Wagasana, greeting the day
with gratefulness and curiosity!
Have you had a doga moment today?
MA - Counseling Psychology - Antioch University, Keene, NH
BS - Organizational Management - Leslie University, Cambridge, MA
NBCC - Board Certified Counselor
CPDT-KA (Certified Professional Dog Trainer)
Yoga Alliance Registered Yoga Therapist (RYT)
Author of Awareness Centered Training - ACT, Train Your Dog, Change Your Life,
Contributing author Children Dogs and Education
Dog Talk Media: publications on canine training, human/dog relationships
Maureen has presented workshops on dog behavior, family systems and pet-assisted therapy
Doga makes sense to me ... many of the Yoga pose’s names are related to Nature: Downward Facing Dog, Upward Facing Dog, Eagle, Tree, Cat / Dog, Mountain, Camel, Frog ...
I have loved and shared my life with dogs since I can remember. I used to study dog breeds in the back of Spiegel’s catalog, threatening my mother daily that "when I grew up, I’d get big dogs.” True to my word, I have lived with big, small, 3-legged, deaf, pedigreed and mixed. Forever grateful for their presence in my life, we created moments in our small, backyard jungle that paved a path for my adult passion and career. Continually, dogs lead me to paths I may never have found on my own. Living and learning with dogs continues to change my life.
Living in a small, cramped, but affordable apartment in Lowell, MA, my parent’s choice of dog for me was small (Chihuahuas or little mutts). I had a menagerie of birds, gerbils, turtles and fish. Our family knew next to nothing about dog behavior, aside from what one generation passed on to the next, which wasn't brilliant, but the best they could do with the education that was passed down.
Things happened that, even as a child, I knew was not okay. You don’t drown a feral kitten in a sewer. Resiliently, the dogs and I managed to blend in and survive the chaos of growing up, much like everyone else does. One thing I know for sure, is that perfect is whatever it is at that time. As Dr. Seuss says in Places You’ll Go, “we have a brain in our head, feet in our shoes, we can steer our life in whatever direction we choose! “
Dogs provided me with a safe place, companionship, love, connection and a calling. I was given a special gift of time to learn with dogs. My inglorious teenage years and too young first marriage and subsequent divorce, I had dogs as my protectors –partners, friend and therapist. This was and still is a too big a job for any dog to take on. Thank you dear dogs. Today, they still have jobs, with an older, wiser me, as companion, pet therapy assistant and teacher. I am proud to be a dog parent!
Many of your stories echo the reality of the "imperfect" family. What I've learned is that the "perfect" family is an illusion. All families have skeletons and secrets that are colored with pride, beliefs and values passed from generation to generation.
I grew up with a colorful mix that left me with a resilient ability to withstand emotional chaos almost without flinching. It works well for counselors and dog behaviorists working with families. We have choices, but a person can become “stuck” or “ostracized” when stepping outside of the “familial” box, called enmeshed.
Choosing to focus on your own positive core values and letting the negative go is empowering. It has a trickling effect on how we relate to, teach and work with others (children, dogs, co-workers, family and friends).
Survival techniques are learned at an early age for all species. Dogs are excellent at reading body language. I learned how to read expressions and find rocks to skip to the other side of the stream before the impending storm. It is useful knowing when to back off from a dog who is fearful or a person who is angry. Until the storm subsides, finding a refuge is okay. We can choose our battles with our dogs and others. Remember, a wise friend shared with me, “Not your circus, not your monkeys”.
Dogs have taught me to listen to my intuition, balance energy, thresholds, boundaries and tough love. Dogs share our drives like fight or flight, react or respond. They share sensory overload. When overly stressed, they can’t learn. We need awareness to know when to take a 10-minute doga (brain) break. When we are stressed, overwhelmed, overtired or angry, we can’t make sensible decisions. A break gives our body and brain a chance to re-energize. Dogs need this too!
I find comfort in knowing that I am never alone. I have me and chosen friends / family. I wake up grateful to be alive with dogs by my side and going to sleep listening to them breathe. Dogs are accepting companions, teachers and therapists (in their own way). Always, I remember, they are dogs, a different species.
I do not believe in the gooey notion that dogs are unconditional. Dogs have species related conditions as does any family pack. To survive (wild, jungle, home), they use coping skills that work. Misunderstood and/or pushed hard enough dogs can hurt us, but so can friends, family or the environment. Recognizing this is awareness; Valuable on so many life levels!
With dogs I learned to accept death, grief and letting go. Life presents "stuff" to us (panic attacks, depression, anxiety, stress, death, divorce, transition and trauma). They say lessons are repeated until learned. Dogs keep teaching me to never give-up, to love many, trust few and try to harm none. Humans tend to analyse. We have stories. Dogs do too, but in a different way. They associate in context, remembering situations, and then move on to the next moment.
Dogs mirror our behaviors! I consider myself privileged to be invited and accepted in the presence of dogs and their ancestors the wolf. Amazingly, I can view the world through another specie's perspective ... bringing the lessons into my own life. Watch their reactions to our behaviors, like teaching them to SIT when we ask. If our dogs aren’t doing what we expect, then we need to figure out how we can teach / communicate in an understandable way. Can they even to the task we ask?
With insatiable curiosity, I am honored and content when I am in the company of others who have the same intrinsic love of dogs. Not a word has to be spoken between beings that include dogs as part of the Universe right along with elephants, dolphins, wolves and every other living being. They get it!
My friend Stella, who passed at 93, taught me, "It is a knowing that needs no words”. Dr. Jane Goodall shares in Reason for Hope, "If I had one wish it would be to see the world through their eyes (her beloved chimpanzees) if only for a moment”. The late Cindy Fischer, M.Ed., TTouch Practitioner, co-founder of the Pet Wellness Festival and author of Pets Tell us a Story shared, "Animals make me aware of my connectedness with others. In the big picture, we want the same thing, understanding, acceptance and love”. Dr. Ian Dunbar, whose lessons I revisit often humbly shares, “Do what you are passionate about – people will disagree, don’t get your knickers in a twist over it. We can train using science and feelings”.
Connection with dogs gives me the opportunity to share my experiences with others. How amazing this is and how lucky am to make even a small difference.
I no longer care what anyone thinks about my passion for dogs. Not all of us like the same dessert. To me, dogs are delicious. Living and learning with dogs is my legacy, something I can give to those who want some. I am forever grateful for dogs. I will do whatever I can to lessen their burden through raising awareness about education, relationship and well-being.
To the dogs ... I thank you with all my heart. Enjoy the Journey!
When Pablo Casals reached ninety-five, a young reporter asked him a question:
“Mr. Casals, you are ninety-five and the greatest cellist who ever lived. Why do you still practice everyday?”
Casals replied: “Because I think I’m making progress.”
About Maureen – Dogs – Teamwork
To all the pets I've loved
To all who taught me how to live
You are always in my heart and soul
Not forgotten, keeping me whole
~ Maureen Ross
You can share your hopes, dreams, sorrows and stressful moments with your dog. You share what you may never with anyone else fearing judgment. Dogs listen and agree that “you are absolutely right to feel what you are feeling.” They tilt their head, aha, lightening the situation, making us laugh. When a contented dog enters, they naturally change the energy in the room. They shake you out of a emotional ungluing. What’s not to be grateful for?
Chilling out and viewing the world from a new perspective! That’s what dogs share with us!