I encourage all you dog-lovers to check out Jon Katz’s (the bestselling author of The Dogs of Bedlam Farm), revolutionary new eBook “Listening to Dogs.” It’s a ground-breaking “dog training” book in that it’s not a training book; but rather an empowerment book. All of us truly have the wisdom and knowledge within us to train our our wise, knowing dogs. And we can do this without brutality, frustration, or needless expenses. As Jon says, why pay for a dog training guru when you can be your own for free? This will be the best $2.99 you ever spent!
Back in 2003, I worked as a decorative painter at the Great Stupa of Dharmakaya at Shambhala Mountain Center–a Tibetan Buddhist retreat center near Boulder, Colorado. This was before the time of Facebook or blogs–and even digital cameras seemed to be a novelty. Thus, I was never able to really record the kind of work that I did there. Plus, I was in rather a haze, from having recently left my marriage and having dove into Buddhist practice and meditation full-time. So I just did my work, painting tiny decorative molds of auspicious Buddhist symbols and images. Painting those molds felt very rewarding–plain and simple and pure. Which was just what I needed at the time. We were always in the moment, because at that center we were taught to see every action as a practice. Thus, we never felt the need to record our actions anyway.
I haven’t seen the Great Stupa since 2003, nor did I ever get to see my “artwork” installed on the columns and walls, but recently I decided to troll for some images on the web. Thus–to my delight–I found this picture of Sakyong Rinpoche and the Dalai Lama standing near one of the columns.
Joshua Mulder, the master sculptor and art director at the Stupa, used to tell me that working on the Stupa would accumulate great merit and help purify my karma for many lifetimes, and I often forget that fact. It’s so easy to get caught up in the obstacles of daily life and forget how one is truly blessed.
So I am so tickled to see these images. Even though I played only a small part in this magnificent endeavor, I feel thrilled and honored.
A close-up shot of some of the molds, can be found at http://farm5.staticflickr.com/4083/5037182955_ecd5abd6db_z.jpg
I am once again trying to heed my agents’ advice to post more regularly. Thus I have just uploaded another one of my “Chloe Chronicles” columns. This one is about trying to adopt a second rescue dog and getting…..rejected!
This Monday I’ll be leading another kirtan in Woodstock, NY, recently hit fairly heavily by the hurricane. Many of us are still without power, but it’s nothing compared to what happened to our brothers and sisters in New York and New Jersey.
So we’re devoting this kirtan to them, to Mother Earth, to the water, to the climate, and to democracy. Go Obama!
It’s an exciting time to be an earthling, so let’s join together and sing!
I had a great time this weekend serving as a judge at the annual Tompkins Square Halloween Parade, and this year I was promoted to Chief Justice (along with Carol Vincente). This means I got to choose all the ultimate winners. It was a blast. This was the eighth year I have served as judge, and the costumes never cease to amaze me.
Each year our operation seems to get more organized as well–it is hard to manage hundreds of dogs in costume, and the thousands of spectators who surround the dog run in Tompkins Square Park, but event coordinator Garrett Rosso does an amazing job. He also shows up each year dressed as a giant poodle. Very impressive–especially given this year’s high temperatures (seventy degrees! Yahoo!)
Our former MC–beloved drag queen Louis, sadly moved to California. S/he was replaced by another drag queen named Roxy. Roxy happens to be Miss USA in the drag world, and she had the most amazing female body I’ve ever seen. She looked like Jessica Rabbit in a way–with impossible yet somehow realistic looking curves. And….Roxy told me she liked my hair. Nothing like a compliment from a drag queen.
But this day was not about my hair….it was about the dogs. I am amazed at the limitless creativity of New Yorkers, and the passion we New Yorkers feel about dog rescue and dog adoption. Most of our contestants were rescues. A few were handicapped, too, and their costumes were created around these handicaps. Very heartwarming.
Another new detail I noticed at this year’s event was how little applause there was coming from the spectators at the beginning of the show. I kept standing up and basically demanding that everyone clap. (yes, I can be obnoxious, especially when dressed in Judge’s robes). That’s when I realized that people weren’t applauding because they were all carrying iPhones and cameras. These devices make it difficult to clap. I was saddened to realize that applause may be a thing of the past. But on the flip side, we now have access to thousands of amazing dog photos on the web.
