Tag: Los Angeles

Perfect families!

What are the best dog breeds for families.

Again I am drawn to The Dodo and to an article that was published earlier this year. It is not a long piece but it seems to be full of common sense.

Have a read and tell me your thoughts.


These Are Some Of The Best Dog Breeds For Families

And why you should find one at a rescue 🐶👪

By SAM HOWELL, Published on the 26th April, 2021

Adopting a dog is one of the most exciting ways to grow your family.

But you might be wondering if certain dog breeds are better for living with families than others.

The Dodo spoke with Iris Ulbrich, a behavior consultant and owner at Trust Your Dog in Los Angeles, who explained why you should actually pay more attention to a pup’s personality than his breed.

The best dog breeds for families

While there are some dog breeds that tend to be a bit more inclined for family life, it’s super important to remember that breed is not everything.

“Yes, there are characteristics that are tied to dog’s breed, but a lot has to do with the quality of breeding as well as the first few months of a puppy’s life,” Ulbrich told The Dodo.

What’s most important is an individual dog’s personality because, ultimately, that will determine whether or not he will work great in a family environment, regardless of his breed.

With that in mind, here are some dog breeds that — on average — tend to have traits that make them good family pets:

  • Labradors
  • Golden retrievers
  • Collies
  • Wheaten terriers

“Both [Labradors and golden retrievers] are very friendly, active, good with kids and eager to please,” Ulbrich explained.

As for wheaten terriers, they don’t shed. So if someone in your family has allergies, these terriers could be a good fit.

“Collies are very devoted family dogs and can be both very active but also know how to relax and be calm at home,” Ulbrich said.

That being said, these are just generalizations! There are some labs out there who are absolutely terrible with kids — and literally millions of individual dogs from breeds not on this list who are perfect family pets. 

Which is why your best bet is to go to a rescue center, where adoption counselors can match you with a pup who has the exact personality you’re looking for.

Personality traits that make a dog the best fit for a family

Since personality is far more important than breed when finding your perfect pup, you should know which traits to look for in your family’s potential new addition.

After all, a rescue is going to help you find a dog that’ll vibe with you and your loved ones, since you’ll be able to pick a pup with a fully formed personality. If you get a puppy from a breeder, on the other hand, you’ll have no idea if he’ll grow up to be a good match for your family.

When it comes to finding the best dog for your family, here’s the personality traits Ulbrich recommends you look for.

“A healthy amount of energy in combination with eagerness to please their owner is usually a great combination,” Ulbrich said.

And since families are all different, it’s actually most important to look for a dog that’ll mesh with your family’s interests, hobbies and lifestyles.

“An active and outdoorsy family with slightly older kids that live in a house would pick a different dog to a family that lives in an apartment and has twin toddlers,” Ulbrich explained.

In those cases, both of those potential pups might not even be any of the breeds listed above, since it all boils down to each individual pup’s personality.

“A dog’s demeanor also plays a big role in [a] successful family integration,” Ulbrich said. “I try and recommend people ask a trainer to temperament test a puppy before making a final decision on breed and particular puppy within a litter.”

And since that individual temperament is so important, any dog breed can be the best dog breed for your family.


I hadn’t thought of it before but Iris Ulbrich stating that personality was far more important than the breed of the dog. Of course! Perfect sense! And always take in a rescue dog!

Words fail me!

But there is a very good ending!

There was an item in a recent set of links from Naked Capitalism that caught my eye.

It was a link to a story on Huffington Post that I am taking the liberty of republishing.


Left To Die In A Trash Heap, Abandoned Dog Gets Remarkable Second Chance

The Huffington Post  |  By  Posted: 12/13/2013 5:19 pm EST

A moving video of the extraordinary recovery — and resilience — of an abandoned dog who was left to die in a trash heap is reminding us this week of the healing power of love, friendship and second chances.

On Nov. 15, when Eldad Hagar first laid eyes on Miley, an abandoned dog living among piles of trash on the outskirts of Los Angeles, his heart broke.

“When I got there, I almost couldn’t believe what I was seeing,” Hagar, the co-founder of animal rescue organization Hope For Paws, told The Huffington Post of his first encounter with the pup. “It’s almost as if this place was struck by a tsunami.”

Miley, covered in mange and infections, was so lifeless and defeated that Hagar, who recorded the dog’s rescue on camera, says she “didn’t even have the energy” to run away from him as he approached her.


Hagar says he rushed to Miley’s side after he heard about the pooch’s plight from a local resident. The tipster told him that Miley had been living in the trash heap for at least a few months. It is believed that she was abandoned by her owners.

Though he knew that Miley wouldn’t be in good shape, Hagar says he was still shocked when he finally made contact with her. Her physical deterioration was “definitely one of the worst cases” he’d ever seen, he said.

He knew he had to get Miley to a hospital right away.

Gaining the pup’s trust was no easy feat, however. Hagar says he offered her food and sat with her in the pile of trash for an hour before she was finally ready to leave with him. Then he got her into his car to be brought to the vet.

“She was very lucky we rescued her when we did, because her condition would have continued to deteriorate until she would have died a miserable and painful death,” Hagar said.

After examining Miley, veterinarian Dr. Lisa Youn discovered that the pooch wasn’t just suffering from mange and bacterial infections, but parasites and malnutrition, as well.

“She was in so much pain,” Hagar said.


Over the next two weeks, Miley got intensive medical care and was treated with antibiotics, medicine for parasites and frequent medicated baths. Slowly but surely, her spirits began to lift.

It wasn’t, however, until Miley found a best friend that her recovery took a dramatic turn for the better.

Miley met Frankie the chihuahua after he was rescued from a sewer tunnel by Hagar and a friend. The tiny dog had almost drowned, Hagar said, because of a spell of heavy rain.

“He was so scared of everything,” Hagar wrote of Frankie in the video. “Miley took Frankie under her wing and they quickly became really good friends.”


Miley and Frankie, who are wonderfully affectionate with each other, are said to be doing well.

The “worst part is behind [them],” Hagar told the HuffPost, adding that Miley should be “100 percent” in a few months.

Watch the adorable duo playing with each other in the video above. To find out more about the work that Hope For Paws does, visit the organization’s website andFacebook page.


That first YouTube video also had the following comment:

Published on Dec 12, 2013

Please make a small donation to Hope For Paws and help us start 2014 strong with many more rescues. A $5 donation from many people would make all the difference to so many animals: HopeForPaws.org
Hope For Paws took care of Miley’s vet care, but she is now fostered by our friends from The Fuzzy Pet Foundation. Please visit their website to fill an application to adopt her: fuzzyrescue.org
Little guest star – Frankie was also rescued by Hope For Paws (with help from Lisa Chiarelli), and is now being fostered by our friends from The Forgotten Dog Foundation. If you would like to adopt him, please fill an application here: theforgottendog.org
Thanks 🙂

The Hope For Paws website is here.  Please, please make a small Christmas donation.  It makes such a difference.  Chapter Twenty-Three of The Book comes out in thirty minutes and, I hope, goes a long way to demonstrate the value of our relationship with dogs over thousands upon thousands of years.

The book! Chapter Twenty-Two.

Learning from Dogs

Chapter Twenty-Two

Philip drove himself, as quietly as he could manage it, back up to Lisa and Don’s house. It was a little after 4am.  The night air was cold and as he slipped into his bed the inside of the bodega felt just as cold as outside. The hours of love-making with Molly had been a new experience for him. Of extraordinarily different dimensions from any previous experience. Like every other aspect of their relationship, because now it was most definitely a relationship, the ways that he and Molly were relating to each other, how each was getting to know the other, was a new journey for him.  As with all new journeys in life, both the real, external ones and the inner, subjective ones, new journeys came with new experiences, new vistas and new horizons every step of the way.

As he slept on that next morning, Lisa had telephoned Molly and had asked her what the hell was going on.  She seemed very upset in a way that Molly couldn’t fully understand.  After Lisa had calmed down a little, Molly told her that she and Philip were now lovers.

