Tag: San Carlos

The book! Part Five: Trust

A dog offers loyalty, trust and love in exchange for being treated with integrity and compassion.

What do we mean by trust? Roget’s Thesaurus defines the word (in part): “Trust – noun: Absolute certainty in the trustworthiness of another: belief, confidence, dependence, faith, reliance.”

Accepting that this is a book called Learning from Dogs doesn’t prevent me from using two examples of trust from other animals, a wolf and a horse, before offering a personal experience of a dog learning to trust.

This true story was told to me by DR when we were living in Payson, Arizona. An amazing true story of a relationship between a wild wolf and a man. A story of a particular event in the life of Tim Woods; brother of DR.

It revolves around the coming together of a man sleeping rough, with his dog, on Mingus Mountain, and a fully grown female Grey Wolf. Mingus is in the Black Hills mountain range between Cottonwood and Prescott in the State of Arizona, USA.

DR and his brother, Tim, belong to a large family; there are 7 sons and 2 daughters. Tim had a twin brother, Tom, and DR knew from an early age that Tim was different.

As DR explained,

“Tim was much more enlightened than the rest of us. I remember that Tim and Tom, as twin brothers, could feel each other in almost a mystical manner. I witnessed Tom grabbing his hand in pain when Tim stuck the point of his knife into his (Tim’s) palm. Stuff like that! Tim just saw more of life than most other people.”

The incident involving the wolf was when Tim was in his late 40s and, as mentioned, was living rough in an old shack up in the Black Hill mountains. The shack was simply a plywood shelter with an old couch and a few blankets for the cold nights. The dog was a companion to Tim, his guard and a means of keeping Tim in food; the dog was a great hunter. But Tim was no stranger to living in the wild.

DR again,

“Tim was ex-US Army and a great horseman. There was a time when he was up in the Superstition Mountains, sleeping rough, riding during the day. At night Tim would get the horse to lay down and Tim would sleep with his back next to the horse for warmth.

Tim was up on Mingus Mountain using an old disk from an agricultural harrow as both a cook-pan and plate. After he had finished eating, Tim would leave his ‘plate’ outside his shack. It would be left out in the open over night.

Tim gradually became aware that a creature was coming by and licking the plate clean and so Tim started to leave scraps of food on the plate. Then one night, Tim was awakened to the noise of the owner of the ‘tongue’ and saw that it was a large, female grey wolf.”

DR went on to explain that the wolf became a regular visitor and Tim became sure that the wolf, now having been given the name Luna by Tim, was aware that she was being watched by a human.

Then DR continued, “Over many, many months Luna built up sufficient trust in Tim that eventually she would take food from Tim’s outstretched hand. It was only now a matter of time before Luna started behaving more like a pet dog than the wild wolf that she was. From now on, Luna would stay the night with Tim and his dog, keeping watch over both of them.

Not that I doubted DR’s retelling of the account of Tim and the wolf but, nevertheless, the next action by DR had me in floods of tears. For DR then showed me an unaltered photograph taken in 2006 showing Tim lying back on a blanket with his dog across his waist and there, sitting on its haunches just behind Tim and the dog, was Luna the wolf.

DR underlined this miraculous story by saying that he remembered Tim being distraught because, without warning, Luna stopped coming by. Then a few months later back she was. Tim never did know what lay behind her absence but guessed it might have been because she went off to have pups.

Unfortunately, this wonderful tale does have a sad ending.

Back to DR, “About two years ago, what would have been 2007, Tim lost his dog. He was awakened to hear a pack of coyotes yelping and his dog missing. Then tragically some 6 months later Tim contracted a gall bladder infection. Slowly it became worse. By the time he realised that it was sufficiently serious to require medical treatment, it was too late. Despite the best efforts of modern medicine, Tim died on June 25th, 2009, just 51 years young.

DR’s closing words to me were: “So if you are ever out on Mingus Mountain and hear the howl of a wolf, reflect that it could just be poor Luna calling out for her very special man friend.

One would have to go a very long way to come across a better story of such fabulous trust from an animal towards a human.

The second example of trust from an animal other than a dog is from the Spring of 2014. About that time, we decided that we had sufficient acres of pasture to have a horse. We were put in touch with a horse rescue centre, Strawberry Mountain Rescues, near Roseburg in Oregon; about an hour north from where we lived. Soon after arriving at Strawberry Mountain we took a liking to a 15-year-old gelding. His name was Ranger and he had been found abandoned in the Ochoco National Forest in central Oregon, subsequently arriving at Roseburg. Ranger had a delightful temperament plus his age was a bonus as both Jean and I were the wrong age to be taking on a horse that might outlive us.

