Leave It! [on Two Artist Tuesday]

DoggaChipHeadwithwords copy

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then what you don’t see in a picture is worth an additional word or two.

One of Kerri’s many nicknames is “Brat” and it is more-than-well-deserved. No one knows this better than Tripper-Dog-Dog-Dog. He silently suffers her full brat nature. He patiently tolerates her howling laughter when he is, once again, the object of her brat-ocity.

DogDog easily picks up tricks. And, as an Aussie, he is a hyper-sensitive-good-boy, so Brat takes full advantage of his trusting nature, his need to please, and contorts the tricks. This is a photo of “leave it:” drop any snack on the floor, tell DogDog to “leave it,” and he won’t touch it until he’s given the magic sign. Tell him to “leave it” and he won’t move. Instead, he will follow you with his eyes imploring you for the magic sign. On this day, instead of dropping his snack on the floor, she put a tortilla chip on his head. And left it there for a very long time.

I knew I would be in trouble if I gave DogDog the magic sign. I knew I would bring Brat’s focus on to me if I interrupted her chuckling mischief. So, like DogDog, I sat very still and followed her around with my eyes. When would she give the magic signal? Both DogDog and I quaked with unbearable anticipation. When?! She moved back and forth, Dogga’s and my eyes tracking her every move. She took a picture. Moved across the room and took another. “Don’t torture the dog,” I implored.

“I’m not torturing DogDog,” she smiled, giving DogDog the magic sign, “I’ve been torturing you!”

 

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Lydia! Here’s the link: read Kerri’s blog post about BEING A BRAT

 

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Run In Circles [on Two Artists Tuesday]

It may not be immediately apparent, but this is a video of a solution. It is a celebration of non-resistance in the face of a force of nature. DogDog (also known as Tripper, also known as Dogga, also known as Don’tDoThat!) is a backyard killer. In his enthusiasm for life he runs circles -or – more accurately, he plows circles. No plant is sacred, no patch of grass is safe. For a few seasons we tried multiple strategies to achieve some semblance of backyard order only have Don’tDoThat! plow a new circle.

if you'd like to see TWO ARTISTS copyOne morning, watching the madness, Kerri sipped her coffee and said, “Why fight it?” She went in to the house and ordered a round-a-bout sign, careful to get one for left lane drivers so it would indicate the correct direction of his travels. DogDog is, after all, an Aussie. We planted his sign in the center of the velodrome, added a bit of wild grass around the sign and VA-WA-LA! Order (or, at least, the semblance)

On Two Artists Tuesday, a DogDog inspired reminder to lay down the fight; sometimes you can define the desire lines and sometimes you have to let them define you.

read Kerri’s blog post about DogDog Round-A-Bout

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dogdog round-a-bout ©️ 2018 david robinson & kerri sherwood

 

 

 

Listen To Your Teachers

my yoga companions

my yoga companions and a belly-belly

Tripper Dog-Dog-Dog and BabyCat (aka Slim, Sumo, Belly-with-a-Mouth) join me for my morning stretch and yoga. I need only walk to the yoga rug and my practice mates come running. I suspect they are not invested in the quieting of their minds or keeping limber. Their attendance on the rug has a simpler, more pure agenda: attention and pets.

Our preparation looks something like this: BabyCat wraps himself around my ankles and purrs. Dog-Dog jumps with enthusiasm and nearly knocks me over. With a Sumo-sized kitty warming my ankles and a circus dog leaping all around me, my gentle, quiet practice begins. As I drop forward to touch my toes, Dog-Dog rolls over for what we have lovingly dubbed a “belly-belly.” Clearly, Dog-Dog is an opportunist who sees all things as an opportunity. He is, therefore, a very happy spirit.

