DOG, The Family Therapist

May 25, 2014Image

 Amidst the uncertainties of life we can count on few things to remain the same. However, our greeting from the family dog when we return home from forays into the world is one of life’s cheerful consistencies. The tail wagging welcome, the unconditional affection, and the affirmation of one’s importance is good stuff.

When our children are young, we receive superlative welcomes on our returns to home. They rush to us and fling themselves into our embrace, twining their sweet arms around our necks and nuzzling under our chins with soft tangled locks or sweaty, small boy aroma. Then they pull back and gaze on our faces with such sparkling-eyed devotion and we can feel ourselves empowered to be the kings and queens we truly are to them in their little worlds.

Alas, it does not last. All too soon the children march into prickly individuality with frequent declarations of independence. We are then no less dispensable to their well being as we were in the earlier years, but the greetings are no longer predictable. Yet faithful family dog will always there for us with eager pants and yips of joy. Our value in the scheme of things is daily reaffirmed and sealed with a devoted lick.

How I blessed our shepherd/ yellow lab mix, especially with our sixth child, a rambunctious, fast moving two-year-old. The dog entertained him for hours with their “game”, he flinging handfuls of pebbles aloft and she catching them while I was allowed some chunks of time to actually “get something done.” Yet it is when the family approaches the adolescent years that the dog ‘therapist’ truly earns his biscuits. This is when I urge parents to consider such a family helper. One melancholic ten-year-old boy going through the end of childhood and painful new self awareness, was convinced, for a solid year, that no one in all the world loved him, except (bless that canine) the family dog.

My son-in-law, Bob, striving to maintain uprightness (and a full time job) amidst a small herd of adolescents, was not receptive when I suggested that he get a dog for the family. He had not been raised with one and in his view they were an expensive and smelly nuisance. But I was championing my grandson’s cause and kept up my pushy insistence that the twelve–year-old needed a dog, now, and would be infinitely aided by bonding with the animal before launching off the cliff of adolescent angst.

Amenable fellow that he is, Bob finally acquiesced, sending the family off to an animal Faire with orders to get a small, tractable house dog. They returned that night, apologetic, and a bit shame faced, with a large, untidy shepherd with a great lolling tongue and soulful brown eyes. Rallying from his initial irritation, Bob soon found he now had a generous and admiring colleague, who gave him constant support, in contrast to the unpredictable ricochets of admiration or condemnation the rest of the clan generated. Furthermore, Dog provided the most excellent of excuses to leave the house regularly alone for long, bracing, companionable walks and a chance to re-focus before entering the fray. The bonding and therapeutic effect was immediate.

As for grandson, his brow alternately light-filled or dark with impending storm as he cycled through the new experience of the kaleidoscoping moods of adolescence, he could push his face into Dog’s furry shoulder and take him to bed at night. There the dog ministered, warm and solid beside him as he slept those years away, gangly arms akimbo over Dog’s soft, stable presence as the boy traversed the shoals of puberty and re-found himself.

I similarly urged a father, who was in a position to do so, to get horses for his daughters. At seventeen, the eldest vacillated between the extremes of elbowing ferociously through the family into life, and tentatively touching a melancholic toe into the waters of the future. She wrote me “ I don’t know what I would do without my horses.” It was true.

One father and his wife with a houseful of adolescents spoke of the experience as being “under siege,” an apt description. As parents try to maintain equilibrium in a ship tossed on high seas, the barrages come like a cannon balls lobbed over the deck, or a battering ram to the solar plexus…. over “Curfews, Parties, Overnights, Movies, Grades, Car, Money, Clothes,all delivered with the exquisitely applied pressure the teenager can muster along with a seemingly endless supply of energy. Here Dog once again proffers his gifts. As the family sits at table, tensions, tempers and voices rising, he moves from lap to lap, pushing muzzle under hands that, unbidden, begin stroking his head and he pleads to each one with irresistible eyes to ‘lighten up’. Energy shifts. Dog lies on the floor and looks droll and funny, humbly and ever so willingly drawing them in till things hopefully dissolve into laughter.

Please do not imagine I feel down on adolescents. I do love them They are beautiful, fascinating to watch, zany, raucous, and down right fun. Ever irresistible in their exuberant verve, with hopes and ideals fresh from the fountains and fields of dreams, and splashing the effervescent holy water of life over the aging of the species, they are an experience not to be missed. Even though it be a quick glance and smile they bestow as they parade it is worth it all. But today, awash with a hard core. in-your-face media bath that passes for culture, they inevitably spill the sass over on parents and it is exhausting. Here hiring Dog makes a lot of sense, to absorb and deflect the astrality and to mellow things out wherever possible. Furthermore, for the parents to have some living, breathing, soul-endowed creature in the home that thinks you are really wonderful all the time has a lot to be said for it!

To be sure there is a trade off. Dogs need to eat-every day. They shed and tear up lawns. But their devotion to unite themselves to the family is infinite, even to shape themselves to family members, witness the often comical resemblance of owners and pets. But while we have splendid and isolating individuality, they have something we do not, a built in connectedness to the great scheme of things and they urge us on to remember that we do too. Creatively united with the great spirit archetype of dogdom they operate from peerless wisdom, and instinct. In our free choice, they would beg us to choose for Wholeness and Joy in life and ply all their furry being to that end.

