Our Favorite Reads of 2014

Scrappy_0007We love reading the words, thoughts, and discoveries of other groups and individuals who share our passion for dogs.  These are the posts from 2014 that touched our hearts, pushed us to think, or made us stand up and say yes.

10. Things You Might Have Missed from Notes From a Dog Walker

This wonderful post is an important reminder to us all, written in a way that leaves you feeling warm, fuzzy, and inspired to go outside with your dog.

Excerpt: “This is just some of it. There’s so much more, but you gotta put down the phone, let go of the endless conversations you’re having in your head, and pay attention to everything around you. It’s worth it. Promise. Life is one dog walk at a time. Don’t miss it.” 

9. I Might Be Wrong from Suzanne Clothier

This happens to be a writing the always wise and thought provoking author, and one of our favorite voices in the world of all things dog, put in an email to her subscribers. It’s short but powerful and reminds us, as Clothier often does, to be humble and always see the dog in front of us.

Excerpt: “Uncertainty can paralyze us, no question. But I think there is a place for healthy doubt when it helps remind us that indeed we might be wrong. Our animal friends need us to keep this possibility in our minds, for their sake, and for ours too.”

8. Heart Coherence from Steve DeBono

Steve is our Behavior Consultant and this post captures some of the reasons we asked him to be part of our team. There are a lot of great posts from this year that touch on the subject matter Steve does here, but his is one of the most honest without being aggressive towards “the other side.” We respect everyone out there working to save shelter dogs and keep companion dogs in their homes, but we do feel strongly about relating to dogs as individuals and training them with the love and respect they deserve.

Excerpt: “The problem with using “it works/doesn’t work” as the sole criteria for decisions that affect living beings is that it either relegates moral obligation to the backseat, or disregards it altogether. Imagine if humans made decisions about society based simply on what worked and what didn’t work, without regard to moral obligation.” 

7. When Expectations Hurt from Peace, Love, & Fostering

A wonderful little post to remind us of the importance of meeting our dogs where they are, setting realistic expectations, celebrating successes in whatever forms they come, and loving the dogs we have.

Excerpt: “See the dog you are working with in front of you – make note of their strengths, weaknesses, and needs and interact with them accordingly. Expect of them accordingly.”

6. Let Them Chew from ASPCA Pro

This is a short, simple post from Dr. Emily Weiss that addresses something oh so important: kennel enrichment for shelter dogs. It should be an imperative but it’s still lacking in so many places, including our own city shelter. Let them chew. Give the dogs toys.

Excerpt: “Withholding oral enrichment for these dogs can quickly cause behavior deterioration. This, my friends, is more likely than a dog swallowing a piece of well-made toy for a big chewer – and much more likely to be lethal as the dog could be labeled aggressive or uninhibited. When really what is happening is they simply need something to chew on.” 

ray adorable5. Vicktory Dog Gets Adopted on Valentine’s Day from Best Friends Animal Society

We met Ray on our trip to Best Friends and he’s one of the dogs who most stayed in our hearts. At the time, he was a lady’s man and a love muffin but still had some work to do before he could pass his Canine Good Citizen test and be approved for adoption. We also met Layla, the Vicktory dog in whose footsteps at Parrot Garden Ray would soon follow.  Ray’s victory and the road that finally led him home is easily one of our favorite stories of the year.

Excerpt: “Ray’s a bit more challenging (than some of the other victory dogs), Jacque says affectionately. He’s got a mischievous glint in his eye. I’ve always been drawn to dogs like that. He’s got spunk, and I really enjoy that.”

Us too, Jacque.

4. Go Forth and Encourage from Team Unruly

The specifics of this post are focused on the world of dog competition, but the larger themes apply to us all. Do we gain more when we criticize and shun or when we encourage? How do we want to leave owners, adopters, or that person we met in passing feeling about their dog and their relationship with that dog? Yes, it can be hard to leave judgment at the door sometimes. And speaking up and advocating is something we encourage as well. But for the person just trying to do right by the dog they love? That is something we all should be encouraging.

Excerpt: “Why are we not stepping up to help them, to inspire them? Experienced exhibitors need to be ringside and be there to jump in and help a new exhibitor who is clearly struggling. We need to be there to be cheerleaders, to be a guide, to be encouragers. Even more so, experienced dog people need to be there to encourage the common “pet person,” even if they do not want to compete.

3. If They Could March from Jean Donaldson via Your Pit Bull and You

Here goes that standing up and advocating. This post from renowned dog behavior expert Jean Donaldson does not mince words, but it’s also filled with powerful truth. There is no excuse for many of the acts done to dogs in the name of training or excused by the fallacy that it’s how we must save them.

Excerpt: “These practices are elective. They’re elective on easy dogs and they’re elective on dogs with behaviors we dislike, including dogs who lunge and pull on leash and growl and snap and bite. … In other words, the use of violence in dog training is not correlated with particular dogs or particular behavior problems. It’s practitioner correlated.”

2. Do you know what the canine hip nudge behavior means? from Ethology Institute, Cambridge

We love the hip nudge. We refer to it sometimes as backing that ass up for scratchings. We may even occasionally do a human variety of it ourselves. This excellent little post fuses science with the adorable.

Excerpt: “The hip nudge functions as a pacifying behavior. It signals friendliness. By turning its back to us, the dog shows that it doesn’t intend to attack – it turns its teeth away. At the same time, it shows that it trusts us.” 

1. I Heart Boundaries: Compassion Fatigue Education from Jessica Dolce

We didn’t intend to rank the posts on this page but it’s possible this one ended up at #1 for a reason. It is so important and a topic so rarely addressed or acknowledged in a real way. To take care of animals, to engage in the work many of us do in a sustainable way, we have to also take care of ourselves. One of our directors was lucky enough to take the test version of Jessica’s new compassion fatigue class and as soon as it’s available to the public, we’ll be telling all of you to register, as fast as you can, and prepare for an experience with the power to positively change your life and improve the work you do with the animals you love. In the meantime, click above and start learning.

Excerpt: “As far as our Make-A-Difference-Toolbox goes, nothing trumps the tool of people when it comes to making things better for dogs and their peeps. But generally speaking, our field doesn’t spend a whole lot of time, energy, or resources addressing the needs of the people who dedicate themselves to the difficult work of making a difference for animals.”

estherBonus. Happily Ever Esther

This may only loosely relate to dogs but is something that powerfully touched our hearts and inspired us. Esther the Wonderpig, her dads, and her canine siblings founded the Happily Ever Esther Farm Sanctuary this year. Their story, their passion, their love and the actions it’s leading them to take are truly one of the most beautiful things 2014 brought to the world. Thank you, Esther and Family. We send you love and gratitude all the way from Austin, TX.

Excerpt: The quote that originally accompanied this photo of Esther exploring her new home (photo credit to Happily Ever Esther), “Sometimes life is about risking everything for a dream nobody can see but you.” 

For many of the people we know, those who make up our little organization included, 2014 was not the easiest year on record. But it was a year of lessons. And it’s left us feeling hopeful, inspired, and ready to welcome 2015 and all the possibilities it holds.  Happy New Year, everyone, and thanks to all of you everywhere for the beautiful, thoughtful, and powerful contributions you make to this world we all share.