The Peach goes to Clicker Expo

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Lately I’ve been looking for more opportunities to relax and unwind. (Or at least that’s what my therapist, husband and basically everybody who knows me have suggested.) So naturally, I thought it was a fabulous idea to take Peaches to the Karen Pryor Clicker Expo in Dearborn, Michigan last week. Because taking a sensitive, inherently fearful dog to a large, sensory-intense hotel with hundreds of people, 150 other dogs and one small horse is a very zen-like activity (insert hysterical dog owner laughter here).

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Most folks who know me though, and who know Peaches and her story, know that I am ridiculously concerned with my dog’s comfort and care at all times, almost to a fault. Well, not even almost. And I don’t do things that are likely to cause her more discomfort than pleasure. And so last Thursday, the night before the expo started, I found myself obsessively weighing the pros and cons of taking Peach to the event.

Pros

  • Taking her to the event and spending the night at the hotel would be a great bonding experience for us.
  • Peaches is highly people-motivated and getting to go hang out with hundreds of dog-savvy people eager to say hello would be quite a treat for her.
  • It’s a great training opportunity in a safe, supportive environment.
  • It’s 40 minutes away from home. Worst case scenario, it doesn’t go well and dad has to come pick her up.
  • All of my friends coming into town who expect to meet her won’t be mad at me.
  • Peaches gets to sleep in her first hotel bed.

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Cons

  • She might not enter the hotel because the entrance is scary, and we have to go home.
  • She might not cross the lobby because the floors are scary, and we have to go home.
  • She might not get in the elevator because sitting in a moving glass box is scary, and we have to go home.
  • She might not do well in the session rooms because loud speakers and microphone feedback are scary, and we have to go home.
  • She might revert to her old submissive peeing habits when seeing other dogs and having pee-stained carpet damage added to my hotel bill is scary, and we have to go home.
  • She might fear bark at noises in the hallway when left in the hotel room while I’m at the bar, and interrupting mommy’s cocktail hour is scary, and Peach has to go home.
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Mingling with our buddy, Laura Witkowski, author of the Growing Up Gomez series (http://www.yourpitbullandyou.com/category/growing-up-gomez/) and one of the most talented stand-up performers you’ll ever meet. http://www.rayandlauracomedy.com/

In all seriousness though, I had three primary concerns about her attending: 1) The elevators. Peach has been in elevators before because it was part of therapy dog training and work at the hospital. But it’s been a couple years since she’s been in one and I had a feeling that the hotel elevators would be more than she was used to; 2) I was a wee bit concerned that she might be overwhelmed with all the other dogs and might submit and pee if another dog rushed her at any point; and 3) I was pretty confident she’d bark at noises in the hallway if I left her in the room while we weren’t there.

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As it turned out, the elevators were the only legitimate problem. She got in them twice on that first morning–once because she followed friendly people in not knowing where she was going. And then again when she followed a dog in, forgetting where she was going. But by the third time she was on to me and she hit the brakes before we could even get close enough to push the button. So after I allowed her to flee from the crime scene (aka the mobile chambers of death), I found myself on a grassy knoll outside the hotel letting her sniff her anxiety away while I considered the very real possibility that we’d be sleeping in the lobby or the car because we couldn’t get back up to our fourth floor hotel room.

At lunch time, with the help of my band of merry, sympathetic, dog-devoted friends and another, less anxiety-prone, dog, we coaxed Peach into the staff stairwell and took the stairs up to our room. Once in the room, she milled around with her doggy roommate for a bit and then happily took a Kong. Success.

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Sadly, our attempts to return to the stairwell later in the day were met with Peach perplexity as well, and I ended up just having to hold my big 50 pound baby in the elevator whenever we had to go to or from our room. (So glad I went to Pilates class last week.)

Despite the trials and tribulations of traversing different floors of the hotel, Expo with Peach was a blast. She gave me no signs of distress other than in the elevators and when within ear shot of the bone-chilling screech of the coffee counter’s espresso machine, and she recovered quickly after each event. She happily moved in and out of different sessions and to and from our room. She had no problem just chilling out during presentations while I popped her the occasional treat, and she even made a brief appearance at the hotel bar.

