Category: The Writing Life


The Trumpeter in the Woods
Chapter Twelve – A New Teacher Arrives (part one)

By now, it’s been obvious that Caper was leading me to work with animals. Her arthritis brought dog massage awareness to me and introduced a host of influential people to my life. And after she died, it had to be her voice a week later telling me, “It’s a big world, you have to have a voice.” She had done her job in bringing me this far, now it was someone else’s turn to help me.

I was nearing the end of my training to be a certified pet behavior counselor when Caper died in October, 2002. The day after she passed away, I posted a comment in the online forum of one of my classes about her death and how sad I was. A classmate who happened to live in Quakertown, PA, about an hour and a half from where I lived, posted immediately in reply and expressed her condolences, as well as another comment that changed my life.

“Chris, I work at a vet’s office and we run a small rescue here for homeless animals. We have a 4-year-old Golden Retriever named Gizmo who really needs a foster home,” Nancy, the office manager at Mill Pond Veterinary Hospital, posted to me. “Can you foster him? You would be perfect. He needs a home with no children.”

Yes, I would be perfect, no children. But was I ready to bring in another dog just a couple of days after losing Caper? I had to admit that I was enjoying the freedom of not having to rush home to take her out for walks and feed her dinner. The last few years dealing with Caper’s illness and age had been quite stressful and I felt I needed a break. However, I was depressed. I missed my girl and the house was lonely and quiet without a dog. So I posted back to Nancy, “I need to think about it, Nancy. It’s a little too soon after losing Caper to consider this.” And that’s what I did for the next three weeks. Think about it and think about it. My desire to have another dog in my life got the best of me.

“Nancy, do you still need a foster home for Gizmo?” I posted to her in early November.

“He went to a foster home but it didn’t work out. They took him to a friend’s house who had kids. Gizmo was growling at them,” Nancy explained. “So he’s back here at our kennels.”

“Okay, sounds like he needs me. I’ll be there on Saturday.”

Saturday, November 16 arrived and I drove to Quakertown to meet Gizmo and bring him home with me. I arrived around 11:00am and sat in the veterinary hospital’s reception area as they went back to the grooming room to get him. The door flew open and out burst Gizmo, a blur of tan and white fur flashed past me as he spun around the room. He came over to me to say “hi” but before I could pet him, he ran over to the door, then back to me and around the room again like a bronco just let out of the gate.

I sat on the floor and he jumped in my lap, all 85 pounds of him, but he was off again for another spin around the room. I didn’t expect a dog with this much energy! After all, I had been living with a geriatric for the past several years and had forgotten how rambunctious a young dog can act. Even more remarkable than his energy was his resemblance to Caper. Not his face but the coloring of his fur and long, white feathering down his back legs, chest and tail. His tail was so long that it swept the floor. What a beautiful dog!

I was in love within minutes and decided to adopt Gizmo right then and there. It’s a good thing I adopted him because if I had only fostered him, I may not have kept him once his true personality came out.

Content and title copyright Christine Palm Shaughness. No reproduction allowed.

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Leader vs. Manager

“A leader can be a manager but a manager is not always a leader. And a leader is not always a manager. Leaders are someone that people look to for guidance, and that can be anyone who exhibits qualities that people respect and like to follow. Leaders understand that people are not robots, that they have feelings and families and personal issues. They care about people. They know that happiness on the job results in more productivity, and more productivity means a better organization and more profitability.”

This is an excerpt from my latest book, Leadership in Animal Welfare Organizations: Using Positive Dog Training Philosophies to be Better Leaders. I’ve witnessed many people get promoted to management positions but have never received training to be a manager or a leader. What are the attributes of an excellent leader?

• Calm and in control without being dictatorial, panicked, or angry. Conveys confidence in the midst of crisis.
• Builds trust with integrity to his or her word. A good leader never lies. Once an employee, volunteer, or supporter catches the leader in a lie, all credibility is lost and he or she cannot be trusted again.
• Understands that people matter. An organization is just bricks and mortar if there is no staff to fill it. Without people, there is no organization.
• Knows that when people are treated with respect, they are better workers.
• Realizes that he/she cannot do everything himself/herself and therefore delegates to the staff.
• Takes the time to communicate individually with staff members, finding out what each person’s strengths and weaknesses are and capitalizes on them.
• Keeps the lines of communication open with staff. A good manager checks in with each one of his or her direct reports every day to find out if there is anything that the staff member needs.
• Leads by example. A good leader does not tell employees to do one thing and then does another.
• Sets understandable goals and priorities, and ensures that they are effectively communicated to everyone. There should be clearly developed job descriptions for every employee and reviewed with the employees so that there is no confusion about responsibilities.
• Encourages teamwork and collaboration.