Five days later, 2007 bid farewell forever and in came the New Year of 2008. Philip and Molly endeavoured to be together as much as possible for his remaining ten days. He was now effectively living at her house.  In those ten days any lingering cautions in their minds about either of them being hurt just vaporised. For the very simple, yet gigantic, reason that he wanted to be with her and she with him.  There was no doubt whatsoever that he would leave Devon and come to San Carlos with Pharaoh just as soon as it could be arranged.  In the interim, Molly would come to Devon in the Spring to meet his family and friends.  Then the plan was that in the early Autumn, he and Pharaoh would make the one-way trip to Mexico, routing via California.

Thus it came to pass that early one morning in September, Philip arrived at London Airport with two suitcases and one beloved dog: Pharaoh. They were flying one-way with British Airways, London to Los Angeles.  He had been informed that Pharaoh would need to be checked-in at the World Cargo centre. Philip parked outside said cargo centre and walked Pharaoh on his leash to the animal check-in desk. Fifteen minutes later, with his face staring out at Philip through the grill of his travel cage, Pharaoh disappeared from sight without even a bark; without even a whimper.  It was as if he sensed the new life that was ahead of him. Philip had asked as to where in the aircraft’s hold Pharaoh’s cage would be situated and had reserved a cabin seat more or less above that spot.  He was of no doubt that Pharaoh would know that he was sitting as close to him as possible.

As is the way of long international, non-stop flights, it was over in some sort of time-warped way, before he could really grasp it.

Molly had driven up from San Carlos to meet him and Pharaoh when they flew in to Los Angeles.  First she welcomed Philip with the world’s sweetest and dearest hug then they repositioned to another part of the terminal building to await Pharaoh’s arrival. In what seemed like no time at all they were all heading out from the airport complex, Pharaoh sitting on his haunches on the rear seat of Molly’s car unable to take his eyes off the strange world outside yet at the same time eagerly eating a bowl of dog biscuits being held under his chin by Philip.

So, it’s time for this story to take a pause. Well, maybe not a pause, more a drawing back from the intricacy and detail of the previous pages. For in so many ways the story has now been told.

Philip and Molly’s lives together were all, and more, of what they could have ever imagined.

He had been living in Mexico with Molly for about eighteen months when they were clear that they wanted to marry and find a new home in America. Because Molly had US citizenship through her marriage to Ben, it seemed sensible for Philip to apply for a US Fiancée Visa.  So it was decided that they would find a home in Arizona and sell the beach-side house in San Carlos.  They quickly found a comfortable home in Payson, a city of fifteen-thousand persons located at five-thousand feet, eighty miles North-East of Phoenix, Arizona. The subsequent move from Mexico to Payson went off remarkably well. Especially if one reflects that the move included fourteen dogs, seven cats and all their belongings. Their latest dog being a beautiful, black, half-Rottweiler female dog that was dumped in the street just outside the house barely ten days before they departed Mexico.  She was still in milk, frantically tearing back and forth along the dusty street, presumably looking for her puppies, crying out the pain of her loss.  Molly enticed her into the house, gave her water, for she was very thirsty, and within minutes the dog was showing her love and gratitude to Molly. They named her Hazel.

Then it was time for Philip to apply for that fiancée visa. There was no delaying that because his entrance to the USA, when they moved up from San Carlos, was on the basis of a ninety-day tourist visa.

Applying for that fiancée visa could only be done at the US Embassy back in his home country; England.  In the end, it involved several trips back to the UK and strange, interminable processes convincing the US Embassy in London that he was a fit and proper person to be admitted as a resident to the United States of America.

Nevertheless, on November 4th, 2010, he boarded Virgin Atlantic’s flight VS007 from London Heathrow to Phoenix, the possessor of a United States visa permitting him to marry a US Citizen; in this case a very special one.  Sixteen days later, on Saturday, November 20th, he and Molly were married.

This is where the story should have ended.  Molly and Philip and their animals living very happily in a comfortable home in Payson, Arizona. But the story has a twist.

It had been a night in the middle of June in 2012; the night of the 20th June as he recalled.  There was nothing about the previous day that could have had any bearing on his mind, as in any trigger for the dream, not that, as dreams go, it was a dream of any meaning; well not outwardly. He dreamt he had gone to the bathroom in the middle of the night and turned on the cold-water tap and found no water flowing from it. That was the dream; no more or no less. Bizarre!

Yet when he awoke in the morning, the dream was vividly present in his mind.  He said to Molly that he had had the most strangest of dreams and recounted the experience. As it happened, they had a neighbour call by later that morning and the conversation lead Philip to mention his dream.  To which the neighbour had simply remarked that if he was worried about water then they should go to Oregon.

While their property was sufficiently far out from Payson to require their own well and, as wells go, it was a deep one of nearly three-hundred feet, the water level had stayed pretty constant around sixty-feet down.  On the other hand, this part of Arizona had been receiving below-average rains for the last twenty years.

Then, almost as though it had been pre-ordained, a short while thereafter Molly met a woman who said that she would be delighted to house sit and look after all the pets if Molly and Philip ever wanted to go on a vacation. Molly had mentioned that they were thinking of visiting Oregon.  All of which came together and saw Molly and Philip setting off on July 11th on the start of a three-day, twelve-hundred mile drive to Southern Oregon.

On their arrival in Grants Pass, Oregon, yet another set of coincidences found them being introduced to an independent real-estate agent, Donna. Donna said she was happy to show them some properties for sale in this part of Southern Oregon. The second property that Donna showed them was a few miles North of the small community of Merlin, itself some nine miles North-West of Grants Pass.

Donna stopped at the entrance to the driveway, turned round and looked back at them.

“I have to be honest and tell you that I know very little about this property. There are not even listing particulars. It was for sale a few years back, rumours had it at well over a million dollars; possibly even million and a third.  Then it was lost to the bank and, for whatever reason, nobody has gone for it.  It’s been empty for at least two years.”

Donna drove in.  The driveway was surrounded either side by tall forest trees; oaks, pines and firs. It initially sloped down from the roadway and then went across a bridge over a sparkling creek of crystal-clear water flowing from right-to-left.  Donna paused the car as Philip asked a question.

“Any details about the creek, Donna?”

“It’s called Bummer Creek and it flows all-year. Not sure, will need to check on it, but I thought I had heard there were formal water extraction rights for the owners of the property.”

The driveway then made a gently climb along the right-hand edge of a large, multi-acre, grass paddock.  In what must have been nearly a quarter-of-a-mile later, they drove up to a large, wooden-clad, single-story home surrounded by more wonderful tall pines and firs.  It was stupendous.  A four-bedroomed property in thirteen acres of fenced land with stables, a garage and other outbuildings, and what did turn out to be water extraction rights from Bummer Creek.

It took Molly and Philip less than an hour to make up their minds that at the right price this could be their home of a lifetime for them and all their animals.

Donna came up to them as they stood outside the front of the property.

“What do you think, guys?”

Philip answered, “It’s an incredible property and I don’t doubt that at some point it would have been an expensive property to purchase.  Do you know the asking price?’

Donna answered, “I’ve just been calling to find out more details.  The bank that originally foreclosed on the property then sold it a while back to a company called Gorilla Capital.  Gorilla are just trying to flip the place for cash but, as with the bank, have had trouble finding a buyer.  The company have told me they are looking for three-hundred-and-eighty-thousand dollars.  I have to say that’s quite a low price for all that’s here even in these depressed times.  My guess is that many people would find it a bit too much to take on in terms of the acres.   Otherwise, I can’t see why it hasn’t sold a long time ago. Especially for the money being asked.”

Philip and Molly took another walk around the house. They ended up standing together on the wooden deck overlooking some eight or nine acres of grassland, dense forest sweeping up the flanks of the slopes in the near distance, and the mighty Mount Sexton visible four or five miles off to the North-East.

“What do you think, Molly?” he asked, putting his arm around her waist.

“It’s gorgeous, I just can’t believe what an incredible home it is.  How about you? What do you think, sweetheart?”

