Oh my. An article just came out in the Sunday Wisconsin State Journal about dog parks, full of information about how to read dog language to prevent potential problems between dogs. The author, Chris Martell, spent a long time with me, gathering photographs (thank you to all who have sent me photos to use for education!), getting clear on what signals meant what…. All that is greatly appreciated. She even checked the accuracy of quotes with me, something many journalists don’t do. But when I read “..McConnell says many dog owners–no matter how much they love their pets — are clueless when it comes to body language,” I winced. Ouch. “Clueless.” That sounds horrible. Did I say that?
The truth is, many dog owners are not very good at reading body language from dogs.. but “clueless?” That’s not a word I ever use, and it sounds so rude. Did Chris read me that quote when she was fact checking? Could be… there were several quotes in which she had used “most” and I asked her to change the word to “many.” It might be that ‘clueless’ slipped by, while I focused on the word ‘”most” instead of “many.”
I read the sentence to Jim, and he said “Uh oh.” I asked Office Manager Denise if she’d read it and she said, “Yes, and I said ‘Uh oh’ when I did. I knew you wouldn’t like it.” She was right. I put the paper down and couldn’t look at it until today. It has always been essential to me to be as respectful to people as I am to dogs. They are, after all, my two favorite species. I don’t understand professionals in the training and behavior world who are kind and gentle to dogs, and impatient and rude to people. I do understand that it can get frustrating to say the same thing year after year in answer to the same seemingly simple question, but as the saying goes: “A good teacher responds to questions she’s been asked a thousand times as if each time is the first time she’s ever been asked.” After all, if everyone knew all they needed to know about dogs and training… professional trainers would be out of a job. I always tell trainers to remind themselves that every question, no matter how basic, is their bread and butter (or their dog’s orthopedic surgery, etc etc.)
I felt a little sick all day yesterday about the whole thing… you’re just so helpless once something comes out in print. And the journalist in question here did a truly bang up job.. I have no complaints there at all. I just wasn’t careful enough about how each word would sound when it was printed in a Sunday paper. (I used the F word once when talking to a journalist in Chicago. We’d talked for over an hour, she was loose and goosey and funny and we laughed as much as we talked. I was dumbstruck when she quoted me exactly, inserting a line that I had thrown off as a joke between her and me. Reading it in the Chicago Tribune Sunday magazine was like being hit in the stomach. It does make me laugh to remember that it’s the only major article I never sent to my mother when she was still alive. At least I learned my lesson on that one! (Or will I be sorry tomorrow that I wrote on my blog that I used the F word once when talking to a journalist? Sigh.)
Well, here’s the good news. There is a lot of good information about reading body language in the article, Chris Martell did a really good job of conveying a lot of information in a very short space. I did get an email from someone who said she loved the article, so at least that’s one person who doesn’t think I’m a rude and arrogant jerk. (I also said I don’t think dogs should go to an off-leash dog park unless they have a reliable recall. I truly believe that, but I am sure it won’t make me very popular!)
Here’s some more good things: some photos of the joy-filled Easter ritual that Jim and I celebrate every Easter. With our dear friends, David and Julie, we decorate Easter eggs like a bunch of kids, and then take turns hiding them for each other (usually the girls against the boys.) We have a great time… it’s a perfect example of “flow” and playing in a child like way.
Such a joy to play with color after a long, black, white and brown winter! And here’s the winner (Jim’s masterpiece):