Lucky Huskies

By Andrea Chilcote

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If you follow my work, you know that my beloved Siberian Huskies Kairos and Heather, and my Malamute Whisper, often teach me lessons that I share in my writing.

The Chilcote Pack

This past year, I have not blogged as often, as my “hobby” of rescuing huskies became a serious pursuit. I joined with Lucky Dog Rescue, a reputable 501c3 charity. And … we’ve saved 26 huskies so far! Here is our story.

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www.LuckyDogRescue.org

Phone: (480) 704-4628 | E-mail: info@luckydogrescue.org

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Safety Latch

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Have you ever had an experience that left you feeling unsafe in an environment that you count on for security? I did, early this week.

Early on a hot and unusually humid Monday morning, Arthur and I took the dogs for a walk. Neither of us really wanted to be out in the August desert after having spent the last 10 days in idyllic coastal California climate. Yet we made an obligatory trek down our road, uneventful until we were three driveways from returning home.

Arthur was ahead of me with Whisper, our large Malamute. I was connected to both Huskies by trekking lines, bringing up the rear, when I noticed the yips and screams of a coyote pack. It’s a common sound, and spotting a relatively close coyote or two is not unexpected. But something felt – and sounded – different on this morning.

Looking ahead, I saw one, two…then six coyotes cross the road, very close. Arthur slowed in front of me, and the dogs began to get agitated, pulling in their harnesses. The coyotes began to race back and forth, yet the noise was coming from my left. Looking to my side, I saw several more running among the scrub bushes. There were perhaps 20 total.

Arthur held Whisper’s leash tightly, and straddled her for extra strength. It was all I could do to stabilize my body enough to hold onto Kairos and Heather, but somehow I managed to do that and fish my pepper spray out of my pack. I removed the orange safety latch from the container, and quickly realized I was unsure how to operate it. I put it into my pocket, and took out my phone.

By now, the coyote packs had joined and were closer, several of them fighting in the driveway to our left. Our dogs were beside themselves, tethered to us, their guardians. I felt as if we had parachuted into a wild animal park.

Hands free due to my wonderful trekking belt, I dialed a neighbor. He answered. In a panicked voice I explained the situation, and almost instantly he was walking down the road, carrying what looked like a large oar. The minute he appeared, another neighbor pulled out of his driveway on his way to work, scattering the coyotes. Arthur and I took a breath, and the dogs calmed.

Adrenaline flowing, muscles strained, and exhausted, we walked home quietly. I went straight to work. But I could not shake the unease. Once I had time to really assess what I was feeling, it became clear. My beloved home felt unsafe. While I know well the hazards of desert hiking, could we not walk our dogs down our road without threat?

As the following day unfolded, the lesson revealed itself to me. The meeting was coincidental, nothing more. The coyotes’ hunt location had nothing to do with our walk. The situation presented itself as a lesson to me. When my “safety” latch was removed, I didn’t know how to operate. I let my fear take over, and I know our dogs felt it.

Feeling is what launches energy into creation. We don’t have the luxury of succumbing to a feeling of fear. I know I have the ability to maintain presence and a sense of protection. It is indeed the only thing that will keep me safe. Neither locks on my doors nor pepper spray in my pockets work without the resonance itself. (Oh, and of course I need to learn how to operate the thing!)

What fears can you transform by shifting your feelings and thoughts? What safety latches are preventing you from examining the source of the fears that are overshadowing enjoyment of the things you love?


This post appeared originally on The Spirited Woman where Andrea is a weekly blogger. Enjoy it!

 

Plans as Sand

Plans as Sandby Andrea Chilcote

In the summer months, we rise before 5 am to take the dogs on once-daily hikes before the unforgiving sun comes up, leaving them no choice but to retire indoors to our stone floors and air conditioning. It’s a treat for humans and canines alike, and usually it’s an urgent matter.

On some mornings, the weather is better than on others. If there have been no monsoon rains to add humidity, and if there is even a slight breeze, the pre-dawn is almost pleasant. If the air is laden with moisture from an overnight downpour, the heat is already oppressive at 5. On one such morning, Whisper, our ten-year-old Malamute, decided she wasn’t going.

