May is just TOO MUCH! Starting out the month with a bang — Sarah Burningham, Jessica Day George, Stephanie Pearl-McPhee at the Library, Storytime Extravaganza with Rick Walton, Sharlee Glenn, and Kristyn Crow all before May 4 — and then continuing right on from there with Ed Lueders at First Unitarian, Ted Kerasote and now the UCCR (coming to you live from the SLCC Miller Conference Center!) has left so little time for other things, which sadly include blogging.
In the midst of all this, things manage to converge — they usually do, somehow — in a rather odd way. Ted Kerasote, who wrote the amazing, thought-provoking, and tear-jerking Merle’s Door and who I highly recommend meeting in person if you have the chance, came to the store on Monday night and gave an incredible reading. His theory is that, instead of having to completely dominate our relationship with our dogs, we should give them a little more freedom and be alpha-pairs. He had the good fortune to be living in a tiny Wyoming town with lots of dog-friendly open space, of course, so this is easy for him to say. But when I asked him what us city-folk could do to help our dogs have more freedom in our world of fenced yards and leash laws, he gave a simple answer: Get yourselves to open space as much as you can, where dogs can be off leash and investigate the world on their own terms.
This seems to me to be great advice on so many different levels. Dog parks, city parks, hiking trails, et al are great places for dogs because of all the interesting smells, sights, and sounds. They’re also great places for us; dog parks, because of all the fun social time with other dog owners, hiking trails because (let’s face it) who of us couldn’t use a good hike now and then, and there’s nothing better in my mind than a good excuse to be outside, whether or not it involves exercise.
Then, while the UCCR folks were in their sessions yesterday, I picked up Cesar Millan’s Be the Pack Leader to skim through. End of the conference came around, and to my shock I had finished it! It was a fascinating read. While the focus is on dealing with “problem” dogs, Cesar’s tips on “calm-assertiveness”, emotional cues, and energy management are applicable to pretty much anything you can think of — personal relationships, work relationships, pet relationships, you name it.
While Millan focuses more on the alpha role of humans in dogs’ lives, put his tips next to Kerasote’s and there’s not much of a difference. Both advocate lots (LOTS!) of stimulation, not just physical but mental as well, for dogs and their people; I know that in my dog-owning past (currently on hold for renting reasons) I often forgot about that bit. And both advocate taking dogs seriously, instead of succumbing to the knee-jerk “Oh my god! This dog is so cute!” reaction that is so very hard for us to suppress.
So, as I head off to a week on the East Coast (vacation! wedding! plane travel!), a little bit mournful that I will be missing out on all the event fun (Mameve Medwed! Stephenie Meyer! Peg Hevel! Jack Todd!), what am I thinking about? Missing work? Vacation plans? BEA? Next month’s ever-lengthening To Do List? Nope: Dogs.