His reply was unequivocal. “I think we should put in a silly offer.”

“Such as?” Molly wondered aloud.

“Come with me.”

He took her hand and lead her around to the front of the house, to where Donna was waiting.

“Donna, we want to make an offer.  Tell Gorilla that we can’t go anywhere near their asking price just now. But if they want a deal today, we will offer two-hundred-and-fifty-thousand dollars. Cash on the nail as we say in my old country.”

Donna walked away to be out of earshot and rang Gorilla.  She was back in a couple of minutes.

“They say that’s too low.  Say there really looking for something a bit higher.”

Fifteen minutes later, Gorilla and Philip and Molly had settled on the figure of two-hundred-and-seventy-one-thousand dollars.

As they walked towards Donna’s car she said to them, “You do know, don’t you, that even in today’s depressed housing market, that’s one hell of a deal.”

So it came to pass that on the following day, Sunday, 15th July, over at Donna’s office, Philip and Molly signed the purchase contract.

They left to return to Payson the following day.

Upon their return to Payson, without exception, all the people they shared their news with were astounded at what they had purchased for such a modest sum of money.  Now came the challenge of getting their Payson house ready for sale, packing up their things and transporting what was by now eleven dogs and five cats, the twelve-hundred miles to Oregon.

Nevertheless, as is the way of things, piece by piece, little by little, it all came together resulting in the day of the ‘big move’ arriving: Tuesday, October 23rd to be exact.  Philip’s Jeep was towing a large covered U-Haul trailer and Molly was driving a U-Haul rental van towing another trailer carrying her Dodge van packed to the roof. They were off to Oregon.

Within less than forty-eight hours of arriving at their new home in Merlin, as Molly and Philip saw how the dogs reacted to their acres of land, the trees, the hollows and the borders, they knew that all of them, in the fullest sense of the phrase, had come home.

2,387 words. Copyright © 2013 Paul Handover

The book! Chapter Nineteen.

Apologies for the single post today.

But on Saturday night the temperature dropped to 10 deg F (-12 deg C) and the pipework above our well froze. Despite all day Sunday with the help of neighbour Bill to thaw out some of the pipes the job wasn’t completed by nightfall last night. Thaw coming on Thursday!

Learning from Dogs

Chapter Nineteen

It was difficult at first for Philip to embrace truly what had been opened within him.  Yes, there was one change that was clear and obvious.  Him now knowing that Maggie’s unfaithfulness was a blessing in disguise.  For the simple reason that the marriage would end without Philip having a whole pile of guilt sitting on his shoulders. Apart from that clarity, the other changes within him were much more subtle.  No better described than that there was a feeling of, how would he put it, a feeling of inner peace. Almost impossible to articulate any more clearly than that.  He had no doubt that there would come a time, possible a couple of years hence, when he would look back and fully realise the importance and significance of his time with Jonathan.  What an amazing stroke of luck to have met Jonathan and to have had his trust that they could manage their reversal in their relationship in the way that it turned out.  Golly, and how!

The weeks flowed by in a manner that could be described as tranquil.  It wasn’t until well into August that Philip started to kick around in his mind Lisa’s suggestion of spending his Christmas with her and Don out in Mexico.  Despite so much travelling around the world back in the days of him running his business, he had never been to Mexico, didn’t even have a clue about the place apart from the fact that the national language was Spanish, a language he couldn’t speak.  He rang and spoke with William and Elizabeth who, as he expected, were completely relaxed about the idea of their Dad being out of the country at Christmas time.  Then he called Lisa and Don to get a better idea of what to expect.  He had looked up the details of the San Carlos online but not found anything that really helped him.  Lisa explained to him that San Carlos was a very popular second-home destination for Americans and that not speaking Spanish wouldn’t be an issue at all.  She continued describing San Carlos as a great place to get away from the English Winter weather and, in answer to Philip’s obvious next question, said that it was mostly sunny with daytime temperatures around seventy-five degrees and not falling much below sixty degrees at night.  As they were chatting, Philip idly converted in his head the Fahrenheit temperatures to Centigrade: mid-twenties in the day and not below twelve degrees at night. Gracious, he thought, that’s not a lot different to Summer temperatures in the Western Mediterranean. In particular, thinking of Nice in Southern France, a place that he had been to several times. This might be a lovely, relaxing way to prepare for 2008.

Finally, he asked Lisa about the best way of travelling out there and she told him to take a flight to Los Angeles and then take the short flight from there to Hermosillo in Mexico, going on to explain that Hermosillo was just an hour’s run from their house in San Carlos and that she and Don could pick him up from the airport.

“So, Philip, are you coming out?”

“Yes, I’m strongly minded to do it.  But Lisa, if I was going to come out it would seem to make sense to come for three weeks or so.  Are you sure that’s OK with you guys?”

“Philip, absolutely.  It would be such fun.”

“OK Lisa, leave it with me and as soon as there’s a clear decision I’ll call you with the flight details.”

“Can’t wait, my friend.”

His next call was a quick one to Danny who immediately said that he would be pleased to collect him when he arrived at Los Angeles, have him stay with him and Georgie, and drop him back to the airport when he was ready to fly down to Mexico.

Danny went on to point out that for his return trip he could probably fly in to Los Angeles airport the same day of the evening flight out to London.  Just a simple change of terminals.  Philip made a note of that as it clearly made good sense to do it that way.

He then wandered out from the flat with Pharaoh to find Liz.  She was over in the milking area, raking up the cow pats and shovelling them into a trailer just the other side of the fence.

“Hi Liz, you not shovelling shit again!”

Liz laughed, “Always, got any of yours you want me to shovel up?”

Philip belly-laughed and even Pharaoh joined in by furiously wagging his tail and scampering around the yard.  Pharaoh had quickly settled in to the surroundings and even stopped trying to be boss dog around Liz’s pair of friendly sheep dogs.  He wondered if Tracy and Jack, Liz’s dogs, were teaching Pharaoh how to round up sheep.  For he had caught the three dogs out together in the large field where Liz kept fifteen or twenty sheep, the dogs  appearing to be instructing Pharaoh in the art of rounding up the woolly creatures.

“Liz, I came over to explain about going to Mexico over the Christmas holidays.”

“Ah, yes, you had mentioned the possibility when you first moved in.”

He explained what he was thinking of doing.  Liz responded by telling him to go for it; that it’s not every day that one gets the chance to swap Devon’s Winter weather for Mexico.

“You’ll put Pharaoh with Sandra?”

“Yes, Liz.  I mentioned the possibility of going to Mexico to Sandra when I collected Pharaoh last time back in from California and she said not a problem in the slightest.  Went on to say, in fact, that she was usually so quiet with dogs over Christmas that she could give Pharaoh extra special attention.”

“Oh that’s good, must reassure you hugely.”

“I wouldn’t leave Pharaoh for a minute if I wasn’t sure that he was being looked after fully.”

Later that afternoon and into the evening, Philip trawled online airline websites looking at flight prices, schedules and trying to put together an itinerary that felt sensible to him.  There was one schedule that would have him flying into Hermosillo airport at a little before five in the afternoon.  He called Lisa again,

“Lisa, I’m looking at a direct flight from LAX that comes in to Hermosillo a little before five in the afternoon.  Would that be OK?  Didn’t want it to be too late in the day for you.”

“No, that’s perfect.  There’s a Costco in Hermosillo and I can catch up on some shopping and then come across to collect you.”

He didn’t know what a Costco was but presumed it was some type of American discount store. “Great.  Will get the flights booked and drop you an email with the flight details.”

An hour later it was all done.  He would be flying out to Los Angeles on December, 12th and catching the AeroMexico flight to Hermosillo on Saturday, December 15th.

The weeks turned into months. November slid by and allowed in an unusually wet and warm December to blow over Devon.  While Devon had more than its fair share of rain, Philip had long been fascinated by living down here in the South-West of England because, so often, the arrival of a low-pressure weather system in from the Atlantic perfectly conformed to the classic meteorologist’s textbook description of a Low. In fact, he watched such a classic cold-front chasing him up the A303 as he drove from Devon up to London on the Sunday before his flight out to LA on the following Tuesday morning.  It was an opportunity to stay with his daughter, Elizabeth, for a couple of nights; these days he rarely came up to London without Pharaoh.