WhisperMy hiking buddy Beth and I were shocked the first time Whisper stood glued to my husband Arthur’s leg, refusing to go with us and the other dogs. I was concerned that she was ill, but when I got out onto the trail I began to think she had the right idea. She chose to take it easy on a day the environment prescribed ease. The next day, a much more pleasant one, she enthusiastically joined us.

Each day since, Whisper has decided if she wanted a longer, more strenuous walk with us or if she would rather go to the barn for the morning feed, followed by a short and gentle walk with Arthur. She’s very clear, and she decides in the moment after checking the weather from an outdoor deck. One day last week I asked her, “Do you want to go to Spur Cross? (a nearby county park),” and was met with an excited “Woo woo woo.” The very next day her body language told me she was staying close to home, and she did.

Once again, Whisper has sage lessons for us.

I’ve always loved the saying, “Set your goals in stone and your plans in sand.” This summer, Whisper has been a role model for making routine and relatively inconsequential decisions in the moment, based on the circumstances that present themselves. If that sounds like obvious advice, consider this story. The other day, while walking up my driveway with Beth, I was puzzled as to why she had parked her car in a tucked-away space. As it turned out, she planned to do so the day prior, thinking that another friend was joining us. She didn’t want to block her in. While certainly a positive gesture, the problem was that her plan was no longer valid. The other friend’s “plans” had changed. Beth knew this, but still wedged her car in the inconvenient spot. As soon as the words left her mouth, she was reminded of Whisper’s lesson.

Do you ever waste the precious present moment planning things that are best determined in another, future, moment? Do you ever follow through on plans that are no longer justified?

Personally, Whisper’s behavior has reminded me of my goal for self-care. If my plan does not support my goal, perhaps I should change it. A long time ago, Beth offered me this advice: “If you do the right thing for you, it will probably be the right thing for others.” It’s tough for me in practice, but my dog makes it look easy.

Are you doing things out of an unfounded sense of obligation? What if you chose to hang out at the barn instead hiking up a mountain?

The last lesson involves giving another the freedom to change his or her mind. It was tempting to coax and cajole Whisper. After all, what dog would not want to hike? We refrained, honoring her wishes. I’m not sure we could have dragged her out of the house anyway, but we could have gotten ourselves all worked up trying. Isn’t that how it usually goes?

Do you honor the wishes of those you care about, or do you try to persuade them to follow the plan that seems right to you?

This next day, consider your and others’ plans as blowing sand. Where might they take shape?


This post appeared originally on The Spirited Woman where Andrea is a weekly blogger. Enjoy it!

Mirror Mirror (2014)

Andrea ChilcoteEven though I’ve written of this “mirror” concept many times, Brene Brown helped me finally “get” it.

by Andrea Chilcote

What if many of the things we hear, see and experience, outside of ourselves, are just reflections of our own inner state? In each of our lives there exist other people and situations acting as mirrors for the aspects of ourselves that we either dislike or admire. If you believe, as I do, that all living things are part of a mass consciousness, separate in personality and possessing free will but connected energetically ‒ spiritually in fact, then this “mirror” principle makes sense. And, as is the case with many of my life lessons, a dog is teaching me just how closely connected we all are.

WhisperThis past year, I have learned that I have a four-legged mirror living in our home, sharing my life. Her name is Whisper. She’s a Malamute ‒ my husband’s Malamute to be precise, and she’s been our companion for eight years. I can hear her comment now, if only she could read a blog: “Yes, it’s taken Andrea eight years to get the message. Pitiful humans!”

The truth is, I’ve always been aware that Whisper reflects my feelings and fears. Whisper shows her sweet and loving demeanor to every human she meets. Other dogs? Not so much. So when we hike in the desert and inevitably run into other dogs, she often takes an aggressive stance, testing my physical strength (a Malamute is a strong creature) and frustrating me as a supposed leader. It would be easy to write her off as impossibly dog-aggressive or rationalize her behavior as protective of me or her handler, but there’s more at play here. Whisper mirrors my feelings. If I can remain present, calm and objective, there is usually no trouble. If I feel the fear of a potential fight, or, as is more likely the case, judgment of people who can’t or won’t control their own dogs, Whisper acts out my emotions. Knowing this, the solution seems simple ‒ yet managing feelings is far from easy. Dog Whisperer, Cesar Milan, advocates calling up a calm-assertive state of being, using an inside-out approach of managing one’s thoughts and feelings before taking outward action. I challenge you to try it now.

