Friday, March 19, 2010

Dog training with Monks meant I'm not alone

It's best to start at the beginning. I came across the Monks of New Skete when I received a three-month-old German Shepherd for my birthday. I named her Indiana after my home state and Indiana Jones, an appropriate action hero even for a female dog. This was the biggest dog I'd ever owned. Not that Indy was huge. She was just big compared to my smaller dogs such as a minature dachshund.

I knew serious help should be sought. That's when I found the Monks of New Skete, a relatively obscure monastery in upper New York, thousands of miles from my home in California. There was an immediate affinity to the Monks since the name "Skete" is Greek for a small, family-style monastic community. Plus, in the fourth century A.D., Skete was a remote desert settlement southwest of Alexandria, Egypt. My point: I love Greece and Alexandria. It was a sign that the Monks were for me and Indiana when it came to dog training.

The dog training, not religion was key

I wasn't drawn to the Monks Orthodox religion. The draw was their philosophy in dog training: "Understanding is the key to communication, compassion and community" with your dog. I bought their book, How to be Your dog's Best Friend, originally published in 1978, long before the Dog Wishiperer Cesar Millan came on to the scene. I got my hands on a copy in the 1980s.

It wouldn't be the Monks' only book. What followed: The Monks of New Skete--The Art of Raising a Puppy in 1991, Divine Canine: The Monk's Way to a Happy Obedient Dog in 2007 (probably limited copies) and Dogs and Devotion in November 2009.

Dog-eared pages marked training favorites

The first book is still bears yellow highlighted key phrases. "Animals can make us more human--that is, more humane, patient, responsible and compassionate," Michael W. Fox wrote in the Foreword. He was then Director, Institute for the Study of Animal Problems, Division of the Humane Society of the United States.

The Monks write, "A Better insight into your dog may give you a glimpse of your own humanity..."

The Monks were my first line of defense, but not my last.

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