Dear Zelda Wisdom Fear Factor bulldog humor advice therapy dog advice column

Zeal (4/5/06)

Dear Zelda,

I work for a really boring company doing really boring work.  I hate getting out of bed in the morning and nothing excites me.  Do you have any suggestions to kick-start me into action?  I feel like a slug going no where.
Stuck in a Rut

Dear Stuck in a Rut,

I know this sounds simple, but the fact is that what we do for our work matters, and it takes up a huge amount of our lives... so it's worth finding something that excites you, that matters to you, or that gets you out of bed in the morning. It doesn't actually matter what that thing is. It could be writing children's books, selling real estate, doing brain surgery, or making the best burger in town. It just matters that you care about it, that you're satisfied by it (at least sometimes), or that you wake up ready to go do it in the morning. If there is one thing we dogs know, it's that nothing is very exciting until you start chasing it. But once you start chasing it, just about anything can be exciting.

"So what?," you say. Everyone always SAYS they'd like to do something that matters, but the fact is we've all got bills to pay, groceries to buy, and dogs to feed (priority number one!). How true. In fact, there IS a lot of practical stuff that needs taking care of in life, and I'm not suggesting you quit tomorrow and invest your entire nest egg into self-producing your debut smooth jazz album. But there are practical jobs out there that can satisfy you, and there are probably even ways to get more satisfaction out of your current job. The trick is convincing yourself that the only one who's going to change your life is you.

Start by thinking of the things in your life, and especially in your professional life, that bring you some satisfaction. Hate your desk job, but like the parts where you get to deal with people? Or hate the paperwork, but love planning and preparation for your company meetings? My advice is to take a long hard look back at your prior professional experiences, and try to learn about both your capabilities and your passions from things where you have excelled in the past. Use this knowledge to try and steer a course for your career in the future, and angle toward something that's a better fit. Still drawing a blank? Then maybe it's time to start thinking about a career change.

I can't tell you what to do with your life, but I can tell you that you're the one who has to make it happen, and until you realize it, you'd better get mighty comfy in that rut. You'd be in good company; many people get permanently stuck in ruts because they're absolutely positive that some amazing change is going to come knocking on their door. It can take years for them to figure out that it rarely happens.

Create your own excitement, and remember, without risk there are no rewards, and without rewards...there are only more ruts.


Dear Zelda,

My friends refer to me as "the mouse." I admit that I'm not the super outgoing type, but I do enjoy being around people. I know I have it in me, but whenever my girlfriends and I get together I can be a little timid. I find that I get jealous of my friends because they can talk up a storm, laughing and talking, and I just end up sitting and listening, and usually leaving early.

Can I go from jealous to zealous? HELP!

T. Imid

Dear T. Imid,

I know how you feel! Sometimes I have to go meet whole crowds of folks, and even though I love being around people, it can be intimidating, and it's sure easy to freeze up! (Fortunately, they usually don't expect me to say much.) One of the most important things I've learned in all my years of being out in the public eye is that these skills CAN be learned, and you CAN get better at this stuff with practice.

In my opinion, one of the best ways to engage others in conversation is to ask questions. Not just any questions, but questions that pertain to, or are about something involving the person to whom you are speaking. Being genuinely interested in people is a quality that will never go unnoticed, and giving those same people your full attention will help you establish a common bond. Trust me...none of us are at a loss for words when someone is asking questions that allow us to show off and talk about ourselves.

My other piece of advice may sound a bit artificial, but it helps. Before you go out for a night with the girls, come up with a list of specific things to talk about during the evening. I know, it's not the spontaneous free-for-all you'd hoped for, but it does give you a few tricks up your sleeve, so you don't feel as much pressure to come up with something to say. Think of it as a pair of social training wheels. Whether it's world politics, a dumb joke, or gossip about the cute new guy changing the water cooler, come up with a list of five or ten things you'd like to talk about with the girls, and then make it a rule that you have to bring up at least one topic in conversation each time you go out. Little by little, you'll start to get more comfortable introducing topics to the group, and pretty soon  "the mouse" will be known as "the mouth."

You Go Girl!


Dear Zelda,

I'm seventy-six years old and I'd like to adopt a rescue dog but I'm afraid I'm too old and that I don't have the energy or won't live long enough.  I live alone and I think a dog would be a wonderful thing to keep me company. I know I would give a dog a lot of love, but I just don't want to worry about not being able to give a dog the attention it deserves. Should I go ahead and take the risk to adopt a dog or maybe just volunteer at the Humane Society?

Old Geezer Dog Pleaser

Dear Old Geezer Dog Pleaser,

You old're hardly a geezer, and we pooches are lucky to have a guy like you around, you champion dog pleaser!

Writing in to seek advice on this matter was a wonderful first step, and you've brought up some great points concerning pet adoption that are definitely worth exploring. So many times people will jump into adopting a pet without having gone through the proper steps to research everything that's involved in responsible pet ownership. When reality hits and the pressure becomes too great...a once-loved pet can become an unwanted adoptee.  

I really love your idea of becoming a volunteer before making your decision. It allows you to not only familiarize yourself with the current pets available, but you also get a sense of some of the responsibility that goes along with owning your own pet. It's a great way to make new friends (some fuzzy...some not) and gain knowledge regarding training, feeding, and exercising of the pets you may be considering. Trained professionals will walk you through all aspects of pet care and maintenance for FREE, and who knows, maybe a new career, a new friend, or dare I say... some romance (with the non fuzzy kind) might result from your interest in caring for canines.

But to answer your question, if you decide you'd love a canine companion, are you too old to care for a pet? The answer: absolutely not! People live longer, healthier lives today than ever before, and  if you feel up to the task, and think you know what's involved in responsible pet ownership, I say do it! Just make sure you choose a dog whose needs are in line with your situation and your abilities, and make sure you plan responsibly for the future of your dog, just like you would anyone else you care about.

Whatever you choose, the most valuable resource we have is time, and donating even the smallest portion of it to an organization like the Humane Society makes you a tried and true bone-a-fide dog pleaser!

For more information on volunteering at a Humane Society in your area, visit or call 202-452-1100.