Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Best Way to Build a Ship

I love cooking ... and even now that I'm retired I understand how lucky I was to be able to spend so much of my career doing something that I really loved.  It more than made up for the initial rough patches of being one of the first women in my trade and all the odd little bits in between.
Its really frosting on the cake that those years of experience come in pretty darned handy when it comes to holiday leftovers .... so I can confidently recycle yesterdays baked ham as tonight's yummy quiche and the leftover cranberry sauce became the rich cranberry coffee cake. 
A friend of mine, who runs a wonderful breed rescue, once told me that in her perfect fantasy world, all adopters would be dog experienced.   I'm a middle aged grandmother, not a professional dog trainer, but I can easily understand her point.
When my brother was down for Christmas, the dogs were so happy to see him that sometimes they 'forgot' themselves and needed a word to remind them not to jump up/ bark at the jogger galloping down the road/ etc.   Even though they love him, he clearly wasn't as confident about telling them what to do .. with predictable results.  Until of course I spoke the appropriate word and they all responded at once.
This holiday season, I have been privy to the perspective of the less experienced adopter as my daughter and her family make their first journey with their own family dog.  Even in the space of a couple of weeks, when we are on the phone, I can hear the difference in her voice when she's speaking to Jessie and am not suprised that she is getting better results.  Clearly, as she's getting the hang of clicker trainer her confidence is growing.
Dog training, after all, is no different than anything else ... the more practiced one becomes .. the better the results because everyone ...on four paws and two, becomes more confident.
I often wonder how many dogs are returned to their rescue slot for issues that would have been nipped in the bud in more experienced and confident hands.  After all ... there is no such thing as 'magically unforseen' issues.   Dogs in the care of experienced staff and volunteers are much more likely to be well behaved than they will be in the hands of a 'rookie'
For instance, not to toot my own horn, but if Miss Ruby had gone to a different home, she might have been bounced right back to rescue the first time she chased my eldercat out the door and went for a merry old run around the yard in hot pursuit!
But this is a house with dog savvy cats .... and after the first two weeks when every second sentence seemed to start with "Ruby Do Not Chase the Cats", it was all peace and tranquility here again.
Had she been returned, she likely would have picked up a "no cat" tag that would have definitely limited her adoption options. 
The point I am making in my rambling way is that the only way to get more dog experienced adopters is by letting the rookies adopt.  To be perfectly honest, they might need more initial support but on the uptick they haven't had the chance to learn any 'bad' habits on their own yet.  ( One of the things I used to love about teaching the basic cooking courses was the fact that while the students were short on experience, they were long on being willing to follow directions and / or much shorter on thinking they already knew better, eh? )
Its a splendid opportunity to educate in the very best way ... by channelling the love that inspired them to adopt into the confidence needed for lifetime committment.
Both as an adopter, and from my little birds eye view maintaining the site, I have come to see that the level of support offered to adopters varies widely.   Some rescues, like ARC, will even bring in a trainer if the adopter will follow up.   Others seem to be so busy that they don't even have time to do follow up to ensure their adoptees all turned out ok.
I'm enough of a dinosaur to remember when RSS didn't stand for live feeds from weather and news sites ... when Reality Shock Syndrom was a term to describe the inability of some new graduates in the work force to settle into the job they had wished for and studied for so long.   With the advent of sensible sneak previews such as job shadowing and work experience programs, this type of panic reaction has been substantially reduced.
So here is today's what if?   What if shelters and rescues actively recruited teenagers to volunteer?   Can you imagine a better way for them to become more confident?  ( Bear in mind that most of them were likely toddlers when their own parents trained the family dog)
Even better ... what if this could be organized as part of a school experience program ... perhaps falling under the Learning for Life program?  What a wonderful way it would be to both educate children and inspire future adopters?
Best of all, it would a great way to reach out to the kids who need a better role model than parents who might still be sentencing dogs to life on the end of a chain or leaving feline birth control to chance?
What time is it?  Its always time to remember that teaching the next generation well is the best way to create better communities."
If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people together to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea"    Antoine de Saint-Exupery

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