A DOG’S MESSAGE TO HUMANS: Be yourself in each and every moment! This means: (1) exploring, discovering and owning who you are and (2) not obsessing over the past or future (live in the here and now!)
HOW TO FUNCTION IN A PACK: Behave! This means: (1) remembering your manners (no chewing on the couch or peeing on the carpet) and (2) doing your best to get along with others (no growling or biting!)
Understanding that people are like dogs genetically is an unexpected and surprising pathway to self-acceptance and peace. The reason this is true has to do with the fact that who we are as individuals is directly the result of the DNA we receive from our parents (just as the DNA a Chihuahua receives at conception is what causes it to be a Chihuahua and not a Golden Retriever!)
No genetic being has ANY CHOICE OR OPTION but to be the individual it was born to be as a result of its DNA (which is why it’s always said that an apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree!)
(PLEASE SCROLL DOWN to see the 13 incredible cartoons drawn by Ryan Kent Paule for the People Are Like Dogs’ chapters that have been completed so far by Dr. Clark. Ryan Kent Paule’s artwork is amazing!!)
So, how in the world can someone be benefited by simply thinking of themselves as a dog?
It’s an odd question that most of us have probably never thought about. But, it actually makes good sense when we take a moment to consider just how much people adore and accept their dogs just as they are (even in their moments of bad behavior!) Learning to think of ourselves in the same way that we do our dogs has the power to completely transform the way we see ourselves (and others) such that we’re much more forgiving and accepting of who we (and others) are as unique genetic beings.
Throughout our lives, we’ve all been repeatedly told (to the point we’re convinced that it’s true) that we should have the ability to change who we are into whatever we might want ourselves to be…if we simply try hard enough. This belief, though, completely disregards the fact that a majority of our traits and characteristics (especially our temperament) is dictated by our DNA.
Interestingly, it ends up being an incredible relief (and extremely freeing) to finally accept that we don’t possess the ability to change who we were born to be. Just as a dog can’t change itself from one breed to another, we’re born to be uniquely ourselves as a result of our DNA.
Each dog’s physical characteristics and temperament are highly influenced by that dog’s DNA. That’s why there are so many distinct breeds of dogs with very distinct appearances and personalities. Just as a Chihuahua is born to be a Chihuahua as a result of its DNA, each of us are born to be the individual that we’re destined to be as a result of our DNA.
Doctors Alexander Thomas and Stella Chess were psychiatrists (actually married to one another) who conducted the infamous study of temperament in humans called the New York Longitudinal Study. The study originated in 1956 and involved the monitoring and evaluation of one hundred thirty-three children for more than fifty years from infancy through adulthood. The study turned existing beliefs upside down when it revealed that the temperaments of the individuals in the study were remarkably fixed and unchanging. This finding led Drs. Thomas and Chess to conclude that temperament is dictated by our DNA and that’s why it doesn’t change throughout our lives. In the study, Drs. Thomas and Chess were able to identify nine elements that define temperament:
(1) activity level (2) regularity or rhythmicity of bodily functions (3) initial response to new people and new situations (4) adaptability (5) intensity of response (6) mood (7) distractibility (8) persistence and attention span and, finally, (9) sensitivity to external stimuli.
Alexander Thomas and Stella Chess also discovered that, when all of these nine elements of temperament were taken together, temperament fell into three basic categories (or combinations of the three categories):
(1) easy or flexible (2) difficult, active or feisty and (3) slow-to-warm-up or cautious.
I was shocked and amazed that DNA dictates so many different components of our personality, most fascinatingly, whether we have a predominantly positive or negative mood! The study by Drs. Thomas and Chess completely contradicted what so many professionals had believed up to that point: that we humans were the ones in control of our responses, reactions and moods. The implication in the past had always been that, if we couldn’t control or alter our emotions and moods in the ways that were expected of us, then it was our fault. The study by Drs. Thomas and Chess clarified that there was much more going on than simply “free will” or “will power.” In fact, it turns out that our ability to change ourselves is much more limited than had ever been previously believed.