A week before Ranger was brought down to us, there was a telephone call from Darla, who runs Strawberry Mountain, asking us if we could take two horses.

This other horse, Ben, was a younger horse that had been ‘rescued’ on the orders of Darla’s local Sheriff because of Ben being in private ownership. It turned out that Ben had been subjected to starvation, to beating and there was evidence that he had been fired at repeatedly in the chest with an air-gun. The Sheriff’s office took away Ben and placed him under the care of Darla. Very quickly, Ben had formed a close relationship with Ranger and Darla was in no doubt that Ben’s relationship with Ranger was part of his journey of returning to a healthy, confident horse. We couldn’t say no to taking both Ben and Ranger despite Darla explaining that Ben was a very wary horse, especially nervous of men and that I should never make any sudden movements around Ben, as much for my own safety.

Unlike Jean who had owned and ridden horses in her younger days, I hardly knew the front from the back of a horse. I decided to approach Ben as I would a new rescue dog.

In less than three weeks, Ben had recovered sufficient trust in men to allow me to stroke his neck. Six months after having Ben and Ranger with us, I can put my face against Ben’s muzzle and stroke the area on his chest that is covered in scars from the air-gun pellets fired into him.

If only us humans could learn to trust in such a manner. Indeed, many persons would harbour anger and distrust in their hearts forever.

So now to dogs.

It’s easy for me to understand the trust in a dog when I look at Pharaoh, my German Shepherd. For he has been part of my life since a few weeks after he was born in South Devon, England, on June 3rd, 2003.

So my experience of Pharaoh doesn’t really offer any insight as to how a dog that has been cruelly treated by other people learns to trust a new home. I had to wait until 2010 to learn the lesson of trust from a dog.

I first met Jean, my wife, in Mexico; to be precise, in San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico. We met just a few days before Christmas, 2007. Despite Jean, as with me, having been born in London, indeed we were born just twenty-three miles from each other, she had been living in Mexico for many years; since Jean and her American husband, Ben, moved down there twenty-five years previously. (Ben died in 2005.)

Very quickly I became aware that Jean was well-known for rescuing Mexican feral dogs. At that time that Jean and I met, she had sixteen dogs, all of them rescues off the streets in and around San Carlos.

In September, 2008, I travelled out to Mexico with my Pharaoh and, subsequently, in the February of 2010, we made plans to move from San Carlos to Payson, in Arizona; some 80 miles North-East of Phoenix. Primarily, because we wanted to be married, and to be married in the USA.

Just a few days before we were due permanently to leave San Carlos with all our animals and belongings and journey the 513 miles (827 km) to Payson, AZ, Jean went outside to the front of the house to find a very lost and disorientated black dog alone on the dusty street. The dog was a female who in the last few weeks had given birth to puppies that had been weaned. That was obvious to Jean because the dog’s teats were still somewhat extended.

The dog had been abandoned outside in the street. A not uncommon happening because many of the local Mexicans knew of Jean’s rescues over many years and when they wanted to abandon a dog it was done outside her house. The poor people of San Carlos sometimes resorted to selling the puppies for a few Pesos and casting the mother dog adrift.

Of course, the dog was taken in and we named her Hazel. Now, rationally, we humans can’t even start to imagine the emotional and psychological damage that a mother dog would incur from having had all her puppies stolen from her. It’s very unlikely that we could imagine the damage a human mother would receive from the violent loss of her young baby.

The one thing that it would be reasonable to assume is that our latest addition to our dog family, Hazel, would initially be a bit wary of ’the species that walks on two legs’!

Once Hazel had been fed and watered by Jean, her coat inspected for ticks and generally checked all over, the next step was to introduce her to some of the other dogs. It all went very smoothly. Then in the evening, when we were sitting down after our evening meal, Hazel came over to the settee and looked up at my eyes. In a way that couldn’t be put clearly into words, I sensed a lost soul in Hazel’s eyes and a desperate need for some loving. Those thoughts were paramount in my mind and, I hoped, available for Hazel to read via my eyes.
Then after a pause of half-a-minute or so, our eyes still locked together, Hazel climbed up next to me on the settee and carefully and cautiously settled her head and front paws across my lap. I caressed and stroked her for much of the rest of the evening. When Jean and I went to bed, Hazel jumped up and went to sleep, and stayed alongside my legs for the whole of the night. Setting a pattern that has continued to this very day.