Imagine some person or group for whom you feel judgment ‒ from mild superiority to true disdain or contempt ‒ the degree does not matter. We all have these feelings at times. Okay, now that you’ve got it, try to release it. Stop feeling judgment, quickly. Tough, yes? For me, it can be very difficult and at the same time, a very worthwhile pursuit. If I can manage my thoughts and feelings, then I can manage my actions ‒ and this, in my opinion, is the key to the universe.

Go back to the judgmental state you just identified. What is this person or situation reflecting that is true for you? Do you feel a fear that was previously unrecognized? Is there some aspect of the other person’s behavior that triggers a memory of your own shortcomings, a mistake you made, a lesson you learned? Identify it, feel it, and ‒ here’s the magic ‒ it will be transformed.

Once a previously unconscious emotion is brought to the surface, your logical mind can make sense of it, and you can act appropriately. Take the feeling of fear, for example. If the fear represents a real threat, you can act on that. If the fear is based on history or a habit of thought, you can let it go. The truth will indeed set us free.

There’s a bonus to this process, given that we are all connected. When we transform our inner state, others respond in new ways. It makes for a more peaceful hike, as well as a better world.

Never Mind That

by Andrea Chilcote

Never Mind ThatLet’s do a mental exercise. Imagine a stranger approaches you, looks you in the eye and states, boldly, “I don’t like you!”

What’s your immediate reaction? What do you say in response? Now, imagine the same thing only this time it’s someone you know — a neighbor say, or a co-worker. Does it feel different when it’s an acquaintance? Is your response different?

I have always considered myself impervious to others’ views of me. Being liked or accepted is just not one of my core needs.

So I was surprised by my reaction to an exercise I participated in this past weekend. The exercise was part of a workshop led by Ann Albers. Ann demonstrated by walking up to an unassuming participant. “I don’t like you!” she declared. The woman cowered a bit and softly replied “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be sorry,” Ann coached. “Just say ‘that’s okay,’ with confidence, and walk away.”

Easy, right? Well, I thought it would be easy for me.

We were instructed to practice with other attendees. The first person who said “I don’t like you” to me was met with my response: “I don’t like you either!”

Wow. An image of my beloved Malamute, Whisper, came to mind. When an aggressive dog approaches Whisper, she takes an even more aggressive stance and growls back ferociously. “Never mind that,” I’ve been telling her, for nearly nine years.

It’s rare that a person says “I don’t like you” out loud. The messages are usually more subtle, but we can sense and feel them. And we make assumptions about people’s feelings toward us based on behaviors we interpret as lack of acceptance. Whisper has reacted many times to a dog’s personality-driven exuberance as if it was aggression directed at her. And because she is a mirror for me, I’m pretty certain I have too.

The lesson of the workshop was, of course, to remain unaffected by the opinions of others. Never mind them. Before Saturday, I would have told you that I was uninfluenced. But I am affected, making up a story of why and how others could come to the conclusion that they don’t like me, and in doing so concluding that they too are unlikeable.

“That’s okay. Never mind that.” What peaceful and disarming responses these are, whether spoken or not. Consider these phrases in relation to self-acceptance. In this context, we’re really saying, “I’m okay” – okay with myself, in full acceptance of my value and worth. We’re saying “never mind” the opinions of others. There’s neither a need to take on their negativity nor “fight to prove I’m right” in the words of music legend Pete Townshend.

Wars are raged between countries and within communities and families because we don’t agree. People make decisions every day to please others and in doing so forego their own needs, purpose and values – often disappointing the very ones they were trying to please.

I do like you. But pretend for a moment that I don’t, and just never mind.

I don’t need to fight
To prove I’m right
I don’t need to be forgiven
Pete Townshend
“Baba O’Riley”

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This post appeared originally on The Spirited Woman where Andrea is a weekly blogger.

Playful Flight

by Andrea Chilcote     Animal Speak_Capture

The following post appeared originally on The Spirited Woman where Andrea is a weekly blogger. 

One morning this week, as we were leaving our driveway for a hike with the dogs, I noticed a raven flying overhead, breakfast prey hanging from his beak. I wondered to myself what lesson he had in store.