With the findings of Drs. Thomas and Chess, our understanding of ourselves had been completely changed and we had to learn to accept that we didn’t have the ability to change ourselves nearly as much as we’d thought we could in the past. This is where learning to think of ourselves as a certain breed of dogs can be quite helpful in our individual quest to accept ourselves for who we are as a genetic being.
Most humans instinctively accept dogs just as they are. When it comes to dogs, we seem to naturally understand that different breeds have their own personality and physical characteristics as a result of the dog’s breeding and DNA. We never question why a Chihuahua behaves like a Chihuahua or why a Golden Retriever behaves like a Golden Retriever. We simply accept the power of DNA when it comes to dogs. We know that, no matter how much we might try to train, discipline or love a Chihuahua, that Chihuahua is never going to behave like a Golden Retriever.
Yet, when it comes to ourselves, we hold a completely different set of expectations for ourselves when it comes to being able to change who we are as a genetic being. Instead of accepting that (just like dogs) our temperament and personality are dictated by the DNA we received from our parents, we stubbornly persist in believing (because we’ve been repeatedly told this over and over again) that we can change ourselves if we simply try enough.
Why are our expectations for ourselves so different from the expectations we have for dogs even though both of us are genetic beings? One reason we discount the importance of DNA very likely concerns the fact that DNA is microscopic. Because we can’t see DNA, we simply can’t relate to it in the same way we relate to all the events that happen to us as part of our “nurture” (the environmental influence on our lives.)
Another reason we’re so convinced that we should have the ability to change ourselves concerns the fact that we’ve been told over and over again that we should have this ability by every person of influence in our lives: parents, peers, religious leaders, teachers, friends, etc.
What we experience instead, though, is an ongoing inability to change the essential person that we were born to be. Sadly, not only do we blame ourselves for not being able to change ourselves but we’re reprimanded and shamed by all those around us who want us to change some aspect of ourselves. What we’re told over and over again (and what we consequently tell ourselves) is that we simply haven’t tried hard enough to change because, if we’d tried hard enough, we would have changed. It’s simply tortuous what we put ourselves through! All these failed attempts to change ourselves only causes us to be disgusted and disappointed in ourselves, frequently to the point that we begin to despise ourselves. Instead of being encouraged to accept ourselves as we are, we’re shamed, bullied and shunned for simply being the individual we were born to be due to our DNA.
One trait that all humans share as part of being human concerns our horrible compulsion to constantly compare ourselves to one another. Comparing ourselves to one another is how we humans assess how we’re doing in the world. We always need to know how we’re measuring up to other people. As a species, we’re constantly comparing ourselves to others whether we want to or not. It’s an instantaneous and repetitive thing we do and, no matter how hard we may try, we’re unable to stop ourselves from doing it. Unavoidably, as we engage in this comparison process, we’re going to find people who seem to be living these amazing and wonderful lives, lives that are to our mind’s eye so much better than our own. We’re always going to come across someone out in the world who appears to have more love, more beauty, more talent, more power, more wealth, more success, more happiness than we do. This is why so many of us feel like failures most of the time.
Yet, despite the misery this comparison process causes us, relief and comfort can be found in the most unlikely of places: by thinking of ourselves as a dog. It can be incredibly liberating to accept ourselves as being a genetic being just like dogs are…just like every living being on this planet is. No living being has any choice but to be the living being that it is as a result of its DNA. Once we can accept that truth, we can start the process of making peace with the unique, one-of-a-kind individual that we were born to be.
What we’ll see in this book is that the easiest way to accept our ourselves and our inability to change who we are is to learn how to think of ourselves as a dog! Thinking of ourselves as a dog not only reinforces the fact that we have no choice but to be the individual that we were genetically destined to be (just like a Poodle has no choice but to be a Poodle) but it also makes it possible for us to take some of the compassion and empathy we instinctively feel for dogs and apply that compassion and empathy towards ourselves!