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Peach gets a butt rub from Tammy Crenshaw at Fido Personal Dog Training in Ferndale, Michigan. http://www.fidodogtraining.com

She hugged new friends, and said hello to familiar faces. She sat on new laps. She perused the treat and toy tables at the expo store and took home more than a few goodies. She discovered the magic of freeze-dried bison treats. And she happily passed out butt-to-butt with her new buddy, Turbo on the hotel bed at night. (Don’t tell hotel management.)

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Peach and Turbo were down for the count at the end of Day 2.

And, perhaps most importantly, I took her home at the end of Day 2 and was smart enough to let her stay home and rest rather than drag her back for Day 3.

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Sleeping in with her new toy on Sunday morning while mom heads back for the last day of Expo without her.

I am an imperfect dog owner–to say the least. I get frustrated with my dogs and get overwhelmed with the need to provide them with adequate exercise, care and enrichment on a regular basis. There are plenty of days when none of my four dogs get walked and they eat their food out of bowls (god forbid!) and that’s just the way it goes.

But, one of my greatest sources of pride as a dog owner has always been my commitment to making smart choices about my dog’s welfare, particularly when it comes to things like therapy dog visits and attending events. And that’s why, as much as I would’ve loved to bring Peach back for the last day of the Expo, I knew it wasn’t good for her. Two days at an event like that is a lot to ask of a dog, any dog, and deciding to bring her that day would’ve been a poor choice.

Peach wastes no time grabbing one of her new toys to play with once back in the hotel room.

Peach wastes no time grabbing one of her new toys to play with once back in the hotel room.

And sure enough, Day 3 of the Expo proved to be the breaking point for most of the dogs in attendance. All those fabulously quiet, content and relaxed pups who successfully attended on Friday and Saturday were frustrated and spent come Sunday. There were frequent moments of dog-dog reactivity, vocalizations and stress signals sprinkled throughout the hallways and session rooms that day. I even sat in on a wonderful session on training frustrated dogs and watched another attendee in front of me ignore the actual presentation because she was so distracted by her own very frustrated dog who probably should’ve just been left in the hotel room to rest that morning.

Peach and Turbo patiently wait for a treat while their owners are embarrassingly engrossed in returning emails, perusing session descriptions and planning for happy hour.

Peach and Turbo patiently wait for a treat while their owners are embarrassingly engrossed in returning emails, perusing session descriptions and planning for happy hour.

So, returning to some pros and cons, here are a few of the pros and cons to attending Clicker Expo with your own dog, for those who are considering it in the future:

Pros

  • Safe training space. If you have a well-trained and well-socialized dog who enjoys working, settling and being in the company of other people and animals for long periods of time, Expo is a fabulous chance to bond with your dog in a safe, supportive environment with like-minded dog folks who are equally happy to offer you a helping hand or give you and your dog space when needed.
  • Bitchin’ presenters. There are some fabulous speakers and trainers who present each year. Highlights for me were Emily Larlham‘s Trick Training and Frustrated Dogs presentations (I think I actually squealed with delight when Emily showed the videos of how she taught her two dogs to stand up and hug each other on command), Irith Bloom‘s talks on the Power of Choice, Kathy Sdao‘s presentation on older dogs and Susan Friedman‘s Critical Client Conversation Skills session (this last one is worthy of a blog post of its own).
  • Looking normal. At Clicker Expo, you’re almost guaranteed to not be the craziest dog person there. It’s a great opportunity to feel normal in comparison to those around you, or at the very least feel like you’re among “your people.”
  • Cheap Kong toys. The Expo store had majorly discounted Kong items. We stocked up.
  • Friendly people. Everybody is thrilled to see you and your dog.
  • Drinks. Dog people love a good cocktail hour.
Peach says hello to our buddy, Kelly from Your Pit Bull & You. www.yourpitbullandyou.com