These traits apply, regardless if you work in an animal welfare organization or not. We all need good leaders. Are you a manager or leader in an organization? Learn more in the book, available here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00I84HTIG

The Trumpeter in the Woods
Chapter Eleven – Another Totem Animal

Several months before Caper passed away, an animal communicator told me that after Caper died she would come back to me represented in the form of a very small bird. I didn’t think any more about this conversation until one day when Caper and I were out for a walk a few weeks later. We took our usual stroll across the street to the wooded path which Caper could no longer manage to walk for more than 10 minutes. We were on our way back home and had just crossed the street in front of our house when she turned around and walked slowly back to the grassy area in front of a glade of trees. I tried to coax her back to our house but she stood her ground. What was she doing? She looked up to a clearing between the maples and my gaze followed hers. Hovering in the clearing was a hummingbird. We stood watching it together, the first time I had ever seen a hummingbird. I smiled and knew immediately what she was telling me. A small bird. The hummingbird would be Caper’s sign to me.

After Caper passed away, I saw pictures of and references to hummingbirds everywhere. I saw them in a friend’s garden; I saw them at a feeder as I sat on one of my client’s back deck. I even heard a song I remembered from the 70’s called Hummingbird by Seals and Croft. When Caper died, I didn’t analyze and fully comprehend why she picked the hummingbird as her symbol. I only thought of it as her way of saying hi to me. One day, I decided to research the Native American symbolism of the hummingbird and, once again like turtle, butterfly, wolf and dolphin, I found that hummingbird had emerged just as timely as the other totem animals to show my path.

Hummingbird represents joy, endurance over long journeys and one who has the ability to heal by sending light as a laser through the mouth. Okay, I understood joy because Caper certainly brought a tremendous amount of joy into my life. Endurance over long journeys seemed similar to the turtle’s message that my journey would be a long, slow one. But what did it mean about the sending light as a laser through the mouth? How did that pertain to me?

I consulted with my energy healer and she explained that hummingbird was showing me that I was to be a healer, not with medicine like physicians, but with my words. I was going to send healing messages to help animals and people.

Content and title copyright Christine Palm Shaughness. No reproduction allowed.

The Trumpeter in the Woods
Chapter Ten – Saying Goodbye (Part Three)

A neighbor helped me get Caper out of the car and into my living room. I placed her on an old white fringed bedspread. She opened her eyes, panted rapidly and pee’d on the bedspread without moving, and she did this several times throughout the night. I was now unable to even get her up on her feet.

I gave Caper the IV every 3-4 hours, praying that I wasn’t hurting her too much as I tentatively stuck the needle into her skin between her shoulders. Caper never stirred.

After a fitful night of sleeping once again on the floor beside her, I awoke and tried to rouse Caper. She opened her eyes, still pulsating, and never tried to get up. She had pee’d herself again. I tried for almost an hour to get her to stand up. I coaxed her with a spoonful of ice cream. She lapped it up while barely holding up her head. I placed the spoon out in front of her so she would have to reach for it. She couldn’t. I sat down on the floor beside her, tears running down my face and admitted to myself that I had to let her go.

“Caper, I love you so much but I don’t want to see you suffer any more.”

I called the vet and she was kind enough to come to my house so that I didn’t have to put Caper through getting her into the car and to the vet’s office. I dragged Caper on her bedspread out to the large deck off of our living room. It was a sunny day with the temperature in the 60’s and I sat with her on the deck that she loved so much. I remembered the day that she first looked out the hole in the wall that was to be the sliding glass door to this deck. It seemed like only yesterday that I bought this house for her, and now she was leaving me alone in it.

The vet and her assistant arrived at 1:00pm. I stroked Caper as the vet gave her a sedative then the lethal dose that stopped her heart. Caper’s tongue hung out and she didn’t look dead. The vet checked her vital signs and told me that she really was gone. They left me alone with her for my last goodbyes. Walking away from her was one of the hardest things I have ever done. When I was ready, the vet and her assistant asked me to leave the area while they packed up Caper’s body and placed it in their car. They hugged me and I watched them drive away with my girl. I walked across the street to the path through the woods that Caper and I had gleefully taken every day for the past seven years. I felt I could see her running happily ahead of me. Her spirit was freed from her sick, old body. Now she was on the other side and soon ready to help me in a different way.

