Doggy Tarot Cards Can Unlock Your BFF's Behavior
When my dog started ignoring me, I consulted the tarot to find out why
John Stark has held top writing and editing positions at such magazines as Cooks' Illustrated, Body + Soul and People. For 14 years, he was a feature writer and movie critic at the San Francisco Examiner/Chronicle. Follow John on Twitter @jrstark.
What dog doesn’t love to ride in the car? Goldie was no exception. Even on long trips she would never lie down on the backseat. She always sat up, taking in the scenery. Now when I get her leash out, rattle the car keys and say, “Go for a ride?” she just stays put, giving me a bored “whatever” look, the kind that teenage girls give their moms.
She’s the kind of dog people want to be close to: Smart. Protective. Huggable. She’s 76 percent Doberman and 24 percent hound (I had her DNA done). She has a gold coat, thus her name, which she came with when I rescued her from a shelter six years ago. Her runway looks include long legs, floppy ears and lined, Cleopatra-eyes. When she greets someone, whether it’s an old friend, a stranger or the mailperson, she pulls her gums up in a smile, showing her teeth. Some mistake it for an attack. But it’s a smile.
Age Has Nothing to Do With It
For a while I was attributing her standoffish behavior to her age. She’s 11, which in dog years is old enough to get Medicare, Social Security, and junk mail for burial and cremation services. Maybe she doesn’t want to be bothered with people anymore — hey, I’m older and I can relate. But I don’t think that’s it. She loves visitors. I recently had a friend stay for a few days. Goldie slept with her every night. I don’t think she’s in pain or sick. She just saw the vet, and other than some wobbliness in her back legs, she seems OK. And she has yet to abandon her mission of keeping the world safe from squirrels. She’s always chasing them up trees.
Maybe she’s tired of hanging with me, I thought. I work at home. We’re always together, just the two of us.
A friend suggested I contact a pet psychic. But I had gone that route 20 years ago for my cat Willoughby. Never again.
Forget 'Here Kitty, Kitty' — Try a Balloon
I had just moved from an apartment in New York City to a house in Birmingham, Ala. Willoughby went outside one day and disappeared. A colleague recommended I call an animal psychic named Viv who lived in North Carolina. Viv told me to attach a string to a large red balloon and let it float 50 feet above my roofline. It would somehow draw Willoughby home. I couldn’t bring myself to do something so seemingly ridiculous. Besides, my neighbors were still upset at my having put a nude Venus garden statue out front. I couldn’t risk a balloon on the roof. Sadly, the cat never came back.
A Divine Solution?
I was about to give up figuring out Goldie when I got a press release from Potter Style for a boxed set of doggy tarot cards. I guess there are no coincidences!
It read: “Want to know why your dog shreds your slippers but ignores his designer toys? Why he insists on rolling around in the grass 10 minutes after his bath? Or if he likes having the TV on while you’re not home? The Original Dog Tarot: Divine the Canine Mind! has the answers. This entertaining, tongue-in-jowl deck of tarot cards and accompanying booklet is affectionately written for dog lovers who want to know what their dogs really think.”
I had to order it. Yes, consulting doggy tarot cards does seem as ridiculous as a balloon on the roof. But I reasoned it’s safer than getting on a ladder and if I didn’t like the answer, I could reshuffle.
When the tarot arrived I called its creator, Heidi Schulman, who lives in Santa Fe with her two dogs, Bosco and Tillie. She’s originally from New York, where she worked as a writer, producer, reporter and story consultant for network TV. She told me Bosco, a pointer-spaniel mix, was the inspiration for the cards. He was always standing in front of her, appearing as if he wanted to speak.
“I figured if I really wanted to know what Bosco was trying to say, I’d have to dig beneath the surface,” Schulman told me. “Logic was failing me so I turned to magic. I’ve always been drawn to tarot and fascinated by its beautiful symbolism. I was thinking how could the tarot define my dog, and one day it just occurred to me: ‘That’s it!’ I’m going to write a Dog Tarot.’”
Although Schulman said the project started out in an amusing, light-hearted manner, it grew more serious as she went along. “I felt I had a responsibility to have meaning here,” she said. “It changed as I was writing it. I began to divine deeper meaning. The truth is, I’m fascinated by tarot and the imagery. I’ve read a lot about it and owe a debt to all of those great interpreters of tarot. I am certainly not one of them, and I’m hoping they won’t be angry with me for taking such liberties!”
Deal Me In, Nostradogus
Now that I knew Schulman wasn’t another Viv, I couldn’t wait to get started. Besides the oracle deck, the box contains a guide book that explains the Major and Minor Barkanas. Fortunately, there are no reversals or death card. Each card in the Major Barkana — such as The Runt, The Couch or The Hangdog — represents a fundamental aspect of a dog’s basic nature, life experience or personality. The Minor Barkana is divided into four suits: Bowls, Leashes, Biscuits and Bones. The booklet shows you how to do spreads, ask questions and interpret answers. Each card has a message for the dog and its owner. Each is exquisitely illustrated.
Since Goldie is such a smart, complicated dog, I opted for the more challenging five-card spread. I arranged my 30 cards in a fan, then asked my question: “Why is Goldie snubbing me?” I randomly picked my cards. Turning them over I had chosen The Seven of Biscuits, The Hydrant, The Moon, The Cat and The Wheel of Fortune.
I won’t go into details, but the Seven of Biscuits has to do with savoring new smells; The Chariot is about the thrill of living in the moment; The Hydrant, self-assertion; The Moon, kicking up your paws; The Cat, finding new energy; and The Wheel of Fortune, embracing change.
My answer didn’t come right away. It took some mulling to fully understand what the tarot was revealing. Then it came to me.
I approached Goldie, who was on the couch. “Don’t get up, girl” I said, pulling up a chair. “I’ve read the tarot cards and realize what you’re up to. The cards have told me that you’re worried about me. Your avoiding me is your way of telling me to get a life. You think I should get out more, see more humans, spend cuddle time on the couch with someone of my own species, not a dog. You're concerned that you won't always be here for me and don't want me to be alone."
“Are the cards right?” I asked.
She smiled. I had my answer.