NEW CHAPTERS RECENTLY ADDED!
WELCOME TO THE PEOPLE ARE LIKE DOGS BOOK:
PEOPLE ARE LIKE DOGS: A GUIDE TO SELF-ACCEPTANCE AND THE ACCEPTANCE OF OTHERS
Despite the fact that I’m stressing the importance of genetics in this book, I still believe that environment plays an important role in our lives and the lives of our dogs. It’s been documented that if a child isn’t touched or spoken to in its first years of life, the child’s development and even its ability to speak can be horribly stunted as that part of the brain will atrophy if it’s not stimulated. At this point in time, there’s no way to measure how much of an impact Nature (DNA) and Nurture (environmental influences) have individually on our lives. Until recently, the influence of genetics has been downplayed in favor of environmental influences. Not being able to know which behaviors and traits are genetic versus environmental makes it difficult to know what we can and can’t change about ourselves: the reasoning being that genetic traits will be much harder to change than a trait that’s the result of an environmental influence.
One reason it’s extremely hard for us to relate to our DNA has to do with the fact that DNA is microscopic which makes it a non-entity as far as most of us are concerned. We can’t see, hear, touch, taste or smell our DNA and our DNA doesn’t provide us with all the memories, impressions and traumas that our environmental influences do. Our environmental influences are naturally going to loom large in our minds because we’ve lived them and they’ve left a permanent mark on our psyches. There’s no way that we’ll ever be able to relate to our DNA in the same way that we relate to what we’ve experienced in our families, communities and other environmental influences. That doesn’t change the fact that DNA is the true Michelangelo in our lives: a powerful (though invisible) sculptor of both our physical and internal selves.
CHAPTER ONE: FINDING YOUR INNER DOG: changing our perspective changes everything
This chapter tells the story of how the circumstances of my life led me to sell both my veterinary clinic and my home and move across the country and, how doing that, opened the door for me to discover the People Are Like Dog’s philosophy. It tells the story of my struggle to make peace with my mom and how, once I learned to think of her as a Schipperke, I was finally able to accept the fact that she wasn’t ever going to be the Golden Retriever that I’d always wanted her to be. Accepting that truth allowed me to make peace with the fact that I wasn’t ever going to be really close to my mom. Sadly, that’s simply the reality of how that aspect of my life played out.
This chapter discusses how all of us are genetic beings: that our DNA is what dictates who we are. To better understand how DNA controls us, I discuss the genetic reasons as to why dogs bite as well as a National Geographic article detailing a study in which wild foxes in Siberia were tamed through selective breeding. The National Geographic article clearly demonstrates the fact that tameness and domestication are a function of DNA and not a function of environment.
I also discuss the amazing 1970’s Minnesota Twin Study that evaluated identical twins that were separated at birth. Before the Minnesota Twin Study, most psychiatrists (as well as most people) were absolutely convinced that it was our environmental influences that dictated our personalities and individual traits. The Minnesota Twin Study turned those beliefs completely upside down. Since the Minnesota Twin Study, countless new studies are re-confirming that it’s our DNA that primarily shapes who we are as individuals.
This chapter discusses how not only is temperament genetic but that our temperament is what determines the manner is which we experience and respond to the world. There are nine components of temperament that remain consistent throughout our lives: our activity levels, the predictability of our bodily functions, our mood, our ability to adapt, our intensity, how easily we’re distracted, our persistence, our attention span and our sensitivity to external stimuli. Temperament is typically classified as being easy, difficult, slow-to-warm-up or some combination of the three.
The first step in being able to accept ourselves (and others) is being able to understand that none of us has the power to dramatically change our temperament due to the fact that it’s genetic. Temperament, along with other genetic traits, explains why each of us is completely unique (with the exception of identical twins.) Temperament not only dictates our individual strengths and weaknesses but how well we function in the world: why we click so well with certain activities and individuals and not others. This will be discussed in greater detail in Chapters 7 and 8.