Peach says hello to our buddy, Kelly from Your Pit Bull & You. http://www.yourpitbullandyou.com

Cons

  • Cost. It ain’t cheap. My biggest beef with Clicker Expo is that it’s totally cost-prohibitive when you factor in the hefty registration fee, the hotel room (keep in mind you’ll probably have to pay for extra nights if you want to use the room for your dog before check-in or after check-out) and food. I was lucky enough to live just 40-minutes away from the venue. Any additional travel would make it even more costly.
  • Competing priorities. If you bring your dog, you’re inevitably not going to get as much out of the sessions as you could were you not focused on managing your dog. Even if your dog is great at just settling at your feet for long periods of time, you’re still responsible for staying aware of your dog’s needs at all times, and that includes leaving sessions when your dog needs a bathroom or water break and devoting a portion of your overall attention to their physical presence and body language.
  • Pee breaks. I mean for you, not the dog. Attending with people you know is kind of essential, mostly because you’ll really wish you had someone to hold your dog’s leash while you run into the restroom to pee in between sessions. (Thank goodness for texting capabilities, Katelin Thomas and Kelly Shutt Cottrell.) I saw lots of folks just taking their dogs into the restrooms with them and patiently waiting for the handicapped stall. But to be honest, none of those dogs looked too happy to be there and it seemed like a real hassle.
  • Planning. Bringing a dog to Expo means you have to bring a lot of crap with you too. A crate, blankets or towels as needed, Kongs, treats, treat bag, poop bags, leashes, toys, water bowl, a mat for the session floor, food, water, Nature’s Miracle (just incase) and then all of your own crap too. In a nutshell, it can be a real pain in the ass.
Buster Brown was bummed I didn't take him, but thrilled with the loot I came home with.

Buster Brown was bummed I didn’t take him, but thrilled with the loot I came home with.

If I do ever decide to attend Expo again with a dog, I’ve promised Buster Brown I’ll take him. Since those type of events are totally his jam. And since he’d happily hop in an elevator and offer up a decent Steven Tyler impression if it meant an extra hot dog or two. And since Peach is just as happy cuddling at home with Pickles as she is schmoozing with dog folks.

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Springy-dings for the beast lady

We live with a smokey beast lady of pint-sized proportions and whiskers of death.

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Said beast lady must be kept occupied at all times or ankles are bitten, sleep is disturbed and dogs are assaulted. Sometimes trickling water faucets or a fresh can of wet food will successfully occupy the beast lady. Sometimes not. And rarely for long.

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Springy-dings save lives

In a last ditch effort to save my life and the lives of others in this household whom I love, I spent a couple bucks from the money I was saving to buy us all body armor and face masks, and ordered a couple packs of springy-dings. Also known as “colorful springs.”

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These little coils of plastic perfection are like manna from heaven when all you want to do is get a little sleep, and all your kitten wants to do is rip your throat out, spill water on your book and smother your sleeping dog like those creepy facehuggers in Alien.

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If one day I found out that these little springy-dings were made in a sweat shop by child laborers using radioactive plastic, I would still keep buying them. In fact, I’d probably buy even more for fear of that sweat shop one day being closed down. Springy-dings save lives.

Beast lady bats, chases and carries her little springy-dings all over the house like fresh kills. We find them in our bed, on the couch, under the couch, inside shoes, down heat registers, in the dogs’ water bowls, under the washing machine and in the bathroom. Sometimes beast lady leaves her springy-dings in her food bowl, incase she’s hungry for more later.

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Springy-dings come in four snazzy colors. Although beast lady seems to be partial to the green and yellow ones. I’ll have to do some research on cats and color vision. Although none of them are the color of blood and entrails, so I assume her preference is mere coincidence.

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Beast lady also loves to play fetch with her springy-dings. And I do mean fetch. Like dogs play fetch. At night, usually when we’re trying to relax and watch some tv or just settling into bed, the beast lady brings us her chosen springy-ding and threatens to brutalize a dog or gnaw off one of our toes if we don’t meet her springy-ding demands.

