Reality Check

Getting personal

My mother hurt me to the core this past summer. A hurt cutting so deep that it opened-up once again childhood wounds that I had worked diligently to confront and heal over the past several years. I saw a new side of her, or rather a side, I tried not to see for a long time. And because of long standing childhood wounds and this last straw, my behavior had become a blaring, blinking, red danger light and it was becoming apparent in everything I was posting online, writing or journaling.

My attitude was becoming belligerent a result of coming from a place of anger and deep sadness. I was retreating more and more into a self-imposed exile away from family, friends, and even God.

Getting real

Attitudes are shaped by past and present experiences, perceptions, long standing exposure and repetitive feedback of those around us, particularly those who have raised us and who are closest to us. And our behavior is the result of that attitude that reinforces our beliefs of being bad, good, or worthy.

To make a long story short about the current state of my attitude, I was coping with my anger and emotions versus managing them. Coping, in my opinion, puts a person on the side of weakness instead of empowerment. I needed to get real about my current state of mind.

The outside world

We have become a divisive nation on almost every front and it seems to be getting only worse. I cannot control the world, but I can control what I see, hear, and read. Mind you, I am not putting my head in the sand, which was my own initial fear, but the fact of the matter comes down to these 3 questions I have had to step back and answer:

What do I stand for?

What I am unwilling to negotiate?

What are my core values and how are they being defined in my life?

My personal world

What’s in my control in my personal world just like in the outside world is a bit more daunting when personal slights can trigger emotions regarding long-standing issues. I began to realize how the outside world was feeding the negative experiences and perceptions I had of myself – a few of those auto-wind tapes from childhood I thought I had shredded had been left behind. My parents are who they are, but they have taught me many things, and in some instances how not to treat my own sons. But my parents are not the whole of who I am, their experiences are not the totality of my experiences, nor are they the sum of who I am as a person, a wife, as a mother, as a colleague, as a friend, and so on.

“Getting me” is the same as “getting the other person”

Take for example, University of Michigan coach, John Harbaugh’s response when his son came out as being gay and he immediately responded to his son, “Live your truth.”

Our behavior is determined by our beliefs, either our ability (or inability) to express ourselves and talk about problems comes from our individual frame of references. And are we each open to communicating with each other in a supportive atmosphere? If social media has taught us anything is that making a simple statement to putting our laundry out on the Internet is ripe for ridicule. Whether it is social media or my personal interactions, I am going to live my truth and try to abide by my motto that I developed years ago which is….

The 4 R’s – Resist Reaction Let Reason Rule:

• What is the motive behind my behavior?
• Are my words or my behavior, according to my principles, or they in response to the other person?
• What is my intention with my interactions with others?

Recognizing the danger signals:

Can I?

• Actively listen?
• Acknowledge the other person’s position?
• Accept the other person’s perspective?
• Avoid accusations?
• Move on in grace, knowing my values may not be honored or accepted?

Final note

Whatever that “TRUTH” is even if it is never shared with or honored by another, may we all resist to control, blame, judge, misinform or be indifferent to one another.

Reality check

I’m still in my imposed self-exile working on being positive, kind, and more importantly, healing myself and trying to help others thrive.

Peace

 

RPSM.Org: What it Means to Me – A Series #5

The Blogging Owl has been granted permission from Refurbished Pets of Southern Michigan to promote their new series, “What it Means to Me.”

Refurbished Pets of Southern Michigan

This is the third post in series of reflections from the inmate trainers in their own words on what it meant to them to train a dog rescued by Refurbished Pets of Southern Michigan.

Refurbished Pets of Southern Michigan

Founded in 2007, RPSM has made a serious effort to effectively aid in the reduction of euthanasia rates at many animal shelters. In 2008, the RPSM Correctional Companion Program began. In a partnership with the Coldwater Prison Complex, RPSM endeavors to find homes for dogs in shelters that would otherwise be euthanized. Dogs selected for the Companion Program are carefully screened for temperament, trainability, and adaptability. They are fully vaccinated, spayed or neutered prior to enrollment in the program. Once they arrive at the complex, they are assigned to specially trained inmates who are responsible for their training and day to day care. Upon completion of the program, the dogs are ready to receive a canine good citizen certificate (CGC) and available for adoption in an approved home.

Rpsm

To me, RPSM means being able to make a difference in life.

Being able to make a difference in the lives of animals who have only known the worst of humanity, and what it means to love a dog.

My outlook on rescue dogs has changed because I learned that you can teach an old dog new tricks lol. But being able to go from underdog to wonder dog I think is amazing. I’ve seen dogs go from having no life in their eyes to the beginning of a twinkle, a spark of hope. It’s opened a whole new world to me.

Anything I can do, I want to do to make a difference.

