She hadn’t even been in the crowded pound a week, but she’d already developed a nickname, “Knucklehead.” As a puppy she destroyed property and precious clothes; as an adult she injured her owner, ruined romances… and changed the world-views of those around her.
Have you ever watched an animal and wondered how it thinks, how it sees the world, how it views you? And have you ever wondered what wisdom you might learn if you could see things as that animal does?
This unique book is many things: an amusing and moving memoir about a memorable dog, a poetic ode to a human-animal connection, and a serious philosophical, psychological, and spiritual inquiry into the lessons a man gleaned from the simple-minded brilliance of a teacher, a lover, a liver of life to the fullest… a Knucklehead.
There has never before been a book like "The Teachings of Shirelle." Take a walk with this pooch, and you might never look at life, love, or yourself the same again. @goodreads
This book just broke my heart. It's such a touching and funny story of a man and the dog he rescued as a pup right before she was doomed to be put down.
The story of their lives together is filled with fun, anger, love and many.. what the.. moments.
Shirelle was so funny and sweet and crazy all in one. She learns like they all do how to do things the right way and how to do what she wants. She was a great companion in therapy just by knowing what each patient needed from her. She was another brilliant soul and did nothing but give undying love to her person just like all wonderful doggers do.
This story is also sad, it just about killed me what she had to go through. It brought back sad, crying memories of what my own dog and son Dakota went through, but not as long and not as bad as Shirelle. Shirelle was a fighter until she couldn't fight any more.
I love how the author wrote out the different things he learned through Shirelle, to use in the real world.
God bless all of the wonderful dogs and any other animals in all of our lives that love us unconditionally. We are all given a privilege if we are allowed to love all of these wonderful animals.
*I would like to thank NETGALLEY and SMITH PUBLICITY for giving me the opportunity to read this ARC in exchange for my honest review.*
AMAZON LINK TO THE BOOK:
Q & A w/ Author Douglas Green
How did you first meet Shirelle and bring her into your life?
It really started a few months before we met. I was on a hike in the mountains a couple of hours outside of L.A., loving the contact with nature. At one point I leaned on a tree, and suddenly heard a voice inside me, “You need to move out of your apartment and get a house and a dog. Because today, nothing tracks dirt into your home.”
Hard to argue with that! So I found a small, rattling house I could afford to rent, and talked a friend into joining me in going to three pounds. I knew I wanted a very young puppy, preferably under two months old, so it wouldn’t have learned abuse from others. And I figured I’d get a male, since I’d always had males growing up.
None of the pounds had anyone that young. But I still walked through each, to see if any dogs caught my fancy. And one did; or rather, she caught something deeper.
I didn’t remember seeing her, but we were suddenly looking deeply into each other’s eyes. And I didn’t remember putting my hand into her cage, but she was chewing on my fingers.
They had cards on the overcrowded cages, giving the dogs’ information, but I couldn’t find hers. I asked one of the employees about her and he said, “Oh, that’s Kelly’s dog…” Then yelled, “Hey, Kelly! Somebody wants to buy Knucklehead!” Turns out Kelly, another worker there, had hidden the card because the puppy had been there past her “due date” to be removed and disposed of.
And while I did check out other pounds, and although, when I returned to this one, they had a new influx of exactly the sorts of puppies I’d wanted, it was Knucklehead who’d won my heart, and my home.
What was it about Shirelle that made you think, “I need to share our story with others!”?
Shirelle wasn’t the smartest dog I ever met; she never learned not to walk in front of moving cars, for example. But on other levels, she was the greatest teacher of timeless wisdom I ever met. After all, I already knew not to walk in front of moving cars.
I work as a psychotherapist, and found that the lessons she taught me – about living fully, about engaging your passion, about what life without shame looks like – carried as much resonance with my clients as with me. Both those who knew her, and those long after she was gone.
It’s these universal lessons I have tried to explain in the book. Along, of course, with the fun and heartbreak that come in a story such as hers.
