Do You Think Like Your Dog?

by Robert H. Mottram

Bob Mottram“Yup. I lived aroun’ dogs all o’ muh life. I do unnerstan’ dogs.”

How many times have you heard somebody say something like that? You may have heard it from me, in fact, because it’s what I used to tell folks, and I thought it was true. But, it turns out, I didn’t have a clue.

My dad and I used to breed and rear dogs when I was a boy, and train them to compete in field trials. But it wasn’t until I teamed up with my daughter a couple of years ago to write a book about dogs that I really learned what canines are all about. She taught me. What an eye-opener!

My daughter, Dianna M. Young, is a full-time professional dog trainer and a certified canine behaviorist. She owns and operates Camano Island Kennels, a training and boarding facility in northwest Washington state, and Stella Ruffington’s Doggy Daycare in Seattle, in partnership with her husband, Jason Young. He, by the way, is an excellent trainer of dogs in his own right. Dianna and I joined forces to write Think like Your Dog and Enjoy the Rewards. It reveals not only how dogs think, but how to put that knowledge to work for you by communicating with your dog in its own language.

Dianna is the brains and the inspiration behind the book; the person with the expertise that made it possible. I’m the technical guy – a life-long journalist who polished the prose and smoothed the transitions and put her sharp insights into a logical format.

We’re both very proud of the product, and it’s been getting some great reviews. Dianna doesn’t hold back in this book. She shares many of the secrets that she gained from years of formal training and apprenticeships in Europe and the USA, and from the decades of experience that she has had in the professional dog-training trenches.

This is the first time I’ve collaborated with anyone on a project as complicated as a book, and so I don’t know if our Diannaexperience was typical. It went surprisingly smoothly. Fortunately, Dianna and I are quite compatible, so working cooperatively was relatively easy for us. It took us about 2 ½ years to complete the book, taking summers off, and we did most of our joint work by phone during the early afternoons while her twin toddlers napped. First we created an outline that listed the subjects to cover, and then divided the outline into chapters and put the chapters in a logical order. This took lots of consultation. Finally we wrote the book a chapter at a time, talking as often as necessary to cover each subject thoroughly.

I’d then take a few days to write a draft of the current chapter, and email my second or third version of it to Dianna for her to tweak.

“I was trying to say this here, not that,” she might respond. Or, “I think this word might work better here than that one.” Sometimes we would discuss her suggestions. Often, I simply made the changes she suggested, and then returned the polished chapter to her for her final approval.

We completed each chapter before beginning the next.Dog book-cover

Think like Your Dog not only is full of valuable information, but people tell us it’s also fun to read. That’s because we took advantage of the natural human affinity for stories. I learned years ago that our species’ love for them probably is encoded in our DNA. It’s likely something that goes back to the campfire at the mouth of the cave where our ancestors gathered at the end of a day, and it continues into the present time. You may have attended a banquet, for instance, and seen a featured speaker take center stage, look around the hall at his audience, and then say, “Let me tell you a story.”

It’s a technique that a lot of good speakers employ to get and hold attention. Glance around the room at that moment, and you’ll realize that everyone in it is focused expectantly on the guy with the microphone. Why? Because they’re about to hear a story! The pull is nearly irresistible.

Dianna and I acknowledged that aspect of human nature in writing our book. It’s full of stories – interesting, instructive and funny ones. Typically, Dianna would be describing some feature of doggy behavior or psychology as I took notes on my computer, and I would interrupt her and say, “Tell me a story.” Dianna would pause for a moment and then, drawing on her decades of professional experience, would spin an interesting or funny tale taken from real life to illustrate the point we were discussing.

For me, as both an individual and a dad, this book has been a wonderful experience on a couple of levels. For one, it has given me the opportunity to join my daughter as a colleague and to work side-by-side with her on a professional level. It’s a tremendous privilege for any father to work this way with a daughter or a son.

On another level, it has been a remarkable education for me; a guy who lived around dogs all of his life. Dianna didn’t simply teach me some new things. She radically altered my perceptions of dogs and how they relate to people. I see things now that I never noticed before. And I understand what plays out in front of me with a clarity that I never before enjoyed.

