For the past couple days, I’ve been going back and forth about participating in today’s Blog the Change event. Not because I don’t care, please don’t accuse me of that. But I am tired. And angry. And feeling at a loss. There are so many wrongs in so many areas and I don’t feel like this platform is truly getting the message across. There doesn’t seem to be anything I can say that others haven’t already said much better.
Educating the public has never been one of my aims. It takes work and research and eight-letter words. I write a blog about my dog and my wee corner of the world. Whatever academic aspirations I had are now long behind me. Position papers and political debates are memories of the past. These days, I am lucky if I catch the evening news. I used to pride myself on being able to name all the prominent world leaders. Today, I might be able to come up with five.
Yesterday morning I took a long walk with Shiva. It was early for a Saturday and there weren’t many others around. I decided to risk it and wandered over to the less than savoury part of my neighbourhood. Right away we spotted a man heading in our direction, an energetic Am Staff by his side.
Cautious, but happy for a training opportunity, I continued forward. Typically, I will slow down when I see an approaching dog. I like to give the other person a chance to cross the street or duck out of the way. It also gives me a chance to observe from a distance. I could tell the dog was young; he was pulling on the leash but the person seemed unconcerned. As they moved closer I stepped to the side and had Shiva sit beside me, expecting the man and dog duo to pass. When they stopped as well, I took one look at the Am Staff’s large, goofy head and gave Shiva permission to say hello.
As the dogs went through the usual sniff-and-play-bow-and-sniff routine, the man and I chatted. Mostly about his dog.
Gunner, I learned, was his name. He was thirteen months old. He had been adopted from a local pit bull rescue as a puppy. The man was quick to boast about Gunner’s impressive roster of tricks. The pride in his voice was also reflected in his eyes. He was clearly head over heels in love with his dog.
After demonstrating Gunner’s waving skills, the man said goodbye and they went on their way. I watched them leave, unable to stop smiling.
If only all Am Staffs had owners like him, I thought. If only all those in favour of BSL could meet Gunner.
This evening, as I think about animal welfare and about being the change I want to see, I can’t get Gunner’s gorgeous brown face out of my head. It may be small, but the man I met by the side of the road is performing a radical act. He probably doesn’t realize it but by loving and working with his dog, he is taking steps to change the world for all other dogs like him.
I’ve been told by many much more brilliant than I, that it’s impossible to control anyone else’s actions. All I can do is change how I behave and hope that it inspires others to follow. Until now, it never seemed like enough. But perhaps I was wrong.
As the human of a crazy rescue dog who may or may not be an Am Staff, I like to think I have done something to make a difference. Things could have turned out a lot differently for Shiva if I hadn’t been as stubborn, or if I had decided to wait another week before adopting a dog. Shiva’s story is largely a success. I hope by helping her become a (relatively) well-mannered (almost) canine good neigbour, we have changed some minds of our own.
I guess I will never know.
For this blog the change, I would like to encourage you all to keep adoring and keep working with your dogs. Keep showing off all your amazing skills. Keep walking your dogs and playing at the dog park and posting your videos on Youtube. It may not seem like a lot, but you never know who’s heart you may touch or who’s mind you may change.
We can’t all run for political office or open our own shelter, but by training our dogs in positive ways, I think we can reach others. You never know who is watching.