A Word About Words

Even after writing Monday’s post, my brain has not been able to let the whole crate issue drop. I keep thinking of things I didn’t say, arguments I didn’t make. I also worry I did the writer of the inspirational article a disservice.

For the record, I want to be clear that I have enjoyed reading A.G. Out Loud for a long time. And I will continue to do so. This is one of the reasons her post upset me so much, as it came from someone I respect. In case you didn’t notice, I have this tendency to worry about what others think of me, even if it means sacrificing what is good for my dog. It’s not something that fills me with pride. Anyway, one of the points I tried to make on Monday, but think I failed at, was not that the original article was awful but more that I took it very personally. I sincerely do not believe this was the writer’s intent.

Secondly, I loved reading all of the comments. Everyone had a lot of intelligent things to say on the issue. I’m ashamed to say I was worried there would be some negative reactions. One would think I’d have learned by now that dog lovers are awesome, kind, and very smart people who know how to share their thoughts without going overboard. I really, really appreciate that. You all have really made me analyze my own opinions on dog training and dog ownership over the last couple days. Thanks for taking the time to share your stories!

There was one comment especially, from Sheltie Times, that stuck with me. I think it defines my personal experience with dog training:

“I knew I didn’t have all the answers when we rescued Bailey. Katy has taught me we don’t even have all the questions. We keep learning new things all the time.”

I certainly didn’t have all the answers before Shiva entered our house. But I thought I knew everything I should expect. For some reason, I assumed the shelter would have told us if she had any major problems. This was a ridiculous assumption, obviously. She was at the shelter how long? Maybe three weeks, tops? Not really enough time to get to know all her quirks. Furthermore, the shelter environment is so different from home life that it’s pretty hard to guess how a dog will change. I know I behave differently in various settings; it’s only natural that dogs will as well. The stress of being on the street and then moving into the shelter and then finally re-entering a home environment with two strangers, it’s going to have impact.

I still don’t know all the answers. Nor do I even know all the questions. Future dogs will probably prove just how little I know about dogs and dog training. Honestly, I’m looking forward to it.

Lastly, I wanted to talk briefly about the word “abuse”. I’ve seen it thrown around a lot. Offline more than on. It’s a difficult word to define as it seems to be slightly subjective. There is the legal definition, which we know is often not good enough when it comes to animals. There is the dictionary definition, which also doesn’t quite cut it. Then there are personal definitions. It seems we have all different ideas of where the line should be drawn. Since I am not an animal behaviourist or even a dog trainer, I try never to use the word other than how it has been legally defined. I don’t feel I know enough to say one way or another. It’s not that I don’t feel concern if I think an animal is being mistreated and it’s not that I don’t think some intervention may be necessary. By all means, I think many situations warrant some investigation. Rather, unless I know the entire story, I am hesitant to label something in a way that could be harmful. It’s not my job. It’s not my right. Words have a lot of meaning for me and when it may be a case of ignorance, the last thing I would want is a word to get in the way of education.

Everyone knows my strong distaste for unsolicited advice. If I see someone struggling with a particular dog-related problem, the only suggestion I will ever make is to find a good trainer. That’s it. That’s where I feel my duty ends. I will provide names, numbers, and websites and then leave it up to them to follow through. If I don’t think they will follow through, maybe I will consider calling the authorities, maybe I won’t. Every situation is different.

If I have learned nothing else, I have learned that every dog is different. It’s not fair for me to push my own ideas of how dogs should live on dogs who perhaps don’t want to live that way.

Am I making any sense at all? No doubt I’ve shoved my foot in it again. Oh well.

19 thoughts on “A Word About Words

  1. If I may cut in uninvited, I would like to say that you are right about what you said. Dogs aren’t all the same and we don’t always know what’s best for our dogs, let alone for other dogs.
    I also read your post about the crate. To be honest, I wish we had a crate, or at least an empty room with no wires and no dangers for my dog, just some toys, bedding and food. We’re also dealing with separation anxiety and after some eaten cables and lots of other objects that could be dangerous, we would prefer to leave her in a safe (albeit narrow) place, rather than have her hurt herself. Don’t beat yourself up about it.

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    • Uninvited? Certainly not! Everyone is invited to share, at any time. Thank you very much for “cutting in”.

      All my sympathies go out to you. SA is SO HARD! It really, really sucks and I wish there was an easy fix. I wish I had a miracle cure to give you. I spent days, weeks, months, on the Internet looking for different solutions. There was nothing I wasn’t willing to try. It’s funny, we actually were going to adopt a different dog, before Shiva, a BC mix, but the shelter told us she suffered from separation anxiety so we decided not to. If we only knew!