To those who may feel I endow dogs with unwarranted nobility, I say watch the dynamic. When family and world are in harmony that’s the best tail-wagging happiness they know. As family therapist they serve with endless devotion every day to reassure us that life is good, and if we can all love each other, it will be the very best kind of a world.






IMG_0538 MAY 16, 2014


About a year ago, I was standing in front of the State capitol of California, a state by any economic measure the eighth largest ‘country’ in the world. I was there in this crazy salmon outfit that I had made along with other activists gathering signatures to protest the release of genetically engineered monster salmon into the world waters. The results of such a release will be irrevocable.

Twenty some years ago, GMO (genetically modified organisms) entered the nation’s food supply, without warning or testing other than by the chemical corporations that produced them, and certainly not asked for by the men women and children they would be secretly tested on. In the ensuing years we have seen unprecedented increases in food allergies, intestinal disorders, obesity, infertility, childhood diabetes,and cancer just to name a few illnesses. Salmon will be a first in GMO animals to be introduced, with dire consequences.

We live today under the tyranny of some intensely strange thinking in this country which translates as follows: We can drug ourselves to health. We can poison our way to decent, nutritious food and a sustainable earth.

Chemical agriculture corporations (Monsanto, Cargill, Bayer, et al) and industrial agriculture are in charge of our national food supply and are making darn sure to keep our government and politicians corrupted enough to keep their profits sky rocketing. They have infiltrated all regulatory agencies and have a major representative in Michael Taylor, our national government food ‘Czar’ given the authority to ‘guard’ our food supply. He is a former Monsanto lawyer who arranged at the federal level for GMO’s to be released with no labeling. He got them all declared (GRAS) (Generally Recognized As Safe)- that is, just the same as good old conventional seeds and crops, while in fact they contain bizarre, unprecedented never-before-in-nature gene crossings. The stunning fact is the corporate chemical manipulators have it both ways! In a brilliant duping of the government and the public they claim the crops are so ordinary and similar to conventional ones they do not require labeling and at the same time they are unique enough to be patented! Then they ruthlessly sue and silence innocent organic farmers whose crops are wind contaminated and ruined by pollen from their GMO fields for ‘stealing their intellectual property!” Further these industrial agriculture giants threaten to bankrupt small counties with lawsuits if their unhealthy seeds and factory farms are not allowed to operate in them. We (and Canada) are the only major countries in the world that do not require the labeling of GMO foods. China and Russia do.

Does this make sense? Of course it doesn’t, Not even close, no logic, no sound science, and furthermore these corporations use their money and power to viciously block and discredit any scientific studies that show negative results about genetically modified crops and ill health from factory farm animals. Our small organic farmers are currently nearly swamped out of business with a blitz of paper work for the government to prove they are organic in all their processes, while essentially unregulated chemical agriculture giants can virtually at will, (and over riding great public outcry and protest), release harmful things into the food supply, forever altering and contaminating nature. They placate the government with mere ‘letters of assurance’ that their products are harmless. They offer whatever skewed results they want from their own testing and that is how these aberrations are approved. The main principal of GMO seeds is that the herbicide Roundup can be sprayed on them to kill every other living plant and they will survive. But nature is no pushover. In these twenty years of use, two dozen invasive weeds have now become resistant to the poison glyphosate, the main ingredient in Roundup, the most widely used herbicide in the world, (though we had been assured that wouldn’t happen). The chemical/ GMO agriculture answer to this is even harsher poisons, similar to 24D – at the potency of Agent Orange, the poison that has left a wake of three generations of deformed children since it was poured over the jungles and homes of those living in Vietnam.

What are we thinking of to leave our food in the hands of chemical companies whose only aim is sell poison and profit? It is astonishing that we have to march in the streets to protest our babies being poisoned with food made from corn that has the entire plant is registered as a pesticide (for the engineered pesticide works in every cell of the plant)….and then works its poisoning our babies digestive system along with the pests?

Even as this is written Monsanto and chemical companies are sponsoring a federal bill that will block the states from passing laws requiring labeling GMO products in our foods. We thought that labeling of what is in foods is what has always been done by our government for our health and welfare, right? That we are given the basic human right to choose what we are putting in our mouths, right?? Isn’t this the most intimate possible act affecting personal health in our daily lives, right?

This approach to agriculture has been supported by all our presidents out of ignorance and/or the incredible power our industrial chemical agriculture corporations command. The promise and twisted logic that has been dangled before us is to destroy nature and human beings to ‘feed the world.‘

The fact is smart, intensive, diverse, water saving, crop rotating, organic and bio dynamic agriculture can feed the people. Did I mention saving the bees? People could even begin again to feed themselves with their own gardens as most families did not that long ago. We need a lot more people to wake up and realize what is going on and then take action and buy and support sustainable, organic and bio dynamic agriculture with an emphasis on locally grown. You may even say that our lives and the health of future generations depend on it. Moms Across America are currently having a campaign to call the FDA to protest the infiltration of glyphosate into our bodies, now found in mother’s milk and newborn umbilical blood. For the sake of everyone and especially our children and Mother Earth, please add your voice.