The long flight to LA was as uneventful as they always were.  Philip chose to re-read the David Hawkins book Power vs Force rather than watching whatever films were on offer.  When Jonathan had lent the book to him back in June he had longed to write notes over many pages. That had quickly persuaded him to buy his own copy and for a multitude of reasons he had never got around to that second reading.  Today’s long flight was the perfect opportunity to do just that.

He walked out of the terminal to find Danny almost parked in the exact same spot as that day back on the 8th May when he last come over; gracious, he thought, now over seven months ago.  They chit-chatted about what they had both been doing these last few months as Danny drove back to Costa Mesa, the multiple lanes of traffic just as disturbing to Philip as they always were.

Later that evening, as the three of them sat together at home after Georgie had served a delicious dinner, suitably gentle on Philip’s stomach as, once again, his body didn’t know if it was tea-time or breakfast-time, they wanted to know more about his sessions with Jonathan.  Danny had studied psychology at University and easily understood Philip’s earlier family experiences and the resulting long-term implications.  Georgie was just as interested, perhaps even more so. Later in bed, as Philip felt himself slipping into a much-welcomed sleep, he wondered if Georgie’s curiosity in his own emotional discovery was touching some deeper places within her.

The fifteenth, just three days later, came round so quickly. Danny dropped Philip outside Terminal Two back at Los Angeles’ airport.  It was a little after 1 p.m.  He couldn’t recall using Terminal Two before but quickly realised, looking up at the flights board, that many international airlines were coming into this terminal rather than Bradley International.  

Ten minutes later he was sitting in the pre-boarding lounge presuming that the Embraer aircraft that was coming to rest alongside the walkway was his flight to Hermosillo.  Yes, he looked at the tail fin and saw the AeroMexico symbol.  Good, he loved flying in high-winged aircraft because it provided such a great view of the land below, especially as today it would be all new country for him to look.

The flight promptly push-backed from the gate at 2 p.m. and less than ten minutes later was heading out over the blue Pacific before turning to what he guessed was a South-Easterly direction.  He was initially surprised that the aircraft, after gaining height, didn’t continue around to the left to cross the high, rolling mountains he could see in the distance; he presumed the southern end of the Sierra Nevada range.  But, no. They continued following the coast, perhaps only twenty-five miles off to the left, for a good forty-five minutes.  He thought he saw San Diego pass by and then the land started to look much more barren and desolate. He assumed that they were now flying seawards off the Mexican coast.

It all became clear when he was able to match the route map in the airline magazine to what he could see out of his window.  For the land off to their left had obviously become the Baja California peninsula, to the extent that he could see the waters of the Gulf of California beyond the narrow peninsula.  Not long after, the aircraft turned to the left crossing over the peninsula. Perhaps half-way over the waters of the Gulf, a slight reduction in engine speed signalled the start of the descent into Hermosillo.

Philip was now aware of two things.  Outside, a vista that looked very deserted, seemingly a barren, hot, landscape.  Inside, a rising feeling of excitement at his untypical, adventurous idea of coming to Mexico for Christmas.

Moments later, that delicious squeal of tyres on tarmac and the taxi up to the parking spot alongside a two-storey, glass-fronted terminal building.  The few steps from the aircraft to the terminal doors felt more like a hot summer’s day than the late afternoon in mid-December that it was.

Hermosillo was one of those lovely small regional airports that was a joy to pass through.  Even for Philip, suitcase in hand, immediately aware that this was a new country for him with an unfamiliar culture, found he was approaching the glass doors to the outside area in front of the airport terminal in less than twenty minutes from the moment the aircraft had come to a stop. He looked at his watch; it was a little after five in the afternoon. He was looking forward to seeing Lisa the moment he stepped through those doors.

The doors slid open and the heat struck him again.

He put his case down and looked around for Lisa.  Strange, no sight of her.  Even stranger when he considered that there weren’t that many people around. Her distinctive, waist-length plait of white hair would be easy to spot. Maybe she was running a little late. Perhaps caught up in the shops, but even as that thought came into his mind he instinctively rejected the idea.  What could have gone wrong?  Here he was outside a strange airport in a strange part of a strange country unable to speak a word of the local language.

2,212 words. Copyright © 2013 Paul Handover

The book! Chapter Seventeen

Learning from Dogs

Chapter Seventeen

Adjusting back to Devon life upon his return from California could have been so much worse if Philip didn’t have that first meeting with Jonathan to look forward to.

The flight back to London had been uneventful and as soon as he had taken a taxi from Totnes Station across to Diana and John’s place, to pick up his car, he was off to Sandra’s to collect his beloved Pharaoh.

While that night flight home from Los Angeles was always a bit rough on the body, the morning arrival did allow most of a full day back in England.  The thought of waiting another day to see Pharaoh was unbearable.

As he pulled into Sandra’s parking area and opened the car door, the sound of the many dogs staying at Sandra’s kennels greeted his ears. He hadn’t even had time to close his door when Pharaoh came bounding across to him, tail wagging furiously. If ever a dog could put a smile on its face, and Philip had no doubt that dogs could smile, Pharaoh was wearing the biggest dog smile ever.

Philip sat on the ground and received a rapid succession of face licks. As soon as he stood up and opened both the car’s tail-gate and the door to the travel cage, Pharaoh gave one giant leap into the open cage, turned around and was indicating in very clear dog speak, ‘Dad, take me home, now!’.

He told Pharaoh to wait while he went across to settle up with Sandra.

“Did you have a good time in California?”

“Thanks Sandra, yes a great time.  Feel almost ready for what’s facing me these next few months.”

He paused before asking, “Tell me, Sandra, how’s Pharaoh been?”

“He was fine.  Same as he always is.  It’s almost as though he knows that he isn’t here for ever and that you will come back for him.  In fact, it must have been over half-an-hour ago that Pharaoh was telling me, in the way some dogs do, that you were on your way to collect him.”

“Wow! Sounds as though that was around the time I picked up the car from my sister’s place and starting heading your way.”

He continued. “Sandra, the reason I asked about how Pharaoh is with you is that I have been invited to spend next Christmas with good friends at their house in Northern Mexico.”

Sandra’s face showed that she was uncertain where Northern Mexico was.

“It’s a place called San Carlos, about a couple of hundred miles south of the border with Arizona but there’s a good airport quite close by.  What I have been thinking, Sandra, is that being away from Devon over the holiday period might stop me getting all caught up in the memories of last Christmas. But if I was to go, it would be for the thick end of a month and there’s no question of me going if Pharaoh wasn’t going to be happy and settled here with you.”

Sandra’s reply was immediate. “Philip, I’m usually very quiet over the Christmas period with most dog owners wanting their dogs with them at home, for obvious reasons.  So not only would I be able to give Pharaoh extra attention but during the day I could take him for a walk around our local woods and have him in the house as well.” Sandra hesitated before continuing, “Of course, I wouldn’t have him sleep in the house overnight, might start to confuse him as to whether or not this place was becoming his new home.  So, what I’m saying is that it wouldn’t be a problem for me or Pharaoh in the slightest.”

“Thanks Sandra, you are good to him, and to me.  Thank you so much.”

Philip was soon over at Upper Holsome Farm and as he parked up, about to let Pharaoh out and take his travel bags over to the flat, Liz came up to him.

“Thought it was you.  How was it? Did you have a good time?”

“Thanks, Liz.  Yes, it was a great time. Gave me a real break from the stuff of the last few weeks and months.

“So pleased to hear that.  I took the liberty of putting some fresh milk and bread in your refrigerator.  Thought you wouldn’t want the hassle of newly moving in and not having any food in the place.”

“Oh Liz, that was kind of you.  Yes, apart from going to collect his nibs”, Philip lifted the tail-gate of the car and opened Pharaoh’s cage. “I had no other thought than to get back here and rest up after what feels like two days of solid travelling.”