      A crate isn’t an instant fix, nor does it always work. Some dogs are terrified of crates and some dogs really need it to feel safe. It just depends. Have you talked to a trainer in your area? I’m thinking of writing a post on how to find a great trainer. They really can make all the difference.

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  2. I think your posts and the original one from A.G. Out Loud show why blogging is such a great forum.

    Anne witnessed treatment that she thought was cruel to a particular dog and expressed her passion on the subject. No one told her she has to back up her opinion with evidence or get a peer review panel to look it over. She wrote what she felt she needed to write.

    You took Anne’s post to heart. And I’m sorry you felt bad reading it. But I think it inspired you to write a very eloquent post about trying to do what’s right for your dog. And how hard it is to know what is going to make her happy and secure every day.

    You kicked back, in a good way. And you showed respect for someone else while standing strong for what you’ve found to be right for Shiva.

    Lots of commenters responded. Some reflecting on all the things they’ve learned over the years and still have to learn. Other expressing their care for you and sympathy with your feelings.

    So, Kristine, you didn’t shove your foot in anything. But you gave us a great lesson in how learning from and nurturing another creature makes us better people.

    I think you’ve written good posts on the topic. And I’m glad you were willing to tackle the subject. Your comments yesterday seem to say the same thing.

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  3. I can entirely understand what you mean about worrying about what others think of me – especially related to training and generally owning my dog. The things one person does in training or on the street can’t be fully understood by the people around them, so there will be judgement. My dog cries (like, sounds like he’s being beaten with a stick, piteous wails) when I leave him outside a store with my sister (he isn’t even alone!)… She has complained many times that she gets really dirty looks from people walking past, who have clearly made the decision that this awful girl must be treating this dog terribly to make him that anxious. They don’t know that he also makes those noises when he sees another dog on the other side of the street… is play chasing a dog and is unable to catch it… sees a cat outside in our back yard… if I’m eating something he really wants. And the list goes on. His awful wailing is sometimes because he’s upset, and sometimes because he just wants to chat.
    He started off disliking his crate, but now, when I’m headed towards the door, he goes to sit in it, waiting for a kong full of food and some quality napping time.

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  4. Is it possible you took it so personally because you have felt guilt and struggled yourself over using the crate? (I’m not judging at all, but having read your blog you said you felt guilty.) If that is the case it would make sense that A.G.’s blog post would evoke those feelings of anger in you.

    When a dog is rescued, whether from a shelter or an organization, you usually don’t get their history so in a sense you are going into the relationship blind. Similar to a REALLY LONG blind date. You and your dog get to know each other to find out what works best for each of you. What works great for one dog may not necessarily work for another dog, it is all trial and error.

    You are right though, dog lovers are a wonderful, compassionate group of people who all have their own ideas of what is right and what is wrong for dogs.

    Just keep doing what you are doing because it is working for you and Shiva. 🙂

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  5. No, you didn’t put your foot in it at all, I don’t think. And I completely relate to your feelings of having not quite said everything you wanted to say in the previous post. It’s always a struggle to write something that encompasses all of your opinions about a given subject without having it become the length of a Tolstoy novel. I personally had never read the blog of the person whose post prompted you to write yours, but even though I didn’t fully agree with her arguments in that particular post, there was not, I didn’t think, anything incendiary about it. It was just her opinion, and there are probably a lot of
    anti-craters out there who were cheering. On the other hand, for others who believe in crate training, but might still harbor some feelings of guilt over using a crate (such as yourself) it would be easy to feel, logically or not, as though the implied criticism was directed at you.

    For myself, I believe that until or unless a puppy or dog can be calm, relaxed, and self-disciplined enough not to engage in dangerous or destructive (whether to self or to houeshold property) behaviors when left at liberty, that they should be crated, or otherwise confined in a place and manner that helps them to remain calm and relaxed, and does not allow them to be destructive.

    The most obvious and compelling reason for this is the dog’s own safety, but I don’t think it unreasonable to take the owner’s sanity (or bank balance) into account as well. There are far too many dogs relinquished to shelters for housebreaking problems or destructive tendencies that didn’t have to be. Yet many of those same people who turn a dog into a kill shelter knowing that there is a high likelihood they are facing a death sentence will also tell you that crates are cruel. ?????????