Note: This interview ( from Bark magazine’s Dogs of Rock series) and was published in January 2009. I’m re-posting it now, in October 2012, with an additional intro.
An Interview with Rachel Fuller–Pack Leader of Seven Dogs and One Rock God
by Lee Harrington
In case you haven’t noticed, there’s a certain dog-loving member of the Who getting a lot of media attention this month. That would be Mr. Pete Townshend–the multi-talented composer, guitarist, songwriter, and composer for one of the greatest rock bands of all time. Pete is also the author of the much-anticipated memoir “Who I Am” which was just released by Harper Collins (October 2012) and is currently power-chording its way up the bestsellers lists. (You should read this book: Pete’s prose is quite lovely, and his story is insightful and honest. We think it’s one of the rock-oirs ever written. And he mentions his beloved dogs. In fact, one reviewer noted that Pete devoted more word count to his dogs than he does to his fellow band-mates.)
Anyway, as much as we love Pete, we think it’s important to bring attention to his partner, the lovely, talented and dog-loving Rachel Fuller. Ms. Fuller–a British musician–is an exceptional songwriter, famous for her impeccable vocals, her witty lyrics and her ambitious musical projects. She has a rich biography–too colorful, varied and kooky to describe here–but in brief: Fuller has released quite a few albums, including the critically-acclaimed Cigarettes and Housework (2004), Week in Kew (2008), Shine, and a compilation of songs based on the films of Pedro Amaldovar (2010). Her song ‘Wonderland’ appeared on the soundtrack of the American movie “Shall We Dance?” in 2004, and this song broadened her audience significantly here in the US. Fuller also writes musicals: her show “Ash” debuted in the UK in 2008). She was the host of the popular online musical series “In the Attic,” and has collaborated on several projects with that rock-star partner of hers. Currently Rachel is working on an orchestration of the Who’s masterpiece Quadrophenia.
And if that weren’t enough to keep a woman busy, Rachel Fuller is also the headmistress of seven dogs, ranging in weight from twelve to one-hundred and twenty pounds. That’s a lot of dog. Most of these happy canines reside at Rachel and Pete’s main residence in Richmond, while others are lucky enough to get to travel with Rachel to her house in Southern France.
I spoke with Rachel back in 2009 when she had “only” six dogs. We had a lovely chat about life with dogs.
LH: How did you come to have so many dogs?
RF: When I was twenty-six, I lost my mother very suddenly, and decided it was time for me to care for and have the love of a dog! I was in a relationship with my beloved (Pete) but I was living alone (in London), and I guess I was grieving, and although I had never owned a dog, I understood from friends that they were great companions! So maybe I just wanted some company? Along came Spud, my first golden retriever. Spud helped me through my grief, he is a very kind dog, gentle and sweet. LH: Did Spud help you through your grief in a way that the humans in your life could not? RF: I think we grieve differently when we are alone, and the unconditional love and understanding of a dog is perfect I think.] Around the same time, Pete rescued a Border Collie—Flash—and he and Spud became great friends. Flash was rescued at about five months of age. He had been mistreated by a male, and is still very wary of strange men at first, but once he knows they are no threat, is fine. He was on “death row” at a dog rescue.
LH: Was Pete a Border Collie fanatic before getting Flash? Did Pete know what he was getting into, in other words, with such an active and intelligent breed?
RF: Ha-ha, no, Pete had always had dogs, even as a child, but they were all spaniels. He had no idea what he was getting into, but Flash fits in very well. We live near a park and he gets lots of exercise. Flash has always been a typical Border Collie – ready to herd sheep twenty-four hours a day. He is indefatigable. As I said, Flash and Spud became great friends. Pete and I were still not living together at that point, so two years later I decided Spud should have a canine buddy. Plus I have a bottomless ocean of love to give. Thus, I got Harry. Harry is a scream. Very feisty and fun. He has always smiled for a camera (I kid you not, see photos).
