Editorial December 2001 Issue


Making connections, making friends.

Sometimes it’s spooky. I’ll be writing about something and suddenly what I’m writing about will act itself out in front of my eyes.

Take for example, some of the things that have happened to me recently. A few days ago I was adding some words of caution to an article about watching your dog carefully when you give him or her a new toy. My next-door neighbor’s dog was visiting, hanging out in my office (she gets lonely at home alone during the day). She picked up a fuzzy fleece chew toy that was lying on the office floor, and spent 20 minutes or so running around my back yard, gleefully throwing the toy up in the air and catching it, chomping on it to make the squeaker squeak, until even staid old Rupert had to go out and play, too. I made a mental note: “Make sure Carly doesn’t chew that toy up.” And then I got absorbed in something else.

Hours later, I went outside for a break, and to my great dismay, I found chunks of fluffy white synthetic stuff all around the back yard. The words I had typed a few hours earlier rang in my head as I combed the yard, picking up all the pieces: “Never leave a dog unattended with a new toy.” Ugh. I found a lot of fluff, the squeaker (thank goodness), but have still not found any of the fabric of the body of the toy. Did Carly eat it? I don’t know. Shamefaced, I had to confess to Carly’s owners what I had done, and how I knew better, and how we were going to have to watch Carly very closely for a few days. I have a feeling I have really absorbed my own lesson now.

In another case, I was asked by the editor of another dog magazine if I could go to UC Davis (about an hour and a half away from me) to take pictures of veterinary cardiologists performing echocardiograms on dogs. I did, and learned a great deal about the technological miracles being performed at the veterinary teaching hospital there – so I knew right where to take Rupert when he suffered an attack of cardiac arrhythmia.

Fortunately, there have also been good cases of synchronicity, too. A new director has been hired at my local animal shelter, and I went in with boxes of canned dog food and treats (left over from recent reviews) to donate and to introduce myself. I mentioned to her that I would love to be involved if she would consider some sort of training sessions for the shelter volunteers. I have seen some of the amazing work done by the staff and volunteers at the San Francisco SPCA, and think our little shelter would really benefit from having the volunteers learn more about training the dogs to make them more adoptable. The new director said, “Oh, well, we do have some trainers coming in these days to work with the dogs and the volunteers, and they are both graduates of the SF SPCA Academy for Dog Trainers.” “Hurray!” I thought, “I’m off the hook! Someone is already doing what I think ought to be done.”

Just a week later, I got a call from someone who said he had called our Training Editor, Pat Miller, to buy a copy of her book, The Power of Positive Dog Training (which is fabulous, by the way). He mentioned to her that he frequently volunteers at his local shelter, and was getting involved with another trainer who was starting to train volunteers there. When Pat learned he lived in Alameda, she suggested that he give me a call, so he did. He said, “Do you know anyone who might be interested in helping us with our local shelter? We need donations, videos, treats, training equipment . . .”

Needless to say, I’m not off the hook, and that’s a good thing. It will be really rewarding to get involved with the shelter again, especially when there is such a great wave of new energy and enthusiasm sweeping in. I think, especially as I ponder my new year’s resolutions, I’ll pay special attention to the ideas and people that come into my life with that sort of double-chime of the bell.

-Nancy Kerns

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