We’re sure there are many folks out there who are thinking, “Oh come now, it’s just a little cat. A fuzzy little kitty baby who would be just as content to sip milk from a tiny little saucer or play with some yarn. Why don’t you try petting her a little and showing her some love?” But this is what the beast lady wants you to think. She’s counting on it.

And then just as you lay your head down on that pillow at night, in the dark, surrounded by four large canines, theoretically capable of protecting you from any and all bodily harm, . . . the beast lady strikes.

Unless you have some springy-dings.

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Posted in Animal behavior and training, Fun Stuff, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Maple Apple Cranberry Sauce with Pickles on the side

‘Tis the season for baking and cooking with dog fur and cat hair, at least in this house. We haven’t formally introduced her on this blog yet, but we have a new kitten in the house. Her name is Pickles and she likes to sit in the sink. She also likes to stand with her head directly under the running faucet and watch the water go down the drain. I whipped up a batch of my favorite apple cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving last Thursday, and she was super helpful with the food prep. Cranberries and cat hair: So tasty.

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A face for winter

Well, until I can get my act together, along with some words on the page, I better keep throwing up some photos to keep this blog’s pulse going.

This is Casey, available for adoption at the Humane Society of Huron Valley in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She maintains a strict daily beauty regimen that involves a generous application of black eyeliner and carefully curled ears,  followed by a honey and brown sugar body scrub. All that beauty tends to steal the show from other dogs and she’s not very fond of sharing the bathroom mirror in the morning, so this adolescent lady would love to be the only dog in the home.

Tell your doctor you don’t need those blood pressure meds anymore. Because rubbing these velvety bunny ears between your fingertips is all you’ll need to soothe that stressed out soul.

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Posted in Animal Welfare, Fun Stuff, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

A face for Fall

Been a little hectic around here lately. Once again, neglecting the writing. So here’s a quick pic to fill the void and usher in the fall weather. It’s been cold, colorful and fabulous in Michigan this last week. Great dog walking weather.

This is Max. A beautiful boy currently undergoing heartworm treatment at the Humane Society of Huron Valley–sure to knock the socks off of anyone he makes eye contact with.

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A hostile act

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Joan Didion has always been one of my favorite writers because I’ve always so easily found myself in much of what she’s written. The following quote being a good example of that:

I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.

Most writers don’t sit down knowing what they’re going to write. They write to figure it out.  And in doing so hope to achieve some kind of forward momentum, however small. Each attempt at writing is a step on the path of discovery and clarity.

But there is also another reason I am a fan of Didion’s. Because of one specific idea she wrote in a New York Times Book Review in 1976. She writes,

In many ways writing is the act of saying I, of imposing oneself upon other people, of saying listen to me, see it my way, change your mind. It’s an aggressive, even a hostile act. You can disguise its qualifiers and tentative subjunctives, with ellipses and evasions—with the whole manner of intimating rather than claiming, of alluding rather than stating—but there’s no getting around the fact that setting words on paper is the tactic of a secret bully, an invasion, an imposition of the writer’s sensibility on the reader’s most private space.

I’m pretty sure that truer words have never been put to paper. And I’m pretty sure that what I wrote earlier this week demonstrated this idea in a truly epic fashion.

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There are many ways to gauge the quality of a piece of writing. By how many people read it. By how many people were moved by it. By how many people were angered by it. By its originality or clarity.

But perhaps the simplest way to measure the quality of a piece of writing is by how the writer feels after writing it. And when I apply that barometer to the blog post I wrote earlier this week, I can confidently say that it’s probably the worst piece of writing I’ve produced to date.

I certainly stand by what I wrote, but the fact remains that I regret writing it. And I have regretted it since the second I clicked “Publish.” For lack of a better description, I’ve felt like I needed a shower ever since I wrote it. Publishing it should have provided me with a sense of release, a sense of purpose and a sense of closure, at least for that small moment in time. But it did not. Which means I may have needed to write it, but it should never have been shared publicly.