None of us (dogs or humans) can be blamed for being the genetic being that we are. It’s our DNA that causes us to be who we are (NOT something that we can choose or not choose to be.) Most importantly, learning to accept ourselves as we are allows us to get down to the business of making the best of what we’ve been given.
Learning to think of ourselves as a dog (as a genetic being) is utterly life changing. Accepting that we can’t change is the only way to truly accept ourselves as we are. If we can learn how to treat ourselves (and others) with half the compassion and empathy we treat dogs, we’ll be so much further along our path to self-acceptance and peace. Good luck to all of us in the search for self-acceptance and peace! WOOF!
PEOPLE ARE LIKE DOGS….A GUIDE TO SELF-ACCEPTANCE AND THE ACCEPTANCE OF OTHERS
As the title of this book suggests, people and dogs have quite a bit in common though there are some notable differences. Dogs and humans are both driven by two primary forces. These forces constantly impact our behavior through our biology and our genetics. The most powerful of these forces is the need to survive. Dogs and humans are both possessed by a need to feel safe in our surroundings. This need to survive is all consuming and is constantly present even though it frequently operates on a subconscious level.
The second force that influences both dogs and humans is our need to reproduce and to be a part of a familial unit. A big part of our genetics is focused on reproducing. Our biology compels us to do this through reproductive hormones such as estrogen and testosterone. Once we reproduce, then our lives become consumed with by the commitment needed to make sure that our offspring survive so that, one day, they too can reproduce (whereby the survival of the species is guaranteed.)
Humans, though, differ dramatically from dogs in that we are possessed by a third force that concerns our desperate need for meaning, purpose and understanding. Humans possess a one of a kind capacity that no other creature on Earth has: self-awareness. Our self-awareness may occasionally be a blessing but, many times, it’s a curse in that we’re compelled to constantly evaluate and judge ourselves as compared to all other humans. As humans, we’re never allowed a moment’s peace in our never-ending quest to determine whether we have measured up or not. We desperately want to feel worthy, that our lives have purpose and meaning. Dogs, on the contrary, never question their worth or whether they somehow measure up as compared to other dogs. No dog ever wonders if the dog down the street is living a better life or is more talented or beautiful. Dogs live forever in the moment (which is one of the reasons why we adore them so much.)
Humans rarely live in the moment. Instead, we’re obsessed by an inescapable need to understand life and to find meaning. We need to understand why we exist and, most importantly, why we’re doomed to suffer and die. Our need for meaning and understanding causes us to question and speculate about the possibility of a higher being and what power that higher being might have over our lives and our deaths. We constantly wonder about the possibly of an afterlife and what we need to do or be so that we can be included in that afterlife. Dogs, on the other hand, never conceptualize their deaths. A dog will become fearful if it feels threatened by something or someone but dogs don’t ever think about death as a concept.
It’s important to understand that all of these drives create an incredible anxiety inside each of us. Anxiety is unavoidable as it’s a natural consequence of being alive. Yet, we humans have somehow gotten the idea implanted in our minds that we should NOT be anxious and that there’s something wrong with us if we are. The opposite is actually true: if you’re alive, you’re going to be anxious (either consciously or subconsciously) to various degrees most the time (even in our dreams.) In the same way that a dog barks like crazy when it hears an unfamiliar sound, humans are programmed by our DNA to be constantly on the alert for anything that might be a potential threat to us. It’s normal to be wary and afraid a lot of the time. Anxiety is what keeps us alive: it causes us to be constantly vigilant so that we pay attention to our surroundings (before it’s too late) for something or someone who could hurt us or our family.
Knowing all of this can help us understand how much we all share in common: (1) the need to survive and to feel safe, (2) the need to build a family and produce offspring, (3) the need to belong, feel worthy and, most importantly, feel our lives mattered. Recognizing that we’re all driven by these intrinsic forces can help us to feel compassion and empathy for ourselves and others.