Two years later, along came Barney the Bichon. He came with a circus trick, standing on his back legs and waving his front paws in the air in a rhythmic circular motion. He seems to do this whenever he feels any kind of powerful emotion. Joy, hunger, love, need. We adore him. Barney is absolutely devoted to Harry. We call him Harry’s Lieutenant – Barns Minor. So when Pete and I finally moved in together, I had my three dogs—Spud, Harry and Barney—and he had Flash.
LH: So that’s four. Never too much of a good thing.
RF: Right. Then, two years later, for Pete’s Birthday, along came Wistle, the miniature Yorkshire Terrier. Pete had always spoken about his love for Yorkies. John Entwistle’s mother had a Yorkshire Terrier called Scruffy and as a teenager Pete spent a lot of time at John’s house. Wistle got her name in remembrance of John. (Editor’s note: John Entwistle was Pete’s close friend and legendary bass player for The Who)
LH: And number six?
RF: We were complete and happy with our five dogs. But I started to worry that Wistle needed a “little” buddy. (We had divided our dogs into teams of the Big Guys and the Littles). So, on to the naughtiest of our bunch, Cracker – the miniature poodle. (Who, as I type this, is chewing the leg on my chair.) Cracker is without question the smartest of the bunch, but with his intellect comes an inordinate amount of mischief. He is into everything. But he and Wistle are inseparable. That’s it! Six! We must be crazy! If I had to sum them up in one word I would say: Flash – speed freak
Spud – kind
Harry – fun
Barney – eccentric
Wistle – princess
Cracker – naughty.
LH: I understand that Pete has an at-home recording studio, and that you like to compose at home as well. How does that work—two musicians and six exuberant barking dogs?
RF: When it was just Spud and I, he was always happiest asleep under my grand piano, whether I was playing or composing. Now, I either write alone, or Spud and Wistle sleep whilst I write at my piano. I’m happy to have all of them around me when I am working on lyrics. When I compose at my studio in Kew village, I often take Wistle.
LH: In fact, legend has it that when you were writing and recording your record “Week in Kew,” you sequestered yourself in your studio for a full week and wrote one song per day, writing song lyrics on the walls. You limited all human contact, but you brought Wistle. He must be very quiet?
RF: When Pete and I record at home we have to put [the dogs] in their room as any noise they make ends up on the track. I have a few masters with a faint bark on them though.
LH: As a classically-trained pianist, you have a good ear. Are there certain sounds your dogs respond to?
RF: The sound they respond most to is the garden gate when it opens. They generally go psycho as they think they’re going down the garden. Pete and I don’t help matters by shouting: “Release the hounds!”
LH: As a musician, and as a part-time resident of France, you must travel a lot. You have also toured with The Who and hosted a popular and innovative webcast series called “In The Attic” which also involved lots of travel. Do any of the dogs travel with you?
RF: The three littles all have dog passports. I think it would be too hot in the South of France for the big guys. We have a fabulous guy called Perry who works for us as a dog walker and caretaker. We live by the river and practically adjacent to Richmond Park, so twice a day, they go for a good 90 minute walk. If we go on tour, Perry moves into our house and lives with the dogs – so their routine and environment stays the same. Pete walks the pack often on a Sunday – which he absolutely loves to do. I often will pick one or two, and Wistle comes everywhere.
Editor’s note: Rachel now has a seventh dog, another Yorkie named Skrapovsky. Skrappy has been residing in splendor in Southern France since 2011.
LH: You are a famous for being a great beauty and a very sharp and stylish dresser. How do you manage this amongst the drool and dog-hair?
RF: I’m pretty much always covered in dog hair. The littles don’t shed, but Flash, Spud and Harry are terrible! I don’t even notice it anymore. If I’m going somewhere special, I put my outfit on at the last minute before we leave and check for hair. Someone should invent a dog Hoover. Hoover the dogs every morning instead of the house?
My friend Lucie and I like to work out what kind of outfits the dogs would wear. We think this. Flash – black polo neck sweater with black drainpipe trousers
Spud – beige corduroy trousers with a crimson sweater
Harry – a tweed hunting jacket with a red velvet waistcoat
Barney – very short cut off denim daisy dukes, cowboy boots (tan, square toed, which he would wear without needing a reason),and big 70’ earphones with an aerial, he also would like to roller skate
Wistle – just a pink tutu
Cracker – like a teen skateboarder with low rise baggy jeans.