Pharaoh had a quick sniff of Liz’s outstretched hand and went off to check out all the new smells and scents around the place.

“Liz, while it’s in my mind, I’ve been invited to go and spend Christmas with good friends in Northern Mexico.  I’ve checked with Sandra over at the kennels and she is confident that Pharaoh will be happy with her.  Because, I’m thinking of being away about a month.” He immediately added, “Of course, I’m not asking for any rent relief for the month and I’m happy to have you use the flat if you are expecting guests over the Christmas period.”

“Philip, come on now! I’m not putting anyone else in the flat while you are paying me rent and having your things there.  When you have firm dates for your Christmas trip let me know; I’m sure you would have done so in any case.”

“Thanks Liz.”

With that, he took his belongings across to the flat, still familiar to him back from the time when he was living here before he and Maggie moved in to the Harberton barn.  For Pharaoh, however, it was another new place to check out.  He left him sniffing around the flat and went out to lock the car.  When he returned to the flat, less than two minutes later, and went into the bedroom, there was Pharaoh curled up in the bottom half of his open suitcase. As if to say that the next time Philip left Devon he’d better take his dog with him.  What a dog. What a relationship.

Later that evening, as the two of them were resting after both a human dinner and a dog supper, his mind came back to the relationship that he had with Pharaoh.  Of course, it was well known that dogs loved unconditionally.  But the phrase love unconditionally was too trite, too obvious.  What was the deeper meaning behind those words?  He went on to ponder that it must be so much more than that.  The closeness of the companionship, the easy way that Pharaoh signalled his feelings to Philip, the purity of those feelings. What was the word Jonathan had used about feelings?  Transparency. Of course! Yes, the transparency of Pharaoh’s feelings; that was it. He continued reflecting on the incredibly ancient relationship that had existed between dogs and man.  At least thirty-thousand years and, quite probably, as far back to Neanderthal times fifty-thousand years ago.

If only us humans could live so simply and straightforwardly as dogs.  For example, take how dogs live in the present for the vast majority of their lives.  Think what that would mean for humans if we stopped deliberating about the future in the way that most us do. Not so much deliberating about the future, more like worrying about the future. The fear that this must engender because the future is so often an uncertain one.

Philip was sure that if humans could live as fully engaged in the present, making the the best of each moment, as dogs so clearly do, then we would live a much more uncluttered life. Uncluttered in the sense of being unburdened by the many complex fears and feelings that we humans so often seem to have.  Let’s face it most of the time our fears never actually turn into reality.  Millions of people loving millions of dogs in the world, untold numbers of close relationships between people and dogs, and we are all missing the most profound lesson of all to be learnt from these wonderful animals.  That if we stopped obsessing about the future, turned down the noise of the outside world, we would have a chance of some silence and mental space. For it is only from that silence within us that we can become aware of ourselves. How that self-awareness allows us to better cope with the uncertainty around us, and more to the point, offers us greater happiness. Now that would have profound implications for society.

1,453 words. Copyright © 2013 Paul Handover

The book! Chapter Sixteen.

Learning from Dogs

Chapter Sixteen

The glass doors swished apart and Philip walked out of the terminal building.  Dear old Bradley International here at LAX airport, almost an old friend, such a familiar transition from the tail-end of that long flight from England to arriving outside these terminal doors.  Never failed to amaze him how from the moment that the Captain announced that they would be commencing their descent into Los Angeles within the next five minutes, it all seemed to run so much more like a London tube train on tracks than this free-flying aeroplane so far up in the sky.  The start of the descent, the pinching of nose and air puffs to keep the ear-drums clear, the views of the Pacific Ocean and the horizon-to-horizon sprawl of greater Los Angeles, the thump as the landing-gear was lowered, the squeal of rubber on runway, the deceleration and the final taxi to the terminal gate. It all seemed so perfectly in order. This time was no exception.

Even the disembarking and passport control, collecting one’s luggage from the carousel and heading for the exit doors seemed so perfectly choreographed.

Then in stark contrast, the instant chaos of so many persons making so many decisions for the last lap of so many individual  journeys. As different as night from day when compared to the all their behaviours on board the airplane.

“Hey Stevens, hey over here!” came a familiar shout.  Danny was waving his arm in the air standing close to his car parked by the kerbside.

Gracious he hadn’t aged despite it being almost seven years since Philip had last seen him.  That was back in the Summer of 2000 when he had brought Maggie out to California just a few months after they had married.

Maybe Danny’s grey hair was perhaps just a little thinner than last time.  But in all honesty Philip wondered if he had aged as well these last years as Danny appeared to have done.  When he felt braver he would ask Danny the question!

The ride from LAX back to Danny’s home in Costa Mesa was the same as it always seemed, something so homely about the way that Danny manoeuvred in and out through the traffic.  Philip could remember the very first time he came out to Los Angeles to check out whether or not Danny’s company was an appropriate US West Coast distributor for him.  Way back in 1979.  Even practically thirty years ago how the volume of traffic and the number of traffic lanes on the freeway had been beyond anything he might have imagined.

Dear Danny, such a confident, well-assured person, so upright in stance and so upright in character.  Sure, Philip didn’t necessarily agree with him on a number of issues but his laid-back, Californian approach to life was always fun to be around.

On the drive home, Danny quizzed Philip about the whole business of Maggie being unfaithful; didn’t he have any idea as to what she was up to, the almost incredulous notion that Maggie had come with Philip on this romantic vacation to Turkey, had really loved up to Philip to reassure him how much she loved him, and all the time she was carrying the child of another man.

There was a pause in the flow of conversation.

“Philip, my friend, you know I always say that shit happens.  Take my word for it, you’re better off without her. Trust me.”

The plan was for Philip to spend a week with Danny and Georgie and then make his way North to spend a further week with Danny’s sister Lisa and her husband Don, before returning to LA in readiness for the flight back to the UK.

It turned out to be a week of great healing.  Very quickly Philip was made aware of how much he had needed the easy-going, worry-free days that Danny and Georgie were giving him.  It was just as a doctor might have ordered. Walks with Danny and his dog, Wendy, in the beautiful air of an early Californian morning, maybe a breakfast of toast and coffee down at Newport Beach, swimming and sun-bathing at Huntington Beach or along at the cosy little beach at Laguna, pre-dinner glasses of wine at one of the innumerable number of cosmopolitan bars, then dinner and then a night-time aperitif before bed.  All bound up in a wrapper of great conversation and wonderful camaraderie.

Before Philip was hardly aware of it, the morning dawned when he, borrowing one of Danny’s cars, would make the drive from Costa Mesa up to Los Osos to stay with Lisa and Don.

He had made this journey a few times before and always chose the slightly slower Highway 101 simply because the drive of around four hours brought back alive to him the history of California.  Like so many Brits, he had overlooked the fact that this part of North America was prominently Spanish not so far back in time. He could never remember historic dates even for his own country, let alone the Western coastal states of the USA, but he had this notion in his mind that it was only about one-hundred-and-fifty years ago when California became American.  In terms of British history that felt like yesterday; Queen Victoria was on the throne well before 1850.

Thus as Philip worked his way North, he passed so many place signs that either reinforced the earlier era of the Spanish missions, because the old Spanish names still existed, or reminded him that California’s brand image was a worldwide phenomenon, thanks to the studios of Hollywood.

Thus Long Beach, San Pedro, Calabasas, Malibu, Santa Barbara, Los Alamos, Santa Maria, San Luis Obispo and on up to Los Osos.

He mused about how it was so difficult to reconcile the vibrant, modern country that California now is, with the desperate treatment of the Native American population back in those days of the Spanish missions.  How a diverse, sophisticated and self-reliant people had been reduced by those missions to desperate peonage. How in the fifty years leading up to 1821, when Spanish rule finally ended, that Native American population fell by one third, to fewer than two-hundred-thousand persons.  What a strange lot we humans are; how very much we need to learn the values and integrity of our best friend: the dog.