What are the greatest lessons you learned from Shirelle?
Of course, that’s the whole book! But I think the most important, to me anyway, was the realization that shame is a huge part of the human condition, and is incredibly destructive, especially when it’s not seen. And that, while life without shame might not be possible for those of us with these big brains, we can work to reduce it, in ourselves and others, and thereby live happier, fuller, and more productive lives. And have a great deal more fun.
Every millisecond! (But that’s a cheat, I know)
What is your favorite memory of Shirelle?
Every millisecond! (But that’s a cheat, I know)
Okay, to pick one, I’d just had her a few weeks. She’d learned quickly how to use the newspapers, and we were getting along well, though she was a fierce biter and chewer. The one odd thing was that she hadn’t ever barked. As that can be a husky trait, I figured she might always be very quiet – pleasant to live with, but not so great as a watchdog, but that’s okay I liked her.
Then one day I walked in and saw her peeing on the rug beneath the dining table. I pointed at it, pushed her nose toward it, and sternly said “No.”
She started to lick the urine. “No.”
She turned to chew on me. “No.”
She went back to licking the urine, which I was now covering with a cleaning powder. “No!” Each time sterner and louder than the last.
She turned and started biting the table leg. “No!”
She bit my ankle again. “No!”
She started licking up the powder and urine again. “NO!”
She whipped her head up and glared into my eyes. Filled with frustration and fury, she opened her mouth. “Rrr-rrr-oh-AOU!”
It was her first bark, but you couldn’t quite call it a bark. More a growl that became a yelp.
And I melted. Picked her up and kissed her. Of course she was frustrated, fed up. Trying to please, but filled with anxious bite, what was she supposed to do? And this first word, this obscenity, was so heartfelt, so in-my-face, so adorable.
Over time, this moment led to many of the philosophies outlined in the book. But at the moment, all it was was the clear instant I fell in love with the little brat.
How did you begin incorporating Shirelle into your therapy practice and in what ways did you feel she helped patients the most?
I started Psychology school when I’d had her about eight years, and the idea of her joining me as a therapy dog arose pretty quickly. But all my internships ruled out dogs, until one allowed it. I asked my clients there if they’d be okay with her joining us, and they all agreed.
The book goes into a many stories about them, but overall, Shirelle brought a new, beautiful energy into the sessions. She was pretty old by this point, so none of the hyperactive puppy energy ruined anything; rather, she’d greet the clients with a sniff and a lick, and curl up in the corner to sleep. Even that would improve the overall feel of the time. But then there were the times she did more.
For example, at times therapy clients get emotionally stuck; they want to express something, but are unable to let it out. When this would happen, from across the room would come a long slow groan from the sleeping mutt, usually breaking the stuckness with self-aware laughter. Other times, when someone was mired in pain or sadness, she’d get up, walk across the room, and lay her head in their lap.
Now if I did that, I’d lose my license! But when she did, it just validated everything the person felt, and gave them a nurturing no one else in the world could.
Overall, I’ll just say she was the greatest therapist I ever met.
Tell me more about
When I first wrote The Teachings of Shirelle, I knew nothing about the publishing world, and so hit on everyone I knew who wrote, or worked in the business. And every one responded the exact same way, “Wow, Doug, this is such a commercial idea! It’s too bad no publisher will look at it.”
Their logic was that the publishing industry was so depressed (this was around 2009-10; it’s far worse now) that no one would gamble on an unknown writer. Their most common suggestion was that I should write a blog about what I’d learned from the dog; but I thought that was a terrible idea, as I’d just end up putting the whole book online, and never sell a copy. I became despondent, feeling I’d wasted a year writing it.
Over time, my optimism returned, and I came up with the idea that I could create a website based in the work I do with kids and teens and their parents, an advice site where families could come for suggestions, and thereby build myself a name as a therapist.
But then, as I was working to create it, the light bulb went off: I wouldn’t be the one answering the questions; SHE would!