Life Roles

By Barbara Janelle M.A.

First Published Species Link, Issue 29, January-March, 1998

“Dominance” and “submission” are terms frequently heard in today’s dog training world. When I ask dogs if they understand and agree with this human concept of relationship, the replies offer a very different view of canine interaction.

We play together to find the role

best suited to the individual–

A role within the consciousness of the group of dogs and

within the framework of the planet.

Each individual’s role is critical

to the functioning of the whole.

And no role is any less important than another.

All are necessary

for the interactive dance of animals

on planet Earth.

Since receiving “Earth Song” earlier this year, I understand interrelationship as a concert of many voices. The animals concur with this, explaining that an individual has a sound that contributes to the song,

Each soul is a beam of light-sound-vibration.

The voice within the Earth orchestra

is affected by many things–health, groundedness, role,

interrelationship on all planes with other beings incarnate or not,

level of presence and

contribution to the earth,

inner peace, and so on.

So the voice of a dog may change during its life

and the sound offered to the earth

and to the universe fluctuates.

The role, the interaction is critical to the earth voice

because harmony must be achieved

to make the planetary song strong enough

to support love on the planet.

Without love there is no life,

no existence on this plane.

So we play, we interact and,

in cooperation, we find our strengths,

test our gifts, and settle into our instrument!

What humans judge through the lens of fear

is not conflict,

But rather, it is the strongest kind of cooperative interaction!

We work together to find our roles

to test our voices in the song of joy for this planet

and ultimately for the all.


There is the theme of cooperation that comes through again and again. Recently, I spoke with British dog trainer Roy Hunter about this. Roy told me of visiting a woman who breeds dogs in Britain. The woman showed Roy a litter of pups and asked him to identify the leader. Roy watched the pups for a while, eventually picked out one and said, “That is the leader.” The woman agreed, and then suggested a walk with the pups across a field. As they walked, the woman asked, “Now which is the leader?” Roy found that another pup was the leader in this walk. The woman agreed and spoke about how leadership changed with the activity and the situation.

Anthropologist Ian Turnbull says that in Central African Pygmy culture, the individual best suited for a job comes forward to lead that activity. The one who leads the hunt for game may not be the same person who leads the search for edible plants, and yet another person may be skilled in leading shelter building.

This happens in our culture too. In an organisation, one person may be best suited to leading meetings, while another is skilled at keeping track of finances. In a family, one member may be skilled at story telling, while another is expert at house repairs. And so on.

When we understand that life exists through cooperation and that changing leadership positions are normal, we can release old, inaccurate ideas about dominance, submission and competition. Through cooperation, we can create more beautiful and truthful relationships with all life forms, and honour the rich diversity that exists on this planet.