is looking he picks dog hair off his clothes and hurries away to wash his hands.  Geez!!   Who is he kidding?

I am talking about the quality of being genuine.  Pup Francis radiates genuineness. Genuine people are always themselves. They do not look around to see who is watching.   They do not change their position in response to what is trending on social media.  They do not have to remember what they said five years ago.   The truth is not a moving target for genuine people.   Fact checkers:  knock yourselves out looking for contradictions!  You will come up empty.

Genuine people do not worry about building their “personal brand” because they are not selling anything.  Instead, they focus on building quality relationships with the living creatures around them and on working toward shared goals.  When you are genuine, people trust you.  They want to work with you.

It has been my observation that humans today deeply crave genuineness.  Chronic cynicism can eat away at one’s faith in mankind and hope for the future.  Perhaps that is why Pup Francis was so enthusiastically received, even by people who do not share his beliefs[1].

We dogs are naturally genuine creatures.  We are always true to ourselves.  I think this is the quality which bonds us to humans.  You can be genuine too.  You do not need to take special training or attend a fancy expensive webinar.  You were born with the innate ability to be true.  Just have the courage to be yourself.

By the way, I was right.  Pup Francis is a dog lover![2]

Your Best Friend,

Harley

 

[1] By way of analogy, my human team has many policies about what is best for my well-being.  I respect them because their concern for me is sincere, even though some rules  are, in my view outdated, such as not giving me tasty treats from their table.  I am very thankful that one family member does not follow this questionable policy, but this is a confidential matter.

[2] https://www.facebook.com/WhiteHouse/photos/a.158628314237.115142.63811549237/10153801035079238/