The best success story from when a dog came in and when it left I think would be Daisy the wiener dog. I remember when she first came in, her confidence was very low and she was very apprehensive, but seeing her come out of her shell was a job. And learning new things from the work put in was a fun experience. She taught me how to use my voice (Good Girl, Great Job).

A dog that has changed me or meant a lot to me, I want to say Reuben, but if it wasn’t for the things I learned from Levi and Daisy, I don’t think it would have been possible to have had any success stories to tell. Levi changed my understanding. It made me consider what dogs want, and not what I think they want. He made me dig deeper into learning how they think and coming up with ways to help them. He also made me dig deeper into myself and the energy I produce, and how contagious it can be. Levi gave me the drive and motivation to push further.

Written by Prison Inmate Dog Trainer

How you can donate to RPSM.org

Amazon Wishlist

AMAZON WISHLIST FOR REFURBISHED PETS OF SOUTHERN MICHIGAN

Press the link above and to see what you can donate today to Refurbished Pets of Southern Michigan.

Amazon Smile

Amazon Smile & choose Refurbished Pets of Southern Michigan as Your Charity!

“AmazonSmile is a simple and automatic way for you to support your favorite charitable organization every time you shop, at no cost to you. When you shop at smile.amazon.com, you’ll find the exact same low prices, vast selection and convenient shopping experience as Amazon.com, with the added bonus that Amazon will donate a portion of the purchase price to your favorite charitable organization.”

Andy’s Paw Prints

20265104_10155398644416093_6353855520424634057_n

 

Andy’s Paw Prints creates custom pet portraits from your pet photos and donates 25% of their profit from every portrait sale to help animals in need. Make sure when you order to select Refurbished Pets of Southern Michigan on your order form to receive the donation. You can check out all their styles and get more information at http://www.andyspawprints.

 

Go to the Refurbished Pets of Southern Michigan to foster, adopt, and donate!

I was introduced to RPSM.org five years ago when my family adopted Barkley LeRoy and Penelope Louise, “Penny.” My experience was chronicled in my blog post, Writing Their Stories, on March 23, 2016.

The Blogging Owl

RPSM.Org: What it Means to Me – A Series #4

The Blogging Owl has been granted permission from Refurbished Pets of Southern Michigan to promote their new series, “What it Means to Me.”

Refurbished Pets of Southern Michigan

This is the third post in series of reflections from the inmate trainers in their own words on what it meant to them to train a dog rescued by Refurbished Pets of Southern Michigan.

Refurbished Pets of Southern Michigan

Founded in 2007, RPSM has made a serious effort to effectively aid in the reduction of euthanasia rates at many animal shelters. In 2008, the RPSM Correctional Companion Program began. In a partnership with the Coldwater Prison Complex, RPSM endeavors to find homes for dogs in shelters that would otherwise be euthanized. Dogs selected for the Companion Program are carefully screened for temperament, trainability, and adaptability. They are fully vaccinated, spayed or neutered prior to enrollment in the program. Once they arrive at the complex, they are assigned to specially trained inmates who are responsible for their training and day to day care. Upon completion of the program, the dogs are ready to receive a canine good citizen certificate (CGC) and available for adoption in an approved home.

Rpsm

RPSM means more to me than one word could describe.

It’s not any on them in particular—but rather it’s a multitude of things that when added up they amount to something great! Being a part of this amazing organization has changed me in every way that a man can be changed. It is without a doubt my past 8 years working as a dog handler here in prison that has made the most impact upon my life. I believe this to be true because caring for and being responsible for the everyday lives of all the dogs assigned to me over the years has really helped me to step outside of myself—bringing me to a place of humility, patience, compassion, empathy, and love for others. I guess you could say that the bonds and relationships I’ve formed with these amazing animals has opened my eyes to a new way of life. I can honestly say, RPSM has given me the greatest gift… they have taught me a great deal about the person I aspire to be, and about the kind of life I want to live should the Lord and of course the parole board sees fit to bless me with my freedom someday.

At first thought one might think of rescue dogs as problematic or setting yourself up for failure in rescuing a dog from a shelter. After all, it’s not uncommon to discover that these dogs often times have a variety of emotional and even physical scars from their past lives. However, I have discovered that rescue dogs really have a way of pulling on your heart strings. When considering to get a new dog most people’s first reaction is to get a new 6-week-old puppy—usually a pure breed that is thought to have a good bloodline and generational history of only the most sought after traits and behaviors. However, after years of training and caring for rescued shelter dogs I believe that they can be some of the most well behaved, obedient, loving and loyal additions to any home. Surprisingly, it’s the mixed breeds (the mutts) that really make some of the best dogs I’ve ever encountered. All they need is love and someone to give them a second chance and that’s what RPSM does…

I guess that you could say that I’ve had a few success stories over the years. Avery, a Border Collie mix was one of the first RPSM dogs I’ve trained. He graduated knowing over 25 commands and tricks—and actually became of the most highly profiled adoptions being adopted by a wealthy TV mogul who later went on to stardom by having his likeness being chosen as the face of Bissel Cleaning Products across the country.