Because the fact of the matter is that we do desperately need more critical literacy in the field of animal welfare. We need to find ways to create critical consumers of information who produce and process information for what it is, rather than blindly clicking Like or Share or Commenting, and tossing up a Facebook post based on emotion and ego. I’m as guilty of this as anybody. We’ve all made these mistakes, and we continue to make them.

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But my post did two things, neither of which I am likely to live down anytime soon: 1) It caused additional grief in a space where there was already plenty of grief to be had, and 2) It wasted a golden opportunity to add something productive to the conversation, and to really dig into how we might help our field develop some of those critical reading and thinking skills.

I could have done justice to the issue of language and how we frame particular ideas for others using any number of other appropriate texts. The recent Esquire article on pit bulls, for example, would have been a great one to use since it may actually be one of the more counterproductive texts ever written on pit bulls.

But instead, I chose to tackle the issue using the most radioactive example of text I could find, because I was angry. I chose to fight fire with fire and managed to burn down half the neighborhood in doing so.

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One person who read what I wrote actually made the comment that they “kept reading and reading trying to find the spot where I would say which camp I was in” and that they were disappointed that I never did. That is perhaps another major indicator of what a poor piece of writing this really was: That one of my readers so profoundly failed to understand what it was that I wrote.

The definition of a bad reader is someone who reads through a text, never actually comprehending anything in it or the piece as a whole, because they’re too busy looking for information in that writing to reaffirm their own beliefs. I used to do that as a reader. And once I stopped doing it, a whole new world of nuance, complexity and discovery unfolded before me. A world that allowed me to embrace the gray, and stop boiling everything down to black and white.

It was really unfortunate the way BAD RAP chose to frame that post last week, and I can’t say I’m interested in following them on this new path they’re on. But the way I chose to respond to it this week was even more unfortunate. And no matter how many times I click my heels and hug my dog, there’s no going back on such a monumentally unfortunate decision.

What I wrote was, as Didion puts it, a hostile act. And all I can do at this point is keep writing, and hope that I find a way to be smarter and more productive in doing so.

Posted in Advocacy, Animal Welfare, Teaching and learning, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Reading between the lines

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I create and analyze text for a living. Meaning that language is my trade. I use it to shape the kind of world in which I want to live, I use my knowledge of it to be a critical consumer and producer of information, and I spend time teaching others to do the same.

The words we read, write and speak have power and consequences. It’s often the reason we do or don’t go to war, vote for one person versus another and transform injustices into social movements. It can also often be the reason we do or don’t get along with others, whether they be our friends, family, authority figures or folks we’ve never met. Language can mean the difference between getting arrested and going to prison or not, getting a job or not, getting into college or not, getting access to lifesaving health services or not, having your dog confiscated and euthanized or not. Language matters.

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When I use the word “text” above, I don’t mean it in the traditional sense that most people use it. (Of course “traditional sense” is up for debate as well now that “texting” is officially a verb–but no matter).

A text can be any kind of artifact that uses language, symbols or imagery to communicate a particular idea. In the traditional sense, a text might be a book or a magazine article. A text can also be an official document like the Declaration of Independence or a legal contract. It can be a religious text like the Quran or Bhagavad Gita. A text might use language in print, or it may not. A child’s drawing with misspelled yet purposefully used words is a text. The following are all examples of “texts” that can be “read” and analyzed:

  • an email
  • a map
  • a newspaper article
  • an informational poster
  • a course syllabus
  • a magazine ad
  • a tv commercial
  • an art installation
  • a recipe for dog treats
  • a transcript of a text message exchange
  • song lyrics
  • a radio interview
  • a political t-shirt or bumper sticker
  • a recording of a 9-1-1 call (let’s say, George Zimmerman’s for example)
  • IKEA assembly instructions (a text that often leaves us disliking the Swedes)
  • a tattoo or series of tattoos
  • a Twitter feed
  • a Facebook post

These are all “texts” that can be studied and evaluated for content, context, meaning and purpose.