How did Hazel know to trust me? Only Hazel knows the answer to that one. But ever since that day, nearly five years ago as I write this, the bond between Hazel and me has been perfect. In fact, as I write these words, Hazel is asleep on the rug just behind my chair.

Our society only functions in a civilised manner when there is a predominance of trust around and about us. When we trust the socio-politico foundations of our society. When we trust the legal processes. When we trust that while greed and unfairness are never absent, they are kept well under control.

Having trust in the world around us is an intimate partner to having faith in our world. For without trust there can be no faith and without trust there can be no love.

Unlike the previous chapter on love, no list of behaviours come to mind that allow the growth of unbridled trust. Maybe trust flows from the actions of love. As in one only gets back what you put out.

All that does come to mind is never wavering from offering trust to others and never accepting anything other than trustworthy actions from others.

For eventually that would lead, lead inexorably, to a world where trust was accepted as if it was the air we breathed.

The final thing that comes to mind is always remembering this lesson from our dogs and, by implication, from their ancient ancestor, the wolf.

Returning to that beautiful story of Tim and his wolf, Luna, may I plead that if you ever hear the howl of a wolf, please will you allow yourself to disappear into your inner thoughts for a few precious moments and know that tens of thousands of years ago there was another Tim and another wolf: the start of the long relationship between man and dog.

Or, perhaps, the next time you gaze deeply into your dog’s eyes, sense that first Tim cuddling up to that first Luna and know how far trust has brought us and our dogs.

2,318 words Copyright © 2014 Paul Handover

Meet the dogs – Lilly

Lilly, the second of our nine dogs.

Last week was the start of a series of posts giving you, dear reader, background on each of our nine dogs.  Thus last week, Jean wrote about Paloma.  Here is Jean’s account of how Lilly came into her life.

ooOOoo

Lilly

Lilly - Taken in the last two weeks.
Lilly – Taken 26th January, 2014

Lilly came into my life fourteen years ago. I had taken my car into the mechanics workshop in San Carlos, Mexico for an oil change and was beckoned over to an old junk car in their lot. It had no glass in the windows and in the hatch-back area lay a smallish dog with five young, suckling puppies. She had apparently walked in off the street and chosen the old airy car as a suitable ‘house’ in which to have her babies. The workers had supplied her with an old greasy towel for a mattress.

My girlfriend, Suze, and I immediately set about making her comfortable with a small quilt and plenty of water and good dog food. She had been dining on tacos and tamales scraps up until then.

Suze and I visited frequently and took plenty of food and at the same time went about looking for homes for the pups. However, one day we arrived and found all the beautiful babies gone. The mechanics had given them away. We were shattered and could only hope that they had gone to loving homes.

‘Rabbit’, as she was then called, continued hanging around the workshop and the men seemed to like her. Rabbit had this trick of leaping on her hind legs, twirling and landing on her four legs; hence her name Rabbit, I guess.

Suze and I would see her once a week on average and had also arranged for Rabbit to be spayed. All seemed well until Easter came (I think we are talking of the year 2000). As is common in Mexico, during Easter week in San Carlos everything shuts down. It’s carnival time. The streets are busy with tourists and there is much traffic. I was worried about Rabbit as the mechanic’s shop was locked up tight and Rabbit was outside in the lot by the street. I planned to take her home for the rest of the holiday but fate intervened. On my way to collect her, I was aghast to see her motionless by the side of the road, obviously having been hit by a car.  I gently picked her up and took her home.  On inspection, it was clear that she had two broken legs on her right-hand side.  Her injuries were so bad that I knew the local vet did not have the skills or instruments to heal her. My late husband, Ben, and I ended up driving her two hours South to Obregon where there was an orthopaedic vet. He put pins in both legs and she stoically set about mending herself. Rabbit became Lilly. Irrespective of name, she was an assertive but sweet young dog and settled in nicely with my burgeoning pack; I had twelve rescue dogs in those days.  Her legs healed nicely and she resumed her twirling.

Lilly became a particular favourite of Ben, my late husband. When in 2005 Ben lay dying at home, Lilly slept non-stop by his side on the bed, only leaving to eat or go outside.  I knew for sure that Ben had died in the night when one morning I awoke to feel Lilly beside me on my bed. Lilly sensed that now I needed her more.

