Verdict: THE TEACHINGS OF SHIRELLE reveals how relationship between a man and his dog become something deeper: a form of therapy, and perhaps a path to higher understanding.
THE TEACHINGS OF SHIRELLE has a message that most dog owners would agree with: you can train your dog, but your dog will also be training you.
When Douglas Green decided to get a dog, it was because a voice told him to, and throughout this engaging canine biography, we see Green listening to voices, dreams and intuitions, which seems suitable for someone who has been both an award winning playwright and a psychotherapist concerned with helping troubled kids. The dog he came home with was Knucklehead, a large, ungainly female Husky pup who was heavily into chewing. Soon afterwards, the therapist needed a dog trainer to show him how to learn how to coexist with the newly christened Shirelle. By the time she was pretty well trained, which didn’t take long since she was a quick learner, he was more attuned to her needs, and he and she were friends. When he noted the impact she had on him, he began to wonder if dogs might have something to teach all of us.
Life with Shirelle wasn’t always easy; she shed a lot, she had dog enemies, and she could drive off jealous girlfriends. Yet she had the ability to comfort her master, even tolerating his trumpet practice. As she matured, Green watched her change. Once he realized how much he missed Shirelle each day when he went to the office, he opened a small side clinic so she could go to work with him. Her presence seemed to have a calming, almost charming effect on many of his patients. “…On a few occasions, when a client would sit in a cut-off pain, unable to explode in needed fury or tears, Shirelle would purposefully get up, walk across the room, and lay her head on their lap. The effect: overwhelming.”
Green writes about Shirelle with passion, pathos, and humor. He honors her with poetry, glossy color photos and a list of her “Great Teachings.” He has developed a treatment method incorporating his respect for canine qualities—playfulness, instinct, focus, being in the moment—and he hosts a website forum for young people called AskShirelle.com. Green has creatively styled his book as the story of two lives, as much his as hers, showing how at each stage of her development, she was influencing his inner growth. Green gives Shirelle her full due of dignity, so even her most doggy antics, under his observant gaze, make for his teachable moments.
THE TEACHINGS OF SHIRELLE reveals how relationship between a man and his dog become something deeper: a form of therapy, and perhaps a path to higher understanding.