The Case of a Dismissed Dog Lover

NOTE: (Client permission was received to discuss case details. However, names and places have been changed and a degree of dramatic exaggeration added to protect client identity).

Life coaching falls within the category of caring professional counseling services. A life coach focuses specifically on people, their purpose, and their mission. A good life coach intentionally provides a safe space and supporting activities in which a person’s strengths and potential are acknowledged, appreciated, and challenged toward greater self-awareness. A high-quality or well-seasoned coach handles a wide range of life’s challenges with humor, wisdom, much care, and insight.

In the process of developing my professional life coaching practice, I’ve learned that the range of life’s challenges can never be fully anicipated in any textbook or course handouts. Perhaps more importantly, I discovered that new methods and unique approaches must be carefully tested when interacting with clients concerns and their life’s situations. Selected coaching techniques must be thoughtfully employed when assisting a client in making sense of paradoxical situations. Recently, one such case, which tested my life coaching ability, involved the adoption of a rescue dog.

“ I don’t know what to do,” said Marscilla. Her aging eyes filled with painful, personal despair. “Dogs are suppose to be our best friends, right?”

My client knew her facts. According to some canine proponents such as the SPCA and small animal adoption centers, dogs provide important life services for the blind, police, children, old people, farmers, even, hunters. Moreover, dogs of various breeds, sizes, ages, and abilities have been known to display amazing premonitory abilities. Newspaper accounts abound describing how these animals sense coming danger, defy deathly circumstances, and save their human masters from harm. So, it didn’t surprise me when I felt a strong emotion of empathy rise quickly as I continued to listen to Marscilla‘s story.

“Bones is the dog for me, I just know it.” Her lips pursed with deep resolved belief.

Earlier during the conversation, I learned that Marscilla had just lost her devoted Jethro—an oversized 13-year-old pacifist Irish Wolf Hound. His passing was a topic she seldom talked about or let her emotions show. She had begun the process of dog adoption and visiting nearby rescue centers. It was at one of these centers that she found “Bones.” The sadness in her voice however remained–I knew how she felt. Two years prior, I had lost my beloved Australian Shepherd companion.

“And, I can’t believe that I was rejected!” She blurted angrily. I wondered if her change in pitch and volume weren’t a telling sign of misplaced priorities? Then she continued, “Do you think anyone would suspect me if Bones, ummm…turned up missing?”

Rejection as a potential dog-adopter can certainly challenge one’s core life values. From a communication perspective, the change in my client’s voice implied that a variety of heated negative emotions may have attached themselves to her desire for a new canine family member. The adoption center’s refusal of her application appeared to have resulted in a critical intrapersonal downward spiral. The inevitable had to be faced—how do I challenge Marscilla to a greater sense of self-awareness and a return to her traditional cherished values and good citizenry?

I decided to employ my new coaching technique using a direct interrogative approach, “Marscilla, may I ask you a question?”

Then thoughtfully, steadily, sometimes painfully, the next 45-minutes were spent re-discovering Marscilla’s values that had led her successfully through previous emotional trials and storms. She ended our coaching session acknowledging that dog nabbing was not a viable solution for her situation, and, perhaps more importantly, revenge was better left to–an independent and more objective–higher source. Marscilla also chose to write (but not send) several drafts of a letter to the rescue center expressing her concern, grief, and outrage. She thought the writings would help release her negative pent up emotions. She also hoped that sharing her story would make it easier for others who had experienced a similar plight.

CLOSING NOTE: Although Marscilla decided not to proceed with legally challenging the rescue center’s decision to reject her adoption application, she did locate and received approval to adopt a large hunting dog, Perseus, who last week ate the right shoe of her husband’s new $200 pair of cowboy boots–a follow up life coaching session is anticipated.

Living life in 2011,

Mary Buck, PhD
Executive Program Director, Wholeheartedly
A family literacy outreach program using storytelling, art, and life coaching
–where stories change the heart for life–


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