Reilly playing in the riverReilly, the dog who was my muse for “Pack Leader Psychology,” celebrates her 10th birthday today. I have been so very, very fortunate to have this wise, old soul in my life.

However, I have some sad news to share. Reilly was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer a few weeks ago. Fortunately, she does not appear to be in pain and is doing fairly well. Anyone who has met her knows she is a force of nature and has tremendous strength of will. I’m hoping that will serve her now.

In honor of an authentic, emotionally balanced pack leader, I thought I’d share a bit from the introduction to “Pack Leader Psychology” about a few things Reilly taught me. (Of course, the entire book would not even be possible without her guidance.)

Dog climbing up a tree trunk, Harper watchingA growl instantly moved me from pack member to pack leader with my dog. Unfortunately, it was a bit more complicated for me to learn how to be a pack leader to the humans in my life. But without the lessons I learned from my dog, Reilly, I might never have transformed myself from a submissive, insecure, physically abused woman into the assertive “alpha” personality I am today.

How did I learn to claim my place in the human pack and stand up to those who wanted to dominate and control me? While I might have come to these insights on my own, it’s extremely unlikely. At the time that my second marriage was coming undone, I had the fabulous good fortune to adopt a smart, balanced dog by the name of Reilly. While it seems improbable, the spark for my life-changing insights was a German Shorthaired Pointer with a good Irish name.

My experiences living with and training Reilly taught me not just about dog behavior, but also about human behavior in ways that no self-help or psychology book ever had. What I would learn from her and because of her would rip blinders off my eyes that had blocked awareness of my behavior for more than 40 years. Reilly provided the code that unlocked my insight into why I had two failed marriages to alcoholic men, one an abuser; a meandering and unfulfilling career path; and distant relationships with family and friends.

Quite simply, Reilly’s lessons taught me how to assert myself and become a stronger person. Then I discovered that in the same way I had become a pack leader to my dog, I needed to become a pack leader with people. Once I learned that lesson, I also realized Reilly’s lessons gave me the keys to understanding the behavior of other people as well.

 Please keep Reilly in your hearts. I am so happy to have known her for more than 9 years. My life would not have been the same without her in it.

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