Then there was Becca the Australian Shepard/Border Collie Mix, another exceptionally talented dog that graduated at the top of the class and then became an Assisted Therapy Dog works with lots of different organizations and became a link in the chain by which literally hundreds of lives will be brightened and changed through the love of this one dog.

Mac the Black Lab Mix

I would have to say that one of the best success stories, however was Mac the Black Lab Mix. Mac was pretty smart as we soon learned. Although he knew very little when he first arrived—we were able to teach him all the basics and a variety of extra cool tricks that later proved to be influential in grasping the attention of many, if not all of the “Last Chance Teens” at the special school where he became the newest four-legged staff member. It wasn’t long before updates began to come in explaining what a huge impact Mac was having on the lives of all the students. One such student prior to Mac’s arrival at the school did anything he could to get himself kicked out of school. Now he is constantly petting Mac, telling Mac how awesome he is. Also, he often says to Mac, “I love you buddy!”. It’s reported that he always says good-bye to Mac before he leaves school every day and has had perfect attendance so far. Mac by the way, a “Shelter Dog”, passed his CGC (Canine Good Citizen) test and actually qualified as class valedictorian. In October of last Mac made the front page of the school newspaper. Mac’s schedule at the school has been arraigned so that he has time at the end of every day to spend with a severely autistic boy. Mac’s owner reports that she works with new teachers who are given a 30-day interview to see how things are going for them. When they were asked, who has helped them the most, Mac’s name came up. The assistant principal informed her that this was the first time a dog’s name was ever mentioned and to keep up the good work. Needless to say, we never imagined that one of the dogs we trained would have such a lasting impression and positive impact on people the way Mac has. To me this is truly a success story!

What rescued dogs like Avery can teach us

It wasn’t until I came to prison that I actually began to have a close and personal relationship with God. I fondly remember one exceptionally talented dog who taught me, or should I say, reminded me of something that helped me in my walk with God. One of the basic commands we teach the dogs is how to heel. This is when the dog walks along side of you stays in line with your heel. Some dogs master this command while others require correction when they drift off course. One day I was walking Avery (the dog assigned to me) a little squirrel scampered across the path in front of us. One minute we were walking along, then everything changed in a hurry! I felt the tension as Avery’s body became rigid and he began to pull towards the furry critter. Giving him a distraction, I did a 180˚ about face in the other direction to divert his attention back to me. Avery eventually came and resumed his rightful position by my side, however, his neck was twisted back with is eyes tightly fixed upon the bushy tail. Although he was with me physically his mind was with that little squirrel. Eventually I was able to regain control of Avery using techniques I’ve learned. This incident reminded me of how we can so easily become distracted with things that take our focus off God.

Sometimes we get so excessively compulsive in our work, our hobbies, or even other things we have absolutely no business whatsoever in trying to pursue. We become so fixated on these things to the point that we lose focus of our rightful position and all responsibilities. Often times this results in bad choices that often times have bad consequences. It’s in these times that we must yield to God’s correction and get back on “heel” in our walk with Him. When we stay on the path that God sets before us, we are better equipped to make wise decisions in all areas of our lives. However, step off the path one way or the other we can be lead astray. Left to our own devices we have the ability to get into so much mischief. While it’s clear that I’ve learned a lot from little Avery like: obedience, trust, loyalty, forgiveness, and love—which we all need to practice.

I would have never thought that my life would have someday landed me in prison—not in a million years! Even more surprising, not in my wildest dreams did I imagine that someday I’d be training dogs in prison. As I’m the one doing the training—in the process—it’s the dogs, like Avery that have taught me in more ways than one. Thankfully and for the time being, I’ve got Prison, Dog’s, and God to guide me in the right direction. That’s what’s really going on amongst the wiggles, wags, and whiskers!

Written by Prison Inmate Dog Trainer

How you can donate to RPSM.org

Amazon Wishlist

AMAZON WISHLIST FOR REFURBISHED PETS OF SOUTHERN MICHIGAN

Press the link above and to see what you can donate today to Refurbished Pets of Southern Michigan.

Amazon Smile

Amazon Smile & choose Refurbished Pets of Southern Michigan as Your Charity!

“AmazonSmile is a simple and automatic way for you to support your favorite charitable organization every time you shop, at no cost to you. When you shop at smile.amazon.com, you’ll find the exact same low prices, vast selection and convenient shopping experience as Amazon.com, with the added bonus that Amazon will donate a portion of the purchase price to your favorite charitable organization.”

Go to the Refurbished Pets of Southern Michigan to foster, adopt, and donate!

The Blogging Owl

I was introduced to RPSM.org five years ago when my family adopted Barkley LeRoy and Penelope Louise, “Penny.” My experience was chronicled in my blog post, Writing Their Stories, on March 23, 2016.