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Thursday, February 21, 2013

To tie one on...or not?

Photo: 123RF.com
I've noticed a new trend in the dogosphere: the promotion of colored ribbons used to designate 'safe' vs. 'unsafe' animals. I suppose the idea isn't so new. When I was young and used to show horses, I knew that a red ribbon in the tail of a horse meant that the horse was known to kick. At first I questioned why I needed to know that. My 4-H leader's response was "So you don't ride up that horse's butt".  Well, I had a really good 4-H leader so I already knew not to ride up the butt of ANY horse. Most horses don't like another horse on their heels, so the ribbons seemed superfluous to me. It seemed to me that the horses were being marked for behaving in understandable ways. Having said that, there was invariably that rider who would ride their horse right into another horse, get kicked, and then blame the 'kicker's' rider for not tying a red ribbon in the horse's tail. The incident was usually followed by a bunch of hullabaloo and the announcer providing yet another tired lecture on the importance of red ribbons and understanding what they mean. The point is, the horse who kicked did exactly what horses do when another horse is invading their space, but that horse's rider was always the one taking all the guff. The idiot who rode like she was bowling was treated as an innocent victim. Seriously.

And now there are folks promoting the use of colored ribbons for dogs. Um, okay. I've seen flags, bandannas, patches, badges and most recently The Yellow Dog Project has launched a campaign to promote the use of yellow ribbons. Their message is a simple one: If your dog needs space, tie a yellow ribbon to the leash. If you see a dog with a yellow ribbon on the leash, give it space. I have no desire whatsoever to pick on these folks and what they are doing, but I do have a couple of problems with this system. 1) The folks who most need the reminder to back off aren't the ones who are likely to know what the ribbons mean. Non-dog people are pretty unlikely to have seen the promotional material, as are new dog owners, and 'fur-kid' folks (people who think of their dogs as furry children who can do no wrong). I have used badges and patches (my dog is a service dog) and have STILL had issues with other dogs and people getting in my dog's space. 2) I think a ribbon system can have unintended, negative consequences. It can lead to the assumption that any dog NOT sporting a ribbon is totally cool with being harassed, and that's the OPPOSITE of public education. In fact, as this movement spreads, I have already begun to see this happening.

If we have the opportunity to educate the public, why don't we REALLY educate them? If folks knew the truth about dogs, signs, symbols, ribbons, etc. would become unnecessary and domestic dogs everywhere could heave a collective sigh of relief. I really like Suzanne Clothier's common-sense approach, and highly recommend reading her blog post He Just Wants to Say "Hi" for an insightful look at what many dogs are subjected to in their daily lives. I also suggest checking out Dogs In Need of Space. They are an excellent educational resource and support system for owners who are feeling challenged or for those who just want to know more about appropriate behavior around dogs.

The truth is simple: ALL dogs should be given their space. A dog should NEVER be allowed to run up to a strange dog and get in their face (outside of a specifically designated dog park). A person, adult or child, should NEVER pet a dog without asking. Leash laws should ALWAYS be obeyed. These are basics here folks. This should be common sense to the point where I almost feel silly having to write it. I mean, how foolish would it be if we had to walk around wearing signs and ribbons to prevent strangers from harassing us? WHY do we assume then, that dogs are public domain?

I think too many people misunderstand what it means to be a 'social species'. WE are a social species, but we would still find it incredibly upsetting to have a stranger running at us and touching us and getting in our face. So it is for our dogs. While I have had a few dogs who tolerated this, I have only ever had one that really enjoyed the attention of strangers. It is more uncommon than people want to believe. THAT is what the public needs to learn. Unfortunately for dogs, most of what the public has learned has come from animated children's films about dogs; all the dogs speak in human voices, share human morality, are endlessly devoted to all people, and by gosh by golly all they want is to just be dogs, free to romp and play and sing songs. And if you happen to be the owner (or guardian, parent, whatever) of a dog who doesn't fit this fantasy stereotype, either you are a failure or your dog has something wrong with it. The truth is that most of the behavior exhibited by dogs who would be considered "Yellow Ribbon" worthy, is a natural and normal response to the rude, inappropriate behavior of another dog/person. I think that's the take-away message here.

We shouldn't need anything special to prevent  harassment  by people and other dogs. Common sense and hey, just good manners should be all that is necessary. But an awareness of how rare both of those attributes are these days does lend some credibility to the need for education. Since we are attempting to provide this education, I think we should treat the problem instead of just being okay with addressing the symptom.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Time

I had a birthday last week. I love my birthday, even at my age, because I think of it as my own personal holiday. I make it all about me, and the people around me tend to allow and perpetuate the indulgence. I had to do math (never fun for me) to figure out how old I am because I tend to forget at this point. I think beyond a certain age the numbers become less relevant. I remember how excited I was when I turned 10 because because I was "finally double digits", and the excitement of 13 because I was a "real teen-ager". I remember my not-so-sweet 16, and the ambivalence of turning 21; "Yeah! I can drink legally", but big whoopdee-doo for someone who grew up on the Canadian border;-)

I don't really mind getting older because of the learning curve. My daughter asked me once if I missed my 20's...oh HELL no. I've learned a lot since then, not the least of which is how much there is yet to learn, and I wouldn't go back for anything. In our 20's we tend to know it all. Funny how that works:-) To say I didn't have my priorities straight would be an understatement too. Let's just say I logged some serious mirror time between my single-parenting duties. Funny how when I started worrying more about what was on the inside, the outside, and what people thought of it, seemed far less relevant. I think young people almost always have to go through the 'mirror' phase, but I don't miss it.