“Good morning Grandpa.” I greeted him as I often do, with the name I’ve come to use since meeting a raven up close in the Grand Canyon many years ago.  “Grandpa” is a bit like Santa Claus. Even though there are many of them, I pretend each one I see is the same bird.

As we walked, I continued to notice Grandpa flying nearby, and smiled at the company. Having these companion birds along on our hikes is a fairly common occurrence, and there are natural explanations. Ravens and crows are known to serve as messengers to warn small animals of impending danger, calling out their cautionary sounds as they fly. It makes sense that they would warn the desert animals of our arrival, as we hike with two large wolf-like dogs, a Husky and a Malamute.

The other possibility lies in the simple fact that there is a long-standing synergy between ravens and wolves. There is much documented evidence of ravens and wolves hunting together in a symbiotic relationship. And surprisingly, their bond often includes play, with the birds dipping and soaring amongst dancing wolves after a successful hunt.

On this day, I felt sure the bird was calling us to join the social activities of its congress. As if to confirm my intuition, others began to gather. By the time we were completing the last quarter of our loop hike, we counted 10 ravens. They flew along as we walked, landing intermittently on high tree branches to allow us to count them before moving ahead.

Ravens are said to symbolize magic. In his classic book Animal Speak, Ted Andrews says raven teaches us how to go into the dark and bring forth light. He says wolf teaches us to breathe new life into our life rituals.

It’s always a bit too easy for me to allow the stresses of a busy life to hijack my focus. One of the reasons I hike the dogs each day I’m at home in Arizona is that I get a brief connection with nature in a way that’s playful and physical. And even so, I sometimes miss the magic for the heaviness at hand.

We all bring forth light when we lighten up in social ways. Consider the gifts of raven and wolf as you interact within your families, teams and communities. Temper work with play, and magic just might take flight.

“It appears that the wolf and the raven have reached an adjustment in their relationships such that each creature is rewarded in some way by the presence of the other and that each is fully aware of the other’s capabilities.”  The Wolf: The Ecology and Behaviour of an Endangered Species  –Dr. L. David Mech

Just Chill

Cambriaby Andrea Chilcote

The following is a repeat of a post I made for The Spirited Woman Community in August, just before departing for vacation. While I am in Cave Creek this week, not Cambria, the spirit of “Just Chill” seems appropriate for the holiday weekend. Enjoy!

August 2012

As you read this post, I am officially on vacation. I am in Cambria, California an idyllic haven that offers my family and me a unique sort of respite, a place to “chill out” figuratively as well as literally, given that it’s also a cool escape from the blistering Arizona summer.

I strive for peace and quiet amidst the busyness of my life. Yet the world is not quiet. That is not a judgment, rather it is an observation. Whether one is a public servant, a public figure – or even a monk – this “disquiet” can seep into the psyche, creating discord that impacts the quality of our lives and those we care about and interact with daily.

In the past, I have written of the importance of rest and renewal. And, as is so often the case, I have observed a theme this past week: A dearth of rest. So many people are starved for a break, for peace and for release. The definition of rest is broad. It can mean temporary cessation from an activity as well as relief or freedom from disquiet or disturbance. Rest includes recreation, and it can literally re-create our outlook, equipping us with renewed drive and energy to use as we choose.

Some of us “rest” in motion…through vigorous physical activity, or an active break from routine. Others need stillness and contemplation. The idea of a nap or an afternoon under a beach umbrella may satisfy some and not others. For me, the simple absence of a schedule provides supreme rest.

We’ve been resting in Cambria each summer for the last six years. On the first day of our first trip there, Arthur and I were having lunch at a wonderful sidewalk table at a Cambria classic, the Indigo Moon. Our dogs Whisper and Amigo were with us. Just as our server approached, another vacationing dog passed by our table. Whisper, the Malamute, tends to challenge other dogs, and this was no exception.  The server looked her straight in the eye and cut her off mid-growl. “Chill doggie,” she said calmly. “This is Cambria.” Amazingly, both dogs “chilled.” From that day forward, time in Cambria came to represent a time to take a deep breath and relax.

Maybe you too can visit Cambria, in person or in your dreams. Until then, just chill.

It’s that frenetic energy that keeps us stuck in perpetual ‘fight or flight’ and that keeps us in an energetic fear loop that robs us of truly being present, enjoying life, and connecting deeply with our loved ones. – Resting expert Dan Howard