oznorIt is incredible how much a small dog can disrupt a life. This was not what I believed. Quite the opposite: ‘She’s so tiny: she’ll be no problem, make no noise, disturb not… Just a small dog.’ I should have looked more closely at the matter. After all, a flea in the wrong place –like an ear, for example- can raise havoc… But, as usual, I didn’t… think that is. I didn’t think she would make much difference. I didn’t even think about not thinking.

It was the merry month of May (couldn’t resist the cliché!) and I was off on a much awaited trip to the volcanic Isle of Lanzarote in the Canaries off the coast of Africa with my friend, Tamara. I did the usual, which is to drive to Madrid, stay over one or two nights depending on what I had to do and then fly from there leaving my car with the magnificent service that picks it up at the terminal when I leave and has it washed and waiting for me at the terminal door when I arrive. On my first morning in Madrid I decided to walk from my hotel (my home in Madrid, I call it) down to the park near where I used to live. It’s a lovely park, full of friendly people and their dogs, and cozy cafés where one can hang out for a cuppa or two. The day was bright (it seldom isn’t in Madrid) so I took a long stroll around the park. Up towards the playing fields I ran into a man with his small dog. It was so cute I reached down to pet it and, as I did, the small dog flipped over onto her (I could then see it was a female) back and started to writhe in the dust with what could only be termed extreme delight. I scratched her velvety soft belly and laughed.oznor

“Do you have a dog?” the owner asked. I confirmed and he said: “Oh. I was hoping… You see, I need to find her a new owner. I can’t take care of her; I work all day and most of the night and she is always alone; it’s not fair.”

I looked down at the little beige and white thing still scratching her back in the sand. She stopped for a moment and looked back with the cutest pair of big, round brown eyes set in a button of a face. “Oh, I’m sure you’ll find someone,” I said, “she is sooo cute. If I didn’t already have a dog… But give me your phone number and I’ll ask amongst my friends” (I had a friend in mind already). And that was it. We smiled; said ‘good-day’ and both went on our ways.

When I got back to the hotel and was about to message my friend telling her about the dog, I realized it would be necessary to have a picture of her and not just the description IMG-20180516-WA0006‘adorable, little jack-russellish doggie with joyful personality’. So I Whatsapp-ed the owner registered under Loli-dog (her name plus ‘dog’) on my phone asking him to send me a photograph. A few moments later, I received the following picture which I promptly sent off to my friend with a note: “This little long-haired mostly Jackie is about 4 years old, has all her vacs and her chip. She is adorable, loving, sweet and so tender. Her owner can no longer keep her and I would take her but I fear Salomé would be so jealous. I thought of you…”

She said she would think about it and that was the last I heard. I was off to Lanzarote.

Lanzarote was all and more than expected. I loved the island, its enormous lava fields, it’s volcano-cones, the starkness of it, and I enjoyed the visit with Tamara. All in all we had a splendid time. On the first day, I showed Tamara the davphoto of the little dog. “Isn’t she cute?” I said, “I can’t stop thinking about her.” Tamara predicted that I would end up with her, but I said ‘no’, I had enough with Salomé. Tamara was right. Every once in a while I would pull out my phone and gaze into Loli’s eyes and with the excuse of finding her a new owner I showed everyone the photo, not only during the trip but also once I got back home. This went on for two weeks while I lamely looked for someone to take her. It took precisely those two weeks for madness to settle in. At the end of May I messaged the owner of Loli-dog asking if he still wanted to give her away. There was no answer. I began to feel an inkling of disappointment in my stomach. I messaged again asking if he had given her away: still no answer. 24 hours went by and I began to panic so that, when the message that she was still available finally came in, any doubt or dithering had completely disappeared.

On the 1st of June I loaded Salomé in the car and we drove to Madrid. The test of fire would be Salomé accepting her, otherwise it wouldn’t be possible, but somehow I knew deep down that Salomé would: Loli was so tiny, so offenseless and so submissive that she would pose no problem in Salomé’s preferred pecking order which, of course, was Me First.

