Continuum Teacher and canine enthusiast Amber Gray explores "species inclusivity," especially Emilie Conrad's love of dogs. She reminds us of what dogs have to teach us and how embracing the depths of dog intelligence, heart, generosity and love can feed your Continuum practice and enrich your life.
One of Emilie Conrad’s great loves was dogs. In one of her typical dramatic statements, boldly exclaimed in a hallway at the last teachers meeting she was present for, she announced to me: “I am thinking of leaving ALL my money to dogs. Not the humanoids”. Her eyes twinkled; she asked what I thought. I nodded affirmatively, and she said “Thank you. It’s going to the dogs.”
I don’t know the details of where Emilie’s assets went, but I do know that one of her final gifts was to a German Shepherd rescue. Years prior to this, when I asked who the great love of her life was, she looked at me and without hesitation said “Marcus”. Marcus was her German Shepherd, who frequently accompanied her to the studio when she taught, and who famously charged through a window three times when he saw someone walking towards it from outside.
One of my fondest memories of Emilie is of her rolling on the floor with my now transitioned long-haired mini dachshund, Cosmo. Cosmo, proclaimed a Bodhisattva by many, was a very special, gentle rescue dog, found wandering in remote New Mexico. A skinny, scrappy, bad-breathed creature, in his 9 years with us, he became a symbol of generosity and gift-giving. Any time he was in public, he would greet any human who his little paws could touch, and look into their eyes with a gaze that communicated love. Long time Continuum teacher Gael Rosewood once referred to his gaze as a healing resource for her. When he accompanied me to a weekend class in Authentic Movement and Continuum I taught at a local university, he sat quietly through a day of movement practice, watching with his soft gaze. When we gathered in a sharing circle, he strode into the middle, looked everyone in the eye for a moment and then began to roll around on the floor, undulating in the way only sausage dogs can do, and sounding in a combination of growls and Emilie’s blurs. After several minutes of this, he stood up, shook, made contact with everyone, and took his place in the circle.
Emilie often talked about dog intelligence, and being the pioneer she was -- light years ahead of the world -- she mused about the day that dogs would not be treated as cruelly as they often are, and would be recognized for their emotional intelligence and ability to protect their humans with the enormous love and loyalty that only a dogs heart carries.
Fast forward to 2018: It is now research-documented (Time Magazine Special Edition, The Animal Mind, 2017) that animals’ minds are capable of many of the things human minds can do. Not in the same way, and not to the same extent, but there is no longer any excuse to label animals as thoughtless, feeling-less, mindless, lesser-than creatures. Indeed, dogs are smart enough to be trained to help humans suffering with PTSD avoid flashbacks and terrifying dissociative episodes. Research mandated by Congress in 2010 will quite likely provide scientific evidence for what is already an established axiom among service members and veterans — service dogs are essential to the well-being for those who suffer from PTSD.
Dogs think of humans as friends, and it is in this spirit that fellow Continuum teacher Suzanne Wright Crain and I facilitate an annual Continuum retreat for dogs and their humans. Emilie often spoke of species inclusivity, and yet Continuum workshops, classes and retreats are not typically “pet friendly”. In an act of dog-centric inclusivity, we opened the field of this particular retreat, “Stars and Water”, to both species. For those who know Continuum, the practice of sounding to invite and invoke fluid movement is enriched by the layers of sound that emerge when dogs join in the chorus. In our last retreat, in Alpine, Texas, our circle included mats for all participants (2-legged and 4-legged), and in a spirit that was similar to Cosmo’s demonstration in my class, each dog assumed his or her place on one of the mats every time our circle gathered.
The Hebrew world for dog, kelev, translates as “all heart” or “many hearts”. Continuum is a modern practice based on ancient wisdoms that is in service of evolution. In this spirit, the collective of teachers who carry this work as part of the Continuum Teachers Association, all bring their unique innovations to the field of Continuum. Canine Continuum is our bow to Emilie’s love of dogs; to the wisdom of the primordial anatomy that we all carry; and her final generous gesture to support dogs in need, and humans’ understanding the depths of dogs intelligence, heart, generosity and love.
Author’s website: www.ambergray.com
For information about Amber and Suzanne’s next canine friendly Continuum depths retreat, “Stars and Water”, email us:
Amber, Gael and Suzanne can all be found at www.continuumteachers.com.