Thursday, June 30, 2016

the last chickens

Wednesday morning I delivered 12 chickens to the processor. The girls wanted Mcdonald's for lunch so we stopped. There is nothing on the menu that is of substance that is no meat and I'm not a vegetarian, just thinking. I ordered southwest salad, comes with chicken. The girls got pancakes and milk. I said nothing to them just got what they wanted. I was secretly happy they serve breakfast all day. I got home mixed up the salad, put in the chicken, took a bite, was nauseated. I picked out all the chicken and offered it to the girls, they didn't want it and hadn't seen anything I did, they just didn't want it. I ate the rest of the salad just fine.

what is going on now. I'm disgusted by chicken? or just Mcdonald's Chicken? Later that day I picked up the chickens and thought how much the dogs could enjoy this but would that be wasteful. they aren't cheap to raise and we did it well, lots of free range, well as much as a meat chicken wants, which isn't much. I don't see much in their eyes when I tried to look deep. Not like the pigs, not like the cows and the sheep. It still didn't seem right. Still, this is our food, this is what we don't buy at the store because we raise it better, ourselves, it's humane. sigh...

I'm done

My turning point came last week, we were scheduled to load a pig for processing and I hadn't watched much trailer loading in a year. It's always challenging for me emotionally, especially when I haven't done my job. I gave myself the job of making sure the animals are friendly enough to get on the trailer without much effort or force. I was failing drastically at the job and this pig was drug by his ears and tail and forced to go where he would not have gone on his own. I had had enough, done, finished, not interested, over it, can't do it anymore. We are monsters. We chose to do it better but failed, in my eyes. I thought if they had a good life, lots of food, space to move in, interactions with other of their own, it was good enough. The reality I feel now, it's not enough, the end is still the same. They have feelings. They are scared. They are confused. They are only trying to survive in a world they have no control over. I'm a monster.

I remember last year, I took Peppa to the processor. She hadn't been getting pregnant and she was no longer useful, cost too much and she wasn't a pet. She was loaded the night before, uneventful, and I had to deliver her the next morning. I opened the trailer door and she got up, hopped off, all 600 lbs of her, and followed a complete stranger to her death. Unaware and trusting. I cried the entire road home, sobbed uncontrollably, almost to the point of not being able to drive. There were no other cars on the long dirt road home. I felt alone and like a monster.

There was a lamb that went with Peppa that morning. He had never been petted, by his choice and I didn't push it. It was easier that way, they didn't like us, were scared of us, fought hard to escape being caught...that made it easier. When Peppa walked out, trusting that man, the lamb followed along behind her without any trouble. He trusted her in the end, trusted the other soul that was going to the end, to the freezer.

We sold a pregnant pig, she wasn't too friendly. I failed my job again. She was to be loaded and taken to another home for farrowing. She wouldn't get on the trailer so she was drug by an ear and a tail, screaming the whole way across the pen, pregnant,...

stressing, afraid for her life, in pain, pregnant...

fighting for what she probably thought was the end. She died in labor less than a week later. She's in the freezer. She's headed to our pig roast in July. I'm a monster

it was suppose to make it better. a better life. suppose to be humane. somehow it would make it better. we aren't a factory farm, we are a hobby farm that raises all our own food. that is suppose to be great, noble, self-sustaining. we know where all our food is from, what they eat, how they were they were treated.

I'm done, now how to do I tell anyone, how do I change this...

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Tweed has humbled me as an owner and especially as a trainer

A few weeks ago, I entered a video contest with Tweed.  We spent the past year learning or I should say, relearning how to do agility as a team.  Tweed was in a terrible dog fight and almost lost his life.  When he recovered, he couldn't successfully compete in agility anymore.  So, we started over and the video was a short story about our training.  I was approached by people at trials, my students and sent many messages about that video and what it meant to each person.  Many said they cried, many said it was amazing he was brought back from such a horrific incident, and some could relate with their fearful dogs having to gain confidence again.

Everyone said how lucky Tweed was to have me and what a great job I have done with him.

But, here's how I see this past two years.  I never really talked about the dog fight. It was embarrassing and difficult.  I'm a dog trainer, I teach prevention, training, and how to avoid these exact scenarios yet this happened in my house, between two housemates.  Without sharing all the details of a history of dislike between only these two dogs, Tweed was close to death and I gone for only an hour.

