Tag Archives: Michael Vick
Mindful Mischief

Mindful Mischief

I am told I’ve always had a penchant for mischief. I know I have a streak that inspired me to at least think of fun things to do. I don’t always follow through.

I am strictly forbidden, for example, to undertake any “projects” with my brother-in-law, with whom I share this questionable characteristic. Eyes are rolled and cautions are issued whenever we even go out for coffee.

An example: My family used to love a Thai restaurant in our town. Great food. Great people. The typical terrible decor. We loved it. The bathroom was a different story. There was a disconnect between the bathroom and the rest of the restaurant. It was as if it had been transported in toto from a New York City bus station, Star Trek-style. Its uncharacteristic filth both puzzled and disturbed us.

My brother in law and I hatched a plan over appetizers.
We would excuse ourselves and run to the WalMart next door, and pick up necessary supplies. In ten minutes flat and in total stealth, we had scrubbed that bathroom spotless and decorated it with plastic flowers (clean!), a pretty mirror, anti-bacterial hand soap and a fresh roll of paper towels.
We didn’t say a word to anyone. And then we left!

My brother in law taught me that there is an antithesis to malicious mischief. Mindful Mischief.

What does this have to do with horses? Nothing. I don’t know if what I have in mind is one or the other. I do know that I want to arrange it. I will probably see the karmic results immediately (good or bad!). Last night I saw a news item on TV about Michael Vick’s possible return to professional football. Since I live in Virginia, we get this stuff all the time, and are kept apprised of developments in his case.

I had an inspiration. Rather than protest or boycott or say awful things that might poison the atmosphere, people can do one simple thing:


Go to his first professional game.
When Vick enters the stadium, all at once, everyone in the audience should throw a stuffed Pit Bull onto the field.
Say nothing.

We can make statements about our feelings without violence and hatred. Maybe even with a little bit of mischief.

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Whatever Happened to Michael Vick's Dogs?

Whatever Happened to Michael Vick's Dogs?

Michael Vick left Virginia last Monday to enter a drug treatment program at a minimum security facility in Leavenworth Prison, a move that could reduce the former NFL star’s 23-month sentence on a federal dogfighting conviction. If Mr. Vick participates in special programs offered at Leavenworth, including a drug treatment program, he could be classified as a non-violent offender and granted up to one year of early release from prison due to good behavior. Upon release, he hopes to return to his career as a professional football player on the 2009 football season. It seems Mr. Vick may be back in the game long before some of his dogs have recovered from the trauma of life at Bad Newz Kennels.


After being taken from the Moonlight Road property, Vick’s dogs were dispersed to six animal-control facilities in Virginia. Conditions differed slightly from place to place, but for the most part each dog was kept alone in a cage for months at a time. They were often forced to relieve themselves where they stood, and they weren’t let out even while their cages were being cleaned; attendants simply hosed down the floors with the dogs inside. They were given so little attention because workers assumed they were dangerous and would be put down after Vick’s trial. The common belief is that any money and time spent caring for dogs saved from fight rings would be better devoted to the millions of dogs already sitting in shelters, about half of which are destroyed each year.

Shocking, isn’t it? Kind of makes you wonder how in the world they thought they were improving the lives of these dogs or readying them for rescue. It’s a good thing animal rescue programs got them out of the animal control facilities quickly.

PETA and the Humane Society of the U.S. wanted all the dogs euthanized. Even after many successes, with some of the dogs already placed in homes, PETA and HSUS stand by their initial position of euthanasia for all:

PETA wanted Jasmine (one of the bitches from Bad Newz Kennels) dead. Not just Jasmine, and not just PETA. The Humane Society of the U.S., agreeing with PETA, took the position that Michael Vick’s pit bulls, like all dogs saved from fight rings, were beyond rehabilitation and that trying to save them was a misappropriation of time and money. “The cruelty they’ve suffered is such that they can’t lead what anyone who loves dogs would consider a normal life,” says PETA spokesman Dan Shannon. “We feel it’s better that they have their suffering ended once and for all.” If you’re a dog and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals suggests you be put down, you’ve got problems.

To support organizations that made the rescue and rehabilitation of these dogs possible, visit their websites: the ASPCA, BadRap.org, Best Friends Animal Society, Recycled Love and Our Pack.

In the end, 47 of the 51 Vick dogs were saved. (Two died while in the shelters; one was destroyed because it was too violent; and another was euthanized for medical reasons.) Twenty-two dogs went to Best Friends, where McMillan and his staff chart their emotional state daily; almost all show steady improvement in categories such as calmness, sociability and happiness. McMillan believes 17 of the dogs will eventually be adopted, and applicants are being screened for the first of those. The other 25 have been spread around the country; the biggest group, 10, went to California with BAD RAP. Fourteen of the 25 have been placed in permanent homes, and the rest are in foster care.

I will never understand people who do not view animals as equal to humans in every way. To see them as mere objects, without feelings or the desire to be with humans is inhuman. How can a few months in prison change Michael Vick’s essential view of animals? The only real good I can see coming from all the attention his horrific deeds is that some people on the borderline have re-examined their own views of dogs and animals in general and come to see that animals deserve loving care and good homes.