Did I have doubts? Of course I did. Every once in a while my enthusiasm would sour and I would think ‘Oh dear, what am I doing?’ But the much needed voice of wisdom did not kick in loud enough and on the following day I found myself standing in a veterinarian’s office in Madrid signing the proper papers, buying a sweet, pink leash and walking off with two dogs instead of one.

oznorSalomé behaved superbly: she simply ignored the rat that I plopped into the car beside her, looking the other way and not even bothering to sniff the newcomer. LoliPop (yes I had already renamed her), on the other hand, immediately became a ball of fluff and terror and absconded rapidly under the front seat convinced that she was being dog-napped. I knew exactly how she felt as it is impossible to forget the absolute fear experienced when one is forcibly removed from one’s usual life and held captive by strangers[1]. If I had been thinking logically, I would have left her under the seat but her fear pained me and I wanted her to know she was safe. So with extreme care and unheard of contortions of my own poor body, I extricated her and placed her on the seat. She trembled and looked away through my whole explanation of how happy we were going to be and, when I let go, she immediately dove under the seat again. After the third time I had to get down on my hands and knees and twist my body so that I could somehow get my arms under the seat and ease her out without harming her (but not without harming me). I finally managed to attach the leash to the head-rest in a manner that didn’t allow her to reach the floor of the car. By this time, I was suffering from a back ache from all the exertion. To add to my frustrations, Salomé, seeing that the newcomer was getting all the attention, decided that she wasn’t going to jump into the car on her own and sat decidedly down on the pavement by the door. I pulled and coaxed and scolded to no avail and finally had to pick her up (all 8 and ½ kilos of her) and plop her in her seat. Add to the unexpected challenge of caring for two dogs, doing the almost 1100 kms of Salies-Madrid-Salies in two days (one day down, next day back) and, I was exhausted by the time I got home.

mdeIn spite of her small size, LoliPop became an immediate problem. Her fear wouldn’t allow her a normal doggie behavior: eating, playing, cuddling, sleeping. Rather her existence became trembling, cowering and hiding. Our first tour around the garden to pee, was a disaster. In spite of having lived in a city (on a small and thus quiet street), Loli was totally unaccustomed to the rumblings and clankings of the trucks that roar by my building (which I have managed to white out so that they no longer bother me) and was terrified. Fortunately I had her on a leash so she couldn’t dive into the shrubbery where she would have been inaccessible, but peeing and pooing were definitely out of the question. Walking into town was the same problem: every car that honked, every motorbike, every heavy truck slamming by was a motive of panic. The poor dog lived in terror.

Following that, we had the dilemma of the bed… my bed under which she dove the moment she discovered it. She is very small, especially when she curls up into a terrified little ball, and the bed is 140cms wide so it was impossible to get her out. Perhaps this wouldn’t have been a problem except that the bed seemed to tickle her ears so she shook her head every five minutes producing a flapping-scraping sound that wasn’t going to let me sleep. When coaxing and pleading didn’t do the job, I had to recur to the broomstick, thus terrifying her more. Once I had her out, I stuffed access to the under-bed with every cushion in the house.

To make things worse the second night home there was a thunder and lightning storm asoznor I have seldom experienced. Even I was scared and Salomé and Lolipop were quaking their little hearts out. I ended up with both of them in my bed, all three of us huddled under the covers, until the war-storm was over.

It seemed that every sudden sound would send poor Loli scuttering for cover: if I dropped my keys or banged a plate in the sink or allowed a pen to roll off my desk the little dog scrambled under any place that offered shelter. On our third day walking into town, she appeared to be starting to grow accustomed to the street sounds and was a bit calmer, and then France won the World Cup and all hell of honking and clanging and fireworks broke loose and I thought she was going to have a heart attack. I had to carry her all the way home, covering her ears.

The whole ruckus convinced her that outside was a very dangerous place so she decided it was safer to pee and poo inside. Seeing as this was not acceptable, I further frightened the poor creature by yelling and waving hysterically, and carrying her two floors down to the garden.

Eating was also a problem because she couldn’t stop being scared and vigilant long enough to put her head in the dish. I finally figured out that she needed protection and put her bowl under a table. There she could eat, although it has taken her well into two months to finish a dish in one go.

oznorOne day I realized that I was tiptoeing around the house, being very careful not to drop or knock over anything and suddenly I understood that this was the wrong approach. I purposely let a spoon drop on the tile floor of the kitchen and followed the loud clatter soothingly saying: “It’s all right Loli, it is just a noise and noise won’t hurt us”, and other platitudes like this, always directing an even voice towards her but without drawing near. After a few days, she was much calmer and had accepted a certain amount of routine noises.