Lilly is still with us.  Now a dowager old lady of at least fifteen years of age, she still enjoys going out with her buddies whom she tends to boss somewhat.  (Paul thinks that Lilly is an ‘alpha’ dog, in other words has pack leadership in her genes.) But one thing that Lilly doesn’t now do; she doesn’t twirl anymore, but then neither do I.

It will be a very sad day when Paul and I have to say goodbye to this treasure of a dog. In the meantime we endeavour to make each day that she has left as rich as possible.

Another very recent photograph of Lilly.
Another very recent photograph of Lilly.

ooOOoo

Next week another story about another member of our family.

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

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!

oooOOOooo

Footnote

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.

To the Sea of Cortez.

Journey to the Sea of Cortez.

John Steinbeck
John Steinbeck

I feel very guilty as I didn’t make a note of where I came across this film.  Whoever highlighted the film, thank you!  It’s truly beautiful.  So, please, settle yourself down and be enthralled.

In March 1940, the author John Steinbeck and his friend, marine biologist Ed Ricketts, sailed down the coast of California and Mexico to the Sea of Cortez. “The abundance of life here gives one an exuberance,” they wrote, “a feeling of fullness and richness.

Their stated purpose was to document the creatures that inhabit shallow waters and tide pools on the margins of the Sea of Cortez. But it became much more. In these mysterious, phosphorescent waters they sought an understanding of mankind’s relationship to the natural world and a wellspring of hope for a world headed toward war.

Looking beyond the events of the day, the two friends foresaw our rising impact on the oceans and the devastating impact that over fishing would have on this rich sea. And yet, in their journey, they encountered a periodic cooling of the eastern Pacific Ocean known as La Niña that can still set off an explosion of life.

Can the story of their journey inspire new efforts to preserve the Sea of Cortez? Down along the shores of western Mexico, the wind blows hot and dry. Beyond these barren landscapes, cold currents rush up from the deep and the ocean literally boils with life.

Following their journey down to the Sea of Cortez in March of 1940, John Steinbeck and Ed Ricketts searched for a way to describe what they saw. “Trying to remember this place,” they wrote, “is like trying to re-create a dream. It is fierce and hostile and sullen. The stone mountains pile up to the sky and there is little fresh water. But we know we must go back if we live, and we don’t know why.

The Sea of Cortez is one of the most diverse marine ecosystems on the planet. It’s shaped by the cool waters of the California Current flowing into the warm tropics and by a complex undersea terrain that rises up along a chain of islands and sea mounts. It was the shorelines, between the desert and the deep, that drew John Steinbeck, the author, and Ed Ricketts, a marine biologist and expert on coastal ecosystems.

Ricketts’ book, “Between Pacific Tides,” is a classic study of the inter-tidal zones of the California coastline and the myriad creatures that live in shallow pools, clinging to rocks to sift the rich nutrients carried in by the tides. Steinbeck and Ricketts sought to extend this work to the Sea of Cortez and to explore ideas at the core of their friendship. They shared a belief that man’s fate, like that of the animals they saw, is linked to the health of the natural world. [Ed. my emphasis]

Ricketts is said to have inspired some of Steinbeck’s most memorable characters, including Doc in Cannery Row, and the preacher Jim Casy in The Grapes of Wrath, published a year before their voyage. Set against the backdrop of drought and economic depression, the book describes the dustbowl conditions that gripped the American heartland in the 1930’s. “Now the wind grew strong and hard and it worked at the rain crust in the corn fields. Little by little the sky was darkened by the mixing dust, and carried away. The wind grew stronger. The rain crust broke and the dust lifted up out of the fields and drove gray plumes into the air like sluggish smoke.

In most years, southerly winds carry moisture into the midsection of the country from the Gulf of Mexico. In the 1930’s, according to a recent NASA study, those winds were diverted by a build up of warm water in the Western Atlantic and by a periodic cooling of the Eastern Pacific known as La Niña. This combination robbed the region of rain.

By the time Steinbeck and Ricketts began their journey, the historic backdrop had shifted to war. Fighting had engulfed Europe and was spreading to the western Pacific. While the United States was still officially neutral, American companies had begun supplying arms to the allied effort. In early 1940, John Steinbeck used money he earned from “The Grapes of Wrath” to hire a sardine boat called the Western Flyer. From Monterrey, California, he, his wife Carol, Ed Ricketts and a four-man crew headed south, charting a course along the Mexican coastline.