Danny’s sister, Lisa was so much like Danny and yet, in so many ways so different. Lisa had always been generous with her care and attention for Philip and, as with Danny, he and Lisa went back far too many years to contemplate; he had met Lisa not long after meeting Danny back in 1979; the thick end of thirty years.

By the time he had arrived after his drive up from Costa Mesa it was well into the afternoon.  Don was pottering about the place and came over to welcome him. Shortly followed by Lisa coming out from the house, giving him a big hug and showing him to his guest room. Ten minutes later he had freshened up and went to find Lisa. She asked him what he wanted to do.

As he hadn’t met with Lisa and Don for equally as long as it had been with Danny, there was a significant amount of catching up to do on their respective lives over the last seven years.

But that could wait until dinner-time or later.

“Lisa, I tell you what I would love, and that’s a good walk.  How about you and I taking off for an hour’s walk?”

“Philip, that works for me.  Let me tell Don we’re going out for a walk.”

Lisa went across to a long, garage, entered by the side door, and was out moments later.

“Come on, jump in my truck and we’ll go across to the shores of Morro Bay.  In fact there’s a neat forest trail along the shoreline. We’ll take a couple of the dogs.”

Philip had forgotten that Lisa was a quite a dog person.

Ten minutes later, together with two very excited dogs, he and Lisa were making their way down from the parking lot to the edge of Morro Bay.

“What are the names of your two dogs, Lisa?”

“Pancho and Shilo.”

“How long have you had them?”

“Oh, quite a few years now.  They’re both rescue dogs.”

It was a lovely walk and Philip, seeing how much the dogs were enjoying the walk, once again missed his Pharaoh.  When they had been walking for some thirty minutes and it was about time to return to the car, they found old tree trunk on its side and decided to rest a while.  Within moments both the dogs were up against their legs, welcoming the head rubs that Philip and Lisa were giving them.

“So how you are feeling now that a few months have gone by?” Lisa asked, with obvious greater concern in her voice than the question belied.

“Oh, I don’t know, Lisa. To be honest, I’ve tried to put the whole last six months behind me, every bloody day of them, and just enjoy this magical trip out to California. But I know that there’s a pile of crap waiting for me when I get back home; just in a little under two weeks from now.”

A long sigh came from Philip as he paused, as if uncertain of whether or not he wanted to refresh the memory of that fateful day last December; that most terrible Christmas.

“Yep, I’ll have a divorce to plough through, get settled in my rental place, try and pick up a new social life and all the rest of it.  Just one consolation, though.”

“What’s that?”

“Well I shall be seeing a counsellor a few days after getting back to England.  Actually, he’s a lot more than a counsellor.”

Philip went on to explain how he had met Jonathan Atkins and the role reversal that Jonathan had agreed to.

“Thing is, Lisa, that I have this feeling, something I can’t bring to the surface, that Maggie’s unfaithfulness has hurt me way beyond the obvious ways I have been hurt.  I must try and get to the bottom of that because, again, I have this notion that if I don’t I won’t be able to move on, whatever moving on ends up meaning.  Here I am sixty-three at my next birthday and utterly lost in so many ways.”

They stood up and started heading back towards Lisa’s pick-up.  Philip’s feeling of disconnectedness hung over him for quite a while.  She seemed to sense that and left him to his own thoughts.

Just as the days staying with Danny had flown by so quickly, so did his time with Lisa and Don. On the last evening of his time with them, the evening of the 20th, he took them both out for a thank-you dinner at a local restaurant.  They were back in the house a little after 9pm.

“Philip, can I get you a drink?” Don asked.

“Don, I’m not sure.  I had more than enough over the meal and I was just thinking of the long drive South in the morning, me still not familiar with American roads, and whether I should call it a day, alcohol-wise.”

Lisa had come in to the room at that point and picked up on Philip’s words. “Say, I have some beautiful almond milk.  Would you like to try a glass of that? It’s very soothing on the mind.”

“Sounds like an idea, yes please.”

She returned with a glass of what looked like ordinary cow’s milk.  He took the glass and sniffed the liquid.  There was almost a complete absence of smell.  He took a small sip and was staggered.  It had the most beautiful smooth, soft texture and while there wasn’t a strong taste, it was by no means unpleasant.

“Hey, this is rather nice.”

The three of them sat in the living room, the daylight rapidly fading away through the doors that looked out over a well-manicured lawn.

“Philip,” Lisa said. “Did you know that Don and I have a house down in San Carlos, Mexico?”

“No, I had no idea.”

“Oh, I had thought Danny might have mentioned that.  It’s just that Don and I find the Winters up here in Northern California a bit too cold for our ancient bones and we tend to go down to Mexico around October or November time.”

“Whereabouts in Mexico is this place; did you say San Carlos?”

“It’s about a five-hour drive South from the Arizona border town of Nogales.  San Carlos is on the shores of the Bay of California looking West, just a few miles from the town of Guaymas and a little more than an hour’s drive South from Hermosillo where there’s a good international airport.”

She continued, “Philip, what are you doing for Christmas?”

“Oh gracious, Lisa, give me a break!” There was laughter in his voice.  “Haven’t even really got my mind around last Christmas.”

Lisa looked across at Don, “It’s just that Don and I were wondering that if Christmas in England was going to be a bit tough on you, what with memories of last Christmas and all that, then why don’t you come and spend Christmas with us down in Mexico.”

Don added, “Yes, Philip, we would really enjoy having you with us.  You could come and stay as short or as long a time as you wanted to.”

Philip went quiet.

He stood up and went across to shake Don’s hand then across to where Lisa was sitting and gave her a hug.

He sat back down again in the easy-chair.

“Do you know, I might just do that!”

2,314 words. Copyright © 2013 Paul Handover

The book! Chapter Fifteen.

Philip’s life continues to change and adjust.

Just a little reminder that as from next Monday, December 2nd, the remaining nine chapters will be posted here on Learning from Dogs at the rate of three per week: Monday; Wednesday and Friday.  On those same days, I will also be posting my regular style post.


Learning from Dogs

Chapter Fifteen.

Jeremy Stanton’s forecast had been accurate.  At eleven-thirty on that Tuesday morning, he called Philip.

“Philip, it’s Jeremy from Fulfords.  Mrs Fuller has signed an agreement to purchase Tristford Barn, subject to survey, for the sum of five-hundred-and-fifty thousand pounds, with vacant possession in effect from Tuesday, 1st May, 2007.”

“Wow, I better get my skates on!  Jeremy, do you know how long it will be before Mrs Fuller has the barn surveyed?”

“Not been arranged yet, but because of the shortness of the time before the exchange of contracts will need to take place, hopefully within the next seven days.  I will obviously confirm that with you.  Unless you and Mrs Fuller were to agree a shorter contract period, the exchange of contracts would be expected thirty days before close, the 2nd April in this case.”

“Thanks Jeremy. I’ll look forward to hearing from you with regard to the survey date.”

With that Philip and Jeremy ended the call.  He turned to Pharaoh and exclaimed, “Wow, my furry friend, now things are really going to change.”

His next call was to Liz Jones over at Diptford.  He quickly brought her up to speed about what had just happened.

Liz then asked, “So, Philip, when are you looking for accommodation?”

“From Tuesday, 1st May to be blunt about it.  How does that work for you? Or rather how does that tie in with your existing tenant?”

“Philip, after our last call I did speak to Mary, that’s her name, and she is likely to give notice on or around May 1st, vacating towards the end of the month.  Is there any way you can find temporary accommodation for the month of May?”

“Not sure, to be honest, Liz.  But can’t imagine I can’t work something out.  In fact I was thinking of going to California around that time.  Leave it with me.  But, Liz, can I confirm with you that as soon as Mary vacates I will be able take over the tenancy?  Happy to pay a deposit straight away, of course.”

“Philip, come on now, you don’t need to put a deposit down, for heavens sake!  As far as I’m concerned as soon as Mary vacates it’s yours.”

“Oh, just had a thought, Philip.”

