Vulnerabilities

The past week has been super busy.  I recently became a new employee at a before/after school program for youth.  I see it as a throwback to my younger self just starting out in my career field.  The differences being, then, I graduated with my BSW  and wanted exposure in the social work profession and in a sense, get my hands dirty. Now, I’m looking for avenues in jump starting my dog training business.  I believe people talk about things going on in their lives and often times its sharing things which causes stress and many times those stressors are family and pet related.  Then, I was looking for the high profile populations and the high level of intensity of the workload and the massive critical thinking skills necessary for assessing special needs cases.  Now, I still enjoy the assessment process, but I find working for myself and being creative within my own business will be just as rewarding.  I just need some revenue coming in and meet people in a structured way, therefore I’m going backwards a bit.  I also think I can connect my social work background with dog training and teaching youth.  I have some ideas up my sleeves, but now its just a matter of getting through orientation, getting known at the center and building relationships.

The orientation this past week touched on many things children and immediately my mind started making comparisons with children and dogs.  Yes, I know comparing children and dogs is not really looked at with smiling eyes, but I often go against the grain.  To me the comparison makes sense and it makes me also pause.  If I offend anyone, I apologize, but I’m sharing some anecdotes which came to my mind this week.

First, children and pets dogs or dogs, in general are vulnerable populations.  Both groups are often without a voice and we as caregivers, parents, pet guardians are the responsible party charged with overseeing the care of both children and if you have pets, those too. Both children and dogs see the parent and owner, respectively, as the leader.  Children and dogs depend on us for food, shelter, love and companionship.  Children require way more hands on in feeding, changing, mirroring and basic human touch for survival very early in life and our dogs also desire human interaction throughout life.  I’ve seen first hand of situations where children go without these necessities and it resulted in children becoming displaced in society.  They grow up feeling as though no one cares and they are forgotten.  In one particular situation, there was a child I worked with whose parent never came to see them or have any sort of interaction with her at the shelter.  She was remarkable.  She graduated from high school.  Sadly, her parents were divorced and her mother didn’t make it to graduation.  She didn’t even think her dad would show up and told the shelter her situation.  The director had a staff member attend her graduation so at least she had one familiar face in the crowd.  Wouldn’t you know, before she finished walking down the aisle after receiving her diploma, her dad handed her a bus ticket to go live with her mother.

This broke my heart.  Similar situations exist with adoptable pets.  People who are often ill equipped in caring for an animal are the ones handing over the adoption papers or worse, trolling through craigslist and finding those classifieds advertising “free dogs to a good home”.  I heard about a recent case of a puppy dropped off at Animal Services where the owner cropped the dog’s ears him/herself.  The picture of the dog was horrifying.  Almost 3/4 of the ear was cut off with what could have been scissors or a box cutter.  I can only imagine the owners reaction when cropping the ears on their own, they probably didn’t use anesthetics or have a way in stopping the bleeding.  The screams from the dog and the realization they completely messed up resulted in the owner dropping off the dog at Animal Services.  The dog was traumatized and now needs rehabilitation.

In my mind, many people don’t recognize the level of care and immense responsibility in having children or owning a pet.  Both children and dogs require time and attention and dedication from their parent or leader.  Without this level of care and guidance and education and training, the children and dogs suffer.  Without the guidance, children and dogs become unruly and are seen as bad.  Without love and relationship, children learn making bad decisions results in negative attention, maybe the only attention they ever see. The same goes with dogs.  If all we do is come home and reprimand the dog for jumping on us or guests or peeing where they shouldn’t, they will continue doing these behaviors since these behaviors solicit the attention from their owner.

I’ve also seen the positives.  I’ve seen children grow into young men and women and look back at their parents with adoration.  They articulate the role modeling done by their mom or dad and the teenager understands this is the successful path.  They see their mom or dad as compassionate, understanding and overall someone they’ve grown to trust and show the utmost respect which translates to others outside of their immediate family.  I’ve also seen how loving and involved dog owners transformed a beaten down and shy dog into a dog who demonstrates confidence and a curiosity for her environment.  Love can transform lives and I truly hope more hearts are opened by it.

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