BabyCat is more strategic. He waits patiently until I move into a downward-dog pose so he can inhabit his favored spot and nibble my hair. It is counter-intuitive but true that BabyCat is more vocal than Tripper Dog-Dog-Dog. As a strategist, BabyCat complains a lot. He is an adherent to the philosophy of the squeaky wheel getting all the grease and BabyCat knows how to squeak the wheel. He is, therefore, as a necessary prerequisite to wheel squeaking, never satisfied.

photo-3My yoga companions have served to make me more mindful though it took me a while to recognize the teachings of my rug mates. At first I thought of them as distractions: they are very demanding of my attention. I thought they were getting in the way. I contemplated shooing them from the rug but, in truth, they made me laugh and what could be better for any healthy practice – for a healthy life – than laughter. It occurred to me that I’d rarely laughed in the many, many previous years of my practice. I was missing the essential ingredient and nearly banished it from my life-rug!

Next, I had to learn to move slower with much more intention so as not to topple or step on the squeaky wheel. I became much more present and aware of even the simplest movement. Awareness is a muscle and BabyCat is a gifted instructor of the fine art of awareness.

As an opportunist for fun, the Dog-Dog believes every pose is, in fact, a bridge to run under or an invitation to wrestle so I’ve had to learn how to root myself in every moment of my practice, particularly the in-between moments. I cannot afford to be ungrounded, even for a single moment, or the master Dog-Dog will have me sprawling on the floor. Saul-The-Tai-Chi-Master would be proud of my new capacity to remain grounded while in motion. Dog-Dog is an excellent teacher!

Perhaps their attendance on the rug with me has a more complex agenda after all: they recognized that their human needed to welcome more laughter into his too serious practice (life), he needed to find a deeper, easier grounding. And, in my predisposition the think I am higher up the chain of consciousness, I foolishly believed I was giving my love and attention to them but the opposite has been the case all along.

Capture The Essence

Dog-Dog and treasure

Dog-Dog and treasure

Tripper Dog-Dog-Dog gathers his stuff around him. He has two stinky blankets that he pulls from his crate each morning, a red Kong, a blue chew bone with a handy looped rope pull, another blue toy that once looked like a jack but has been chewed beyond recognition, a once-stuffed moose from Josh that is now an unrecognizable shredded mess though he carries it around as if it was precious cargo. There is also a muddy tennis ball, a raw hide bone and usually a sock pilfered from my sock basket. If Kerri and I shift locations within the house, move from the living room to the sun room, Dog-Dog’s worldly possessions will slowly migrate with us. He is subtle and I rarely see the migration in progress; I suddenly realize that I am sitting within a nest of Dog-Dog treasure.

My favorite section in The Lost Boy is a series of questions that Tom asked: 1) if you were given a cardboard box and it was all that was going to be allowed to provide proof that you walked on this earth, what would you put in your box? 2) Beyond proof, what would you put in the box that captured the essence of who you were, that distinguished you from all the others? 3)What are the collections, the things you gather around you that are somehow supposed to tell others who you are? These questions might seem simple but are surprisingly complex. How does your stuff tell the story of who you are? Or, a better question: does your stuff define you? Can your stuff – your car, your house, your granite counter tops, your clothes, your jewelry,…, – capture your essence?

Tom asked two other related and relevant questions: In packing your box, would you be tempted to scrub your life of its messiness? Would you try to eliminate the mundane, the everyday? Would you throw away your rough drafts? Would you ignore the relationships that didn’t work out? Would you explain away the ugliness, the ruthless choices? Would you burn your personal journals so that the future might never glimpse your doubt, your struggles, your frailty?

I would add these questions: What if your essence was only available to you once you value the messiness? What if, in throwing away the mundane, you actually eliminate what is truly special about you? I’ve often taught and touted a tenet from improvisational theatre: drop your clever and pick up your ordinary – most of us diminish/neglect our greatest gifts because we label them as ordinary. They come naturally to us so we don’t always recognize them. In trying so hard to be clever, to be right, to be flawless,…to be other, we regularly overlook the real treasure and relegate ourselves to that most shameful pile labeled ‘ordinary.’

Scrubbing life to a sterile, conflict-less blandness is a recipe for….boredom and, at the end of the day, a very uninteresting box. Of this I am certain: if Dog-Dog had to pack his box today, I would be proud to sit amidst the stinky blankets, blue bones and remnants of moose toy. Dog-Dog hides none of his messiness.