LH: Do you have a particularly dog-friendly decor in your houses?
RF: The dogs have their very own room. It has beds, heating and air-conditioning. The room we spend most time in together has a stone slab floor and leather sofas, which is about as dog friendly as you can get. Sometimes we think we should just put straw on the floor. It gets dirty, especially in the winter. You can’t be precious about décor with so many dogs. There are some rooms in the house that the dogs don’t go into, but the room we all share is super dog friendly.
LH: You are also famous for being a committed supporter for animal charities.
RF: Our main support is for a small independent Border Collie rescue centre here in the UK called Wiccaweys. The couple who run it, Sarah and Paul, are utterly dedicated to rescuing the worst cases and work very hard at re-homing them. They are amazing – and the volunteers are also inspiring. I fund-raise as much as I can [including a well-publicized auction of an impressive collection of Pete’s guitars and personal items] and have had the pleasure of judging collie shows. I want to help the dogs. I’m so appalled by animal cruelty. I didn’t want to bury my head in the sand and just throw some money at a big charity. I want to be involved in the reality. Sarah and Paul really keep me up to date with all the new arrivals, and re-homings. They also have an amazing web-site www.wiccaweys.com.
LH: I checked out their website after you recommended them. Wiccawey’s adoption guidelines are superb—those guidelines could serve as a model guideline for any rescue group specializing in Border Collies and working sheepdogs.
Those of us with exuberant dogs (herding dogs, hunting dogs, tracking dogs … well, just about any dog, really) truly appreciate their exuberance. We even appreciate their excessive need for entertainment and exercise; it helps get us up and moving, after all. But admit it, my fellow exuberant-dog caretakers: don’t you sometimes just want to sit down and relax? Especially during the lazy days of summer?
Before we get to the answer, I must preface this with a description of life with my first dog, Wallace (the subject of Bark’s “Rex and the City” columns). He was a Spaniel/ Setter mix, as hyper as they come, so I never got to sit down and relax in any season. To get him even remotely tired, he needed to be taken outside — where he could gallop, chase squirrels, swim after ducks, leap fences — for at least four hours a day (12 was even better). Accomplishing this was quite a challenge, given that my then-husband, Ed, and I lived in a 300-square-foot apartment New York City. But, because our lives revolved around our beloved dog’s needs, we took Wallace hiking as often as we could. I am grateful for this. Wallace’s exuberance led us to discover some truly amazing parks, hiking trails and beaches within driving distance of NYC. There was the beach at Jacob Riis Park in Rockaway, Palisades Park in New Jersey, and the “remote” Fort Tryon Park at the tip of Manhattan (90 blocks is “remote” to a New Yorker).
My favorite hiking trail became Breakneck Ridge in Cold Spring: an easy and scenic onehour drive up the eastern side of the Hudson River. It’s not an easy trail, and some of the climbs to the ridge are rocky and — to me — a bit treacherous, but the views made it so worth the effort. You could see for miles: the Catskill Mountains … the bluffs at Bear Ridge … and the great and majestic Hudson River, which threaded its way mightily all the way down to New York City. The water, from our vantage point, looked pure and silver. I loved to watch sunlight dance across the river’s surface, as if in celebration. From the ridge, the world seemed beautiful and vibrant and manageable. We would hike down feeling renewed and ready to take on life in the city again (which could be challenging, to say the least).
After our hike, Wallace, dear Wallace, would be tired, so tired that he could barely keep his eyes open as he sat upright in the back seat of the car, resting his head against the window trying to take in the last bit of scenery as we drove south. A tired dog is a wonderful sight.
It was also wonderful to see him run for three hours straight on those trails. As soon as we unhooked his leash, he would gallop off, chasing squirrels, following scent trails and basically just seizing the day. We could hear him barking wildly in the distance — a bray of chase and joy — and when he returned, panting, he’d be covered in burrs and leaves, his eyes so bright we thought he had had a glimpse of the Great Beyond.