Little by little she is falling into our routine even though noises are still her bugaboo. Today I let her off the leash in the park thinking there would be no disturbing noises. Then someone closed a window in the distance and her head and ears went up. I took a step towards her, another window was closed and she was off running as fast as she could (and she can run really fast) in the opposite direction of the sound with me racing after her screaming her name and dragging poor Salomé behind. Fortunately, she cofstopped at the first street crossing (her previous owner had disciplined her to do that) and I was able to put her leash back on. Salomé is getting deaf but Loli can hear a pin drop; sometimes I wish it were the other way around.

Apparently no one has ever played with Loli and she is frightened if I throw a ball for Salomé. One day, at the beginning, she approached a squeaky toy dog which –naturally- squeaked as she picked it up. She dropped it as if it had been a bee that stung her and hadn’t gone near the toy basket since. However, for the first time yesterday she approached it and, after digging around for a few minutes, appeared with a bright pink ball in her mouth. It was the smallest ball in the basket and had been given me by a neighbor precisely for her, but until that moment she had been afraid of it. I watched as she carried it gingerly in her mouth and jumped up onto her chair where she proceeded to chew gently on it for a while before losing oznorinterest. It’s a beginning.

So a small dog has disrupted my routine, and she has also brought me great pleasure as I see her slowly adopting to a new and probably kinder life. Salomé mostly ignores her, but she doesn’t seem to mind having her around and I am finding her a delightful addition to my little family.


[1] The experience of my kidnapping in Mexico is told at length in my novel, Eleven Days, a translation of the original Spanish version: Once días… y algo más.



Please tell me how to explain to my little schnauzer, Salomé, that we went back to standard time from daylight saving time and it is NOT 8:30 and time for her breakfast, but only 7:30 and barely a decent hour to begin thinking about getting up. At 9 a.m. she wants to go out and pee because her inner clock says 10, but I’m barely beginning to get dressed. All day today has been torture for her, and thus, for me.

At 4 p.m. on the dot, she is poking my leg with her nose while I write this piece, convinced (by her stomach) that it is supper time, which arrives –for her- at 5. I attempt to distract her with a dog biscuit, but she isn’t fooled. Swallowing the treat as fast as possible, she returns to the push-push on my leg gazing imploringly at me with her dark brown eyes. I make her wait till 4:30 and then give in thinking that tomorrow I will push it back to 5. In the spring, when we put the clocks forward, she doesn’t mind at all that her meals are an hour earlier, but getting up at what is for her such an unearthly hour of the morning is confusing to say the least.170px-George-Vernon-Hudson-RSNZ[1]

I explain to her that she can blame Hudson –not the river, but George, the man- who, according to Wikipedia, was a British-born New Zealand entomologist who proposed Daylight Saving Time or DST in a paper presented to the Wellington Philosophical Society in 1895. Most people then were more like Salomé and preferred their hours just the way they were, thank you very much, so it wasn’t implemented until the German Empire decided to try it out and –along with Austria-Hungary- organized the first nationwide implementation on the 30th of April, 1916 in order to save coal during WWI. I doubt that Hudson heard anything of this –although he was still alive- because he probably was running around the wilds of his country collecting insects for what would eventually be the largest insect collection in New Zealand, today housed in the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. He died in 1946 and no longer has to worry about remembering to set his clocks either back or forward depending on the time of year.

20151030_170045Wiki goes on to state that DST clock shifts can complicate “timekeeping and disrupt travel, billing, record keeping, medical devices, heavy equipment and sleep patterns…” and that its usefulness in saving electricity and heating fuels is questionable. It mentions nothing about dogs or other household pets that might think they are being tortured for no justifiable reason.