 

Unbridle Your Enthusiasm

Tripper Dog-Dog-Dog's trophy collection

Tripper Dog-Dog-Dog’s trophy collection

Tripper Dog-Dog-Dog is tough on toys. He does well with hard rubber Kongs and rawhide bones but the stuffed animal variety haven’t got a prayer. We long ago stopped buying them for him. Even as a small puppy he’d make short work of anything that squeaked or resembled a creature. More than once, moments after giving him a new toy, I found him sitting happy and content amidst a nest of fiberfill with the empty body-shaped sack of toy remnant clutched firmly between his paws. Dog-Dog has several admirers who are unaware of his destructive talents and bring him stuffed animals as gifts. Like offerings to a high priests in days of old, Tripper graciously accepts their offer and removes to the backroom for immediate slaughter. For reasons I can’t explain, we keep the heads from his sacrifices. We use the heads as sleeves for our knife set or as wine bottle covers; it’s our own little version of Game of Thrones.

I’m learning much from master Dog-Dog. Lately his lessons are about faith and exuberance for the sheer pleasure of being alive. For Tripper, every doorway is an opportunity for bounding, every fence an opportunity for discovery. Even if he hopped at the fence 30 seconds prior, his return to the same spot is no less enthusiastic. He does not assume that he knows what he will find there, in fact, he assumes that the world is new no matter which way he looks. He does not blunt himself with notions of knowing like we bipeds. He is a four-legged master of beginner’s mind. If he had an inner monologue I’m certain it would be, “Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god,…”

During our late night pre-bed visits to the backyard, Dog-Dog routinely stops and stands very still (unusual behavior for an Australian Shepherd), and for several moments he listens. He feels the breezes. He smells the air. He checks in with me to make sure that I am standing firmly rooted in the present moment. When he is certain that I am present with him in his quiet enthusiasm for life, that I have given up all of my stories and distractions from the day, that I, like him, am breathing in the miracle of existence, revels for a moment longer and then lets me know that I am ready for sleeping. He turns and prances toward the house, satisfied with my progress and exhausted by the sheer wonder of it all.

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Bark Your Opinion

K.Dot and Tripper

K.Dot and Tripper

Tripper Dog-Dog-Dog does not like the ukulele. He is not shy about expressing his opinions, particularly where his musical tastes are concerned. For instance, Kerri has a djembe (a very cool drum) that he adores. My frame drum, on the other hand, makes him frantic and filled with angst. I was certain that it was my playing and not the drum that drove him nuts until Kerri tried my drum and he was equally distressed. So desperate was he to silence the offending sound that he tried to put his head through the drum. He bit the frame. We can no longer play my frame drum in the house as it evokes the inner rabid wolf spirit in the normally calm and reserved Tripper Dog.

Our house is filled with musical instruments. Dog-Dog hangs out under the piano when Kerri plays. He wraps himself around her stool and chews a bone when she practices her cello. He sleeps through my clumsy first attempts at new guitar chords (or, perhaps my playing puts him to sleep). His broadmindedness snaps shut at the ukulele. He will go to great lengths to stop the strumming. If we contain him in the kitchen he howls.

Tripper Ukulele Interruption

Tripper Ukulele Interruption

I’m considering an experiment. If you’ve not yet discovered Jake Shimabukuro, do yourself a favor and listen to his work. He is a ukulele master and makes those four little strings sound like a full orchestra. He plays rock and jazz and the blues and anything else that you can’t imagine coming out of a ukulele. Go see his concerts. You won’t believe your eyes or your ears. I have a Jake Shimabukuro CD and am considering slipping it on the player while Tripper isn’t looking. I’m wondering if his disapproval of the ukulele might dissolve in the face of mastery. I’m wondering if Tripper Dog-Dog might gain an appreciation of the ukulele if introduced to deeper levels of sophistication. He is, after all, a puppy and generally open to learning new tricks.

As an old dog, I, too, am open to learning new tricks and the ongoing lesson in this life is about what I can and cannot control. Whether or not Dog-Dog ever grows to appreciate the ukulele is definitely out of my control. What is in my control is this: I will love him either way.

Go here to get my latest book, The Seer: The Mind of the Entrepreneur, Artist, Visionary, title_pageSeeker, Learner, Leader, Creator…You.

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