This chapter discusses the phenomenon of predictable variation. Every bit of variation that one sees in the world can be illustrated mathematically by a phenomenon called the bell shaped curve. Bell shaped curves can be used to plot anything that’s measurable (such as height, weight, how much TV each of us watches.) Bell shaped curves demonstrate that there’s always going to be a median or an average when it comes to any kind of measurable data (such as height or weight.)
Bell shaped curves are not only a predictable and consistent aspect of life but they explain why life can never be “fair.” What we consider to be unfair is simply the predictable variation that occurs naturally in the world. For example, if we look at the bell shaped curve of human happiness, we’d see that a very small percentage of people live extraordinarily happy lives, a very small percentage of people endure horribly tragic lives while most of us have lives that are a fairly even mix of happiness and tragedy. The majority of people in the world are “average” and, consequently, fall somewhere in the middle range of the bell shaped curve. Since life is predictably variable, most of what happens to us is actually a matter of chance. For example, it’s a matter of chance that our parents happened to meet and that we ended up with the DNA that we did. All of our genetic traits, all of our families and each of our individual socioeconomic circumstances into which we’ve been born are all factors born of chance. That’s why the very most important thing to keep in mind as we strive to find acceptance and peace is that, even though it may feel quite personal at times, LIFE IS NOT PERSONAL. The truth is all of our lives are simply a matter of chance and luck (not unlike the lottery) and, as a result, it’s up to us (and us only) to try to make the best out of what we’ve been given.
This chapter discusses the phenomena of hybrid vigor which is the complete opposite of inbreeding. When individuals with overly similar DNA mate (inbreed), their offspring will have an increased likelihood of genetic problems due to certain recessive genes having an increased likelihood of being expressed in the offspring. On the other hand, when individuals with very different genetic material reproduce, the offspring are often predictably superior genetically to that of either parent. That is the definition of hybrid vigor.
Our subconscious desire for hybrid vigor is very likely the reason why opposites attract! If we’re attracted to and mate with someone who’s our genetic opposite, it’s much more unlikely that we’ll be mating with someone within our own genetic pool. Consequently, we’ll tend to have healthier and more viable offspring which is what all living creatures desire.
Hybrid vigor also explains why there are so many crazy mating rituals in animals and birds (including ourselves!) as all living creatures are typically quite picky about who they mate with because they want to make sure their offspring have good genetic material so that they can reach adulthood and reproduce themselves. This genetic quest is programmed into every living creature. So, in an effort to select the very best individual with which to mate, females have been given the task in nature of creating elaborate hoops that a potential mate must jump through before he can be selected as a potential mate. All these criteria are consciously or subconsciously driven by our DNA. It’s a game we’re forced to play in an effort to create hybrid vigor in our offspring.
This chapter deals with the fact that, since we’re genetic beings, we can’t change who we are to any significant extent. This chapter stresses how similar we all are to one another internally despite the fact that, on the outside, we may seem quite different due to our different genetically-dictated appearances, genders and temperament in addition to our frequently different social circumstances, religions and ethnicities. What we share in common is just as powerful (if not more so) than the things that make us different.
The things that all people share in common are: (1) the constant struggle to survive; (2) the desire to mate and have offspring; (3) an overwhelming need to love and be loved; (4) the desperate need to feel valued and that our lives have meaning.
In spite of the fact that we can’t change who we are (as a result of our DNA), our internal needs constantly make us feel that we need to change, that we need to do something different so that we can fulfill the four needs listed above. This constant pressure to change is what causes us to be so dissatisfied with the life that we’re currently linving..
Since there’s no way to change our DNA, the only real hope we have for any peace in our lives is to somehow find a way to accept ourselves just as we are. The biggest help I’ve found in ever being able to do that is learning how to think of one’s self as a dog. Just as it’s crazy to think that a German Shepherd could ever somehow be transformed into a Poodle, it’s just as crazy to think that we should have the capacity to change ourselves into someone different than who we are. Constantly trying to change the individual that we are will only make us miserable as it’s simply not going to happen. In the same way that it’s hopeless to try and change a German Shepherd into a Poodle, there’s no way that we can become something that we’re not. The only option available to us is try to accept ourselves as we are and to be at peace with the person that we were born to be.