Hudson was seconded in his idea by Robert Pearce, a Liberal Member of the British Parliament who introduced the first Daylight Saving Bill to the House of Commons in 1908. After some consideration it was discarded and even though the following years saw several other bills they all also failed. So it was left to the Germans during the war to begin what today is Salomé’s torture, with Britain, most of its allies and many European neutrals following suit. Russia and a few other countries waited until the following year, and the United States adopted DST in 1918. However, most countries (except Canada, the UK, France and Ireland) dropped it after the war and brought it back during WW II. Then it became widely adopted, particularly in Europe and North America in the 1970s as a result of the energy crisis.

However, there is no general agreement on the benefits or detriments of DST. Personally, at my age, I have no problem with putting the clock forward, putting it back or leaving it alone other than remembering to do so. Since hearing the Spring Forward/Fall Back20160813_131049 reminder, I no longer have trouble knowing whether we are adding or subtracting an hour from our day. However, if I look at the detrimental effects on health that Wikipedia delights in enumerating, I might side with Salomé in thinking that we humans should leave well enough alone.

Although some benefits due to greater exposure to sunlight seem to be favored by the hour shift, the negative effects include an increased risk of heart attack (10%), sleep disruption and severe effects on seasonal adaptation of the circadian rhythm which can last for weeks. It also has a disruptive effect on sleep for a lot of people. I would have no idea if this is having an effect on me as the hour change comes shortly after my trip home from Mexico from which I am still experiencing a certain amount of jet-lag that is affecting my sleep anyway. Salomé sleeps off and on all day long so it would be difficult to determine if there is any sleep deprivation in her case.

It is now 6:15 in the evening and there is a little black nose pushing against my thigh to remind me that she believes it is time for my dinner (around 7- 7:15)… which, of course, means that she gets titbits and to lick some of the cooking dishes when there are yummy leftovers. Oh dear… I think Salomé has DST-lag which will probably last for a few days and maybe clear up with my jet-lag.imagesW5OARGBR





IMG-20150706-WA0001 (2)So, here is the situation. I have coffee every morning in the same café with a group of French friends and since the beginning (about 5 years ago) I let Salomé roam at her will around the café visiting all the tables and receiving caresses and small titbits. Most people seem to love her and ask me politely if they may give her a morsel of the cookie that comes with the coffee or a small piece of croissant. I say yes, always making the sign of a tiny bit with my fingers. Salomé seemed happy, I felt happy and I didn’t see any problem.

However… there is a member of the group I have coffee with –I’ll call him Joe- who began to give her the whole cookie or a really big share of croissant. I asked him not to do it, to just give her a little bit and he reacted as if this were some sort of a game of tease or torture me. What ensued was a struggle (on my part) to try and get this man to understand that so much sugar is not good for the dog and stop giving her what I consider to be too much. I have pleaded, begged, reasoned, lied (I told him she had been diagnosed with diabetes)… used about every trick in the book to get him to lay off, but for some reason –that obviously goes beyond my comprehension- he continues to think this is a fun game (him overfeeding my dog and me trying to get him not to do it). Finally, yesterday, after asking him twice not to give her too much, upon seeing him take a wad of the cake someone had brought to share with the coffee and give it to her, I blew up. I don’t remember having gotten that mad in a long time. I stood up, leashed Salomé and stormed out.

This morning, when I arrived at the café, he wasn’t there and I sat with my usual group. I mentioned having gotten mad and said that, as far as I was concerned, Joe was dead. I was hoping he wouldn’t come (he does not come every day and sometimes goes for a week or more without showing up), but as I took the last sip of my coffee he appeared at the door. I said ‘Uh, oh’ and stood up. One lady in the group (who is very fond of Joe) asked me not to go, said he wouldn’t feed Salomé, made all kind of conciliatory gestures on his part, but I was determined not to stay. Joe himself asked if I was leaving because he had arrived and I said ‘yes’; he then asked if I was at least going to say good morning and I said ‘no’. My tone of voice left no doubt as to my feelings towards him. I’d had it: I found the man despicable!