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One of my favorite examples of learning to critically analyze texts is the Media Awareness lesson included as part of the Girls on the Run program curriculum. In this lesson, focused on helping girls in grades 3-5 become informed consumers of advertising, the girls are given a series of common magazine ads promoting different products ranging from food or drink choices to clothing and skin care products. And then they’re encouraged to ask the following types of questions:

  • Who created this ad and why?
  • What is the purpose of this particular ad?
  • What is it trying to get me to do?
  • Who is the target audience for this ad?
  • What is the main message being communicated in this ad?
  • What other messages are also being communicated by this ad?
  • What information is missing in this ad?
  • Are any sources cited to support this ad’s claims?
  • Does this ad ultimately contribute something positive in relation to my health and well-being?

Too much for a 3rd grader? Not even close. Today’s grade school students are often savvier readers and more nuanced thinkers than most of us were in high school, or are now for that matter.

Taken from Global perspectives on literature and literacy, http://sese-ecce-educ376.blogspot.com/

Taken from Global perspectives on literature and literacy, http://sese-ecce-educ376.blogspot.com/

Being a critical reader is important. And in a world increasingly driven by social media and the bite-sized yet power-packed texts it produces, stopping to think first and asking these kind of questions before reacting is key.

Critical Literacy for Pit Bull Advocates

Which brings me to a text that I stopped to think about and carefully evaluate when it first appeared, because it seemed so remarkably out of character for the group that produced it. The following is a blog post that appeared on BAD RAP’s Facebook page last week, and that has since morphed into something akin to a scene from Attack of the Killer Tomatoes.

Here is the original post:

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If I approach this Facebook post as a text of its own, and ask myself some of the above questions in relation to meaning and purpose, here’s what I see as a critical reader:

Who wrote this post and why?

The first sentence of this post suggests that BAD RAP’s leadership was engaged in a frustrating and depressing interaction of some kind, and felt the need to take it into the public forum rather than keeping it private to the parties involved.

Simply put, like a lot of folks in animal welfare, they were having a particularly tough day and needed to vent to someone about it, with the hope that it would make them feel better. That is the only reason to ever craft a sentence starting with, “Yesterday was a tough day for us and, to be honest, we didn’t have the heart to put on a happy face . . .” This suggests a strong need for sympathy and support.

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What is the purpose of this particular post?

The purpose behind this post is a tough one, because what it says is not what it does. In the entire history of Facebook, I don’t think anyone has ever used the phrase, “we aren’t interested in nasty debate” unless they have consciously decided to write or share something that will cause just that.

And following that phrasing with “we’re just expressing sadness” is also purposeful language. It’s purpose: To paint the author in the role of sensitive victim (and “advocates for the underdog”) in that debate, while establishing the other folks in the debate as those who are doing things to make them sad.

As a critical reader, I see the purpose of this post as the following:

To take an incredibly nuanced, and complex subject like shelter euthanasia and boil it down to a simplified either/or discussion in which BAD RAP is the victim and everybody else who doesn’t agree 100% with everything they say are the perpetrators. In this case, the dog killers.

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What is this text trying to get me to do?

This text is trying to get me to pick “a side” where there really is no side to be had. But it’s also doing something more insidious than that. This post is trying to get me, as the reader, to engage in a particular dialogue that the authors are unwilling to do on their own. If they had been willing, they would have fully vetted this discussion via one of their blog posts or written an article for a local or major publication happy to share their story. But they went the Facebook route instead.

Here’s what was written:

We aren’t interested in nasty debate; we’re just expressing our sadness today (which will likely lead to debate, which we’ll likely have to moderate – dog help us).

And here’s what might as well have been written:

Creating this kind of false dichotomy between prongs and harnesses and engaging in this kind of oversimplified debate about a complex problem is technically above us, since, after all, we’re a professional non-profit organization who should be spending our time engaging in all the great work we normally do and setting a better example for others. So would you mind launching that nasty, ill-informed debate for us, so that we still look like the good guys?