After a long long recovery, Tweed was back to looking normal, cleared by his veterinarian and rehabilitated with a specialist, he was ready to go back to agility.  I signed up for Handing 360 with Susan Garrett to get a jump start on my agility again.  I needed a push after two little humans and I needed to bring new life to my students classes, all of which were becoming stagnant. I watched the videos, played around, got inspired and went back to trialing in USDAA after 7 or so years off.  Tweed did great, got out of Starters fast but we got stuck in Advanced. Not only was he avoiding jumps, he was extra sensitive to me and my training.  I was starting to feel lost and insecure about my training as Tweed seemed to be breaking down although physically well.

I had come across some information in an ebook in this class about using corrections in training.  I thought, "I don't do that, I'm not mean but he needs to know when he gets it wrong to help him learn".  I read and read and thought and thought about this training.  Was it possible I was actually being mean and making it harder for him to learn?  Could everything I know, be wrong? The idea is when your dog gets something right, we mark it happily and reward, they learn and want to do it again. When they get it wrong, I said 'ahh' or 'hey' or 'no' or any number of verbals to let him know this was not what I wanted.  What I didn't realize was he had no idea that was what I meant, he simply took it wrong and I was inadvertently keeping him from getting it right. I never taught my students to do this correction but I wasn't teaching what I was practicing.

Here is a scenario:  Tweed runs down a line of three jumps, he takes the first one, then the second, then turns to look at me and runs past the third, I say, "ah ah, no".  He stops, looks upset, runs around circling me more, questioning me.  My old thinking would say, he now knows not to run past that jump but to take it. The next time he gets it, I'll highly praise and he'll make the connection, balanced training, right! (yeah yeah, I get it now) What I actually did was give him worry or anxiety about any number of things and I have no idea which of these he actually 'learned'. Did he learn that he gets in trouble if: 1. he turns to look at me. 2. He runs ahead of me on a course. 3. He goes anywhere near that jump. 4. He runs. 5. He gets excited and too happy.  The list is endless, but he definitely didn't learn what I wanted him to learn.

What I should have been doing was teaching him when he should check in and when he should drive ahead and take the next obstacle (plus so much more).  I need to be clear in what I was asking and consistent in what those cues mean. He was constantly trying to decided what I wanted because he wanted to please me and have fun and if he was worried about an obstacle, he avoided.

Now I know, if any dog doesn't read our cue correctly, then I didn't teach them well enough.  It's our fault, go back and figure out where the hole in the training is and how to teach them. Then proof it in every scenario, with distractions and new environments.  If you ever think to yourself, "he should know this" then you didn't actually teach it well enough because he clearly doesn't know.

I admitted I did this for years, verbal correction and now I see I never really taught him in the first place.  He was very talented and I was a pretty good beginner, but when he got physically hurt and couldn't be the athlete he was, we got stuck.  I flipped through many videos and 'picked' our problems.  It still wasn't working, we weren't getting better and I was getting hungry for moving on to higher levels. I then attended a trial here in Michigan and guess who was entered, Susan.  Here we go, I've spent the last 11 months in her class and it doesn't show at all.  I didn't commit to doing it in order as she suggested and work all the exercises. I removed the verbal corrections and now have a dog that is happy but showing how little he really knows. 

I watcher her and was inspired, she handles her dogs exactly as she teaches. I could see it, after all I had watched the videos but hadn't done the work. I went home and began training from the beginning and here I am 50 days consecutive training, 1/3 of the way through the course and you have now seen the video.  I wasted 12 months of a year long class before I figured out I needed to go back and do exactly what I preach and push to my students.  A little foundation, consistent teaching and fun is 'giving me back my dog'.  I will not let my students miss their opportunity in agility, they will be better than me.

Tweed shows me everyday that I made big mistakes with him and my previous dogs. I feel guilty every time he slightly shuts down, gets worried, flanks, or shows any confusion.  I did that to him, all by using a little verbal correction that I thought was harmless, I thought was necessary.  This is what that video means to me, all the amazing changes in him due to a little confidence and a huge epiphany in my head.  Look at us, a 9 year old dog still improving and me, realizing once again that dog training will never be 'finished' and maybe I was a little late to this game but will be early to the next one.

Thank you, Tweed, I look forward to years to come.