Benefits of Blogging

Arianna Huffington of the Huffington Post was interviewed by Jon Steward of The Daily Show in early December ’08. Her opinion is that “blogging is the first draft of history.” I guess this particular blog is the first draft of MY history.

I have often thought, at various points in my life, “this would make an interesting book.” In reality, it probably wouldn’t be interesting to anyone else, but it makes fascinating reading to me. I’ve been sliding in and out of journal-mode over the last 30 years and the most interesting thing is the sense of time travel you get when you go back and read old journal entries.

The act of putting words to paper has the power to commit events to memory more surely than a verbal rendition (which often gets embellished and edited along the way). This journal or blog is about the closest thing to my real history, especially since it gets published immediately and is impossible to take back.

This morning I had an e-mail conversation with a woman who showed interest in being an incredibly experienced S.M.A.R.T. team member at the local shelter. She’s been an adoption counselor and has worked with shelter dogs for over 10 years. Her experience is with “no kill” shelters and she’s hesitant to devote her time to “kill” shelter dogs. She’s tentative about becoming attached to our shelter dogs who have a term limit.

I told her that the dogs in our local “kill” shelters are being cared for by kind people, are getting regular meals and fresh water, are warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Our shelter is, for some of them, the best home they’ve ever had.

I also told her that nearly 700 dogs were transported from our shelter to rescue groups and other shelters north and east of us. Our area is producing more puppies and kittens than our citizens can care for.

An interesting aside — the economic downturn being felt so severely in the rest of the country hasn’t affected us as dramatically as it is affecting “boom” economies. This little part of the world has made slow but steady progress, but it’s a common event in rural, southeastern Ohio for a family to be unable to keep the family dog. When faced with high vet bills for vaccinations or neutering surgery the family opts to pay the electric bill instead.

So we funnel a lot of dogs into New England. And, unfortunately, we kill a few as well. Little successes, saving one dog at a time, can be celebrated even while others are less fortunate.

Philosophically, I’m not sure that a lifetime of solitary confinement at a “no kill” shelter is preferable to death, but I’ve experienced neither myself. My only run-in with “no kill” shelters took place in Delaware, Ohio, where they were full nearly all the time and would turn away owner-surrenders and stray-surrenders, sending folks to the county dog warden who ran the “kill” shelter. All of them were well-meaning. The “no kill” shelters get more donations. The staff of “kill” shelters operate on a shoestring.

I don’t know what the answer is but I would imagine it lies somewhere in the gray area between kill and no-kill. In the meantime I’m going to keep taking little bites, making a little headway, saving the ones I can save and improving the last days of those I can’t.

This morning was spent establishing the format for a “foundation sport package” of 2 Minute Dog Training brochures. This package will include 8 exercises designed to establish a good foundation for competition dog sports. Titles will include:  1) come front, 2) stay in sit or down, 3) stay in stand, 4) jump standard or wing, 5) jump tire or hoop, 6) weavepole entries, 7) unambiguous contact  performance, and 8) heel position.

I’m struck with the diverse circumstances of the dogs with which I work. The cream of the crop will be trained to do spectacular tricks using highly-motivating short training bursts, while the bottom of the barrel will be trained to be attentive and attractive to adopters. Fortunately, I don’t train any dogs smart enough to know where they fall along that continuum.

All my dogs think they’re number one, the best of the best, worthy of huge rewards and treats — more and more treats. Everyone I’ve ever met with a dog gets the same sense from their dog. Perhaps the only universal in this equation is that all dogs act as if they’re the best dog ever. This is what makes me cringe when I think of a healthy, social dog being euthanized because the shelter is full, or being sentenced to solitary confinement for life.

The dogs in our shelter are the lucky ones. And the dogs being worked through the 2 Minute Dog Training protocols are the really lucky ones!

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