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 to move across the country in a quest to “find myself.” As a result of that quest, I eventually stumbled upon the People Are Like Dog’s philosophy and it changed my life forever. This chapter centers around my life-long struggle to have a close relationship with my mother. When I started to think of my mother as a Schipperke (an extremely agitated and angry little dog that loves to bite as a way of asserting control), I realized that my mom wasn’t ever going to be the Golden Retriever that I’d always wanted her to be. My mom was never going to be the kind of mom that supports and encourages her child because that’s simply not the kind of person she was. I had to make peace with the fact that my relationship with my mom was always going to fall short of what I’d hoped and longed for. Yet, by accepting my mom for the Schipperke that she was, I was able to eventually develop an unexpected sympathy and compassion for my mom because I finally understood that, due to the temperament she’d been born with at no fault of her own, she simply didn’t have the ability to be supportive and caring to anyone, even her daughter. I realized that it wasn’t my mother’s fault that her DNA had caused her to have an intensely difficult temperament (she was Italian for heaven’s sake!) My mom (like all of us) was simply at the mercy of her DNA. Once I was able to recognize this, I quit blaming her and I quit blaming myself for our inability to have the close relationship I’d always wanted. It wasn’t ever going to happen and I had to accept that or continue being miserable every time she did something to hurt me. Neither of us were to blame. Nothing that I could do would make her be who I’d wanted her to be. My mom and I were simply genetic beings and, due to the incredible impact that DNA has on who we are, neither of us could help the fact that we were forever stuck being the people that we were born to be.
This chapter discusses how all of us are genetic beings and that our DNA dictates who we are. To better understand the way in which DNA controls us, I discuss the amazing 1970’s Minnesota Twin Study that evaluated identical twins who were separated at birth. Before the Minnesota Twin Study, most psychiatrists (as well as the general public) were convinced that it was environmental influences that dictated our individual personality traits. The Minnesota Twin Study completely turned those beliefs upside down. Since the Minnesota Twin Study, countless new studies have re-confirmed that it’s DNA that primarily shapes the unique individuals that we are.
I also discuss the genetic reasons why dogs bite as well as a National Geographic article that details a study in which wild foxes in Siberia were tamed through selective breeding. The National Geographic article clearly demonstrates that tameness and domestication are a function of DNA and not a function of environment.
Easy, Difficult, Slow-to-warm up
This chapter discusses not only how temperament is determined by our DNA but how our temperament determines the way in which we experience and respond to the world. There are nine components of temperament that were outlined by the psychiatrists Stella Chase and Alexander Thomas. These nine temperamental components remain consistent and constant throughout our lives. These temperamental components include 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 individual sensitivity to external stimuli. Temperament was classified by Chase and Thomas as being easy, difficult, slow-to-warm-up or, more typically, a combination of the three.
The first step in being able to accept ourselves (and others) as we are is being able to understand that none of us has the ability to significantly change what our temperament is as a result of the fact that temperament is dictated by our DNA. Temperament, along with other genetic traits, is the reason why each of us is completely unique (with the exception, of course, of identical twins.) Temperament not only dictates our individual strengths and weaknesses but it dictates how well we function in the world: why we click with certain activities and people and why we don’t do well with other activities and people. This aspect of our temperament is discussed in great detail in Chapters 7 and 8.
This chapter discusses the phenomenon of predictable variation. Every phenomenon that one observes in the world can be illustrated mathematically by a graph called the bell shaped curve. Bell shaped curves can be used to plot anything that’s measurable (such as height, weight, how much TV we all watch, etc.) Bell shaped curves demonstrate that there’s always a median or an average when it comes to any measurable data (such as height or weight.)
Bell shaped curves are a predictable and consistent measure of life and, most importantly, they explain why life will 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, that a very small percentage of people experience tragic lives and, finally, that the majority of us live lives where there’s a fairly even mix of happiness and misery. Most people in the world are “average” and, as a result of that fact, they fall in the middle range of the bell shaped curve.
Due to the fact that life is predictably variable, most of what happens to us is 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 the individual socioeconomic circumstances that each of us was born into are all factors revolving around chance.
That’s why the important thing to remember as we struggle to find self-acceptance and peace is that, even though it may feel personal at times, LIFE IS NOT PERSONAL. The truth is that our lives are mixture of genetics and chance (not unlike the lottery) and, as a result of that, it’s up to us (and only us) to make the best out of what we’ve been given.