Our book is available in all of the usual places, both on-line and in walk-in stores, and also on Dianna’s website,

The Art of Falling: a Must-Read Novel

Art of Fallling CoverI read a lot of books. I always have one going. Usually I go from one to the next, like another handful of potato chips and promptly forget what I’ve just read. It’s “mind candy,” pure entertainment, escape fiction.

But once in awhile I come across a book that stays with me—while I’m reading it and long after I’ve finished. It’s a story that grabs my heart and soul and I can’t get enough. I can’t put it down, but I don’t want it to end, and it stays in my periphery long afterward.

The Art of Falling by Kathryn Craft is such a novel.

I was honored to be able to read an Advance Reader Copy. I was swept up in the lyrical prose, twirled into the mounting drama, swooped high and low with the poignant, raw emotion of anguish, rejection, then hope and resilience.

Craft’s debut novel tells the story of a dancer’s life, her struggle with body image, her sacrifice and self-denial, her striving to “live up to” expectations from her mother, her dance teachers, her dance partners, herself.

The title itself is symbolism: a physical fall, learning to love and to accept, death that brings life, movement that brings joy.

Excerpt: “The mirror is prominent in every studio, front and center, like a reflective altar…. The pursuit of perfection is daunting and exhausting with no end in sight. Yet in spite of ourselves, we get up each day and try, while the joy of movement drains from our lives.”

Synopsis: All Penny has ever wanted to do is dance—and when that chance is taken from her, it pushes her to the brink of despair, from which she might never return. When she wakes up after a traumatic fall, bruised and battered but miraculously alive, Penny must confront the memories that have haunted her for years, using her love of movement to pick up the pieces of her shattered life.

The Art of Falling is due to be published in January, 2014. Pre-order links for THE ART OF FALLING, are live at Barnes & Noble and Amazon

This is a “must” for your To-Be-Read list! As one reviewer put it: “The Art of Falling is a story of friendship and personal growth, and a helluva good read.”

Published in: on August 23, 2013 at 6:04 am  Leave a Comment  
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The Mystery of the Missing___

Has anyone ever figured out the “mystery of the missing sock?” You know, when you put a perfectly good matched pair of detectivesocks in the wash and then by the time you take them out of the dryer, one is missing?

When we moved to Arizona, we lived in a furnished rental cottage for nearly three months. There, every single time I did laundry, I had a least one missing sock! I did eventually find them—sometimes one fell behind the machine, other times it got stuck inside another item of clothing, or maybe it just sneaked under the bed. But when we moved into our permanent home, I haven’t had a problem since (knock on wood—as soon as I say this, I’ll start losing socks again!)

The other mystery is how do things get lost when you move? I packed up everything and was good about labeling the boxes. We had movers load everything and it was stored for 3 months until we moved into our house. They had a detailed list and every box was numbered and had to be accounted for before they left.

But I’m missing weird things. Things that wouldn’t necessarily have been packed in the same box—in the event that a box was lost (which it doesn’t appear to have happened).

Things like my flatiron for my hair. Why I wouldn’t have packed it in the stuff for my 3-month rental stay, I don’t know, but I frying_pan_clip_art_didn’t. Then there’s my cast iron skillet. It wasn’t in the boxes with the rest of the pots and pans and I cannot find it anywhere. A framed photograph of my husband and me, taken for our church directory, was not in the box with the other three. A small green plastic wastebasket never turned up. My heavy scotch tape dispenser for my desk. None of these things should have been packed in the same box. But where are they?

I haven’t a clue.

What are some things you’ve “lost” and did you ever find them?

Published in: on August 16, 2013 at 6:40 am  Comments (2)  
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Who Were These Old West Gunslingers?

GunfightWe’ve all heard of these Old West gunslingers by their fabled names. Do you know what their real names were? Here are the famous names:

  1. Billy the Kid
  2. Butch Cassidy
  3. Calamity Jane
  4. Buffalo Bill
  5. Belle Starr
  6. Annie Oakley
  7. John Wayne

Here are their real names. Match them to the list above. Don’t cheat now!

a. Myra Shirley

b. Robert Parker

c. Martha Canary

d. William McCarty

e. William Cody

f. Phoebe Moses

g. Marion Morrison

How well did you do?


Here are the answers: 1-d, 2-b,3-c,4-e,5-a,6-f,7-g.

Published in: on August 9, 2013 at 6:33 am  Leave a Comment  
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