To learn more good stuff about Jasmine and the rest of the dogs from Bad Newz Kennels, read a great, very positive article here at Sports Illustrated.

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Animal Communication

Animal Communication

Animal Communication in Hollywood

Animal Communication in Hollywood

What are we really doing when we touch a horse?

Some touch is purely mechanical. We groom, often brushing the living daylights out of them to get off the crusted dirt. We detangle mane and tail in a businesslike manner, because we’ve got better things to do–ride.

Some touch is not mechanical. There is clear intention. Intention is perceived by the receiver of the touch. It isn’t always interpreted 100% correctly, but is is received, often in the spirit with which it is offered. In this sense, touch with intention is actually communication: interspecies communication between human and horse.

That’s why it’s important that every time we touch a horse we do it with the intent to communicate comfort, affection and gratitude.

I used to chatter brightly to my horses, never noticing that my tone and rate of speaking influenced the more sensitive ones in a negative way. It did not seem to matter that I was speaking about how glad I was to see them, or telling them how much I loved them. My touch and my voice were equally frenetic.
Prep-time at the barn for my little Quarter Horse Brego must have been pure torture. It wasn’t until my instructor one day said, “Shut up! Just shut up. The rest of this week, you have to be with him without saying a single word. See if you can do it” that I began to understand that body language and touch matter much more to a horse than how you say what you say.

I found I slowed down in everything I did. No longer in a hurry to get on and ride, I’d arrive at the barn even earlier than usual to groom him. We took our sweet time with first a good finger-currying, like a mini-massage, before moving on to brushing. Separating his tangles with my fingers seemed to soothe him. He stood patiently, leaning against me as I combed his tail.

What was the difference? Not only was it that I shut my mouth, but also that I had changed my intention. “Let me tell you what a good boy you are” and “Hurry up and get out the door,” became, “let me show you what a good boy you are” and “let’s spend some time together.” That was the “micro” change. But on a “macro” level, touch between Brego and me became communication. He learned to read intention in my touch as I learned that each touch communicates it.

There are those who believe that a different kid of communication is possible. The folks over at Animal Whispers have this to say:

Animal Communication isn’t about reading body language or making behavioral observations. It’s sending and receiving thoughts, images, and sensations telepathically. It can be equated to “listening between the lines” to create a heart-to-heart connection. The most difficult part of this work is that it requires us to stop our thinking long enough to make the connection and not interpret the results with our “all-knowing” mind.

I can identify with at lest part of that statement. “Listening between the lines,” in my situation, means shutting up and being still long enough to fell what is going on with the horse. To do this, it is necessary to still the mind, eliminate discursive thought, and be open to the sensations and impressions you receive from the horse. I cannot grasp the sending and receiving of thoughts, images and sensations telepathically. I just don’t have the skill.

What he has are his hands, closely allied with his heart, and its listening ears, the mindful state of awareness (without discursive thought or speech), entered into when touching a horse. Which brings me back to my original point:

You don’t have to be Dr. Doolittle to communicate with your horse using your most convenient god-given tools, your bare hands. You don’t have to rely on a professional. Taking advantage of the time and effort you put into communicating with the horse yields trust and increases bonding. All safely from the ground. That’s not to say that I don’t visit Janet Roper, Animal Communicator almost every day to learn what she has to teach. I do. There’s a lot to learn there. It’s fascinating. I like learning from people who have cool skills.

One of the foundation concepts of Tellington TTouch® is the communication between human and animal. More specifically, touching as a means to communicate safety and openness to learning. Whatever it is we wish to teach an animal, the primary focus should be emotional safety. Whether it’s the safety to learn new skills, to be a pet or simply to reveal what hurts. For an example of this concept, one has only to think of the Michael Vick dogs. Once shown that they are safe from harm by humans or other dogs, most actually learn how to be real dogs as opposed to terrified machines bent only on self-defense through violence. Take a look:


The above video shows mostly outdoor action, but there is much unseen touch work. The oft-cited power of touch, can be just as powerful without verbal communication. Feeling is just as emotional, if not more emotional than hearing, which leads us into the emotion of nonverbal communication.

TTouch changes brain waves. Not only are the brain waves of the recipient positively affected, but the brain waves of the person performing the touch are also affected. What do I mean by that? Simple: Touch is communication between neurons.

Not practical, you say? Won’t get me to my goals faster? Oh, yes it will.

I learn so much from communicating with horses this way.
I find sore spots and impending lameness.
I know when there’s something wrong with their teeth.
I know that when they’re having an “off day,” that I can often discover what the problem is.
I understand that mares are not just “witchy.”
I know that not all horses are looking to take advantage of me. Often there’s a reason for bad behavior.
I know that “personality defects” are not permanent character flaws, and that they can be changed with communication and attention. I know that “once a biter,” not forever a biter.
And best of all, I know that horses are not stupid.

Taking a few minutes to communicate affection, gratitude and to give comfort to a horse yields results.

Just go ask your horse.

Carnival of the Horses Here on November 1, 2008

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