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 for us to relate to our DNA has to do the fact that DNA’s 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 like we relate to what we’ve experienced in our families and other environmental influences. That doesn’t change the fact that DNA is the Michelangelo of 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 circumstances led me to sell my veterinary clinic and 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 that she wasn’t ever going to be the Golden Retriever that I’d wanted her to be. Accepting that truth has allowed me to make peace with the fact that I wasn’t ever going to have a close relationship with my mom. Unfortunately, that’s simply how that part of my life played out.
This chapter discusses how we are all genetic beings: that it’s our DNA that dictates who we are. To better understand how DNA controls us, the genetic reasons as to why dogs bite is discussed as well as a National Geographic article detailing a study in which wild foxes in Siberia were tamed. The National Geographic article definitively demonstrates that tameness and domestication are a function of DNA and not a function of environment.
The incredible 1970’s Minnesota Twin Study involving identical twins separated at birth is also discussed because, before the Minnesota Twin Study, most psychiatrists as well as the general public were convinced that it was our environmental influences that ultimately shaped us and turned us into the individuals that we are. The Minnesota Twin Study was the first study to turn those beliefs upside down. Now, new studies are confirming each and every day that it’s our DNA that dictates who we are as individuals.
This chapter discusses how not only is temperament genetic but it’s what determines the manner in which we experience and respond to the world. There are nine components of temperament that stay 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 easy, difficult, slow-to-warm-up or some combination of the three.
The first step in self-acceptance and the acceptance of others is understanding that we don’t have the power to change our temperament as it’s genetic. Temperament, along with our other genetic traits, explains why each of us is completely unique (with the exception of identical twins.) Temperament also dictates how well we get along with one another: why we click so well with certain individuals and why we don’t click so well with others (this is discussed in more detail in Chapters 7 and 8.)
This chapter discusses the phenomenon of predictable variation. All the variation that one sees in the world can be demonstrated mathematically in what’s called a bell shaped curve. Bell curves can plot anything that’s measurable such as height, weight and even how much TV we watch. All bell curves demonstrate that there’s always going to be a median or an average when it comes to any measurable data (such as an average height or weight.)
The bell curve is a very predictable aspect of life and completely explains why life isn’t “fair.” What we consider unfair is simply the predictable variation that occurs naturally in the world. For example, if one were to look at a bell curve of human happiness, one would see that only a very small percentage of people live extraordinarily happy lives and only a very small percentage of people live extraordinarily tragic lives. What the bell curve of human happiness would show is that most people live lives that are a mixture of happiness and tragedy. In other words, most of us are average and, as a result, we fall somewhere in the middle of the curve. As life is predictably variable, most of what happens to us is actually a matter of chance: a chance of which DNA we get, a chance as to which families and personal circumstances we get. The most important thing to remember in our quest to find acceptance and peace is that what happens to us isn’t at all personal. The truth is our lives are a matter of luck and chance (like the lottery) and it’s up to us (and no one else) to make the best of what we’ve been given. Bummer!
This chapter discusses the phenomena of hybrid vigor: which is the opposite of inbreeding. When individuals with overly similar DNA mate (inbreeding), their offspring are going to have an increased likelihood of genetic problems as a result of the fact that certain recessive genes will have a greater likelihood of being expressed in the offspring. When individuals with very different genetic material reproduce, their offspring is going to be 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 very unlikely that we’ll be mating with someone in our own genetic pool. As a result, we’re going to have healthier offspring and that’s what all living creatures want.
It also explains the crazy mating rituals in so many animals and birds (including ourselves!) since all living creatures want their offspring to be born healthy so that they can reach adulthood and reproduce themselves. This genetic desire is programmed into every living creature’s DNA. So, in an effort to select the very best individual with which to mate, females are given the task of creating specific hoops that a potential male must jump through before he can be selected as a reproductive mate. All these criteria are consciously or subconsciously driven by our DNA. It’s quite the 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 mattered.
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 we’re currently.
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 as we are. The biggest help I’ve found to do that is to think of ourselves as a dog. Just as it’s crazy to think that a German Shepherd could somehow be transformed into a Poodle, it’s just as crazy to think that we should be able to somehow change ourselves into someone other than who we are. Trying to change the person that we are will only make us miserable because it’s not going to happen. In the same way that it’s hopeless to try and change a German Shepherd into a Poodle, we simply can’t become something that we’re not. Our only choice is try to accept and be at peace with the person that we were born to be.
This chapter deals with the fact that some of us get along incredibly well with certain individuals while we can’t get along at all with others. Most of this has to do with the way that different temperaments interact. Though this is easy enough to understand, what complicates things is the fact we choose most of our relationships (especially the intimate ones) based on appearance. Though there are some important genetic reasons as to why we choose relationships based on appearance, the consequence of that is that we frequently disregard other issues that are critical to having a healthy and happy relationship (such as temperament compatibility!) If we base our relationships solely on appearance and nothing else, 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 a bad choice in a relationship. In any way that we can, we need to do our very best to not allow a dangerous person (or dog) into our lives since, once the damage is done, there’s no way for us 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 a 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 still cling to that a dog (or a person!) can be changed through training, discipline or love. Every one of us is born to be the individual that we are as a result of our DNA and, because of that, we can’t ever change who we are to any significant degree. That’s simply a fact of life. That’s also why we need to show extreme caution as to what people (and dogs) we let into our lives. We don’t ever want to find ourselves looking back with the wisdom of hindsight and saying to ourselves, “Dear God, what have I done? What have I gotten myself into?”
