Thursday, June 27, 2013

Doggone Those Breed Lists!

As you may or may not know - I manage a dog daycare. That's right - my degree in journalism has been so useful here. However, my heart is soaring.

You can imagine how many canine magazines, blogs, webzines, etc., that I read for pleasure and to keep up with the latest in the dog world. Some of what I come across is amusing, some helpful, some amazingly intriguing, and some frustratingly inaccurate.

There is one topic that comes up over and over, year after year; and - unfortunately - I'm sure some put a lot of stock into whichever version they read.

Top 20 Breeds for Families, or 10 Best Breeds of 2012, or how about What Are The Best Breeds For New Dog Owners? You get the idea. Some cite who their "experts" are on these topics, some do not. When they do, it is most often vets they have derived this information from; and why not? Who else would know more about different breeds of dogs than veterinarians?

But let's think about this for a minute. Of course vets know much more than the rest of us about dogs. Well, dogs' health, that is. But when it comes to behavior, even most vets should be able to acknowledge that they see individual dogs - even if they do see every single breed - alone. One on one. In an exam room. They do not see the dogs interact with other dogs, or their reactions to other people (other than the vet techs and their own parents). There is an entire side of dogs that many vets are not privy to. I LOVE my vet, but even she admits this.

When I read some of these "best breed for ..." lists, I almost always end up with my jaw gaping in disbelief at what some list as "great dog for families" or "good breeds for first-time dog owners" as well as their reasoning behind these declarations.

So I have an idea. How about for some of these lists and discussions on breeds where behavior is concerned, they gather their information from people who actually spend their time with 20-30 (or more!) different breeds on a daily basis - experiencing them interacting with each other, reacting to strangers, etc.

Talking to those who see many breeds of dogs interacting under many different circumstances, I assure you, would make a very different list of Good Dog Breeds for Families, or Easily Trainable Breeds. Certain underlying traits for particular breeds or breed mixes make themselves known pretty quickly in the daycare environment; and I can only assume that they do in other group dog environments as well.

These lists are fun to read, and should only be a small consideration when making an important decision like adding a pet to your family. But a little more real-world information would go a long way in making sure the right pets are matched with the right people - and that fewer dogs end up being given up or euthanized simply because the owners' expectations were not met.

And with that, I have big group of dogs to go manage!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Worry It Out, Work It Out, or Walk It Out

I used to be a person who would get stuck in my ways. MY ways. Then God gave me children. Then he revealed those children's places on the Autism Spectrum. And then I believe he may have sat back and snickered a little, knowing full well that he wouldn't let me go *all* the way to the point of my head exploding before revealing something even more important - that my way is not THE way.

Which led to my quickly having to learn to lean on others and their knowledge and experience of concepts I knew nothing about - and never thought I needed to. Come to think of it, it was quite an egocentric life I led way back then.

If something didn't work for me, then I'd get mad and pitch a fit. If I had a problem, I tried to solve it in my way until it worked. If it didn't, then I'd make it. Or fail.

Do you notice all the "I's, me's", and "my's" in that? And it ended with the word "fail".

Forrest Gump's mama was right, "Life is like a box of chocolates - you never know what you're gonna get." But what she left out, which Forrest ingeniously (if not supremely and affectionately naively) figured out on his own, was that you have to bite into it to find out what's inside. And then you have to manage the outcome from there the best you can.

But God knows (as do some people) that you can't avoid the things of life by bypassing the whole box of chocolates. You will encounter life, it just won't be as sweet or interesting, and you won't learn a thing or grow in the least. (Read: your life will be fantastically boring and non-contributional. I don't know if that's even a word.) By not digging in and taking a bite, you'll still be dealing with life - you just won't know what it is you're dealing with.

Managing the outcome is where I trip and fall the most. I'm quite comfortable with biting into things. It's what I do. I've always been like that. It's the conceding-to-do-things-in-ways-that-may-not-be-how-I-would-do-it thing that was always the problem.

Again, cue the part where my kids are on the Autism Spectrum.

It's not so much that I developed a plan to deal with the things of this life within my own means and limits - but more that God revealed to me that I typically take one of three paths out of a conundrum, and challenged me on whether or not that was working. Or as Dr. Phil would put it, "And how's that workin' out for ya?"

Not mutually exclusive, these three paths are to worry it out, work it out, or walk it out. Worry it out by myself - which never does anybody any good whatsoever; work it out with someone else - by just talking, getting someone else's perspective, advice, or professional help; or Walk it out with God - walk in the word, talk to God, listen, seek his guidance and wisdom.

So you see, I sometimes go in the right direction, but other times I get slightly off track (as humans often do); and there is great room for improvement (as there usually is).

I'm hoping that God thinks that two outta three ain't bad, and can see that I'm working on that worry part. 

photo by Thomas Pate