This chapter deals with the fact that all of us get along incredibly well with certain individuals but not with others. Most of this has to do with the way that each of our different temperaments interact. Though this is simple and basic enough to understand, what complicates this basic truth is that we’re compelled to choose who we’re in a relationship (especially our intimate relationships) based on appearance. Though there are important genetic reasons as to why relationships are based on appearance, the negative consequence of choosing relationships based on appearance is that we tend to disregard other vital traits and characteristics that are vital to being able to have a healthy and happy relationship (such as temperament compatibility!) If we base our relationships primarily on appearance, we might attain the hybrid vigor that we subconsciously want for our offspring but it’s unlikely that we’re going to be happy with some of the other aspects of the relationship!
Dangerous people (as well as dangerous dogs) represent the worst case scenario when it comes to making bad choices in relationships. In any way that we possibly can, we need to do our best to not allow a dangerous person (or dog) into our lives since, once someone gets hurt, there’s no way to ever undo it.
In the same way that we tend to choose our romantic partners based on appearance, we also tend to choose our dogs based on appearance. We instinctively fall in love with a dog’s cuteness or the fact that it’s strong and majestic. What we don’t do is think about how that dog’s temperament is going to mesh with our own temperament or that of our family’s. Since temperament is genetic, we need to (once and for all) let go of the out-dated belief that so many people have that a dog (or a person!) can be changed through training, discipline or love. Every one of us is fated to be the individual that we are as a result of our DNA and, because of that, we aren’t ever going to be able to change who we are to any significant degree no matter how hard we may wish or try to change. That’s simply the reality of things. That’s also why we need to show extreme caution as to what people (and dogs) we allow into our lives. We don’t want to find ourselves looking back with the wisdom of hindsight as we say to ourselves, “Dear God, what have I gotten myself into? What have I allowed into my life?”
This chapter takes on the all-important topic of difficult relationships. Relationships fall into two main categories: (1) familial relationships (family) and (2) all the other relationships we have. We’re always going to tolerate more from family than we do non-familial relationships. That’s what’s so special about family. No matter how we get along, we’re connected to our families for better or worse for the entirety of our lives.
All relationships are defined by the interplay of the two temperaments involved. As temperament is controlled by DNA, the manner in which our temperament bounces off the temperament of someone else is, for the most part, beyond of our control.
This is further complicated by the fact that (as was mentioned above), most of our relationships are based on appearance. This means that we invariably give less consideration to other important relational issues such as patience, kindness, honesty, responsibility, dependability, faithfulness, generosity, etc.
When it comes to relationships, individuals who have an easy temperament (as discussed in Chapter 3) will have a tendency to get along well with almost everyone (think Golden Retriever) while individuals with difficult or slow-to-warm-up temperaments will experience more problems in their relationships (like a Chihuahua might.)
Whatever the underlying cause, there are only four possible ways of dealing with a difficult relationship:
(1) do nothing and simply try to live with the relationship as it is, hoping for best (i.e.-holding on to the hope that someone might one day mellow with age!)
(2) try to renegotiate or redefine the relationship (this inevitably involves a lowering of one’s expectations in an effort to accept the other individual’s temperament as it is rather than how we wish it could be)
(3) learn how to create emotional and/or physical space in the relationship as a protective mechanism
(4) end the relationship
Acceptance is only possible when we’ve finally reached the point that we accept that most things in life are beyond our control. Humans desperately long to believe that “everything in life is possible if only we try hard enough” but that’s simply not the way life works.
Constantly wanting to change ourselves is what causes us to be so horribly dissatisfied with ourselves and our lives. Though we don’t seem to have a problem accepting our dogs as they truly are (i.e.-we don’t expect a Chihuahua to behave like a Golden Retriever), we don’t seem to have the ability to accept ourselves as we truly are.