One thing I will say about getting older is that time seems to move faster. We understand that there is nothing we could own and no amount of money as valuable as our time. It's something nobody can give us, and yet we are so cavalier about how little we sell our hours and days for. We allow ourselves and our time to be undervalued by others because we undervalue ourselves. It's so common that it's largely unquestioned, and we consider ourselves lucky that somebody else is willing to pay us for our time at all. But each hour, each minute, it's OURS and we can't ever get it back. We think crazy thoughts like "sometimes we have to make sacrifices and that's just what we've gotta do". Um, do we? Or could we just stop being all martyred long enough to realize that we are all good at something, we all have dreams and goals and nobody's dreams and goals are greater or less than anybody else's. So if we're selling our time in pursuit of someone else's success, shouldn't that be worth something? If I want to pursue something free or dirt cheap because it has personal value to me (like this blog), that is my choice, my decision to make. But if I am in pursuit of someone else's goal I expect to be appropriately compensated for my time. MY time. On the flipside of this situation, if you can't adequately or fairly compensate someone for the time they are giving to pursuit of YOUR success, then you should probably do it all yourself. If you can't, then you may want to reevaluate the importance of your workforce and compensate them accordingly. I'm just sayin'. There's a karmic bit to this too. And believe you me, I know all about giving my time away for a pittance. Never again. It's amazing how the Universe cooperates when you finally decide that you are worth MORE.

We all are. We each have to take responsibility for deciding what we are worth, and to do so unapologetically. We are each the Kings or Queens of our own time and ourselves, and there's no price worth giving that away for a pittance. Too many times I've heard someone say "I guess that's good enough" or "at least I have a job". I think that's fine-temporarily. If you just need to get from point A to point B until you can do something worthwhile, well, that's life sometimes. Sometimes compensation isn't monetary, and that's okay too if it's giving something back to you. Some things are even better than money if you have what you need. Settling for years though, not cool. Getting comfortable with being underpaid and undervalued is one of the saddest ways to spend your time that I could ever imagine. But you have to believe in possibilities to pursue your own goals, and years of being undervalued by yourself and others can all but destroy that ability. Sometimes years of being told that you work hard and if you're lucky you have what you need, but BIG successes are for OTHER people is the mantra to overcome. But ultimately, this time is yours and mine and the choices are ours to make. Cool, huh?

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Equilibrium

I'm realizing that it doesn't take much to throw me wildly off my game. I am a creature of routines, and anything that veers off course from the norm has a serious "ooh, shiney!" effect on me that it's difficult to recover from. It's been a couple of months since my car and computer bit the dust, and I'm still reeling from the experience. My car is up and running again, better than before, so that's all right, and a huge weight off my shoulders. My computer though, well, that's a different story.

My daughter generously (if a bit fearfully) allows me to use her laptop. I am uber-grateful for the use of the laptop, but it still feels like trying to make a meal in someone else's kitchen or trying to sleep in a strange bed...it's wicked awkward. My files and programs are notably absent and I'm not super sure about how anything is organized. I just can't get comfortable. Comfy enough to write this blog, perhaps. Comfy enough to re-re-re-edit my book so I can move forward on the damned thing, not so much. Certainly, there are things I can be doing, but my brain derails me. I think "well, I could do that interview" or "I could explore that publishing avenue" but the next logical step always involves having access to the book, which I don't. I feel like I will be stopped dead in my tracks (mentally-BAD brain) until I can put my hands on the subject of my focus. I suppose it makes sense to be frustrated by my inability to make progress on a project I don't have access to, but the more time goes by, the louder my internal clock ticks and the more aware I am of time being wasted.

Don't get me wrong. A waste of time isn't always really a waste. Sometimes 'think time' is the most important time of all. I had to learn that the hard way. Sometimes external action is nothing more than the mechanical manifestation of lots and lots internal work. And hey, that's cool. But right now I AM wasting time. I am idling in park, sitting in limbo, twiddling my thumbs and rattling around my space like a singular pea in a multi-pea pod, and waiting. Unfortunately, the downside of being a thinky-person is that my brain is voracious. If I don't give it lots to do and feed it well, it starts to cannibalize itself. Soon, I fear, I will find myself staring at a wall and drooling. Or maybe it's just because it's February:-)

On the upside, the hard drive is ALIVE (thanks to my talented and computer-savvy step dad). I could have lost the whole works, but I didn't. That alone is worthy of celebration. But there is still something wrong with my computer. If you read my blog you know that I am literally plagued with computer problems, I've lost large sections of the book on two occasions and I can't seem to keep things doing what they are supposed to do long enough for me to make much headway at any given time. Ergo, my daughter's understandable trepidation in allowing me to use her laptop. I see her watching me furtively from the corner of her eye while she prays that whatever computer-killing curse I possess remains directed at only my machines. But I digress:-) (is that possible considering the meandering nature of this particular rumination?)

But it will be okay. Things work out in the end, sometimes better than expected. I just need to find a productive way to utilize my time until it's all sorted out. Till next time...