This chapter discusses the phenomenon of hybrid vigor. Hybrid vigor is the opposite of inbreeding. When individuals with similar DNA mate (which is called inbreeding), their offspring will face an increased likelihood of genetic problems because certain recessive genes have an increased likelihood of matching up and being expressed in the offspring. On the other hand, when individuals with very different genetic material reproduce, the offspring often ends up actually being superior to that of either parent genetically. 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, we avoid mating with someone who’s in our own genetic pool. As a result, we are much more likely to have healthier and more viable offspring which is what all of us living creatures want for our offspring.
Hybrid vigor also explains why there are so many crazy mating rituals in animals and birds (including ourselves!) because all females are genetically programmed to be exceedingly picky about who they mate with. It’s up to the female to make sure that their offspring has the best genetic material around so that their offspring will be able to reach adulthood and reproduce themselves. The males of most species are genetically programmed to breed with any female who happens to be available and ready to breed. That’s the male’s job genetically: to spread their sperm around. That’s why the males of most species aren’t overly picky about who they breed.
That’s why there are so many elaborate mating rituals among the creatures on this planet. In an effort to select the very best male with which to breed, females have genetically created elaborate hoops that a potential mate must jump through before he is selected as a potential breeding partner. All these rituals are (consciously or subconsciously) driven by our DNA. It’s a mating game that all creatures are compelled to play because the most capable and diverse male must be chosen so that hybrid vigor shows up in each of our offspring.
This chapter deals with the fact that, because we’re genetic beings, we don’t have the ability to change who we are to any significant extent. This chapter also stresses how similar we all are to one another internally even though, on the surface, we may seem quite different as a result of our different (genetically-dictated) appearance, gender and temperament. We are also different superficially our environmental circumstances such as our socio-economic status, our various religions and ethnicities. What we share in common, though, is just as powerful (if not more so) than those things that make us seem different superficially.
All people share in common the following: (1) a constant struggle to survive; (2) a desire to mate and have offspring; (3) the need to love and be loved; (4) and the need to feel valued and to find meaning in our lives.
Despite the fact that we we’re unable to change who we are individually as a result of our DNA, the four needs we share listed above cause us to constantly feel like we need to change: that we must to do something differently so that we can fulfill those four needs. This constant and unrelenting pressure to change who we are is the reason so many of us are miserable and unhappy about the life we’re currently living..
As there’s no way to change our DNA, the only real choice we have for any moments of peace in our lives is to somehow find the way to accept ourselves just as we are. The biggest assistance I’ve discovered in doing this is not counseling and medication but simply learning how to think of ourselves as a dog! It’s critical to accepting that we can’t change and trying to constantly change ourselves is the root of our unhappiness with our lives. Learning to think of ourselves as a dog helps us because we already accept the fact that a German Shepherd isn’t ever going to be able to turn itself into a Poodle. We have to understand that it’s crazy for us to keep believing that we should have the ability to change ourselves into something that we’re not. Trying to change ourselves only make us miserable because it’s simply not possible. We are who we are because of our DNA. We can never turn ourselves into someone that we’re not. Our only option is to accept ourselves as we are and make peace with the individual that our genetics have dictated us to be.
This chapter discusses how each of us naturally gets along quite well with certain people but don’t get along well with certain other people. This involves the way in which our individual temperaments interact. Though this is straight forward and seems easy enough to understand, what complicates the situation is how there’s something in humans that compels us to be attracted to other people based on those people’s appearance.
There are genetic reasons why relationships are based on appearance but the negative consequence of choosing someone as a result of their appearance is that we end up disregarding other important traits and characteristics that are critical if we’re going to have a healthy and happy relationship. One of these traits is temperament compatibility. If we primarily base our relationships on appearance, we may be able to accomplish the hybrid vigor that we genetically want for our offspring but it’s very likely that we’re going to be quite unhappy with other aspects of the relationship!
