Mars' DogBlog - Listening With An Open Heart

Chapter 9

January 26, 2010

Marianne was so deeply absorbed in a book recently that I wandered over to see what it was. "Hey!" I barked in surprise. "It has pictures of black dogs!" Marianne laughed and pulled me into her lap fpr a better look. "The Legacy of Beezer and Boomer," I read. "Huh. Who are Beezer and Boomer? What's this book about, anyhow?"

"It's about a man named Doug Koktavy and his two Labradors and their journey thorugh Beezer and Boomer's illnesses," Marianne explained. "The B Brothers taught Doug some awesome lessons along the way."

"That sounds kind of sad," I said as I settled in and began reading. Marianne shook her head. "Keep reading," she advised. "You'll see how positive it really is." After a few minutes I understood what she meant. "Oh, this is wonderful!" I exclaimed. "As soon as I finish it I'm calling Doug for an interview!"

Unsurprisingly, Doug was intrigued by the idea of being interviewed by a dog and readily agreed.

MARS: I loved your book! Your boys were so wise. What made you decide to write this book?

DOUG: I had a very difficult time when Beezer got sick. I experienced fear, guilt, depression and anger. I later found out these emotions are called “Anticipatory Grief.” I searched for answers, but didn’t find any help. I did find lots of books on grieving after a pet passes, but nothing on that time period between the diagnosis and the final, hardest, goodbye. I did my own “research” and wrote the book so others wouldn’t have to suffer through this experience alone.

That, and my dog told me to.

MARS: Wait – hold up – I love this part – your dog told you to write the book?

DOUG: Beezer said I was supposed to share my story with the world. I was shocked, I mean, I’m an attorney. I don’t write books. I thought my buddy was kinda nutty.

MARS: BWAHAHAHAHAHA. (wiping tears of laughter from eyes) Hoo boy. What do you hope people take away from your experiences?

DOUG: I never realized such a sad and difficult time could hold so much love, compassion and beauty. I was never more human than during my buddys’ illnesses. The lesson to be learned is “Don’t be afraid.” I’d like people to realize what they are going through is not the worst of times; it is the richest.

MARS: Whew, that's powerful stuff. You worked with veterinarians when your dogs were sick, but you tried some other things too. What made you decide to try animal communication?

DOUG: Desperation. Every mechanism I had tried up to then had been a series of spectacular failures. My health was suffering, my work was suffering, and my soul was suffering. A vet suggested that I try animal communication to find out how Beezer was feeling and to get input from the Beez on decisions on how best to care for him. On any other day, I’d have scoffed, but it wasn’t any other day.

MARS: In case my readers are interested, can you tell me who you consulted?

DOUG: Terri O'Hara.

MARS: In the beginning you were skeptical of how helpful an animal communicator would be. What changed your mind?

DOUG: The sessions did have a calming effect on me, which I needed. I also had made a decision to release the need for proof and ask myself “What if this were true?” I’ve found that asking “What if....?” creates a myriad of possibilities, none of which I could prove or disprove. So it caused me to ask myself “What do I believe in?” Up to then, I had only believed in myself.

Throughout the sessions, I’d gain an insight here and there on things that ultimately did prove astonishing and right on. At the end of the day, I took on chance on something well outside my normal zone of comfort and I’m proud of that.

MARS: The B Brothers are proud of you too! I'm impressed that you came to understand how much wisdom animals possess and that you were so open to learning from Beezer and Boomer. What was the turning point for you?

DOUG: One day I was thanking Beezer for teaching me how to cope with his fatal illness. I was appreciative that perhaps everything was happening as intended and my dog was showing me how to be less fearful and guilty in a situation that scares many humans. I then had the realization that all I had ever taught Beezer was to shake hands. The teacher had become the pupil.

MARS: It seems to me that you did just fine talking to your dogs yourself. You certainly listened to them. Were you always tuned in to them or did you get better as time went on? Do you have talks with your current dogs, Coral and Dory?

DOUG: Messages are around us all the time. The key is to quiet your mind and let them in. This was no easy task for me. Beezer talked to me through his eyes. I actually learned to listen not with my ears, but with my heart. I then learned to trust what I felt.

This was a brand new experience with the Boys, but with practice I got pretty good at it. I now have talks every day with Coral and am beginning to chat with Dory, who is a recent arrival.