Yes, I will always be grateful for my exuberant dog. He brought us nature and hiking and Breakneck Ridge. In the non-hiking hours, however, I must admit that he could be rather a pest. Whenever I sat down to write, he would nudge me and poke me with his snout, running back and forth from my desk to the apartment door. Whenever Ed was stretched out on the sofa watching TV, Wallace would nudge him, too, wedging his head underneath Ed’s hand — the hand that held the remote. If I tried to meditate, he’d crawl on my lap and splay out for a belly scratch. If I tried to do yoga on the living room floor, he’d come and lick my face and then lie underneath me on the mat as I moved into downward-facing dog.
After Wallace died, I adopted another Spaniel mix, Chloe. I was divorced by then, and some of my friends and family questioned my decision to adopt yet another exuberant hunting dog. Especially given that I was living alone in New York City. But we often fall in love with certain breed types, and even certain mixes.
Those of you who are familiar with this column know I adopted Chloe sight unseen, and that I adopted her because I fell in love with her picture on Petfinder.com, and because she was listed as a Spaniel/Setter mix, just like Wallace. I was prepared for a dog who would want and need to gallop four hours a day. When I met Chloe, I began to suspect that she was also part Border Collie and/or part Lab as well. Did this mean she would need 12 hours per day — four for each breed characteristic?
For a few weeks, I was a bit terrified: a Border Collie in New York City? I kind of prayed that she was mostly Spaniel. Her markings (white with patches of brown) could be either Border Collie or Spaniel. She has those intense Border Collie eyes, however — those “I will stare at you until you do what I say” eyes. Would I ever be able to sit down and relax again?
I also have to admit that, by the time I adopted Chloe, I had become lazier about exercise in general and hiking in particular. Truth be told, it was my former husband who was the hard-core outdoorsman. Once we split, there were no more arduous six-hour treks up steep, rocky ridges for me. But I was willing to resume that old habit to keep my new dog and myself in tip-top shape.
Fortunately, by then, I also lived part-time in Woodstock, which is situated just at the edge of the Catskill Mountains. There are plenty of parks and trails through which an exuberant dog can gallop and play. My favorite trail is right in the heart of the village. I like it because it is easy and flat and relatively short — it takes about 45 minutes to walk the loop. I especially like it because of its simple beauty: the trail threads through meadows and forests and then meanders along the banks of a robust stream — one that, in spring and summer, teems with waterfowl and frogs and fish.
Wallace would have gone into a birddog frenzy at the sight of the fowl, and I figured Chloe’s Inner Spaniel would be activated as well. But the first time we hiked that trail, Chloe ran straight past the waterfowl and plunged into the water.
It turns out my bird dog is a water dog, more interested in what lies beneath the water than what paddles along on its surface.
I’d never seen anything like it. She ran into the water, tail held high, and immediately began trolling for fish. She gazed intently in the shallows (with those Border Collie eyes) until she detected even the slightest movement beneath the water. Once she spotted one of those tiny minnows, she pounced.
I stood and watched her race up and down the shore for a few minutes, splashing happily through the shallows. Part of me was eager to keep walking, to maintain our fat-burning, aerobic pace. I figured Chloe would tire of fish-trolling once she figured out that fish were not easily caught. But I quickly realized that the fun, for her, was in the pursuit. She continued to track, flush and chase these fleeting creatures for the next hour. Sometimes she swam into deeper water to flush out trout; other times, she stuck her snout into the water to try to catch one with her teeth. Her tail wagged non-stop the entire time.
After a while, I sat on a large, flat rock and watched, enjoying her enjoyment. I personally did not get much exercise that day, but Chloe did. And once we dog lovers discover something our dogs love, we tend to go out of our way to provide more of it for them.
Thus it was that I discovered that the Catskills have all sorts of hidden streams, creeks, ponds and swimming holes. Chloe loved every one of them, for each contained different types of fish, which swam at different speeds. She quickly developed new skills to adjust to each variety.
As for me, I had to adjust to the fact that I wouldn’t get much exercise with a water dog unless I swam or fished myself. Which I didn’t, (a) because mountain-stream water is way too cold, and (b) because I don’t kill fish or any living creature. (I also had to adjust to the fact that a constantly wet dog means a constantly wet and mud-splattered car, and an extra hour each day spent wiping down the wet dog and washing the dirty towels, but let’s stay on topic.)
