some pet owners talk at a park

The first season of “Dog Nation” is over, although you can still catch it online via your cable provider or streaming on Hulu. Through the first season episodes, my son Andre and I visited seven cities, worked with seventeen organizations, and helped several dozen people with their dog issues.

During the process, Andre and I got to know each other a lot better and it also reinforced our understanding of what “Dog Nation” is really all about. For me, it’s never been just a TV show. It’s a mission.

The mission is to unite the human community over our common love for animals and to create positive change, and I think we’ve accomplished that so far. Whether it was crossing borders in San Diego to give second chances to abandoned dogs, or helping people find new balance and new lives with their dogs all across the country, the big thing that stood out for us the entire time was the power of the human-dog relationship to effect significant improvements in the lives of both.

Dogs have many lessons to teach us, while “Dog Nation” has many gifts to bring us. Here are just a few of them.

  1. Awareness
    Andre and I both learned a lot doing the show, particularly when it came to how dogs work with people and why they work so well — dogs don’t judge, they just relate to energy. They can also affect our energy with theirs, which means that a calm, happy-go-lucky dog can be the best therapy in the world no matter what the human issue is.

    This was also the first time that Andre was exposed directly to the harsh realities of dog meat markets in some parts of Asia, and our chance to let a wider audience know not only about what has been going on in a few small areas, but about the heroic people who have been risking their lives to put an end to the practice. But, in order to succeed at this, it’s important to be aware that you can’t convince someone that they’re “wrong” in such matters — but you can make them aware of a different way of being.

  2. Empathy
    Once we are aware, then we can begin to put ourselves in other people’s places. Again, because dogs are so tuned in to our energy, they are empathy experts. If you feel sad, so will they; if you feel excited, so will they.

    By making us aware and showing us empathy, dogs teach us how to see the real person and ignore the exterior. They teach us how to forget our human habit of dealing face-to-face and learning how to speak heart-to-heart.

  3. Community
    When you learn to empathize, you create something amazing: community. With awareness and empathy, we begin to understand and appreciate other people, and when we do that we begin to bring them into our own “tribe” or circle.

    Many psychological studies have shown that it’s easy to be cruel to a stranger — this is how things like cyberbullying are possible. But once you know someone and relate to them, you’re far more likely to treat them fairly. It’s easy to forget that something as simple as a smile and showing a little respect for a stranger can be a very powerful force for positive change. Dogs, of course, are also experts at greeting us with smiles and respect.

  4. Harmony
    Harmony means agreement or accord, and once you have empathy and community, it’s hard to avoid harmony. Another definition of harmony is the pleasant-sounding arrangement of musical notes, and a group of musicians playing together is a good metaphor for the kind of harmony that our communities can find once they have awareness and empathy.

    Although everyone is doing their individual thing, all of the parts fit together into a whole working toward one goal.

  5. Freedom
    The best part about achieving all the others parts of “Dog Nation” is the enormous freedom you’ll feel once you’ve achieved it: Freedom from anxiety, or what I like to call “living off-leash from your fears.” It’s a place of calmness and confidence, with no room for fearing the unknown or different, and the knowledge that the best way to improve yourself is to pull everyone else up with you, and vice versa.

“Dog Nation” was quite a journey, where Andre and I got to see firsthand that, despite the regional differences in the U.S., our love for dogs is universal. I hope that we’ll get to bring you more from “Dog Nation” in the future and that you will join us on this mission to spread these ideas until we’re all living on Dog Planet.

Stay calm, and take the first step toward awareness and away from fear!

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