Updated: Jan 22
I feel angrier every time I watch this short video clip – and behind that anger is fear, big time. Fear for my dogs.
People want to “come and visit the ranch.” They want to meet all the beautiful white dogs. All the white dogs are sweet and smiling; gentle, nurturing, and trusting – of me! And of my ability to manage the situation I have just put them in. I let this pair of dogs down so much it just breaks my heart.
I absolutely know and understand the depth of my dogs; their willingness to die protecting this ranch and the animals on it. Visitors cannot be expected to understand that, not really, even if they have read and studied every LGD resource they could get their hands on.
If you look, just look, at the body language of the humans, they appear blasé and casual. WHY?! The woman with the dark hair was here to learn at this last opportunity how to work with her prospective new dogs – no, I did not sell her the dogs.
The man has a six-month-old Maremma pup in trouble; he should have been learning and really paying attention. I see a man doing kissy-face with a dog as if she is a companion dog. Rosie will allow him that, as long as he feeds her chicken. She is in control here, for sure.
The man is down on his heels in a completely indefensible position, though I had asked him not to do this. His head is eye to eye with a dog who will eat mountain lions. Yes, indeed, she looks like a sweet little butterfly. This dog is a clicker dog! She rules her world with great understanding and control. She never misses anything. She knows exactly how to manipulate this man – feed me chicken – all the while knowing exactly where the dogs around her are and where Echo is. Rosie is a wise and capable dog!
Echo is a completely different dog. He is big and fast, with his head in the clouds a little bit. Some of that is his age. He is a year younger than Rosie (girls learn faster) and has not been asked to handle the level of responsibility Rosie has. Also, he has not been a clicker dog for more than a year. This matters! Clicker dogs know they have control over their environment. They settle in and become confident and engaged with whoever has that clicker and the amazing treats. They KNOW how to make whatever is in the pouch show up for them.
Poor Echo is so triggered by the amazing baked chicken. He is also managed by a human who is doing things Echo has never seen. This man’s body is fast, and his hands are all over the place, sometimes pushing Echo off, sometimes cueing for behaviors Echo barely remembers, all the while ADDING energy to Echo’s situation.
Kind dog, full of grace. Echo keeps trying.
The woman allows Echo to float on past her, her head in the clouds or wherever. Echo isn’t thinking. He has been provoked past a point where he can be present and learning. He moves – quickly – toward Rosie because she is safe and she is his familiar partner. He is also moving towards human touch, and possibly the chicken.
Rosie watches him. Her body is frozen; only her eyes move. I can see this from behind my camera, outside the field, too far away to lend aid to Kathy or my dogs. The humans? Well, in my world, they fend for themselves if a choice needs to be made because they had a choice; my dogs didn’t.
Rosie was so fair with Echo. She watched him come from a long way away, only nailing him when he absolutely encroached upon her. She grabbed him, and then she let him go. Yes, the humans, now paying attention, pulled the dogs away from each other, but Rosie had made her point and would have let go. There was no blood. Echo understood her message. As they moved on, out the gate and into the yard, the dogs didn’t show further tension between them.
What if Echo had moved back just as Rosie took hold of him? What if she had ended up with Peter’s face instead?! There is not a human around, other than my assistant and me, who would have understood that this language of dogs was appropriate. If Peter had been hurt, my dogs could have been quarantined.
Never, never would they have been the same dogs again. The mental anguish these dogs would have suffered in their confinement, the continued betrayal, noise, and confusion, would have changed them forever. And for what?! So that two humans could have a casual interaction with beautiful dogs that made them feel good?
Oh. I am so done. And no, these humans are not the villains in this story. All of the humans in this story are just that; fallible humans. And of all of us, I am the one most responsible.
My point here is to share this painful and scary lesson with you in the hope that doing so will keep some dog, or human, a little safer in the future.
My assistant had her back turned for seven seconds, that’s all!
Life can spin on a dime; one second, all is well – and then it isn’t. So much of what is true for all of us these days is beyond our control, or we are finding our way to a ‘new normal” or whatever. But this, this was within my control. I did not make good choices on this day. That’s all. I offer this for your consideration, that’s all.