One aspect of this post that left me most frustrated as a reader was its unapologetic lack of information about a particular situation that could not be properly evaluated by anyone without all of the facts.

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What information is missing in this post?

Basically, everything that matters. Professionals in animal welfare, BAD RAP included, know all too well that most shelters are frighteningly underresourced and are an easy target for the public and other welfare groups when it comes to euthanizing animals. And because of that, it’s typically considered poor form to air a shelter’s dirty laundry or share too many details about specific situations with a less informed public that doesn’t have all the facts.

But if you are going to make the incredibly dicey, controversy-fraught decision to share one of those stories and get on a public forum and say that a shelter is euthanizing a healthy, adoptable animal unnecessarily, you would think that it would be important to share all of the available information so that the public you’re sharing it with could assess the situation for themselves in an informed manner.

However no such details were offered here, except for one: The preferred tool of choice, “a front clip harness.” That’s the equivalent of showing up at a murder trial and pouring a bucket of the victim’s blood all over the defendant in front of the jury, and then claiming that the prosecution rests minus all the facts, details and evidence. Let’s just bait this hook and see what bites . . . knowing full well what will.

They did later try to offer some elaboration and additional details amidst the frenzy of comments that followed. But by that time the ship had sailed and details just didn’t matter any more. You can’t put toothpaste back in the tube.

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It also seems likely that we’re not being given the whole story because of their choice to say that the shelter “admitted that intense fear of public criticism for using a prong collar on even the best candidates for prongs has pushed them to choose euthanasia instead.”

Forgive me, but what else are you not telling us? Because the reality is that a Behavior department who lets fear of public criticism be the deciding factor in whether or not a dog dies is no behavior department at all. And therein lies the real issue: Most shelters in this country do not have the human or monetary resources needed to create and staff an actual department devoted to animal behavior, capable of making informed, thoughtful, expert decisions about behavior modification and euthanasia candidates. Now there’s a topic that’s worth digging into.

Because most folks well-versed in animal behavior and training know that prong collars do NOT save lives. Front-clip harnesses do NOT save lives. Clickers and treats do NOT save lives. . . . Professional knowledge of and ongoing education in animal behavior science and dog training, and the support and funding to implement it in the shelter environment, saves lives.

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Are there any sources cited to support this post’s claims?

To add some legitimacy to their post, they pulled a quote from an Australian based website called “Team Dog.” The quote itself is a very effective choice in supporting their argument.

But when you click on the link and visit the actual page (which most Facebook readers will not bother to do), you find yourself on an anonymous website with almost no substantive content of any kind, no original content to speak of (everything on it is generic and can be found in hundreds of other sources) and there is absolutely no information about WHO the person(s) is that authors the site. How can I possibly attribute any kind of credibility to a website that is not transparent about who is producing its content and where they got that content?

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Does this post ultimately contribute something positive to the conversation on “pit bull” rescue and welfare?

500+ vitriol-laced comments that have gotten us nowhere new and two or three subsequent related posts later (not to mention the countless hours that BAD RAP has obviously spent moderating this atomic bomb of a conversation), I would have to say no. This post resulted in a net negative for pit bull advocacy.

I follow and support BAD RAP as an organization and have done so for many years. And the two primary reasons that I have done so are 1) They focus on quality of life and care, not quantity of dogs rescued–which is why you see so many fabulous posts with happy, healthy dogs romping on their property and successfully progressing towards adoption, and 2) They focus on sharing positive, productive messages in the public forum (such as any one of their many wonderful outreach and community-focused posts) and do not bait the trolls at the extreme ends of the endless number of hotly charged topics in animal welfare.

At least, that’s what they used to do. They seem to be on a new course now: One that no longer champions the welfare of the pit bull, but rather that of the straw man.

 

For a follow-up to this post, please read: A hostile act

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