Dangerous people represent the worst case scenario when it comes to making bad choices in relationships. In whatever way that we can, we need to prevent dangerous people from coming into our lives. Once a dangerous person is entangled in our lives, someone is bound to get hurt or killed and that’s not something we can undo.
In the same way that we choose our romantic partners based on appearance, we also choose our pets on appearance. Instinctively, we fall in love with a dog’s cuteness or the fact that it’s strong and majestic. What we don’t frequently do is consider how that dog’s temperament is going to mesh with our own temperament or that of our family.
As temperament is genetic, we must 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 who we are because of our DNA and, because of that, we can’t change ourselves or anybody else. That’s simply how it is. That’s why we must use extreme caution when it comes to which people (and dogs) we permit into our lives. The worst case scenario is that we could find ourselves in is looking back and saying to ourselves, “What have I gotten myself into? How did I let this happen?”
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 our quest for 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 (In other words, simply ignoring our problems won’t make them go away)
CHAPTER TWELVE….Self-improvement in spite of our genetic selves (Thankfully, with a lot of work and determination, people, just like dogs, can be trained!)
CHAPTER 29….Dangerous dogs: we must trust our instincts and try to remember that it’s always a very good idea to be a little 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 some of the 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 accomplished at least a small bit of what I hoped to accomplish.
We can never forget that dogs bite: it’s how they interact and express themselves. It’s 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, once tragedy has stuck, there’s no going back.
Chapters in Progress:
13. SURVIVAL: Dogs and humans have no biological option but to be constantly concerned about survival. As a species, we must survive so we can reproduce and raise out offspring until they are ready to reproduce. It’s how our species survives. It’s innate and mostly subconscious. The human need to survive can easily explain our need to frequently play it safe in life. Our fear of dying is our greatest priority and the greatest source of the natural anxiety and fear we always feel.
14. REPRODUCTION: Humans are genetically wired to reproduce. We often confuse, though, the physical attraction we feel as a result of our genetic need to reproduce as being the same thing as “Love” which is actually something quite different than mere physical attraction. Reproduction and love are frequently intertwined but they’re not the same thing. Our human genetic need to reproduce and to form a nuclear unit is based on the survival of our species. Dogs are driven by the same genetic need to reproduce and, just as humans, dogs can obviously feel love for their owners and other animals which is completely separate from their genetic need to reproduce. All mutual needs to reproduce and build a nuclear unit (pack) can either be a source of comfort or a source of stress and conflict if there are issues of incompatible temperaments.
15. BIOLOGY AND HORMONES: Biology and hormones play a huge role in our need to reproduce and to form nuclear units. This is true of both dogs and humans. Females cycle at various times and due to estrogen and FSH, they are receptive to being mated at that time. Males, on the other hand, are genetically programmed to breed any receptive female available. This isn’t an issue for dogs but a major issue for humans as males are naturally compelled to reproduce with as many females as they possible can. To not respond to that impulse means a male must struggle against his genetic inclinations. The value that humans place on being monogamous creates an inevitable problem as it goes against the male’s genetic inclinations.
16. OUR NEED FOR PURPOSE AND MEANING: Humans have a desperate need for purpose and to have some kind of meaning in our lives.Dogs experience a genetic need for purpose depending on their breed but it’s not quite the same need that humans have for meaning and purpose. Many breeds of dogs have genetic purposes bred into them, such as herding dogs, guard dogs, working breeds, etc. Our human need for purpose and meaning is often more metaphysical and spiritual than it is for dogs. The human need for purpose and meaning is often elusive and disappointing because as soon as we achieve one purpose or sense of meaning, we frequently are disillusioned and automatically feel the need for a new and more powerful purpose or meaning.
17. DREAMS AND HOPE: We humans have a desperate need for dreams and hope. We constantly fantasize about various possible futures for ourselves. This is intertwined with our need for purpose and meaning and also serves as a means to distract ourselves from all the loss, fear and death we experience in life. Dogs don’t have dreams and fantasies though they definitely experience expectation and disappointment (for example, expectation as to the time they’re supposed to be fed or disappointment if their owners don’t come home when they usually do, etc.) For us humans, most of our the misery we experience concerns the fact that our dreams and hopes rarely manage to measure up to what we’d imagined. Consequently, life (along with the people in our lives) inevitably disappoints us and breaks our hearts because nothing ever measures up to what we’d dreamed about in our minds.
