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

Graduation (5/24/06)

Dear Zelda,

In June I will be graduating from high school. All of my friends are going to college but I chose to take a year off.  My grades were good, but I need a break and am uncertain what I'd like to study and where. I read that you received an Honorary "Pet Degree" from Harvard, so tell me, oh wise doggy, any suggestions for what I could do with my year ahead? By the way, my parents have disapproved of my decision and have told me that if I want to stay home I have to get a job and pay rent.

Education Uncertain

Dear Education Uncertain,

It sounds like you had a pretty "ruff" decision to make there! Between the direct pressure from your parents and the peer pressure to do the same thing as your friends, it must have been hard to decide you needed some time away. So let me start by saying I think you've made a smart decision, and that the "doggy lama" supports your idea of taking time to figure out what you want to do with yourself. I may have gotten an honorary "Pet Degree" from Harvard, but let me tell you, I took a pretty winding path to get there. Trust me, too many people simply go to college without thinking about it, waste four (or five or six) years there, and come away none the wiser.

That said, just because you're not pursuing a traditional education this year doesn't mean you should let yourself lounge around and waste your time. Take this chance to do something great, something that will give you perspective, that will make you feel proud to talk about at the end of the year, and that will get you excited each day when you wake up. That sounds like a tall order, but you can do it. If a girl with a body like mine can end up modeling swimsuits AND get a Harvard degree, anything's possible. When you DO head off to college after your time away, (which you should), you'll have more direction, maturity, and perspective, along with some great stories to tell!

First thing's first: come up with a list of things you'd love to do, and formulate a concrete plan to make at least some of them happen. Maybe you'd like to travel... if so, discuss the idea with your parents, and see if you can come to an agreement where you work for part of the year to raise money, and then perhaps they could help with part of the expenses for you to explore some amazing areas of the world. Or maybe you'd like to do some volunteer work at home or abroad, whether helping out at the local Humane Society (hooray!) or working in an international health clinic overseas. Again, do your homework (check out, a fantastic resource for people interested in volunteer work), find something you'd be excited to try and proud to say you'd done, and then go for it! If you are organized, passionate, and motivated, your parents are much more likely to be supportive.

It sounds like you've got a lot of thinking and exploring to do, and with dedication, hard work, and passion, it's sure to be a fantastic journey. Send us a postcard!


Dear Zelda,

Now I am working on my Masters Degree in Business Management with a minor in Operations Management.  My planned graduation date is May 2007.
My thoughts were to obtain my PhD, but I am tired and need a rest to enjoy life, a wonderful husband, riding on the back of a Big Dog Motorcycle, and starting a new part-time business venture.  Also I'd like time to enjoy my grandchildren and family.  I am not sure it is right to postpone obtaining my PhD and I'm having second thoughts. Should I wait, be with family, friends, work on my part-time business venture and travel?

I value your advice Zelda. I have all your books, keep my coworkers laughing with pages from your desk calendar, have your big Zelda figurine, small statues, small stuffed princess and adorn my cubicle with your cards.
As you say, "What I want of graduation, is out!"  Do you agree?


Dear PhD-lemma,

Wow.  It sounds like you are personally responsible for keeping us in business. So first let me say thank you! Regarding your question, you said it yourself: what you want out of graduation is "OUT!"  It sounds as if you have been working double time and need a break.  I always say, "When making choices in life, do not neglect to live."

So my first suggestion is that you ask yourself, "What is it that makes me happy?"  If obtaining your PhD is at the top of your list, if you need it for teaching or academia, then I would say go for it.  Put time with family, friends, travel and working on your part-time business on hold.  Focus and get your PhD.   

However, that said, it sounds like there are a lot of factors stacked in the "no" column of the decision list. If time spent with family and friends, riding on your Big Dog Motorcycle, (my choice), traveling and working on your business is more important, put aside the "PhD" and wait until you are ready. You already have an advanced degree in business and perhaps at this point, the best place for you  to learn is in the real world, managing your own ventures, outside the ivory tower.  Life is for living and waking up each day to savor being happy.

Achieving your Masters Degree in Business Management is a great accomplishment. Now you need to master the management of your life. My advice is that you either go for your part-time business venture, enjoy some time with friends and family and get on that Big Dog Bike and ride, or park it and pursue your PhD. Your call.

Whatever your choice, congratulations are in order.


Dear Zelda,

My two pugs, Lexie and Wesley, just graduated from obedience school, and I want to have a party for them. Can you give me any suggestions to make their graduation party a success? I'm inviting friends with two and four legs.

Owner of Pets with Degrees

Dear Owner of Pets with Degrees,

Let's party! You came to the right place if you're looking for the ultimate party animal. Give me the chance and I'll celebrate just about anything. I have a few simple suggestions for organizing the perfectly planned pug party:

First is location, location, location: decide where you're going to hold this fantastic party. If your backyard is too small or you don't have one, look into renting space at a doggy day care center or training facility. You might even plan to have your party at a public park if there aren't regulations against it.

Next, send out fun invitations to guests who have dogs that get along well with Lexie and Wesley. Try making your own graduation-themed cards: Lexie and Wesley in caps and gowns always works, or you could send out miniature diplomas in the shape of dog bones. Make sure to mention that this IS a party to celebrate your dogs' "Pet-Degrees," and that you are very proud of their big accomplishment!

Third, plan the food. There are some paws-itively delicious canine cakes available in The Three Dog Bakery Cookbook by Dan Dye and Mark Beckloff. My favorite is the "Let 'Em Eat Cake." Also available in the same cookbook is a recipe for "Graduation Good Dog Goodies" that will have your pugs and their pals munching and crunching and woofing them down.

Finally, what would a party be without games? I suggest you avoid dominance-provoking games like tug-of-war (unfortunately a favorite game of mine), and go for games like frisbee and fetch. You could also hold a talent show. Have each dog/owner show off his/her trick, and let the owner explain how their dog learned to do it. You might even let the owners compete with tricks of their own! You can find descriptions of party games in Beyond Fetch: Fun Interactive Activities for You and Your Dog, by D. Caroline Coile, Ph.D.

Congratulations to Lexie and Wesley for their "Wagna" Cum Laude Pet Degrees. Have fun and be creative at your party, and remember, the success is in de-tails!