Then I remembered something my friend Melissa often says: “We get the dogs we need.”
Since my divorce, I had become pretty serious about my spiritual practice, sometimes doing up to four hours a day of yoga, mediation, chanting, chi gung and so forth. Though this can be time-consuming, I find that doing these practices ends up creating more time — quality time — and I can get more done in the day. But still, I am human, and we humans do love to multitask. New Yorkers seem particularly creative with their multitasking, especially when it comes to their dogs, so you’ll often see city dogs “doing errands” with their guardians: walking four blocks to the dry cleaners, helping to carry home groceries with their little doggie backpacks, scoring cubes of cheese at the Friday-night wine tastings, among other things (in NYC, wine tasting at the local wine shop is an “errand”).
I quickly realized that having a water dog was perfect for my new lifestyle. Each day, we drive to our favorite park and walk 20 minutes along a forest trail until we reach our favorite stream. There, Chloe trolls for fish while I do, first, my standing practice (chi gung, yoga) and then my sitting practices (meditation, mantra). I love these mornings especially in summer. I love the bubbly sound of the water (the stream always seems to be singing). I love the sound of Chloe splashing; the sight of the sunlight dappling through the trees; and the smell of so many elements: water and wood and stone and air. At that stream, it smells like Mother Earth herself. It smells like home.
Sometimes I find myself missing those hard-core hikes at Breakneck Ridge, and seeing those grand vistas with all their promises of greatness and grandeur. Sometimes I miss standing atop a mountain, above the teeming masses, so close to the sky and clouds. But at this stage in my life, I really value the stillness of sitting quietly by a stream. I am grateful for the opportunity to touch the earth, and rest, and go within.
Yes, we get the dog we need. When I was married, we needed a dog who would get us out of the cramped apartment and into nature — my husband and I would have killed each other otherwise. When I got divorced, I needed to slow down, look inside and center myself again.
And how cool is it that I get to do this and tire out an exuberant hunting/herding/fishing dog at the same time? It’s a perfect arrangement. We are both refreshed and content. Each day, Chloe has an opportunity to cultivate her Inner Water Dog and I get to cultivate my inner self.
After 90 minutes or so, it is time for us to go home. Chloe is often reluctant to get out of the water — she’ll look at me with a confused, almost betrayed, expression. But eventually, she’ll conclude that I am indeed serious about leaving the park, especially when I turn and walk away. Then she’ll bound out of the water happily — on to the next great adventure: sleep.
Clearly I need an assistant to help manage, maintain and update this site, because I don’t seen to have time to do any of the above.
So seriously, if you know of anyone interested in being an author’s assistant, let me know.
In the past few months I have:
- led some kirtans
- wrote some original songs
- recorded some music (original and covers; rock and sacred chant)
- taught memoir writing at the Cape Cod Writer’s Conference
- continued to revise the eternal (infernal?) novel
- continued to write columns for Bark magazine
- read some darn good books, and some shitty ones (Fifty Shades of Shit, to be specific)
- met some amazing folk
- and made many, many trips to NYC.
No wonder I feel so tired! But all is well….I am honored to have the time and inclination to play around with my art, and to meditate daily, and take long walks in the wilderness, and do what I can for Mother Earth and all her misguided human inhabitants.
But, dang, I could use an assistant. Please send one my way.
I’m honored to be leading kirtan this coming Saturday, April 21st, at the Bhakti Center in New York City as part of their popular 6-hour kirtan festival. The line up is amazing! Special guests include Radhanath Swami, Gaura Vani Aks, the Kirtaniyas, Keshavacarya, Acyuta Gopi, Ananta Cuffee, Gopal Trivedi and….me. I’ll be playing with two beautiful women: Mia Theodoratas on harp and Renee Finkelstein on harmonium and back up vocals. Radhe!
The Bhakti Center
25 First Avenue
(between 1st and 2nd Street)
New York, NY 10003
When: Saturday, April 21st Time: 4pm – 10 pm Info: Light meals provided. All ages welcome.
Admission is free, but donations are appreciated to cover the costs of staging the kirtan.
For more about Mantralogy and their previous 6-hour kirtans and upcoming gigs, please visit: www.gauravani.com.