As I walked out, I had the thought: “If you do this you are going to lose”, but I couldn’t go back, so I began my morning walk around town with Salome. It wasn’t long before I began crying. I felt like a little girl and the memory was of exactly the same kind of teasing-torture from some boy or other in primary school. In spite of my tears, I was pleased with myself for having gotten furious. I realized it was ok, I mentally hugged myself and told myself that it was about time I had gotten mad and defended my right to be respected in that way; I understood how childish (and cruel) it was on his part to give a small dog so much sugar just to get a rise out of me. I was very kind to myself and it felt good. By the time I arrived back at my small apartment, I was calm and I knew what I had to do.20150319_103437

I took out a Judge-your-Neighbor worksheet (available on Byron Katie’s page http://www.thework.com) and began filling it out, allowing my mind to revisit the scene of the previous morning as I answered the questions.

The first question is “In this situation, who angers, confuses, saddens or disappoints you, and why?” I closed my eyes and replayed the scene at the table where he broke off a large morsel of the cake and gave it to Salomé right after I had politely begged him not to. That specific scene was the situation and I wrote: “I am furious at Joe because he doesn’t respect my wishes; because he uses Salomé to ‘tease’ me; because he is cruel to my dog; because he is harming my dog.”

By the time I had filled in the first question there was a disturbing realization niggling at the back of my mind, but I wasn’t ready for it yet, so I continued filling out the sheet putting what I wanted Joe to do in that situation; writing out longhand my advice to him in that situation and enumerating what I needed in that situation in order to be happy. Much of what appeared in number 1 reappeared only slightly changed in numbers 2, 3 and 4: I want him to stop feeding Salomé, he should be respectful, I need him to stop playing games with me, etc.

In number 5, where I am asked to make a list of what I thought of Joe in that situation, practically all I could think of was “he’s stupid, stupid, idiot, stupid” but I managed to complete the list with “infantile and disrespectful”.

Question number 6 on the worksheet asks me what it is about that situation that I never want to experiment again and I wrote: “I never again want to have to lose my temper in order to be respected.”

The niggling in the back of my mind was still there because my mind now plays the game of The Work and races ahead of me before I even start questioning. I Ignored the niggling, took a deep breath and decided to give myself some off time before questioning anything. Putting the worksheet aside, I read my e-mails and checked out a few things on Facebook before coming back to it. Then I was ready.

I re-read number 1 and chose the thought that I wanted to start working on: I am furious at Joe because he doesn’t respect my wishes. I removed “I am furious” because The Work does not question my emotions, and asked the first question: Joe doesn’t respect my wishes… Is that true? Closing my eyes and breathing deeply, I replayed the situation (scene) in my mind’s eye: Joe is breaking off a large morsel of cake and giving it to Salomé, laughing and casting a glance my way. My answer appeared. It was Yes, it was true. Once again, I closed my eyes and watched the scene: Joe doesn’t respect my wishes… Can I absolutely know that it’s true that he doesn’t respect my wishes? Again I waited for the answer to rise within me: it was Yes once more. There was no way that I could find Joe respecting my wishes in that scene. Yes was my honest answer.

20120711_103100I went to the 3rd question: How do I react, what happens, when I believe the thought that Joe doesn’t respect my wishes? I closed my eyes. I didn’t have to guess. It was all there right before me and my body –as if it were once again in that café watching that man give my dog a large piece of cake- reacted exactly the way it had reacted the morning before: stress, stomach tight, throat closed, shoulders pushed forward, jaw clenched. How did I react? I jumped up, I roughly leashed my dog, I called Joe stupide not quite loud enough for him to hear but feeling the pleasure of the insult in the pit of my stomach. I stormed out of the café. Did it end there? No. All the way home, I was replaying the scene, reliving the fury, submitting my body to the stress of extreme anger over and over again. Between yesterday and today I must have replayed the scene at least fifty times, probably more, each time reliving my anger. That is how I reacted when I believed the thought that Joe doesn’t respect my wishes. There could be no doubt in my mind as to how I reacted because every time I replayed the scene I re-reacted the same way: my body didn’t lie.

