Sunday, May 01, 2005

A Response

Wow, what a delight in my inbox today. I returned to several days' worth of unchecked mail, because my time's been taken with other things (more on that later), and found a number of hostile messages. I thought initially to delete them and ignore it all, and in fact did at first, but then I thought one at least of the comment posts here had merit and I knew I should respond to that.

I never, never meant to give offense regarding the other puppies I mentioned in my post "Training Pays!" In fact, the other two persons present during the playtime (and apparently also the invisible observer who threatened to tattle on me?) should be able to recall my favorable comments on the other dogs and the genuine delight I showed in their play together. I do see how one of my statements could have been read in a less-favorable light, but that was my mistake in failing to employ the right tone for a text-only medium; that statement would have been my observation that my puppy was fearless and the others were less so. If anyone had bothered to ask me, I would have explained that while I had only one puppy to socialize, this person had several puppies and adult dogs to handle and had certainly had less opportunity to expose the dogs to all that I've listed just here, much less all that we do that I don't list here. I might also have pointed out that I had also specifically written that "they weren't bad dogs or poorly bred."

My comments were not to run down the other puppies, but only to express my pleasure at what MY puppy did. If it read any other way, I apologize. Let me repeat that: I APOLOGIZE IF I GAVE OFFENSE. I meant it in the same way that I happily showed off Laev's baby heeling the other night and commented that she was about the same as the adult dogs learning heeling in classes. The comment wasn't to run down the adult dogs, which are just now learning this behavior, but to show pride in my own pup.

I don't know who could be wanting to go to this breeder, whom I know and respect, and tell her that I'm talking trash about her dogs -- honestly, what could be in it for someone else? But I've been warned that will happen or has happened. Okay, no problem. If this breeder has any questions at all regarding what I wrote about our puppy playtime, I'll happily answer her. But I think it's a little silly that someone who wasn't even there and who doesn't have the nerve to sign a name should threaten to tattle.

Some of the other emails I received just made me laugh. I'll skip those; nobody cares about them. But I feel a few were possibly motivated by real concern, if poorly worded. And I do appreciate real concern.

Sure, I left the Armin Winkler seminar knowing about some talk behind my back. I kind of rely on that happening when I hear talk behind others' backs. I also know that unless the talkers were privy to some private emails and private conversations, they weren't dealing with all the information, and so if it makes them feel better about themselves to run me or my dog down, so be it. It's not like I gave my compliments as part of an exchange program, after all, expecting to get good words back in return; I meant what I said about the other dogs I observed, and that's all. And I've yet to find that Shakespeare cares much about what someone else says about him. :-) As I mentioned, I've been thinking about letting him off the performance hook for several months.

Someone watched him sail through an agility sequence last week and asked why he hadn't done so well at the Nationals trial -- the story of our career. :-) Someone else told me I should force the performance I want from him as a matter of principle. Well, I'm into dog sports for fun and for a good time with my dog; if he's miserable at a trial, I don't see how forcing it will make the two of us both happier. Aren't I allowed to love him for who and what he is? It's not as if I'm claiming he's something else or breeding him to produce inferior pups.

Especialy your comment that says "What is drive anyway" maybe if you did some more reading and attended more seminars you would begin to understand.

Thank you for the suggestion. I do appreciate a comment here which is intended to help me rather than merely accuse me remotely of ineptitude. Yes, I've read a few books on Schutzhund. Actually, I've read almost every book I could find on the subject, and there are several more stacked and waiting for my attention still. That doesn't mean I think I know everything about it; in fact, I mentioned several times at said seminar that I was relatively novice. (Hence my self-deprecating comments on this very blog regarding my tracking skills. I'm working with someone to help remedy that.) Years of working with a dog who wasn't born to the sport and who started as an adult will make one good at observing (I've worked only three or four SchH seminars, compared to many more in other fields) but inexperienced on the field itself. But I'm perfectly happy to discuss training, anyway, even outside of a rhetorical question. Would you like to discuss why Hull's theory of drive is acknowledged to be incorrect? Or would you like to discuss prey versus defense versus the several definitions of fight drives, in the modern working sense of the word? Or would you like to discuss why I'm not particularly crazy about that particular term? Of course, actual discussion (please, I quite honestly would like to hear why you think early learning inhibits enthusiasm or whatever "drive" one expects to see in obedience) might require one coming out of anomymity.

Funny you should mention this, because I told someone just very recently that I had learned something from every trainer I saw, in a seminar, workshop or halfway-organized training environment. Sometimes it was a gem of an idea, sometimes a technique, sometimes just the knowledge of what I did not want to do and why instead of vague notions of what I wanted to avoid. I'm a big, big believer in learning. I look back at photos of myself in a trial with Chaucer and laugh at my body position. We're always improving -- or we should be, anyway.

But further research will have to wait, because I'm really busy this week. Aside from my usual classes and finishing self-building a house, I'm volunteering last week and this with an annual program for handicapped and at-risk children. Shakespeare is doing Agility demonstrations and greeting sessions/dog safety lessons; Laev put in one baby tracking demo. Last year we logged 3,000 kids in all, and I'm not sure what the number will work out to be this year. Quite a few of the kids and teachers remembered us from the year before, which is gratifying in a program of more than two dozen individual activities.

And you know what? Not one of those kids -- not the mentally handicapped boy in the wheelchair who needs help to guide his hand over the dog's back, not the girl who's initially terrified because the only dogs she's known are the fighting dogs kept by the drug lord next door -- not one of them cares whether he's labeled "high-drive" or "low-drive" or is titled in whatever. They don't care that a big-name international trainer said he should have been put to sleep because he couldn't do Schutzhund or that Armin Winkler told me again that he wasn't cut out for the sport. They don't care that he has defended me on the street but simply cannot excel on the sport field.

They care that this big dog can run and weave and jump on cue, that he can make them laugh with tricks, that they can touch him without danger. They care that they've learned a little about how to meet a dog safely and that a dog is more than a fighting machine or something that barks at their medical equipment. And frankly, that means more to me than the opinion of someone who can't be bothered to sign a name.


Tabatha said...

I have never seen you and Shakespeare in action, but I think it's great that you love Shakespeare for who he is. We've all seen people who force their dogs into sports that the dog obviously does not care for, and both the dog and handler usually look quite miserable.
Keep up the good work with Laev and Shakespeare!

vicky said...

Laura: Sorry about your bad experiences with others. As I said before, you sound like a thoughtful, (and knowledgeable!) person to me!!

And I enjoy your blog!

Melissa Alexander said...

Some people want to believe the worst. They look for the negative -- and then they wonder why their lives are unhappy.

I know you and your dogs, and I would give you the benefit of the doubt every single time! As hard as it is, don't let "them" ruin your day, especially if they're too cowardly to sign their posts.

Laura said...

Wow, I'm experiencing warm fuzzy feelings. Seeing support from several people who've tracked my doggie activities for several years is really appreciated. I'd hate for Laev to be repossessed, and it's good to know some have confidence in me, after all. :-)

Thank you.