    In the end, you just have to know that you, personally, have nothing to apologize for or feel guilty about. Shiva is living a wonderful life with people who love her immensely. 🙂

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  6. Kristine, I am 1 1/2 times your age, and there is stuff I don’t post because I think I’ll lose both of my subscribers and everyone will hate me and/or think I’m nutz. You are SO not alone in that.

    I’ve only been reading your blog since January or so, but I understood right away that you weren’t criticizing the writer (Annes), but rather reacting to the subject matter. And I’ll bet your guilt was two-fold: 1) “OMG I crate Shiva, does that make me the WORST PERSON IN THE WORLD?” and 2) “Now I’m ‘arguing’ with Anne, does THAT make me the worst person in the world???”

    The worst person in the world died on Sunday, and I don’t think you’re anywhere close to that level, so relax. I will claim the title of Worst Person Ever for you, based on Our Best Friend’s poor diet and lack of exercise. 🙂

    You think, you care, you write, you write thoughtfully and with care; therefore, you are wonderful. You continue to be wonderful even if others disagree with you, or you disagree with them. If you don’t believe me, ask your PH; he better agree with me, or he’s in a lot of trouble from The Worst Person in the World (me, not you). 🙂

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  7. I’m late to the discussion, but I just read your other post and I think you expressed things very well. I think sometimes people push a perspective from a well-meaning place – that doesn’t mean that I’ll always take it that way, so I get where you are coming from.

    Last summer, I was with my dad’s dog, who was still working on his interactions with other dogs. A man was walking by with another dog and INSISTED that he bring his dog over to Roscoe. I kept explaining that it wasn’t a good idea, and he kept saying things like “it’s the people that are the problem. It’s not the dogs, it’s the people. Dogs want to be around each other.” It was really insulting, and I wanted to punch him, to be honest. And of course, the dogs almost got into a fight – I tried to warn him but he kept advancing and would not back off. I know my dog better than some stranger!

    So, that’s my long-winded way of saying that I agree with you – each dog is different and there’s not necessarily a one size fits all perfect solution.

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    • I hate the people who don’t believe (or ignore) you when you say, “my dog isn’t friendly, stay away”… I pet-sit for people with a cute tiny AGGRESSIVE dog, and it is ridiculous, the people who use that same (obnoxious, judgemental, STUPID) reasoning to follow me as I drag bitey-Mc-has-bitten-dogs-before across the street or onto a stranger’s lawn.
      kudos to you for working on his aggression and being honest with yourself about what he can deal with!

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  8. I think I have said before – you know what is best for your dog. Shiva has quirks -and that is what makes her special. You are no where close to being the worst person in the world – and we can respecfully disagree with other opinions without making us a bad person.

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  9. Yes, you’re making perfect sense and, I have to say it again, I really admire you for how much effort, love and soul you’re putting into Shiva.

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  10. I just read Pamela’s comments and can SO relate.

    I agree. Anne’s comments were based on her experience. Lord knows that I have heard similar stories or experienced ones that I would consider “abuse” (and yes, defining it can be a bit subjective) many times.

    Your response was based on your experience. That IS what makes blogging so amazing. We all learn from one another and it allows us to share.

    My post on Be the Change For Animals was inspired by Karen’s. When she said “Why bother?” I thought “Why not bother?” Did I disagree with what Karen said? Yes and No. But it inspired me to write a post and it led me to go protest at a Petland.

    I think your post was powerful, thoughtful and insightful Kristine. So glad AG inspired you to write it! I wouldn’t worry about how you are perceived. Everyone who knows you knows that you always bring a lot of thought to your posts. Who could help but respect that? 🙂

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  11. Just as an added note. I used to hold back on writing my posts for Daisy, but then I figured I couldn’t be the only one who wondered why they had gotten this dog with all of its problems. I was right. There are a lot of people out there who wonder what they’ve gotten themselves into.

    By writing about that which makes us uncomfortable or might piss someone off we begin a discussion through which all of us learn from one another. That can only be a good thing.

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  12. Boy, I feel a whole new appreciation for your post yesterday today after a person thought she could hide anonymously and make a reply to a post that really struck a nerve with me. Anyway, I thought your post was well thought out, intelligent and thought provoking. I don’t see any reason to apologize for that! Even if I didn’t agree with you, the fact that you made me think about it makes it worthwhile (even though I did agree with you). I wish I handled things that irritate me online as well as you!

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  13. I am coming in a bit late on this topic, but I feel you expressed yourself very well in both your posts. I use to feel the same way as you do about worrying about how people viewed me. Then one day I realized it doesn’t matter what they think. Every dog is different and so is every situation, what works for you and your pets is all that matters.

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