So then I went to question 4. I love question 4 but in this situation, found it difficult question to ask. Who would I be without the thought in that same situation? The only reason I asked myself question 4 today was because I wanted to know the truth; I have to live with myself 24 hours of every day and only the truth allows me to do that in peace and gratitude; only the truth allows me to be happy today. So I closed my eyes, breathed deeply and watched the scene play itself out exactly as it had, while removing all thoughts from my mind. Katie says ‘this is meditation’ and meditation is removing thoughts from the mind, so I looked; I allowed my eyes to see, to observe as Joe took the large piece of cake and gave it to Salomé while using my breath to remove the thought, to remove any story that might have appeared in my mind. Without any thought what I saw was a man giving a dog a piece of cake: it wasn’t personal. There was no ‘my dog’, no movie of ‘my dog dying from too much sugar’, no interpretation of ‘disrespect’, just a man giving a dog a piece of cake and my body had no reaction whatsoever. So who I was without the thought was a-woman-watching-a-man-give-a-dog-a-piece-of- cake. You might say it was ‘a piece’a cake!’Salomé en Portugal

It was in that moment that the niggling realization finally surfaced: what I understood was that Joe was giving my dog a piece of cake because she was asking for it. And she was asking for it because I had allowed her to roam freely around the café asking all and sundry for whatever it pleased them to give her. I didn’t like this truth, but I couldn’t deny it and once it had appeared I couldn’t ignore it either: I had seen my part in the ‘problem’, be it large or small, it was my part.

Does that make Joe right and me wrong? Absolutely not! Does it excuse or justify what is probably his stupid ploy to get attention? Of course not! But it does give me the solution, and a solution that had existed from the very beginning if I had not gone to war trying to control another human being’s actions, in other words: trying to control reality. I don’t like the solution, I would have preferred it to be his fault and to have succeeded in controlling him; I would have loved for him to bow to my wishes from the very beginning… but then I would not have had this opportunity to do The Work and learn about my stubbornness in wanting things to be the way I want them to be. I would not have had the opportunity to feel how absolutely rabid I can still get even after so many years of The Work. I would have missed the peace that comes with accepting reality as it is and not as I would have it.

There was still something to be done with this question before I moved on to the next: The Turnarounds. My thought, Joe doesn’t respect my wishes, turned around to:

  1. I don’t respect my wishes. Immediately I found examples. I am not seeing what others are giving Salomé and they could be feeding her just as much as Joe. It is my wish that Salomé not eat a lot of sugar, but she is probably getting too much already by going from table to table during the hour or more that I spend at the café. And I don’t respect my wish to continue with my coffee group by making war with one of its members. I am not respecting my wish to be a kind and respectful member of the community when I let my dog run free and beg from all the tables without asking if this might bother someone (ouch!) My wish is there be no war in the world, and I am making my own war in the café!
  2. I don’t respect Joe’s wishes. Right! He wants to give her the cake and I am not respecting that (this doesn’t mean I will, I just notice); he is trying to be funny and I am not respecting that by laughing (that doesn’t mean I will, I just notice); and yesterday and today I was downright rude (disrespectful) to the man… Oh boy and I notice how disrespectful I was in my mind insulting him up and down for the rest of the day! Oh, yes: it is obvious that Joe doesn’t want a woman telling him what to do in front of everyone else and I am not respecting that: I am not respecting him by making him choose between giving my dog cake and obeying my orders.
  3. Joe does respect my wishes. Hmmm, this was more difficult. Oh found one: Yes, perhaps he could believe he is respecting them because he can’t know what a small amount is in my eyes (this is a bit contrived, but I’ll let it serve). Ok: it is obvious that in letting Salomé roam free I want everyone to like and be kind to her and he is doing that in his way. One day I asked him if he would pay for my coffee and he did, respecting my wish. I always wish I could find more opportunities to do The Work (and free myself) and he respected that wish giving me the perfect opportunity.

The turnarounds are thoughts too so they are no more true or false than the original, but they can also be indications of how I can better lead a peaceful and happy life (which is all I want in the long run) so I will take them into consideration. This is a grand opportunity to take a good look at where I am not respecting myself and where I am not respecting others and to remedy that to the best of my ability. It is a chance to see where I am not respecting Salomé (her needs which are my responsibility) and remedy that. I do this for me, only for me; because it makes me feel good, it gives me peace, it makes me love myself and therefore others.

Thanks to doing only one thought on this worksheet, I have looked at the reasons that I let Salomé run loose in the café. They are the usual ones and don’t surprise me one bit: It gets me attention; I like being seen as the owner of such a cute little dog; love my dog, love me; I fool myself thinking that I am making her happy but if I had never let her loose she wouldn’t know the difference… In other words: I, I, me, me, I, me! Nothing whatever to do with Salomé’s happiness or wellbeing.

