Saturday, March 24, 2012

" Old School" One More Once

I thought long and hard before I posted this.  But the message -- spontaneous and actually stunning to me -- is so potent that I decided it would be a mistake not to.  What follows can be viewed as a self-serving pat on the back (and there's no way to keep it from being viewed that way).  But if that's all you take away from reading this, you've blown it, missed the point entirely.

The back story:  In my most recent post, damning "old school" (jerk-'em-around training) while offering examples of the benefits of positive training, I presented two examples of students and their dogs who are thriving under a regimen of positive reinforcement and stress-reducing play.  FUN!  Using assumed names, I featured Laurie and her splendid border collie Crash.  They are snowbirds, wintering here from a major Midwest city.  Unbeknownst to me, at the very moment I was typing that post, Laurie was tripping over something in her garage with the result that she ripped an 8- by 3-inch piece of skin off her shin.  A very bad and debilitating injury.  Yesterday I received the following email from Laurie.  The parenthetical comments are mine, added for clarification purposes.

So I'm in bed with my leg elevated, and having a lot of pain when it turns certain ways.  Changing the bandages is sort of like childbirth to me, but then I never did have any pain tolerance. I have no idea how long it will be before I can even do articles, and it is driving me crazy.  This gave me some important insights which I thought I would share with you, and if you ever want to use it for a blog, I think it might be a nice followup to your last one. 

So here we go!  Every year at Christmas my trainers back home take a vacation between Christmas and New Years.  Every year I can't wait to have some time off.  It's great not to go through the same training that I do every week, and get a little break.  It's not fun, it's work and the dogs seem to love the break.  Now I'm lying here with this stupid injury that I can't blame on anyone else, cause I'm a klutz, and crying because I can't work this unbelievable dog for who knows how long.  It (training Crash) has become the highlight of my life.  I never knew that you could have so much fun with a dog and still teach him to be an unbelievable competition obedience dog -- wait, just an unbelievable dog, even if it's only a pet home.

And that is the key to what you have taught me.  I have been doing obedience competition for 30 years, but have never had fun until now.  My first border collie was born wanting to know who to watch.  But we always lost points in heeling because, what a surprise, she forged.  But she loved her work in spite of me.  Today, knowing what you've taught me, there is no telling where we could have gone, even though she did get her OTCH.  But she was a one in a million dog that came out of the womb wanting to know who to watch, and forge with.

These, Willard, are my thoughts today, in between tears from not being able (to work and have fun) with the dog of my life. Thank you so much, my dear friend, for changing my life, which is always obedience competition.  I can't wait to get back here next year.


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