The only time we’ll ever be able to experience a moment of self-acceptance is when we’re accepting ourselves just as we are: including both what’s good and what’s bad about ourselves. Due to the human tendency to be unrelentingly critical of ourselves, any self-acceptance we may experience will be extremely fleeting. Humans as a species are incredibly ruthless in the way that we judge ourselves: we don’t give ourselves much (if any) compassion and understanding.
That’s why learning to think of ourselves as a dog is so invaluable as it gives us a way to be much less judgmental towards ourselves. As most of us love dogs no matter what faults they may have, if we can start thinking of ourselves (and others) as dogs, we’ll find that we’re able to like ourselves and others better simply because it’s easier and less complicated for us to love a dog than it is to love another human!
I love the fact that, as soon as I started thinking of myself as a dog, it was so much easier to laugh and to make light of my various faults and shortcomings! It got to the point that whenever I’d catch myself getting ready to put my muddy paws all over someone else’s life in my quest to be helpful, I could quickly remind myself that, once again, I was letting the Labrador Retriever inside of me go crazy and I should control my desire to be helpful until someone was actually asking for my help! I was almost as tolerant towards myself as I might be towards a real Labrador Retriever! Since all of us are fated to be the individual that we were born to be, being compassionate and understanding is the only way to go if we ever want to have any peace and acceptance in our lives. All we have to do is be as nice to ourselves (and others) as we’d be to a dog!
There are four main hurdles to the quest to find self-acceptance and peace:
- Our individual temperament: some of us are simply going to have a harder time accepting ourselves and getting along with others simply because we were born with a “difficult” or “slow-to-warm-up” temperament as opposed to an easy temperament.
- Our expectations, ideals and standards: all humans are burdened with unrealistic expectations, ideals and standards which arise from our compulsive need to compare ourselves to others. We’re constantly worrying about how we measure up to everyone else and we live our lives trying to figure out if we’re worse off than everybody else or if we’re equal to or better off than everyone else. There’s no escaping the fact that this is simply something that all people do whether we like it or not.
- Our naivety and inexperience: there’s no way that any of us can avoid being naïve and inexperienced at certain points in our life. Naivety and inexperience have a huge impact on our ability to accept and be at peace with ourselves because, when we’re naive and inexperienced, we lack the ability to clearly see who we truly are as our perceptions are skewed and distorted.
- The inescapable negativity that we always feel towards ourselves: we humans have a natural tendency to judge ourselves quite negatively. We’re harsh and critical and rarely, if ever, demonstrate any true compassion or understanding towards ourselves (another reason why it’s so critical that we learn to think of ourselves as dogs.)
As we mature and gradually learn to deal with life, what we hopefully discover is that each and every one of us have limits and boundaries that define who we are as individuals. With experience and maturity, we hopefully come to realize that (contrary to how we felt when we were younger and more inexperienced) we’re not alone in our pain and suffering. It’s vital to our being able to find acceptance and peace to eventually understand that each one of (no matter how happy or privileged we may seem on the outside) experiences heartache and pain. Understanding this (along with the realization that we’re all much more similar than different) is a giant step towards acceptance and peace.
If we can see that all of us are in this world together, struggling to live our lives as best we can, that each of us has been unceremoniously plopped down into our lives, that all of us are genetic beings who can’t help but be the person that we were born to be, then we just might be able to discover some compassion and understanding not simply for ourselves but for one another. We all need to forgive ourselves for being the fallible and imperfect beings that humans can’t help but be.
Chapter Eleven: The More We Resist Something The More it Persists: unfortunately, ignoring our problems won’t make them go away
Chapter 12: Self-Improvement in Spite of Our Genetic Selves: thankfully, people, just like dogs, can be trained!
Chapter 27: Dangerous Dogs/Dangerous People: we must trust our instincts and always remember that it’s actually a good idea to always be a bit paranoid whenever we have large powerful dogs around us (especially when those dogs are interacting with children.)
This chapter is out of order but it’s so incredibly important that I wrote it ahead of other chapters in order to get it out there. If I can save even one person or child from being bitten, mauled or killed by a dog, I will have at least accomplished some of what I was setting out to do.