By all accounts, the journey was filled with adventure, camaraderie, and a sense of wonder at the diversity of living things they encountered. Over a six-week period, the two friends wrote journal entries, took notes on conversations, and catalogued specimens they collected on the way. They compiled these writings into a book: “Sea of Cortez, A Leisurely Journal of Travel and Research,” later changed to “The Log From the Sea of Cortez.”

The work amounts to a search for a way to understand nature, and humanity at large, in a world steadily coming apart at the seams.

Ed Ricketts
Ed Ricketts

The film was released last Feb 28, 2013. Directed by Thomas Lucas, the Producers were John Friday, Thomas Lucas and Adam Ravetch.

oooOOOooo

Will end with a couple of personal reflections.  First is that when I was invited out to Mexico for Christmas 2007 by Suzann and Don, I travelled to San Carlos, Mexico on the Eastern shores of the Sea of Cortez.  San Carlos is a little under 300 miles south of the Arizonan border with Mexico and was where Jean had been living for many years.  Meeting Jean changed my life forever!  Here’s a picture of the Sea of Cortez through the rear door of Jean’s house in San Carlos.

Not the longest walk in the world to the beach!
Not the longest walk in the world to the beach!

Second reflection is about dogs. Jean had spent many years rescuing Mexican feral dogs and finding homes for them; hundreds of them over her time in San Carlos.  We brought 13 of those dogs with us when we moved to Arizona and 9 came to Oregon.  Below is Hazel, one of the five remaining Mexican ‘rescue’ dogs that are still with us in Oregon.

Hazel doing what she does so well - sleeping.
Hazel doing what she does so well – sleeping.

Yet another Corrie postscript

A lovely tribute from Suzann Reeve

This originally came in as a comment to the recent Post published on the 16th Postscript on dear Corrie.  I decided that it deserved a more prominent position than as a comment to a previous article.  This is what Suzann wrote:

My husband and I and our 3 rescue dogs were living at the time in an RV park in San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico, while waiting for our newly purchased lot to become available where we were going to base the ‘bus’.

I had just walked my dogs and saw a pack of dogs running down the side of the main road into town toward me. After quickly returning my dogs to our RV across the road, I gathered some food together and hurried back to the road to feed this pack of street dogs.

I noticed one of the dogs had such a distinctive coat; the coloring and configuration was unique.

I put several food dishes down and stepped back to let the dogs eat.  As I was standing there, the dog with the distinctive, white with brown markings all over her, came up to me.

Unusual for most street dogs, her manner was quite friendly. I led her back to the food and waited whilst she ate. I gradually turned and walked back across the street to the RV park. I got to the middle of the road and felt something bump my leg. I looked down and there was this lovely dog, gazing at me with friendly, caring eyes; I was amazed! She had practically glued herself to my leg!

I turned and walked back to the food and she followed me. But when I tried to cross the street again, she was right there, walking right next to me, leaning against my leg! My goodness I thought to myself…now what do I do?

I was instantly drawn to her….she was so friendly and had a very caring look in her eyes as she looked up at my face. Now what was I going to do? It’s 5-ish in the evening, I can’t take her to my coach as I have 3 dogs sitting there, and I did not know what to do.

I called to my husband to bring my cell phone to me, and dialed my best bud, Jeannie, and told her the story…..she had a packet of dogs herself, and we talked about it for several minutes about what the options were.

I asked, nay begged her, to drive over and see if we could take the dog somewhere and perhaps find a place to house her for the night….

The long and short of it was we drove around for a half hour, finding no one who could take her, and Jeannie finally said….”Oh heck, I will take her home!”

What will we call her? Well, that wasn’t too difficult, as she had hearts all over her!!  It had to be Corazon as corazón is the Spanish word for heart!

We both fell in love with that dog, and thanks to Jeannie taking her in, Corrie has had good years of love, good food, a loving home and a wonderful life.

I will never forget that dog. She was always bright and cheery, always had a kiss for me, such a sweet heart. I will always love our little Corazon….I miss her so much.
Suzann

Here are three pictures that Suzann sent.

Heart dog, Corrie
And a larger heart!
And yet more hearts!

I had the privilege of being with Corrie from September 2008 until the moment she died last week.  Everything that Suzann wrote is true; she was a lovely, gentle and trusting dog.

This demonstrates so powerfully the many things that we can ‘learn from dogs’!