“What’s that, Liz?”

“I have a decent size barn that is empty and weather-proof.  Would it help for you to store your house contents there until your future plans become clearer?”

“Oh, Liz, you are an absolute sweetheart.  That would take a huge burden off my shoulders.”

Philip and Liz finished the call agreeing that she would double-check Mary’s plans and him saying that he would arrange things for May and go forward on the basis that the rooms wouldn’t be free until the week commencing the twenty-eighth of May.

It was time to take Pharaoh for a walk and soon they were parking up at James’ woods and enjoying the afternoon air.  It gave him an opportunity to think things through; so much had happened in the last few days.

First up would be to work out finding somewhere for him and Pharaoh to stay during the month of May.  What came to his mind almost immediately was calling Danny and seeing if his invite to ‘get his arse out to California’ would extend to him coming out in May.  If he could get his belongings sorted and over to Liz’s barn in late April, then perhaps spend a few days with Diana and John in early May, and then fly out to California more or less returning to England at the end of the month.  It seemed like a plan.

After their time in the woods, he decided to pop in on the way back and see sister, Diana.  Both she and John were at home, as they so often were, and Philip gave them the news of the sale of Tristford Barn, then outlined his thoughts about the month of May.  As he anticipated, there wasn’t a problem.  Far from it, because John had long ago admitted that he enjoyed having Philip’s company.

Then back home to the barn, with a quick call to Sandra Chambers at the kennels establishing, as Philip anticipated, that there would be a kennel for Pharaoh in May.

He went to the fridge and opened himself a beer before coming back and picking up the phone again. Time to call Danny.

“Hey Danny, it’s Philip”

“How are you man, how’s it going?”

“Listen Danny, you remember telling me to get my arse out to California. Well you know I always hang on to your every word, so how about me coming out around the 8th May for a couple of weeks or so?”

“Hey that’s cool, no problem at all, we would love to see you out here.  Will you want to go and see Lisa and Don up in Los Osos?”

“Yes, that would be wonderful. Haven’t seen your sister for a while now.”

“OK, Philip, I’ll call her, but can’t imagine it will be a problem.  Want to use one of my cars?”

“Danny, is the Pope Catholic!  That would be fabulous. OK, I’ll look into flights and give you a call before I go firm on them.  You sure it will be OK with Georgie?  Don’t want to cause your dear wife any issues?”

“Hey, Georgie loves having you stay with us. And she’s been so worried about you these last few weeks.  Trust me, no problem.  Give us a call with those flight details.”

Thus it was that a week later Philip was back on the phone to Danny and within thirty minutes of finishing the call with him, he had booked tickets for the flight out to Los Angeles for the morning of the 8th May, with him returning back to London on May 27th.

This all set in motion an incredibly hectic few weeks.  Essentially, in a little over a month all the contents of Tristford Barn had to be packed up and taken over to Liz’s barn at Diptford.  There was another aspect as well. One that he wasn’t looking forward to.  That is that he had no choice other than to speak with Maggie and have her come over and remove many of her personal belongings that were still in the barn.  A couple of evenings later, he called Maggie’s parents home.

Her father, David, answered and, much to Philip’s surprise, Maggie was over at her parents house.  She came on to the phone.

“Maggie, it’s Philip.  Won’t take any of your time but need to let you know that Tristford Barn has been sold and it has to be emptied and vacated by the end of April.”

“Yes, I had a call from my solicitor to say that the house was close to being sold.  When do you want me to come across?”

They swapped a few dates around and agreed for Maggie and her father to come over on the 14th April, a Saturday.  That would suit him as much of his stuff would have been taken over to Liz’s barn by then.

After he had put the phone down, he wondered just what his emotions would be when Maggie came across. Plus he was unsure whether her coming over with her father was helpful or not.  There was not long to wait to find out.

Saturday, the 14th dawned clear and bright, thank goodness.  Philip took Pharaoh for an early walk around the village and had been back in the house for about thirty minutes when he saw David’s car arrive and Maggie get out of the car to open the gate.  He wasn’t sure what to expect but the one thing that he didn’t expect was to see someone he was married to for over six-and-a-half years come across not only as a person utterly remote to him but almost  practically a stranger.  He noticed that Pharaoh was unusually quiet as well, as if he was picking up on Philip’s feelings.

Those feelings persisted as he went down to the front door and let David and Maggie in.

After offering them both a hot drink, Philip said to Maggie, “You’ll find in each of the rooms that I have put your stuff more or less together.  Of course, if you think there’s something not there then shout out.  I’ll be sitting up here in the living room so come and see me if you want to open any drawers or cupboards.”

Maggie nodded in a reflective manner, her father seemed to want to stay away from any emotional aspect of this visit to Tristford Barn.

Thus over the next hour or so, David and Maggie were back and forth between the house and David’s car. It came to the point where it looked as though they had finished removing Maggie’s belongings.

David came up the stairs to where Philip was sitting, Pharaoh curled up next to him.

“Philip, we’re all packed up so soon be out of your hair.  Thank you and, how can I put this, I’m really sorry as to what happened.  I shall miss your company.”

Philip hadn’t expected that. “David, thank you and I feel the same way.  We saw eye-to-eye on many things.  You and Gwen welcomed me into the family despite the age difference between me and Maggie and that’s something that will be treasured in the future.  Give Gwen a hug from me and tell her I’m already missing her home-made cakes.”

He and David hugged. Pharaoh had come up to them and David stroked Pharaoh’s head. Then went down the stairs, let himself out of the front door and within minutes he and Maggie had driven out of the cul-de-sac disappeared from sight.

As Philip continued looking out from the front window, Pharaoh came and sat on his haunches next to him. Once again, this furry, loveable creature had picked up on his feelings and sensed Philip’s need for the closeness of Pharaoh.

What was he feeling? It wasn’t clear but it did have something of the feel of a termination.  Or was it more like rejection? He wasn’t sure but it did bring uppermost to his mind that he should speak with Jonathan and try and get a session with him arranged fairly soon after he returned from his trip California which, with a start, he realised was coming up in just over two-weeks time.

On the Monday, Philip was able to have a quick conversation with Jonathan and agreed that his first session with him, in his counselling capacity, would be Friday, 1st June, just a few days after his flight back from LA, hopefully with the worst of the jet-lag behind him.

Thus Philip’s new life was taking shape.  His sister, Diana, and John, were happy for him and Pharaoh to stay with them as soon as he had to vacate Tristford Barn; most probably on the last weekend in April.  Liz, bless her, had offered storage space for all his furniture and belongings. Then within a week, he would be going up to London in order to catch the flight out to Los Angeles on May 8th.

1,883 words. Copyright © 2013 Paul Handover 


Finding one’s true self.

A personal journey

In some ways, it is surprising that I haven’t written about my own counselling experiences before.  Perhaps it has never felt like the right moment.

But the guest post from Peter Bloch that I had the honour of publishing yesterday so strongly resonated with the ‘Fergus’ inside me that I was compelled to offer my own journey.  So if you are not into bouts of personal introspection, look away and come back tomorrow! 😉

The fickle finger of fate

I was born in Acton, North London, just 6 months before the end of World War II.  Nothing remarkable about that.  Just another one of the millions of soon-to-be post-war babies.  My father was an architect; my mother a teacher.  Indeed, at the age of 93 my mother is still teaching music!

In 1956 when my father was 55 years-old he developed lung cancer.  I and my sister were blissfully unaware of our father’s terminal condition until the evening of December 19th, 1956.  That evening Mum came into my bedroom and said that father was very ill and may not live for very much longer.  To be honest, it didn’t really register and off I went to sleep.  I was 12 and looking forward to Christmas in 5 days time.

My father died in the night hours of December 19th/20th.  I had slept through not even wakening when his body was removed from the house.  On the morning of the 20th he was just gone!

It was felt by the family doctor, who had been attending my father, that it would be too upsetting for me and my younger sister to attend the funeral.  That funeral was a cremation and therefore no grave.

The good and the not so good.

