Having Ray move in with us in March 2013, was an education in so many ways. Him being my first dog dictated a significant education in dogs and dog behavior in general and, with Ray having his own personal issues, the anticipated education was significantly expanded! Details have been covered in various Posts and, of course, in his book “Who Said I was up for Adoption?”
What I have not however addressed before have been by revelations, triggered by my frustrations of other people. I think it is common sense to acknowledge that in order to understand dog ownership, one would have to have owned a dog. While I am sure that all dog owners would agree with that, I can well imagine that some non-dog owners would challenge it. (That would have been me not too long ago).
Walking Ray through a park in a town where all dogs are supposed to be leashed, has had its moments of concern. In Ray’s early days, when he was fearful of pretty much anything that moved and handled it with a display of aggression, an approaching off-leash dog was a concern which I freely expressed to the dog’s owner. So many people would not have seen the problem, after all, they’re just dogs. (That would have been me not too long ago).
Walking past a dog that starts frantically barking as Ray passes by is interesting because, whereas my thoughts are in the area of “That poor dog is probably frightened and wants Ray to go away”, other people in the area could just look at the dog making all the noise and make a detrimental comment about its disruptive behavior. (That would have been me not too long ago).
Seeing a dog wearing a muzzle makes me wonder whether the necessity for the muzzle is based on an uncontrolled/unpredictable aggression, or is it to give the dog some personal space. So many other people would just look at the muzzled dog and wonder why it is even out in public! (That would have been me not too long ago).
Understanding the negative aspects of shock collars; understanding the inherent shortcomings of an”invisible fence”; understanding the implications of positive reinforcement training, as distinct from punishment techniques, have all been part of my education. Other people may well think that shocking a dog into not barking makes sense; that an electric fence is a great discreet way of controlling a dog’s wanderings, and that there is a time when physical punishment is quite simply necessary. (That would have been me not too long ago).
Then there are dog selection… and vet bills. So many people simply cannot understand why anybody would go to a shelter and adopt a clearly troubled dog. So many people probably put limited value on shelters and do not understand why “troubled” dogs are even allowed to live, and when it comes to vet bills? I am sure we have all heard of people who are appalled that a dog owner just spent a few thousand dollars on a vet procedure! (That would have been me not too long ago).
Not too long ago, I was not only very naive about dog ownership, but I was not even aware of the radically different perspectives possible between a dog owner and a non-dog owner. Not too long ago, I accepted dogs (reluctantly) as part of the streetscape, and never thought much further than that. Not too long ago, dogs were just “out there” and were often rather annoying.
It is interesting how ones perspective can radically change when put in the position of dog ownership! What I have to do now is to be consciously aware of the infinite number of other circumstances of which I have little or no experience, and be as understanding as possible. It is just too easy to criticize a situation when you have very little, if any, understanding of the details of said situation.
Compassion and understanding are so important for us all to live together, and yet it is so often hidden as a result of preconceived and unfounded opinions. Today we may unfairly criticize a dog and/or its owner. Tomorrow it could be a teenager and/or its parent!