We can’t forget that dogs bite: it’s how they interact and express themselves in the world. It’s absolutely critical to understand that even the nicest dog can have a “moment” and, in that “moment,” lives can be lost or irrevocably changed. Please be careful because there’s no going back once tragedy has stuck.
Please note: this entire website (as well as the book) is a never-ending work in progress. There’s still a lot that needs to be completed. Thanks for your patience!
Hello everyone, my name’s Dr. Julie Clark and I want to thank you so much for visiting my website. I hope that there’s something here for everyone (including your pets!)
I’ve been a veterinarian for thirty-seven years (as of 2017) and I’m hoping, through this website, to be able to help pet owners with their pets and to finally get the book I’m writing about how “People Are Like Dogs” out into the world (a book about self-acceptance and the acceptance of others through thinking of ourselves as dogs.)
The idea for the website came to me in the wee hours of the night one night: a time when my brain loves to wake me up so it can try to solve any problems I have that need solving. I’d actually spent quite a few nights awake in 2016 because, through a combination of bad luck and bad choices, it’d been one of the worst years of my life. Not only did I break my ankle in May (and, consequently, was out of work for two months) but I’d also had the misfortune of being ripped off by several different contractors in my efforts to fix up a new house I’d moved into as well as get my old house ready to sell. Additionally, on top of the broken ankle and the bad contractors, I’d been feeling discouraged because I hadn’t had much of a chance to work on a book I’d been writing for the past four years called People Are Like Dogs as a result of being so stressed out over the broken ankle and the bad contractors.
I’d desperately been wanting to get the People Are Like Dogs book out into the world because I was hoping it might help other people as much as it had helped me. Learning how to think of myself as a dog (in my case, a mixture of a Labrador and a Terrier: what I call a “Laberrier”) had finally made it possible for me to make peace with not only who I was as a person but with certain people I’d been struggling to get along with for years (my mom in particular.)
Getting along with people is always so much more difficult to do as compared to getting along with dogs. As a vet, I’d always accepted that dogs were distinct from one another (in temperament and behavior) as a result of their different genetics: i.e.-a German Shepherd behaves like a German Shepherd because it possesses the DNA of a German Shepherd. Nothing too earth shattering about that. But, at some pivotal moment in my life, I’d started to believe that the same thing was true about humans: that each of us is endowed genetically with a unique temperament and personality. Before that change in my perspective, I’d always thought that, no matter what our genetics might be, we should be capable of changing ourselves into whatever we wanted ourselves to be. Now, I was convinced that it’s our DNA that dictates our temperament and personality (just as it does in dogs.) And, just as it is in dogs, it’s not possible to ever really change the individual that we were born to be. So, just as a German Shepherd is fated to be a German Shepherd because of its genetics, each of us is fated to be the individual we are because of our genetics.
What that means is that the only way to ever be at peace with ourselves (and others) is to accept ourselves (and others) as we are: we are who we are as a result of our genetics and we can’t blame someone for the content of their DNA. It’s a complete waste of energy to constantly berate ourselves (and others) for being who we are because it’s simply not possible to change ourselves into something that we’re not. That’d be the same as chastising a German Shepherd for not being able to change itself into a Poodle!
Since DNA can’t be changed, the only thing that we can reasonably do is accept ourselves (and others) for whoever it is that we happen to be. People instinctively accept dogs for who they are as individuals: we simply don’t expect a Poodle to act like a Chihuahua. That’s why, when we learn how to think of ourselves and others as dogs, it becomes much easier to be accepting. For example, now that I’ve learned how to think of myself as a dog, it’s much easier for me to accept that I’m a mixture of a people-pleasing Labrador and a constantly busy, do-ten-things-at-once Terrier. Accepting that about myself is a whole heck of a lot easier than trying to accept that I’m some kind of flawed human being. When I think of myself as a dog, all my quirkiness becomes an expression of my DNA and, just as I would with a real dog, I simply accept it for what it is. It doesn’t mean that it all of sudden becomes easy to be a Labrador mixed with a Terrier since the Labrador is always going to want to ignore boundaries while the Terrier in me tries to insist on being in control! But what I know now is that I’m never going to change and, as a consequence, I might as well accept myself for who I am. The truth is I can’t change myself anymore than a Chihuahua or a German Shepherd can change themselves: for better or worse, we are who we are because of our DNA.