Sadly, a couple of years later, I learned that Caper might have had a condition called vestibular syndrome, an imbalance in the inner ear that is quite common in old dogs. I often think about this with regret but I can only believe that it was Caper’s time to go. After all, she did have advanced cancer and had been though a lot.

Content and title copyright Christine Palm Shaughness. No reproduction allowed.

The Trumpter in the Woods

Chapter Ten – Saying Goodbye (part two)

While Caper was receiving her treatments, I was investigating how I could become a dog trainer. I found a better option, a dog behavior counselor through the American College of Applied Science. The program was intensive and expensive, and was offered mostly as online classes. Despite the cash outlay for Caper’s treatments, I knew I needed to invest more money in my education and continue down the path that Caper had led me, to work with animals. My money fears disappeared during this time for some reason. It had to be only due to love – my love for Caper and my love of the work I was now doing with the animals.

Caper stayed by my side as I studied about animal behavior, but she was noticeably slowing down. Her walk was unsteady and weak. I would awake each morning to see her sleeping next to my bed and I felt relief that she was still breathing. It was the summer of 2002, a year after her cancer diagnosis, and an animal communicator told me that Caper’s cancer was indeed advancing. Caper described it to the communicator as “a little city” growing inside of her. I wanted Caper to make it to her 14th birthday in November.

On the night of October 10, 2002, I woke Caper from a nap at 10:00 to go outside for a final potty before bedtime. She stood up and nearly fell over. I caught her and stabilized her, and she stumbled like she was drunk. She made it down the two steps out the front door and onto the lawn and collapsed. I struggled to get her up again and she staggered back into the house, with a lengthy process of getting her up each one of the steps. Very slowly, I managed to get her settled onto a dog bed in the living room. As she lay on her side, I could see her eye movement was strange, like her eyeballs were rapidly darting from side-to-side. In a panic, not even thinking that by now it was 10:30 on a Thursday, a work night, I called her acupuncture vet. I woke her.

“I think Caper is having a stroke,” the vet told me, based on the symptoms I related to her. “Meet me in the parking lot of the motel on the corner of Route 1 and 202 in 20 minutes.”

The motel was halfway between my house and hers, and we both pulled into the parking lot at 11:05pm. She gave me a couple of prescriptions and instructed me to get Caper to her office at 8:00am the next morning.

I slept on the floor in the living room next to Caper that night, waking every couple of hours to check on her. I watched her breathe as she slept soundly. The next morning, I anxiously tried to arouse her with the hopes that the medicine and deep sleep had restored her to health. But she was no better, her eyes still darting back and forth and her walk slow and staggering. I managed to get her into the car and to the vet’s office. When we arrived, two of the vet’s assistants put Caper onto a stretcher and took us up to a large, open, carpeted room on the second floor above the office. I was grateful for the privacy. I spent the day there with Caper who was hooked up to an IV, giving her the vet’s very best efforts to save her life. Caper appeared to be in a coma and I never left her side. I brought my textbook with me and tried to study to distract me from the distressing thought of potentially losing my girl. It was tough to concentrate on my studies; instead, I prayed to God to save my girl.

At 4:00pm when the vet was ready to close the office for the day, she gave me several options.

“Caper hasn’t responded to the drugs like I had hoped,” the petite, dark-haired vet explained.  “You can leave her here and I can have one of my techs come back after dinner to check on her. But she’ll be alone all night. Or you can take her home and administer the IV yourself. I can send all you need home with you and show you how to do it. Or,” the vet paused and drew in her breath, knowing that I wouldn’t like the final option, “you can choose to put her down now. After all, Caper is nearly 14 and has been battling cancer for a long time now.”

“Do you think she has a chance?” I desperately asked, hoping for the answer I wanted to hear.

“We could give it another day but if she doesn’t respond by tomorrow, I would recommend euthanasia.”

“I’m not giving up on her yet,” I decided, and we placed Caper on a stretcher still hooked up to the IV and carefully laid her on the back seat of my silver 4-door Honda Accord.

Content and title copyright Christine Palm Shaughness. No reproduction allowed.

The Trumpeter in the Woods, Chapter Ten – Saying Goodbye (part one)

My Caper was getting old yet her arthritis stiffness had improved from the massage and acupuncture treatments which inspired me to move forward with my part time business. As I worked with the shelter dogs each week, I felt compelled to learn more about dogs and do more for them. But what? Certainly not as a veterinarian. Flashbacks of flunking college chemistry in freshman year clearly ruled out medical school in my future. I figured the only other option was to learn how to be a dog trainer. But how? The only dog trainer I knew worked at the SPCA where I volunteered, and she taught obedience classes there. She graciously allowed me to shadow her in one of her 8-week sessions. It was a class in basic obedience – sit, come, stay, down, walk nicely on a leash – and it was enough to convince me to explore a career as a trainer. I loved seeing people and their dogs learn how to communicate with one another.