The only obvious effect of the trauma of my father’s death was that I bombed out at school.  I had passed my ’11+’ exams at my primary school and in September, 1956, become a pupil at Preston Manor County Grammar School near Preston Road, Wembley where we were living; Wembley Stadium could be seen from the back windows of the 2nd floor of our house.

I struggled with schooling, the victim of much bullying as I recall, sat 8 ‘O-level’ exams, passed 2, struggled to get another couple of ‘O-levels’ but it was clear that a University place was not going to be for me.

From then on, in stark contrast, I enjoyed a wonderfully varied life, working as a business salesman, freelance journalist and ending up starting my own company in Colchester in 1978 which became surprisingly successful.

But when it came to relationships, that wasn’t so successful.  If I tell you that Jeannie is my 4th wife, you will get the message!

A little more background.

When running my own business back in the 1980s I had a network of overseas distributors.  My US West Coast distributor was Cimarron, a company owned and run by Daniel Gomez out of Los Angeles.  Dan and I became good friends and still are some 35 years later.  I’ll come back to this highly relevant relationship with Dan.

I sold my business in 1986 and went overseas for 5 years, actually living on a boat based in Larnaca, Cyprus.  (The boat was a Tradewind 33 named ‘Songbird of Kent‘.)

In the early 1990s upon returning to England I chose to live in the South Hams area of South Devon, ending up in the small village of Harberton, pop. 300, near Totnes.  Once settled I took up business mentoring.  In previous years, I had gained Chartered Membership of the Institute of Marketing.  In addition, I became a youth mentor with the Prince’s Youth Business Trust, a really fabulous organisation that does so much good for young people.

One of my personal mentees was Jon Lavin, the founder of The People Workshop.  (Yes, and Jon is aware that his website is a tad out-of-date!)

Out of sight, but not out of mind.

In time I became married to wife number three.  Seemingly happy living in a tranquil part of rural Devon, keeping busy, not thinking too much about life.

Pharaoh became an important part of my life in 2003.  At the time, I had no idea how important!

Pharaoh, relaxing in a Devon garden.
Pharaoh, relaxing in a Devon garden.

On the evening of December 20th, 2006, 50 years to the day that my father died, my wife announced that she had met another man. The implications of this casually delivered bombshell were obvious and catastrophically painful.

I will spare you the details but, trust me, the next few weeks were tough!

High on my priorities were letting close friends know what was happening.  Dan, in characteristic Daniel fashion, said over the phone, “Hey, Handover, you get your arse over to Southern California pronto! Like now!”  I replied that it was much too difficult to do that now but maybe later on in 2007.

Realising that I might need some psychological support, I spoke with Jon Lavin.  However, Jon made it clear that as we already had a working relationship with me as his mentor, he couldn’t now, in turn, be my psychotherapist.  I pleaded with Jon.  He said he would only work with me on the strict understanding that he would terminate the counselling relationship if our past workings interfered.  Of course, I agreed. [See footnote.]

Finding one’s true self after 50 years!

Jon, quite naturally, started into understanding my past experiences. Right back to that fateful day in 1956 when my father died.  And, guess what!

Unbeknownst to me, the lack of time to adjust to my father’s cancer, his sudden death, being unable to ‘say goodbye‘; all had been emotionally interpreted as acute and profound emotional rejection.  Buried deep within me with both strong positive and negative emotional consequences.  Negatively, making me very vulnerable to emotional rejection; positively, causing me to strive for outward success in so many ways.  Those sessions with Jon brought it all to the surface bringing with it deep and peaceful calm.

Yet, the true implications of finding myself were still to come.

In the Summer of 2007, I took up Dan’s offer to ‘get my arse to Southern California!‘  I had a fabulous time with Dan and his dear wife, Cynthia.  It also included a visit to Dan’s sister, Suzann, and her husband, Don, in their home in Los Osos, California.  Su fussed over me restoring my sense of self-worth as Dan and Cynthia had been doing.

One morning over breakfast Suzann said, “Hey Paul, what are you doing for Christmas?

I replied, “Oh, give me a break, Suzann, it’s the middle of June.  Long time before I have to think about dealing with Christmas!

Su then made the offer that was to change my life irrevocably.  “Don and I have a house down in San Carlos, Mexico where we shall be at Christmas.  Why don’t you come and have Christmas with us in Mexico?

And I did.  And it was in San Carlos, Mexico that I met Jean.  Suzann and Jean were great buddies. Jean had been living there since she and her late husband, Ben, had moved there many years ago.  Ben, an American, and Jean had been married for 26 years with Ben, sadly, having died in 2005.

Jean and I spent hundreds of hours chatting and getting to know each other, including the fact that she and I had both been born Londoners within 23 miles of each other.  Jean had been rescuing Mexican feral dogs for years and there were 14 dogs in her house in San Carlos.  So many of those dogs loved me from the start.  It seemed like the most beautiful Christmas I could have wished for.  In such stark contrast to just a year ago.

Mexican sunset! San Carlos, 2nd January, 2008.
Mexican sunset! San Carlos, 2nd January, 2008.

In September, 2008 after selling the house in Devon, I moved out to San Carlos, Mexico.  Just me and Pharaoh who had been such a devoted friend, companion and confidant over the previous months.

In 2010, we moved to Payson in Arizona, some 80 miles NE of Phoenix. On November 20th, 2010 Jean and I were married.

The marriage of Jean and Paul wonderfully supported by Diane, maid of honour, and best man, Dan Gomez.
The marriage of Jean and Paul wonderfully supported by Diane, maid of honour, and best man, Dan Gomez.

Releasing the Fergus in me and all of us.

What Peter Bloch wrote yesterday was so true.  A dog can only be a happy, fulfilled dog, if allowed to be the true dog that is in him or her.  Despite the fact that humans are primates and dogs are canids like wolves, coyotes, and foxes, it still holds as true for us humans as it did for Fergus.

We can only be happy, to put it in the words of Fergus, “happy, energised, purposeful and fulfilled in every way.” if we are given the freedom to be our self.

So if you find that you, like Fergus, suffer from digestive problems, possibly have skin disorders and sometimes behave a little strangely take note – you need to find your healer!



Back in 2008 when Jon Lavin was working with me, I would take Pharaoh and he would lay on the floor behind my seat.  On one occasion Jon was talking about the findings of Dr. David Hawkins and his Scale of Consciousness; from falsehood to truthfulness. (See here and here for more details.)

Anyway that fateful day, Jon mentioned that Dr. Hawkins had measured dogs as being integrous animals.  That notion stayed with me and later I registered the domain name learningfromdogs (dot) com leading to – yes, you guessed it – this blog.  Funny old world.

German Shepherd dogs

Just a musing about this fabulous breed.

We had to put one of our dogs to sleep on Friday, not a GSD, but one of Jean’s rescued dogs from way back.  At this moment in time (11am US Mountain Time, Saturday) I’m writing a piece about this wonderful dog that will appear tomorrow.

Thus not in the mood to post my usual light-hearted item for a Sunday.  So I resorted to looking up an appropriate dog video on YouTube.

Came across this,

Of course, that reminded me of how precious our Pharaoh is and it only took a few moments to find a couple of earlier pics of him.

Here’s Pharaoh the day I collected him from GSD breeders Jutone‘s in Dartmoor, SW England.  That’s Sandra Tucker, the owner of Jutone, with Pharaoh; the date being 12th August 2003 when Pharaoh was then just over 8 weeks old.

Sandra Tucker holding young Pharaoh

The next photograph was taken on the 11th March, 2008 at London’s Heathrow Airport.  The occasion being the time that Jean came across to England from her home in Mexico.  Jean came to see if the romance that had blossomed between us at Christmas in 2007  in San Carlos, Mexico was alive and well.  Luckily, it was!

Jean meeting Pharaoh for the very first time!

Thus it came to pass that in September, 2008, Pharaoh and I travelled out from Devon, England to Mexico where we lived until February, 2010, when Jean and I, Pharaoh and 12 other dogs and 6 cats relocated to Payson, Arizona.