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Friday, February 3, 2012

Perspective

Murphy in his cool shades
   "The older I get, the less I know" That's what my mother always says, anyway. When I was a teenager I thought she meant that she was getting feeble in her 'old age' (she was the age I am now) and was losing brain cells, or that she was so old her memory was slipping. Nope; she's still sharp as a tack. I do get it now though.

   When I was in my twenty's I thought I knew everything. On the rare occasion that I would concede to NOT knowing everything, I would still insist that I knew most of what I was talking about. By the time I reached my thirty's I understood that only a little information could be a dangerous thing indeed. Now that I'm in my forty's I'm much more receptive to the idea that sometimes, there are things that I know nothing about that are worth further investigation. Sometimes there are things that I know well that STILL are worthy of an informational update. Some folks don't need to get this old before their open-minded-ness allows them to have a solid, well-rounded perspective, but I'm kind of stubborn so I did. It's still a work in progress. My biggest incentive has been my interest in providing the best care for my animals (even if I only have one 'animal' right now).

   There is a huge push forward in the world of holistic animal care. It's really very cool, even if I resisted it a bit at first. The irony here is that the more things progress, the more we go back to basics. I remember reading about raw diets for dogs and all the grumbling I did about it. "I don't need to do that, I feed a great dog food, what about salmonella, I don't want the mess....blah blah blah...." But I was surrounded by people who fed raw; successful, professional people who's dogs looked great and never (or rarely) ever got sick. Often their vibrant health led to an extended life-span that long-time raw-feeders almost seemed to take for granted. I had just lost a 10 year-old dog to cancer so I felt some motivation to at least look into it. I read some more. I didn't just read about the arguments 'for',  but also the arguments 'against'. No matter what your point of view on almost anything, you are likely to find information that supports it. (Google anything you want, I dare you). I think it makes much more sense to look at ALL the valid info out there and then make your decision (about anything) and consider the source. It took two years of research and thought, and then I switched to raw. I've never been sorry. The downside is that I will never be able to feed dog food again (unless there is a pressing health concern that disallows raw) without feeling guilty. But it was REALLY HARD for me to change, and to open my mind to the possibility that I might be wrong, or might not be doing something as well as I could be. It requires an open mind and a degree of flexibility; something I still struggle with (really hard sometimes) but becomes more accessible with age and experience.

   But this isn't about raw feeding, it's about perspective. When do you know you have it and how do you handle people who don't? Within my tiny little bubble of knowledge, it would seem perspective comes with experience.  Take my views on prong-collar use for example: I don't just advocate use of them arbitrarily on principal. I used them years ago because that's what there was. Then I disliked them because they were 'mean', then I REALLY learned how to train, and train a wide variety of different dogs with varying needs, including working dogs, and I learned proper and conscientious use of the prong-collar so I liked them again. It took years and a wide variety of experiences to give me enough perspective to come full-circle and be open-minded on the subject. So how do you deal with it when Joe-blow with an unruly, out-of-control lab mix (or someone with similar and obviously inadequate dog-handling skills) tries to lecture you on your choices? Or someone who is 'certified', but has never trained anything but soft pets (or has no problem with 'managing' a dog into social isolation) tries to tell you your choices are cruel? Isn't relegating a dog to a life of management a cruel thing to do, especially when having an open mind would mean better options? And isn't it cruel to use a piece of equipment that drives the dog nuts? It seems rude to be as dismissive as I feel, but really? And on the flipside, If you see something you disagree with, when is it okay to step in? I recently saw someone correcting the hell out of their reactive dog, and it took everything I had not to grab the leash out of their hands. Who am I to say my way is better (even if I suspect their dog would agree)?

   I will admit to being FAR MORE concerned about the needs and opinions of the dogs in our care than in the needs of the humans involved. Maybe that makes me a horrible person, but I know more than a few that feel similarly and I like them just fine. But I get tired of both the Disney-esque anthropomorphism ( I let him do it because he wanted to) AND the brutish "Show 'em who's boss" mentality. Dogs don't want to be people and they don't need to be bullied. I don't think it requires a great deal of experience or perspective to come to that conclusion, just a bit of common sense. But you know what they say about that.

   The older I get the less I know. While that is true, the few things that I do know something about (because I've taken the time to learn, heard all of the arguments and put things into practice for myself), I REALLY know. Even so, I continue to work exceptionally hard (because for me it's exceptionally hard) at keeping an open mind and hearing the opinions of other people. Maybe I'll continue to get better at it with age.

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