Happy Birthday, Reilly



Happy 11th Birthday, to my muse for “Pack Leader Psychology,” and my instructor on how to become a pack leader. I am so glad I spent nearly 10 years and 7,000 walks with this fabulous dog. She was the best model for a calm, assertive, balanced pack leader who came into my life at a propitious moment. I hope where you are now there are lots of  woodchucks, squirrels, deer, waterfall ponds, and meadows to race in all day long. Hope and I miss you!

A Final Lesson from Reilly


As she has done throughout her life, today Reilly taught me a lesson —  one final lesson on bravery in the face of loss. I am sad to report that at the age of ten and a half, Reilly died today of pancreatic cancer and her soul passed from her earthly body.

To those who have read my book, “Pack Leader Psychology,” you know that this German Shorthair Pointer with the improbable Irish name has been my muse and teacher. The working title for the book was “Lessons from Reilly,” showing just how important Reilly has been in my personal growth and my journey toward becoming a human pack leader. It is no overstatement to say that Reilly’s lessons have guided me in completely transforming my emotional, personal and professional life. Her lessons even gave me a framework for explaining and understanding human psychology and behavior that I use every day as a psychotherapist.

IMG_0487Her attributes are difficult to describe and might sound like the over-the-top ravings of a distraught owner, but everyone who met her was instantly awed by her old soul, her regal character and her steadfastness. Many people instantly referred to Reilly as “The Queen.”  Not because she was a haughty, high-maintenance show dog, but because she had an implacable, fearless, matter-of-fact quality.

Reilly exemplified that essential pack leader quality that I write about in my book:  She did not need the approval of others. She loved and was loved, she obeyed and was obeyed, she respected and was respected, but she never did so to earn acceptance. That is because she knew and loved and accepted and respected herself, which is the most essential personality trait of a pack leader.

IMG_0550As I write in my book, “If you don’t love yourself, you will try to manage others as a way to get them to like you,” “When you have nothing left to prove, your fear of disapproval goes away,” and “The journey to fearlessness starts with self-acceptance.”

Only when you know and honestly accept yourself can you be accountable for your behaviors. This in turn allows you to grow and progress emotionally and personally. Without acceptance and accountability people are not able to learn from their mistakes and this leads to many personality problems and relationship difficulties that we often label as “mental disorders.”

IMG_0581Reilly’s traits were always pure pack leader.

She was authentic: Reilly generally was on her own mission in life and did not manipulate with tail wagging or licking to earn approval.

She was strong and vulnerable:  She could ask for help and would routinely stop while hunting, lift a paw, and look directly at me, signaling a need for a thorn to be removed.

She was stoic and dependable: Throughout many months of cancer, she never complained or showed pain. Several years ago a deer kicked her and cut open the flesh on her jaw, which required emergency stitches. It wasn’t until months later that I realized that kick had also broken a rib, because Reilly had never winced or slowed down during her recovery.

IMG_1234She was full of joy and lived in the moment: Fetching or going for a walk were all the reason she needed to become energized and playful.

She was a supreme athlete: She gave 100% on every walk, run, hunt or frisbee catch.  She could jump 6 feet into the air from a standing start and once did a 15-foot broad jump in a foot of snow. She ran and walked thousands of miles with me and would have run all day every day if I could have joined her.

IMG_0180She was smart and intuitive: I never had to verbalize lessons such as staying in the yard, she just seemed to automatically know and obey my wishes.

She was an excellent teacher of my new dog, Hope, patiently allowing this over-eager dog to follow, idolize and learn by example.

She was calm, confident, trustworthy and unflappable, traits that she showed me were essential for pack leaders.

This eulogy could continue for many more paragraphs, as Reilly was an amazing and awe-inspiring dog to me. Reilly was a great leader who taught me to be a leader, but whose humility allowed her to also be a follower.

But now I must move forward with learning my final lesson from Reilly on how to manage grief and the loss of this tremendous friend, muse, and teacher. I am sad at losing Reilly, but I also know that her lessons will continue to be taught as I live my life as an example of a pack leader and as I teach her lessons to my patients to help them live more authentic, self-compassionate, self-accepting lives.

Thank you for being part of my life, Reilly, and I send your soul on to its next journey.

Reilly West

July 24, 2004 – December 27, 2014

Reilly laying portrait


Happy Birthday, Reilly!


ReillyRiver1Reilly, the dog who was my muse for “Pack Leader Psychology,” celebrates her 10th birthday today. I have been so very, very fortunate to have this wise, old soul in my life.

However, I have some sad news to share. Reilly was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer a few weeks ago. Fortunately, she does not appear to be in pain and is doing fairly well. Anyone who has met her knows she is a force of nature and has tremendous strength of will. I’m hoping that will serve her now.

In honor of an authentic, emotionally balanced pack leader, I thought I’d share a bit from the introduction to “Pack Leader Psychology” about a few things Reilly taught me. (Of course, the entire book would not even be possible without her guidance.)

Reilly Tree JumpA growl instantly moved me from pack member to pack leader with my dog. Unfortunately, it was a bit more complicated for me to learn how to be a pack leader to the humans in my life. But without the lessons I learned from my dog, Reilly, I might never have transformed myself from a submissive, insecure, physically abused woman into the assertive “alpha” personality I am today.

How did I learn to claim my place in the human pack and stand up to those who wanted to dominate and control me? While I might have come to these insights on my own, it’s extremely unlikely. At the time that my second marriage was coming undone, I had the fabulous good fortune to adopt a smart, balanced dog by the name of Reilly. While it seems improbable, the spark for my life-changing insights was a German Shorthaired Pointer with a good Irish name.

My experiences living with and training Reilly taught me not just about dog behavior, but also about human behavior in ways that no self-help or psychology book ever had. What I would learn from her and because of her would rip blinders off my eyes that had blocked awareness of my behavior for more than 40 years. Reilly provided the code that unlocked my insight into why I had two failed marriages to alcoholic men, one an abuser; a meandering and unfulfilling career path; and distant relationships with family and friends.

Quite simply, Reilly’s lessons taught me how to assert myself and become a stronger person. Then I discovered that in the same way I had become a pack leader to my dog, I needed to become a pack leader with people. Once I learned that lesson, I also realized Reilly’s lessons gave me the keys to understanding the behavior of other people as well.

 Please keep Reilly in your hearts. I am so happy to have known her for more than 9 years. My life would not have been the same without her in it. Reilly laying portrait

Give “Pack Leader” Skills for the Holidays

packleaderpsychologycoverLooking for a great gift? Consider giving my book “Pack Leader Psychology!” Just $4.99 for e-book or $12.99 print. Full of useful information readers can apply to their lives immediately to help improve relationships of all kinds, especially that most important relationship — with oneself. For a quick link directly to the book on Amazon go to www.PackLeaderPsychology.com. Also at www.BN.com for Nook and in print. Happy Holidays to everyone and thanks for all your support over this past year.

Publicity for “Pack Leader Psychology”

I’m pleased to announce some news media pickups for Pack Leader Psychology™ ideas.

  • New Living Magazine, a New York City area wellness publication, has published an article on “How to Be a Pack Leader.” New Living Magazine
  • WHPC-FM 90.3 in Nassau, Long Island, New York, is airing an interview with me on Mon., Aug. 19 at 4 pm; on Tues., Aug. 20, at noon, and Sun., Aug. 25 at 7 am EDT. Listen on your smart phone with the tunein.com app. Search for WHPC. It’s a show called “Law You Should Know,” so the interview focuses on how lawyers should be pack leaders.

More exciting news about media events is coming, as I have three more radio interviews scheduled and a Washington, DC, TV appearance coming up in September.