18. THE BELIEF IN A HIGHER BEING: Humans have an innate need to believe in some sort of Higher Being. This has been demonstrated throughout the history of man. Dogs don’t have this problem. Unfortunately, our desperate need to believe in a higher being impacts our lives in many intense and dramatic ways. There reasons we humans have such a desperate need for the existence of a Higher Being has to do with our view of what’s right versus what’s wrong, our fear of death and our consequent longing for an afterlife.
19. ANXIETY AND FEAR: Simply being alive produces all kinds of fear and anxiety. Anxiety and fear are actually perfectly normal responses for any sentient being. How much degree fear and anxiety each of us experiences is determined by our individual genetics and our previous life experiences. Instead of characterizing our anxiety and fear as being something that’s abnormal, it’s important to understand that anxiety and fear are simply natural consequences of being alive and staying alive! The feelings of fear and anxiety aren’t enjoyable but they’re vital to our survival. If an individual’s fear and anxiety become debilitating, then medication or counseling or some other methodology may be needed because fear and anxiety should work for our need to survive. If fear and anxiety cause too much distress, then they’re working against us and our ability to respond appropriately and as need in a given situation.
20. LIFE IS SUFFERING: There is no escaping of suffering of being alive. Again, the degree that an individual (dog or human) suffers is greatly impacted by that individual’s genetics and their past experiences. Sometimes, when suffering is overwhelming, it’s necessary to go into what I call a “cocoon” phase. Our cocoon phase involves the closing off of ourselves from the world until we can heal. Humans need time to heal when tragedy and heartache befall us. However long it takes us to heal in our cocoon phase is how long it takes. When we finally heal enough and we’re ready, hopefully, we can emerge from our cocoon though this will be a very vulnerable time for us because we’re still weak and fragile from being closed off for so long. If all goes well, though, we may yet again be able to experience the joy of flight where all seems right with the world. At least, for a while because we don’t get to fly forever. As much as is humanly possible, we must always be prepared for the time when traumatic events reoccur again because they always will as they’re an unavoidable part of living life.
21. ADDICTION: Addiction is a common and predictable way for humans to attempt to cope with the pain of living life. Life can be unbearable at times and most of us simply can’t continue to endure unrelenting pain. Addictive behavior occurs in both dogs and people. In dogs, addictive behavior might exhibit itself in a dog that repeatedly chases its tail or excessively licks or chews at one part of its body (similar to a child sucking its thumb.) For us humans, there’s a wide assortment of addictions that can help to distract us from the pain, fear and anxiety we experience in this world: overeating, starving ourselves, fanatical workouts, work addictions, staying constantly busy, obsessive TV watching or video gaming, mindless hours on a computer, religious fanaticism, sexual addictions, sleeping excessively in order to escape, and, of course, all kinds of drugs and alcohol. Addiction is a desperate attempt to escape pain or fear and, at a minimum, it distracts us from the suffering that’s an intrinsic part of life.
22. WHAT KIND OF DOG AM I: This chapter clarifies and explains why life is so much easier to understand and to tolerate once we’ve learned how to think of ourselves as a genetic being (or, for the purposes of this book, as a certain breed or combination of breeds of dog.)
23. WORKING BREEDS: perfectionists and leaders
24. SPORTING BREEDS: extroverts and clowns
25. HERDING BREEDS: controllers
26. HOUNDS: loungers
27. TERRIERS: high-energy multi-taskers (busy, busy, busy)
28. TOY BREEDS: dependent and anxious
29. DANGEROUS DOGS: no dog is ever worth someone’s life or well-being
30. PARTING THOUGHTS…
Please note: this entire website (as well as the book) is apparently 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!)
So, 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 to know 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!