So, with all the bad luck that I’d experienced in 2016 on top of the fact that I’d turned 63 in July, I was now feeling weirdly fragile and vulnerable. And, though I’d never been too overly afraid of dying before, I was now starting to feel as if my mortality was stalking me like some kind of ravenous creature just waiting for the right moment to gobble me up! Yikes.
Along with this new fear of dying came a dramatic sense of urgency: I had so much I wanted to do before I died! For more than twenty years (way before I started writing the People Are Like Dogs book), I’d wanted to write a veterinary book for pet owners. I not only wanted to tell pet owners everything they needed to know about their pets but I wanted to let them know how to evaluate the care they were getting from their current veterinarians. Unfortunately, there are veterinarians out there who don’t do a very good job of being a veterinarian (just as there are plumbers and other professionals who don’t do good work.) As upsetting as it is to encounter an incompetent veterinarian, it can be just as upsetting dealing with a veterinarian who is only concerned with making a lot of money. Veterinarians deserve to make a profit like anyone else but it’s not right when certain veterinarians try to take advantage of pet owners by pressuring them into doing unnecessary (and sometimes risky or dangerous) tests and procedures. One of the worst examples of this kind of thing concerns the recent trend in which veterinarians are encouraging owners to do yearly dentals on their dogs. Shamefully, many of the dentals being done these days are being done for no other reason than to pad the veterinarian’s pocketbook. This practice is a complete betrayal of the trust we put in our veterinarians (especially considering that the majority of the dentals being done are being done on older animals who are much more likely to experience complications as a result of the anesthesia.)
So, worried as I was about how to get these books finished, I realized that I needed to come up with something different. It was clear that if I tried to get the books out into the world in the usual way, I’d not only have to get the books finished and edited but I’d also have to get them published and distributed. That would take a lot of work and time that I no longer felt that I had now that I was having my mid-like crisis in which my mortality was breathing down my neck.
But as luck would have it, one night in the middle of the night a wonderful idea popped into my head: “Why couldn’t I simply put everything I wanted to say on a website?” Not only could I put all the completed chapters from the People Are Like Dogs book on the website (simply adding new chapters as I got them written) but I could also put all the veterinary information that I wanted pet owners to have on the same website! I couldn’t imagine why I hadn’t thought of something like this before! Looking back, I think all the trauma that I’d experienced in 2016 made me feel fragile and vulnerable and, out of sheer desperation, I went looking for other options. The two best things about doing a website was that I was going to be able to get the information out there right now and I’d be able to make that information available to everyone (there’d be no need for anyone to have to go out and buy a book!)
As I thought about the ramifications of having a website, I realized that the website might eventually take a lot of my time and energy as I’d inevitably be answering people’s questions about their pets both online and on the phone.
If I was going to devote myself to trying to help people full time on the website, I was probably going to need to find a way to support the website financially. I didn’t like that thought. One thing I’d always hated was having to ask people for money in exchange for helping them with their pets. Even when I’d had my own veterinary clinic in California for seventeen years, I’d hated he money end of things. Yet, just like everyone else in the world, I would eventually need to find a way to support myself.
The one thing that I was absolutely certain that I didn’t want to do was to try and charge people ahead of time for helping them with their pets. Not only would that be a pain but I definitely didn’t want to restrict the number of people that I might be able to help.
After much consideration, I decided that I’d put a Go Fund Me account. With a Go Fund Me account, people could choose to contribute whatever they were comfortable or capable of contributing. Though it’s still not a perfect solution, a Go Fund Me account would at least be an option to charging people ahead of time.
In a nutshell, that’s how this website came about! My greatest hope is that you’ll be pleasantly surprised when you discover that there’s something here that you didn’t even know you needed or were looking for (be it entertainment, advice or a new way of looking at yourself and others as dogs!)
All my very best to you (and your pets!) Woof!