On Keeping the Darkness at Bay

One of the best bits about growing a garden is being able to preserve the bounty for the winter ahead.    What a secure feeling to know that the chow chow simmering so delightfully on the stove this morning will be on tap when it is needed.

It took a long time to get the hang of preserving the harvest.  The technical end of the stick was always easy for a cook.   The challenge lay in learning how much could realistically be used before passing the best ‘sell’ date.

I am always in awe of those who commit to running accountable animal rescues.     Behind every Happy Tail there is an unbelievable amount of work that goes unseen by the general public.   Not to be mean, but the adoption fees rarely if ever come close to covering the actual costs incurred by a well run rescue.

As a matter of fact, if I could pick our next Finance Minister, he or she would have experience running a reputable rescue.   Forget Bay Street … these are the people who really know how to make every penny count!

But the really accountable rescues also understand that sometimes the cheapest route is not always the best one.  Or the safest.     It is just a fact of life that every week that a dog is in care costs the rescue two ways.   First of course there are the actual costs of caring for the dog.    And then of course there is the heartache of never being able to catch up with the waiting list for intake.

So from a purely dollars and cents point of view, it could be possible for a rescue to choose a supposedly quicker (ergo cheaper) training method for dogs with undesirable (ergo less adoptable) behaviors.    EXCEPT for one teeny little detail.

It has been my experience that most people rescue because they love animals.    What is not to love?   Like us, animals are living, breathing sentient beings.   What does that mean in realspeak?   Simply that pets are as capable of feeling pain and mental distress as we are.

There once was a time when electric shock therapy was commonly used to treat mental illness in humans.  Now of course it is regarded as a barbaric practice that is right up there with chaining patients in padded rooms and performing lobotomies on non conformists.

Of course there also was a time when it was accepted practice for parents to beat unruly children into submission.   When it was commonly believed that women who were ‘better wives’ would not be subjected to spousal abuse.    When finding one’s partner with another lover was acceptable legal grounds for murder.

But I am wandering afield as I am wont to do in my meandering way.   The point that I am trying to make is that I have always been baffled by rescuers who are willing to use electric shock therapy on those they are supposedly rescuing.   And before the keyboards catch on fire,  it does not matter what fancy soothing names shock collar peddlers / proponents want to call it.

At the end of the day, let us just agree to call a spade a spade.  But of course it would be tougher to sell to adopters than coy little phrases like balanced training.    Even worse, rescuers will often claim that these negative training methods are saving lives.    (The sticky subject of how risky it is to send these ‘ticking time bombs’ out into an unsuspecting world is a testy topic that is best left to the professional positive trainers who explain it much more clearly than an amateur like myself ever could.

It is my great hope that my granddaughter’s generation will commonly view negative training practices with abhorrence.   That in time society as a whole will view physically and emotionally painful training methods as animal cruelty instead of as a quick fix.

We certainly are not there yet.   The good news is that we are headed in the right direction.    My dear friend Joan Sinden has a new website to help raise public consiousness about shock collars, which is aptly titled “You Would be Shocked”

There is also a  new group on Facebook “The Nova Scotia Shock Free Rescue Coaltion”     Are you looking for a Positive Trainer?   They have a list there!   For a rescue that that uses only humane positive training on their adoptables?    They have a list for that too!

Never underestimate the power of grassroots advocacy.    We have better animal welfare regulations now because People for Dogs elevated the consciousness of our provincial politicians by pointing out how many voters cared about the issue.

Woodrow Wilson once said that if you want to make enemies, try to change something.    Right now, those who have vested financial interest in portraying the use of electric shock therapy as a sensible way to save lives are vehemently very vocal in opposition to the growing anti shock collar movement in this province.   Years from now, I expect that history will vilify shock therapy proponents  in much the same manner

What time is it?   It is always, always time to be kind to animals.      Anyone who cannot manage that has no business claiming to be an animal rescuer.

I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay … small acts of kindness and love

– Gandalf    (The Hobbit)