Sources: Center For Food Safety, Cornucopia Institute, Institute for Responsible Technology, Food Revolution. Food Democracy.




Mother’s Day, 2014

THE DAY OF BECOMING A MOTHER For Mother’s Day, 2014 I awoke one morning during this Mother’s Day time somewhat puzzled to find I was remembering a story of long past. Suddenly the memory was there, clear and sweet, and I found myself wondering how life had all turned out for those I was remembering, for they were only briefly in my life. It all happened decades ago when I was a young mother of five children, all born within five years! The last two, twin girls, brought the total up quickly. I was helping my husband with the bookkeeping for our drugstore which we owned for nearly ten years in Fallbrook, California, a small, charming rural town in San Diego county. My husband’s workload was huge, twelve hour days, six days a week, and mine was on going at home as well. With the addition of the twins, the work at home was now monumental. I had three little ones in diapers, for the son next to the twins was only sixteen months old at the time of their birth. Diapers in that era were the old fashioned cotton wash-them-yourself kind. Though costly diaper service could be had, disposables had not yet been invented. I needed help for sure. I went to a employment office to look for candidates. Those seeking work or collecting unemployment checks stood in a long line at one window. My line ( potential employers) was a short one. I got to the window and said I needed domestic household help, ideally live in, or for several hours a week. The clerk shook his head said there were no such helpers available. I offered that I would pay fairly and be flexible for their hours. The attitude was surely I could not expect to find people willing to do this. I left. “Okay”, I thought to myself, “I tried.” I went home and set about networking into the large hidden pool of undocumented workers from Mexico in the area, who, eager to be here, worked in avocado groves and helped with domestic work of all kinds. In the next few years we had some wonderful helpers, including two sisters from one family who aided and supported our lives, and we theirs. My Spanish was passable and improved with their presence. We could laugh and commiserate over the stunning amount of work to keep up with it all and the delightful antics of the children. We were acquainted with the family of a local physician who also had Mexican help, though the wife. Wyla, didn’t speak any Spanish and apparently was never able to become very fluent. But she had a young girl who helped her for several months and was especially welcomed when Wyla had her third child. Her little boy was only a month or so old when I got the phone call. Her voice was panicky, full of alarm and concern. I managed to get some coverage for my home front and drove to their lovely home and knocked on the door. With a look of great relief Wyla welcomed me in and anxiously took me aside to explain what was happening. Which was pretty unbelievable. Her Mexican girl had been pregnant and had just had a baby that morning…in the bathroom. For some reason that amazes me to this day, she and her physician husband had not figured out that Lupita was pregnant! Very hard to believe. She told me she had wondered why Lupita was so long in the bathroom that morning and had been completely taken by surprise to realize a baby had been born! But more than that the young mother was in shock and was not relating to the baby. That is why she called me. I entered the bedroom alone. The young mother was lying forlornly in a large double bed. Her shiny black hair swept over the pillow and the white bedspread was pulled up to her chin. Her sweet, open brown face was paralyzed in fear and denial as she stared into space in a near catatonic state. Surely, I thought she must have known she was pregnant? But we found later, she had kept it concealed from everyone, including the cousins where she stayed on weekends. She may also have lived in dread of repercussions she would suffer if found out by her family sent back to Mexico. Who knows? But now the situation was dire. The baby, lay swaddled in a bassinet on the far side of her bed and was whimpering and crying out with a newborn’s need for his mother. I went to the baby’s crib speaking the mother’s name softly and telling her my name. She stared stoically into space and gave no acknowledgement she had heard me. I began talking to the baby and eventually picked him up to hold and comfort him, as I addressed his mother. “Lupita, Usted es una madre! Y su nino es muy bien…. Que guapo babito! Lupita, you are a mother! Your baby is very well. What a handsome little baby! He wants his mother Quiere la madre… Que ojos bonito What beautiful eyes! I went on admiring her little one and exclaiming over the wonder of him. After a while she turned and looked my way. I nodded to her and smiled. “Your baby loves you,” I told her. Slowly, she perked up in curiosity and interest and sat up in bed. In the end I was able to put little Juanito into her arms and she smiled with Mary like beauty and wonder at her baby and put the hungry child to her breast. Staying long enough to be sure they had found each other and all was well, I went out to speak to the doctor’s wife feeling the primal bridge had been made. Thank goodness. I drove home holding the question,”Where it would all go from here?” That question was beautifully answered. The family kept both Lupita and the baby. Juanito became little brother to Wyla’s little boy, they were almost like twins. The two of them grew up together in that home. What a wonderful beginning for the children, and for the two mothers whose destiny was now joined in a sisterhood to keep this special household all together. At this Mother’s Day time I smile again remembering this as one of the loveliest “Mother’s Day” I have known. A day so long ago, when I was able to witness the overwhelming fear of a frightened adolescent girl turn into the wonder of the maternal joy of motherhood.