Monday Love to our Furry 4-Footed Facilitators, both Canine and Equine

Often, it is the animals that provide a frame for the human condition” ~ JoAnna Mendl-Shaw

Do you ever let your tendency for kindness get you in over your head? You know what I mean, those situations where are you say yes to something out of the goodness of your heart only to find out later that you bit off a little more than you could chew? It happens to the best of us, and part of the feng shui of life is knowing how far to extend yourself before you run out of rope.

It’s like we’re all rowing a boat down the river of life, and inevitably there comes along someone or something that needs a lifeline. You know full well that if your answer is always yes, your boat will surely sink. Yet it can be very difficult to say no, especially in that moment when you’re trying to determine exactly what sort of help they need.

So part of it is learning the difference between empowering and enabling, and part of it is simply knowing when you’ve done the best you can, and how to ask for help. For those of us on the transformational path, it’s like we’re always climbing a ladder. There’s folks above us who are showing us the way, and others a few rungs down who need a helping hand.

My recent lesson in this regard came to me courtesy of a cute puppy that someone abandoned on the hill where I live. She followed my neighbors golden Labrador to my doorstep where I was begged to help as the Lab’s owner couldn’t possibly handle a puppy in the house. My daughter was home early that morning, so of course we agreed to assist and help this cute little critter avoid a trip to the dog pound. We settled on the name Penny because she was obviously lucky, and the dog she followed home was named Copper.

Fast forward three months and the adorable little eight-week-old 12-pound puppy had not been claimed and had grown into more than 30 pounds of joyful jumping teeth-gnashing exuberance. And by no means growing into a cuddly kid-friendly lapdog, according to the vet, this “Staffordshire Terrier / Dalmatian mix” (aka Pitbull mutt) is likely to reach 60-70 pounds of pure power before she’s done.

Aside from the fact that she is totally adorable, super friendly to everyone, and impossibly cute, Penny was proving to be more of a handful than we could handle, especially during the half of the week when my daughter is at her mom’s house. My ability to get work done, hold meetings, and go out into the world was all taking a backseat to my 24/7 canine responsibilities.

I came to the realization that “it takes a village” to raise a child, even a furry one, and explained to my daughter that our exercise in love and kindness was in being Penny’s temporary foster parents and that it would be better for everyone, dog included, to find a more beneficial situation.

Enter This is the part where I get to plug a really cool website/mobile app that proved invaluable with this situation. NextDoor is sort of like a cross between Facebook and Craigslist, where your social network consists only of real people in your neighborhood.

So I posted Penny’s story and said I was looking for a nearby family to become co-owners with us. Someone who could take primary responsibility while making her available for play dates with my daughter and her friends, or the occasional overnight visit to our house.

The outpouring of support was enthusiastic, complete with a couple people insisting that they knew what was best for us and that we should try to make it work for her no matter what. Within a few days I had several people express interest and by my third conversation it was obvious that we found a match.

A woman named Britta and her family live just down the hill, very near one of our favorite parks. They are avid gardeners with a huge fenced backyard complete with a dog run ready for Penny. Someone is home almost all the time, her daughter is in her early 20s and lives in the duplex with her fiancé who goes running everyday and is delighted to have a dog to keep him company.

They’ve been wanting to invite canine energy into their home and are totally ready to tackle the training and daily maintenance that our darling doggy requires. And they will never have to put her in a kennel when they go out of town, because we’ll always be happy to have her over for a few days to visit.

My daughter Geneva met them this past weekend and gave her thumbs up to the arrangement before we made the final agreement. She was sad last week when the idea of finding a new home for Penny first came up, but now that we’ve found a win-win where her and her friends can take her for a walk anytime they want she’s totally happy.

She even pointed out to me in her youthful brilliance that it makes more sense for us to be Penny’s ‘Uncle’ and ‘Cousin’ rather than Dad and Sister. All in all it’s been a lesson in how to be helpful with loving kindness while knowing when to say when and keep our boat in the water.

We’re so grateful now that we’ve created an ideal situation where we can still be part of her life and happy that this story has a happy ending, she’s a Lucky Penny indeed!

Happy wagging till next week!


Mark Metz
Director of the Dance First Association
Publisher of Conscious Dancer Magazine

Dance First Member Spotlight : JoAnna Mendl-Shaw and The Equus Projects!

Dance First Member Spotlight

This week’s Dance First member spotlight continues our animal loving theme, switching the species up in size considerably! JoAnna Mendl-Shaw is the creator of The Equus Projects, a performance and choreography group that brings dancers together with horses for a uniquely consciousness-raising experience.

It’s no secret that horses and humans have had a long relationship in moving together, however, the idea of improvising with them as conscious dance partners is novel indeed.

The Equus Projects creates site-specific experiences, some of which are meant to be witnessed as they are performed by her trained troupe, others are presented in a participatory workshop format where attendees can get up close and personal with the horses.

The lessons to be learned through inter-species communication are myriad. Apparently, there’s nothing like interacting with a half-ton animal to keep you on your toes and focus your present moment awareness. JoAnna says that the horses are paying close attention, and if they can sense that your mind is wandering, they start to wander too, and not always in the direction you want.

I recently interviewed JoAnna on Episode #30 of the Conscious Dancer podcast, you can listen to the conversation and be inspired by her work and insight into our relationship with the animal kingdom and how our place in the grand scheme of things is put into perspective when we communicate somatically with another species.

If you live in Northern California, you have a special opportunity to join JoAnna for an upcoming ‘Physical Listening’ workshop at Belos Cavalos in Kenwood, near the historic town of Sonoma. This interactive experience is geared towards movers of all experience levels.

Don’t miss this chance to develop your ‘Physical Listening’ skills with playful kinetic explorations and improvisations with a beautiful collection of horses on a spectacular ranch in beautiful Sonoma County!

Physical Listening – A One-Day Equus Projects Workshop
Dec 16, Belos Cavalos, Kenwood, CA

This week’s Dance First member spotlight