That was 2001, the same year that Caper developed a lump on her front paw. Her regular vet didn’t bother to test it and said it was a fatty tumor. I trusted the vet (yes, the same vet who ignored Caper’s arthritis) and didn’t think any more about the lump. Until Caper started to lick it. It must have caused her pain. I showed it to her acupuncture vet who immediately took a biopsy. The results were devastating – hemangiosarcoma, a common and aggressive cancer in Goldens.

I cancelled my imminent week-long vacation in Ocean City, Maryland because everything I read about hemangiosarcoma said that Caper had about a month to live. And because it was August, I felt certain that Caper wouldn’t be around for Christmas. So I bought her some gifts and set up a small Christmas tree. And I did that every month until she actually made it to Christmas. Yes, I felt a little foolish, but the thought of not having my girl with me for one more holiday season was too painful to imagine.

Caper embarked on cancer treatments with the holistic vet. She did not have chemotherapy or any other traditional cancer therapy. I opted for acupuncture, Chinese herbs, a low-carb diet and energy healing work. I gave her Reiki treatments, believing that the love I had for her would flow as healing energy to her. She was poked and handled constantly and exceeded the prognosis by over a year. She lived and my bank account died! I had spent over $10,000 on her treatments. But it didn’t matter because my Caper was still with me. My fear of losing my money never entered my mind. I wanted to keep Caper with me at any cost.

Content and title copyright Christine Palm Shaughness. No reproduction allowed.

The Trumpeter in the Woods – Chapter Nine (part three) – What is Energy?

All of the people I was meeting – Caper’s massage therapist, the transpersonal psychologist, the astrologer, the Reiki master, the energy healer – had all gone through what I was attempting to do. They had at one time been employed in traditional jobs like me then left the jobs to work in a completely new field.  Could it be that they were trying to convince me to do the same because they had done it? Were they successful?  From what I could tell, some were struggling and others were doing quite well.

Was I getting sucked in by a group of really, really good marketers? When they learned their new skills, did they also take a course in persuasion? Whatever it was, I was becoming more and more convinced that my path was unfolding in front of me with the help of this new team. And turtle, butterfly, dolphin and wolf.

I wasn’t moving along fast enough with my decision to quit my job and start my own business. The turtle was dominating my life and not making room for others like the mighty elephant who breaks down barriers and clears the way. My always-available friend Susan wanted to help because she was going through much of the same career angst as me. In the mail one day arrived a package from Susan, a book on Feng Shui, the Oriental practice of arranging your world according to ancient theories about the flow of energy. Oh, that energy thing again.

The book talked about uncluttering your surroundings to ensure that energy isn’t blocked. Geez, does my house have an energy field too? Maybe if I unclog my home, my body will unclog too? Yep, that’s the idea! All energy is connected.

Much of the Feng Shui principles made a lot of common sense, so there was redeeming value. Unfortunately, I hung my hopes on it being yet another panacea to get my life moving forward. So I proceeded to re-arrange my house with a passion. I hung mirrors on walls where the energy needed to be reflected, I moved my bed to ensure that it was facing the door; I cut a hole in the roof so that the energy could flow freely. Oh no, I didn’t do that but if the book had recommended it, I probably may have considered it.

I can’t say that I saw my life and career accelerate as a result of my Feng Shui’ing. But my house looked great! Clean, no more junk collections, and plenty of pretty pink candles.

Content and title copyright Christine Palm Shaughness. No reproduction allowed.

The Trumpeter in the Woods = Chapter Nine, Part Two

I don’t recall where I first heard about Reiki, maybe from someone in the transpersonal psychology study group, or from an animal communicator. Whoever it was, it had to be someone from my new surroundings. It couldn’t have been anyone that I had previously been hanging out with, dancing and chasing men. If I had said the word Reiki to them, they would have laughed me out of the bar. Have another drink, Chris!

I guess wherever it was that I first heard about Reiki is irrelevant. More importantly, I had to explore it. I was told that if I did massage, animal communications and Reiki for animals that it would be a winning combo that no one else could offer to pet owners. I was on the cutting edge of something new. I found a woman who taught Reiki and I took a one-day introductory Reiki level one course. Okay, you ask, what is Reiki? By definition, Reiki is a Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation that also promotes healing. It is administered by laying hands on or just above the subject’s body and is based on the idea that a life force energy flows through us. If our life force energy is low, then we are more likely to get sick. If it is high, we are more capable of being happy and healthy. The word Reiki is Japanese – “Rei” which means God’s wisdom or the Higher Power and “Ki” means life force energy. So Reiki is actually “God’s life force energy.”