This chapter takes on the all-important topic of difficult relationships. Relationships fall into two main categories: (1) family relationships and (2) all the other relationships that we have. We’re always going to tolerate more from family than we do non-family 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.
Relationships are defined by the interaction of the two temperaments involved. Since temperament is controlled by DNA, the way our temperament bounces off the temperament of someone else’s is, for the most part, out of our control.
This is complicated by the fact that (as was mentioned above), most our relationships are based on appearance. This means that we invariably give less consideration to some of the 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 have more difficulty with their relationships (like a Chihuahua might.)
Whatever the underlying cause, there are only four possible ways to deal with a difficult relationship:
(1) do nothing and simply try to live with the relationship as it is, hoping for best (i.e.-that someone might one day mellow with age!)
(2) try to renegotiate or redefine the relationship which inevitably involves a lowering of one’s expectations in an effort to accept the other individual’s temperament as it is
(3) learn how to create some emotional and/or physical space in the relationship as a protective mechanism
(4) end the relationship
Acceptance is only possible when we’re finally able to accept that most things in life are beyond our control. We humans desperately long to believe that “everything in life is possible if only we try hard enough” but that’s just not the way life works.
Wanting to constantly change ourselves is what causes us to be so horribly dissatisfied with ourselves and our lives. Though we’re able to accept our dogs as they are (we don’t expect a Chihuahua to become a Golden Retriever), we don’t seem to have the ability to accept ourselves as we are.
The only time we can ever experience a moment of self-acceptance is when we’re able to accept ourselves just as we are: including both the good and bad about ourselves. Due to the difficulty we have of being able to accept what we hate about ourselves, any self-acceptance we ever experience is going to be extremely fleeting. We humans as a species are incredibly ruthless in the way that we judge ourselves: we give ourselves very little (if any) compassion or understanding.
That’s why learning to think of ourselves as a dog can be so invaluable since it gives us a way to be less judgmental towards ourselves. As most of us love our dogs no matter what faults they may have, if we can start thinking of ourselves (and others) as dogs, we’ll immediately like ourselves better because we instinctively love dogs more than we do people!
I loved the fact that as soon as I started to think 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 caught myself getting ready to put my muddy paws all over someone else’s life in an effort to be helpful, I’d remind myself that I was being a complete Labrador Retriever and I needed to knock it off unless someone was asking for my help! I found that I was much more tolerant towards myself and that I could be just as forgiving as I’d be towards a real Labrador Retriever! Since it comes down to the fact that none of us can help but be the individual that we were born to be, being compassionate and understanding is the only way to go if we want a little peace and acceptance in our lives. All we have to do is be as nice to ourselves (and others) as we’d be to our dogs!
There are four main hurdles to the quest to find self-acceptance and peace:
- Our individual temperament: some individuals are simply going to have an easier time at accepting themselves due to the fact that they have an “easy” temperament instead of a “difficult” or “slow-to-warm-up” 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 worried about how we measure up: if we’re worse off, equal to or doing better than everyone else in the world.
- Our naivety and inexperience: there’s no way that we can help but be naïve and inexperienced at certain points in our life and this definitely impacts our ability to accept ourselves and to be at peace.
- The inescapable negativity we always feel towards ourselves: we humans are just so negative whenever it comes to judging ourselves…we rarely (if ever) give ourselves the benefit of the doubt and we never seem to have any compassion or understanding when it comes to how we see ourselves.
As we gradually learn to deal with life, what we hopefully can discover is that all of us have definite limits and boundaries that invariably define who we are as individuals. With experience and maturity, hopefully we can learn that (contrary to how we felt when we were younger and inexperienced) we’re not alone in our pain and suffering. It’s important to eventually understand that everyone (no matter how happy and privileged they may seem on the outside) experiences heartache and pain. Understanding this (along with the realization that we’re all more similar than different) is a major step in being able to attain a little acceptance and peace.
If we can see that we’re all in this together, that all of us have been unceremoniously dumped into our lives with our own set of family and circumstances, that we’re all genetic beings who can’t help but be the person we were born to be, hopefully we’ll be able to discover some compassionate and understanding as both of those qualities are essential for any acceptance or peace. We all must find a way to forgive ourselves (and others) for being fallible and imperfect.
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, remember that it’s actually a good idea to stay a bit paranoid when we have large powerful dogs (especially when these dogs are around children.)
This chapter is out of order but it’s so important that I wrote it ahead of some of the other chapters so as to get it out there.
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!