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Marley and Me: What Ornery Dogs Have to Teach Us Civilized Folk

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"Be newborn, be free of yourself"

-Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

Nature, not academics, is our true teacher. We try so hard to control Nature, both within ourselves and in the world.   Thus we have well manicured lawns void of weeds while also "owning" little toy poodles that are well manicured.   Meanwhile these curly fluffs of non-shedding hair perform tricks according to our command so as to entertain us.   Why, we have these dogs so well trained that they don't even shed on our lovely standardized carpets made in some far away land by young girls making less than subsistence wages.   Yes, we ended slavery in the mid 1800's and replaced it with migrant work and Chinese factory girls.  

We also have domesticated animals to do our work for us, while also feeding us.   We also have hunting dogs like labs (Labrador retrievers), who have served with human beings in their knowledge of how to survive while also maintaining the balance of natural ecosystems through a sport they know best, hunting.   While labs are often well trained both naturally and by human beings in their favorite sport, they can also be a bit rebellious as reflected in their ability to shed on one's carpet profusely.

Nowhere is this rebellion more elucidated than in the story, Marley and Me by John Grogon.   This book was popular enough to where it was also made into a movie.   Marley isn't a well trained dog.   Training was tried, but Marley in essence thumbed his middle paw to the trainers and took charge of his own life.   For his "owner", this meant he, the owner, was often taken for runs, especially if Marley got hold of the scents of a tasty squirrel or if he saw a well endowed dog-lady that matched his sensuous fantasies for a mate.

Marley is much like my dog, Sophie.   Sophie is a lab and, like Marley, takes me for walks when she makes eye contact with something interesting, sexy, or potentially tasty.   Many people have screamed at me, and my wife, saying we need to train the "damn dog".   And, we have tried training the "damn dog".   Even obedience school was tried.   Never will forget how the trainer, a woman of stern stature, looked at us with an aura of rejection and said, "You need to get this dog under control."   She then took hold of the reigns and proceeded to teach us how to get Sophie under HER control.

Now Sophie is one of the names of the Goddess.   Her name is a pun on God, which, when spelt backward, is Dog.   So, I thought it appropriate that a dog should be given a name fitting of God.   My wife and I also have a terrier mix who we named after the Goddess.   Her name is Kali".She too is more than a tidbit rebellious as reflected in Her necklace of human heads (representing the ego).   Yes, the well trained, corporatized conditioned ego that my wife and I have inherited is definitely tested by our little girl Kali.   Well".actually, upon thinking about it, my wife and I are not really well trained.   We have tried because we have often thought we should be trained, but have consistently flunked the test.   We are not rated Triple "A" on the corporate rating sheet. At last inspection, I think we were at Triple "F", representing the middle finger of fate that we ultimately give the conditioned world of ours.

Now, as my teachers and bosses throughout my life found out, the trainer intent on civilizing Sophie determined that one does not tell God/Nature, especially in the guise my dog, what to do.   Yet, with treats and training collar in hand, the dog trainer went to work while "poo-pooing" my skepticism of her getting my rebellious yellow Lab under control.   Indeed, I thought, it would be as difficult getting her under control as it was for the educational system to get me under corporate control.   Though under the thumb of the Corporate World, I, like Sophie and Marley, gave the Master the puppy middle finger. How?   Passive aggressive acts entailed the battle plan.   I would lie down and without a fight, win.   

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The difference was I thought I "should" allow myself to be under corporate control so that I could be successful, whereas Sophie (and Marley) had no sense of "should."   Indeed, like Marley, Sophie "flunked" obedience school.   Now those behaviorist doggie trainers who think dogs don't have self-determination, they would say these words of mine are nonsense.   Yet, after several hours of promised treats and several scoldings, Sophie just lay down and did nothing.   Thus she received the DSM IV diagnosis of passive-aggressive by the trainer and was sent home.   Meanwhile, behind my wife's horrified look towards the dog, I gave her the thumbs up coupled with a pat to the head and a "good girl." I also showered her with treats that evening.

Just as Marley taught the man in the movie and book something about life, Sophie has taught me.   While I have not been aggressively a rebellious type, I have never bought into the system.   There have been times when I thought I should be a good boy, and, indeed, this belief is behind much of my neuroticism in trying to be something I never was.   Yet, I, true to my Nature, like Sophie and Marley, have refused to succumb to corporate training.   My neuroticism has been in thinking "I should" fall into line.   Yet, ultimately, I have never embraced the dogma of any scientific, political or psychological theory and have never fallen in line in the corporate world.   Nor did I ever fall prey to any theological preaching or theoretical bend.   In so doing, I have embraced what has been taught through eons in the mystical traditions of the various religions and spiritual practices of the world.   Yes, I have not been a devout Catholic; or mindful Protestant and refuse to put money, or in the beliefs that arise from my intuitive heart, into anyone's collection plate.   Nor do I follow Buddhist doctrine, nor Muslim dogma nor Hindu stories of lover Gods and entry into the bliss of Nirvana.   Yet, I hear the message behind the words and integrate them into the functioning whole.   This whole includes science, whose "evidenced based" findings I find to be as full as bullshit as any corporate owned politician or television evangelist.  

Thus it appears that like Marley and Sophie, in rejecting the control freaks and dogmatic zealots of the world, I have embraced the All.   It is only when one rejects the dogmas of theologies, theoretical positions and philosophies of all sorts, including political, that one is able to embrace life in its totality.   Is this the actual meaning of anarchy?   Who is to say?   I refuse all "ologies", "archies", and "osophies".   

Thus, I ask myself, "is this an article or a diary" for OEN News?   I laugh at this question which is posed in my artificially conditioned head.   The cosmic law that I have discovered in my life, especially in relationship to my dogs, is that in the reflection of all specifics, one embraces all.   Diary and article are one at least and egotistical illusions at best.   And it is in knowing the power of this teaching that I pet Sophie's head and realize why it is that Dog spelt backwards is God.   Dogs embrace all while believing in nothing (i.e., dogmas of theories, theologies and philosophies).   Thus, Dogs are God manifest and live up to their name.

Yes, my dog-God does not sit on a throne judging anything.   She just hops in your lap and licks the hell out of your face.    

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The official site for the book Marley and Me is at


Burl is an avid writer and publishes to OpEd News. He is author of "Sophia's Web: A Passionate Call to Heal Our Wounded Nature." As of this writing, Burl is planning to self-publish the book. Alongside his wife, Burl co-hosts an on line radio (more...)

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At times I walk my lab about our neighborhood in C... by Burl Hall on Saturday, Aug 18, 2012 at 1:37:33 PM
If you are a lover of dogs, this is a must read.&n... by Burl Hall on Saturday, Aug 18, 2012 at 1:39:14 PM
... have found the dog within. Namaste!Great piece... by Meryl Ann Butler on Saturday, Aug 18, 2012 at 2:31:43 PM
Hi Mr. Hall. I liked your article because you choo... by Tony Orlando on Sunday, Aug 19, 2012 at 9:48:58 AM
Tony, your dog would love Maine.  It's a "dog... by Burl Hall on Monday, Aug 20, 2012 at 11:47:57 PM
What a lovely article!! I've never been a dog pers... by Tsara Shelton on Thursday, Aug 23, 2012 at 11:48:12 AM
Thanks Tsara.  Just curious, where do you liv... by Burl Hall on Friday, Aug 24, 2012 at 2:54:19 AM
Wow Burl! You'll frighten me off with your kind wo... by Tsara Shelton on Friday, Aug 24, 2012 at 10:51:08 AM