Someone might be asking themselves if all this apparent guilt and self-blaming is really good for me, but I have to say that I am not feeling in the least bit guilty because my actions were (and always will be) completely innocent. I just believed what I was thinking and as long as I believe what I think, I have to act in accordance with that. I am not to blame for believing what I believe in each moment. However, today I am responsible for doing The Work with thoughts that produce war or pain or suffering of any kind in me.

With The Work I see what it was that I was thinking that made me act in the way I did; so now I have the power to change what was causing the problem in the first place: my thought that another person should change to make me happy. There can be no self-blaming or guilt: quite the contrary, I am filled with love for myself for being so clear and so brave. I love my mind for participating in this game called The Work which I do only for my own freedom and happiness. And I love my body for being my faithful ally in this Work and showing me always when I go to war with reality by manifesting the feelings that wake me up.

And what do I do with the rest of the worksheet that I so carefully filled out? Well, I continue to go through each thought one by one. I can take my time. A worksheet can last me a day, a week, a month, a lifetime and reveal every single problem that I am causing in my life by believing my thoughts.

In the end, I can turn numbers 2, 3 and 4 around to myself and find the path to my own freedom and happiness. For instance, number 3 –the should’s– says: Joe should be respectful, he should understand that he is doing harm to Salomé, he should stop trying to play games with me, turns around to I should be respectful (of Joe, of Salomé, of the group I belong to, of the people in the café, etc); I should understand that I am doing harm to Salomé by letting her roam the café begging for goodies and overeating; I should stop playing games with me (believing I have no part in the problem), I should stop playing games with Joe (continuing the push-me-pull-you of tease/control) and I should stop playing games with myself (thinking I do something for Salomé’s pleasure that I am actually doing for myself, like letting her run free).

Eventually The Work is done: It’s a piece‘a cake!P1010581[1]




As I walk out the front door to go for coffee the same as every morning since eighteen months ago, Salomé pulls to the left decidedly. That is not the way and she knows it; she also knows that when we arrive at the Café des Thermes we will meet Kiwi-san and she will get her daily morsels of croissant that he so generously shares with her. Why in the world would she insist on going in the opposite direction? Continue reading


Lord, give me the Serenity to accept

That which I cannot change;

The Courage to change that which I can;

And the Wisdom to know the difference. Amen.

(A.A. prayer, Anonymous)

So on the 12th of August I climbed into Miss Pumpkin (my trusty 1007 Orange Peugeot) and took off for my retreat in the Swiss Alps feeling absolutely certain that Salomé was in the best care possible and that she would spend a marvelous ten days loved and entertained by my downstairs neighbor and her family. Continue reading


It seems like the day I recently lost was not the only thing that Salies caused me to overlook and even though that misplacement caused quite a bit of mental confusion, there was no guilt involved. Guilt is another thing, something to be avoided at all costs, something insidious that creeps into the stomach and liver making life quite miserable as long as it lasts. Continue reading


The alarm goes off.  I open one eye. The grey hush of morning is beginning to reflect in the mirror on the wall from the window to my back. There is something warm snuggled up against my left shoulder blade and extending almost down to my waist. Slowly I turn my head on the pillow and meet mustaches, eyebrows, two floppy black ears and the dark shiny eyes of my miniature schnauzer, her head comfortably resting on the pillow beside mine. Continue reading


img-20150706-wa0001Enter Salomé. Salomé is a story in and of herself and in Salies she is my introduction to almost everyone who talks to me; she is the excuse, the reason, the attraction. And it is true, I too find her so adorable that if she weren’t mine I would want to pet her; she is mine and I want to pet her all the time and do so, much to her pleasure I believe. But the French seem to love dogs and passers by stop to pet her, to ask what kind of dog she is, to comment (“c’est très sage”) on her good behaviour or just to smile, so my “social” life grows. I seldom learn anyone’s name as  people who stop on the street to pet your dog and then ask where you come from or what her name is, seldom introduce themselves, but they do become familiar faces that smile knowingly and say “bonjour” each time they pass you on the street or in the park. It makes Salies seemfriendlier every day .