MARS: You know, you really don’t sound like a lawyer. What impact has this had on that part of your life?

DOUG: It’s easy to carry baggage from the past as a lawyer. This results in a lot of misplaced guilt. By the same token, lawyers constantly live in the future with deadlines and clients asking, “How will this affect me in a year?” Unfortunately, the future is where fear resides.

I learned that my safety zone is today — the here and now. In this way, living with presence has actually made me a better and happier lawyer.

MARS: What was Beezer’s greatest lesson? What was Boomer’s?

DOUG: I’m the type of person that is comforting to friends and forgiving of their mistakes. Unfortunately, this same person is brutally unforgiving and hard on himself. Beezer taught me that the love I showered on him was the same love I withheld from myself. He deserved it, but so did I.

Boomer was more about fun. He taught me to enjoy life a bit more and not dwell on the negative aspects. Boomer would insist that right now is exactly the perfect time to go outside and have some fun.

Together, these two brothers taught me the harmony of living with animals and the intellect and spirit they bring to our lives. I think humans sometimes dismiss the wisdom of animals. We shouldn’t forget during the Asian tsunami that humans were flocking to the ocean for a “look see” while the animals headed to higher ground. We need to listen to the wisdom of the animals.

MARS: Amen and Alleluia! One of my favorite parts of the book was when you talked about fear. You said, "To live in fear is to live in the future. In the beginning, the dogs would watch in silent amazement as I rushed about obsessing over things that hadn’t even happened. “How much time do we have?” “What if this happens in a week?” The problem with this thinking was that my fixation over the future caused me to ignore today." YOW. If we animals could get you humans to learn one thing, it would be this. The B Brothers taught you well.

DOUG: The dogs’ sicknesses revealed just how ill I had become. I was living my life everywhere in time but today. I castigated myself over past decisions as I wandered in yesterday. I’d then pore over data and focus on the future. I was everywhere in time but present and in the moment. It wasn’t just the dogs’ illnesses; it was how I was living my life.

MARS: Marianne has a sign on her desk that says "Be here now. Be someplace else later. There, was that so hard?" She's learning! Are things different with Coral and Dory? What lessons are they teaching you?

DOUG: The B Brothers lessons were about teaching me. I think just the opposite is true with Coral. This lady had a tough life before me. I think she made a wish upon a star to become a beloved family dog. I’m trying hard to make that wish come true.

Dory is 1 ½ years old and we are having fun. She does have a genetic eye condition which will result in her becoming blind. So I’m expecting a brand new lesson on life from this one; a lesson that I can’t even imagine right now.

MARS: I'm sure it will be a wonderful journey, no matter what her lesson for you is. Say, I saw something on your website called the B Brothers Project. What's that?

DOUG: All the lessons were taught by the dogs and I believe teachers ought to be paid. Right now, pet nonprofits are closing their doors due to lack of funds. I am going to donate 40% of the book proceeds to participating organizations to honor the teachers —the B Brothers. Here’s how it works:

1. A nonprofit signs up at my website. It’s free.

2. The nonprofit is given a unique link, which they can download to their website with a banner and add to their email correspondence.

3. A click of that link with a resulting book sale will credit the participating nonprofit 40% of the sale—or $10.00 a book.

But it gets better, Mars…

Nonprofits are busy and understaffed. They don’t have time to create messages about my book. So I did that for them. I created a “Resource Center” on my website with email templates. Just insert your name and link and start emailing your friends and supporters. I also wrote newsletter articles and press releases. All the hard work is done. It’s an easy fundraiser.

MARS: WOOF! That's wonderful. I hope lots of organizations take advantage of it. In fact, I think I'll send a memo to CCI later today! Is there anything else you want my readers to know?

DOUG: I never experienced a deeper love, compassion and degree of humanity than when my dogs were terminally ill. Eliminating fear and guilt allowed this positive energy to flow in like water to a low spot. I couldn’t have prevented such a result even if I tried.

MARS: Wow. I mean, WOW. Thanks for taking the time to talk to me. Oh, and Marianne says to tell you if you are interested in a CCI release dog, she can’t think of a better home. Not me, of course – I’m gonna graduate.

Chow for now!


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