I combined my use of massage on animals with my new knowledge of Reiki. When I massaged the homeless pets at the shelter, I also did Reiki on them. Did it help them? I have no idea. But maybe it made me feel better thinking that it did.

Not too soon after I received Reiki training, I met a woman (through the study group, of course) who did energy healing on people. Energy healing is similar to Reiki. There are several different types of energy healing; this woman studied with the Barbara Brennan School of Healing. The Brennan Healing Science is a theory of healing that combines hands-on techniques similar to massage with spiritual and psychological guidance. The Brennan practitioner interacts with the client’s energy field, the aura that emanates from our physical bodies. If there is an imbalance in our bodies, it shows up in our auras. The healer works with our energy fields to bring about healing and balance.

Every other week for about a year, I had appointments with the energy healer. She addressed my physical issues of neck and lower back pain but, more importantly, she worked with me to clear out old baggage from my life. According to her, our life experiences remain in the cells and energy system of our bodies. It’s called cellular memory. She could feel with her hands where I was blocked. Our sessions consisted of a half an hour talk, similar to psychotherapy, to uncover my life’s issues and then for the next hour, I laid on her massage table and she used a combination of massage techniques and energy healing to clear my energy field. Most of our sessions concentrated on helping me to reach the decision to quit my job and pursue my passion with animals. Fear was holding me back, that old feeling that I may lose my money and be homeless. All of that fear was residing in the cells of my body, and I was vibrating the energy of fear.

Content and title copyright Christine Palm Shaughness. No reproduction allowed.

Book Release

Leadership Book Cover Final 1-31-14

Three and a half years after Puppy Mill Dogs SPEAK was published, my next book is just about ready to be released! It’s called Leadership in Animal Welfare Organizations: Using Positive Dog Training Philosophies to be Better Leaders. Are you in a management position at an animal welfare organization? Do you work at an animal shelter or for a rescue group? Are you a volunteer? Anyone who has anything to do with animal organizations or who has a desire anytime in the future needs to read this book.

People who work for animal organizations are passionate people, passionate about the animals and about their opinions as well. We’ve all encountered conflicts among ourselves, and if the organization does not have a strong, capable, and honest leader the problems only get worse. And who suffers? The animals.

Leadership in Animal Welfare Organizations reviews what happens when animal organizations are not managed by leaders who believe in excellence. What’s the answer? Positive dog training methods! What, you say? Dog training methods? Absolutely! You’ll have to read the book to find out why.

Available on Kindle within the next few days – Leadership in Animal Welfare Organizations: Using Positive Dog Training Philosophies to be Better Leaders

The Trumpeter in the Woods, Chapter Nine – What is Energy? (part one)

The psychic, the animal communicators, and the astrologer all advanced my understanding of the nature of the Universe, forming a new understanding of God for me. Another step forward in what The Celestine Prophecy began. Energy. The Universe is made up of energy. I had to go back to basic science class to really understand it. Every particle of every person, animal, plant, tree, soil, and air is made up of atoms. In each atom are protons, electrons, and neutrons. Every element is made up of a different combination of protons, electrons, and neutrons. Think of the element oxygen. It consists of eight protons, eight electrons, and eight neutrons. Oxygen has a distinctive structure and vibrates in a distinctive manner. That’s what makes it “oxygen.” This vibration is energy.

Our human bodies are comprised of many elements, mainly carbon, calcium, hydrogen, nitrogen, phosphorus, and other trace elements. Our unique combination of these elements makes us different from anyone else. They make us human, and they make us individuals. As the psychics explain, they are able to “read” people by feeling the energy vibrations that come off of us. In other words, the atoms in our bodies give off energy that can be felt by these people who know how to tap into this energy. Animals give off the same kind of energy vibrations.

I know this is a tough concept to grasp and even tougher to believe. I was still very skeptical. But now, my understanding of God was shifting. I had been raised Catholic and it was difficult for me to lose the impression of God as an old man in the sky with flowing robes who gave us blessings when we were good and punished us when we were bad. The idea that God was something other than that image took time for me to be open to accept. I suppose that’s why the turtle appeared as one of my animal guides. I was going to be a slow learner and even slower to accept something new.

Content and title copyright Christine Palm Shaughness. No reproduction allowed.