But Salomé has been even more than that. She was the introduction to my two solid friends here. When I was here last August, we walked past a Café near the studio, and she darted under the table to sniff (dog-greet) a Yorkshire terrier; they immediately leapt at each other in playful fashion and before I knew it had their leashes all entangled.  There were three people seated at the table: two men and a woman. I said “pardon, pardon” in my worst French to the man holding the leash and proceeded to untangle the playful dogs. While I was so engaged, he turned to his friend at the table and said “Es un schnauzer” in perfect Spanish, even though I had heard him speak French a moment earlier.

“¿Usted habla español?” I asked, using the double question mark as is the custom, “¿de dónde es?” (Do you speak Spanish? Where are you from?)

Once more in perfect Spanish, he said he had lived 20 years in Mexico and –of course- I immediately identified myself as a Mexican now living in Spain and visiting Salies… and that was an invitation to sit and share a cup of coffee. Charles, or Carlos as he prefers to be called, is a Swiss-Frenchman who has lived in Baja for many years and now lives in Navarrenx, a nearby medieval town. The couple sitting with him came from Barcelona, he a native and his wife a Canadian. I was later informed that Pepe, the Catalán, owns a restaurant.20150319_103437-copia

“We must get our dogs together” Carlos declared in perfect English and thus we proceeded to make a play-date for Salomé and Mickey, the Yorkie, for the following Saturday. On Friday before the appointment, Carlos called me and suggested that we make it lunch while the dogs played, as his Mother , Ettie,–with whom he was living- was feeling well and Pepe –the Catalán restaurant owner- would be making the meal. I was delighted and thus made my first friends in Salies. Over the last year I have not contacted Carlos, but have exchanged e-mails with Dolores, the Canadian woman who lives with Pepe in Sitges near Barcelona. It was through her that I heard of Carlos’ cancer and operation, and was kept up to date more or less on his health. With such news I did not expect to find him in the excellent condition that I did when I first visited this year, but it seems that his giving up smoking and drinking (which he did with absolute abandonment last year) has greatly improved his physical well being even though the cancer persists and he is receiving chemotherapy treatments. (Update: 2010, Carlos died shortly after my visit last year. His mother died six months later.)

Salomé, however is not always able to establish such lasting encounters and usually they are just brief interludes that lead to nothing if not just beginning to feel at home and comfortable in a town where the faces become every day more familiar and smiley.

Salomé is not, of course, my only source of introduction to the townsfolk (and the passing tourists, and here a slight digression: I do not consider myself a “tourist” for I settle here during a whole month and am not just a passer by, peering at the sights and the town’s idiosyncrasies without integrating), the other source being –naturally- human needs. I have come to the conclusion that all social life stems from the identification of needs that others can satisfy, including the need of distraction and human contact: we don’t socialize because we like other people, but we do begin to “like” people with whom we socialize when they satisfy our needs and do this in a kind and fair way. Need creates social contact and this, no doubt, is a very large oxymoron, but a very noticeable one during my stay in Salies. I need bread and the baker needs clients. If this exchange is done in a friendly, kind and fair way, I begin to experience pleasure on ‘visiting’ the bakery and, 20140920_141941I presume, the baker experiences some pleasure on seeing me each morning. Our initial “bonjours” and “bonne journées” sometimes lead to questions of where I come from, or if he is a native of the town, or even to gentle jokes as with my friend René at the Café René where I have my morning coffee. These relationships must be cultivated over a long period of time –it might take me two or three more years to finally ask René what has happened to his voice (never louder than a whisper even when he seems to be yelling)- but they too, like the smiles from nameless acquaintances in passing on the street, make Salies every day more a place I identify as mine.

So, petit à petit I make a life for myself in this small town, so much so that as my time here draws to a close, I feel my heart a bit heavy and am already thinking of putting aside the studio for next August, or even taking it for a month and a half. Who knows? The future is nonexistent and I can but think that today that will be my choice.

In the meantime, as a farmer plows his field, sows his seeds and harvests his crop laying the land fallow for the following season, so I go about Salies, leaving seeds of smiles, harvesting the acquaintances that have grown this year and preparing the terrain for the next season.