Animals vs children

Okay, so I have had a lot on my mind lately, and, with such a jumbled mess of thoughts floating around my head, it has been hard to write on just one topic at a time. I figure it would be worthless to send something out for others to read when the only person to whom it might make sense is myself. Since animals and children have been on my mind a lot lately and since, in some respects (though certainly not all), they are somewhat similar, I thought I’d take a chance to put my thoughts out there on these 2 subjects as far as they correspond with each other in my head. 🙂 (Let’s see just how well this rolls…)

I know that many people out there do not agree with Cesar Milan’s (you know, the Dog Whisperer)  techniques, whether that’s because they think he’s fake or hurting the dogs or whatever. But I, for one, agree with his techniques, and anyone who has made an effort to study animals outside of major human influences (since we are so intertwined with dogs at this point in history, I’d say it would be extremely difficult to study dogs without any human influence) would probably agree with me. And here are a few reasons why I say that:

A while back, I was dog-sitting 3 little dogs for a friend of mine. Her back fence corresponds with the back fence of a family which has 2 male boxers. I thought they were rather sweet dogs considering their situation (lots of pent-up energy because their owners never took them for walks – according to my friend). I could stick my hand through the fence to pet them and they’d lick my hand and rub up against the fence desperate for attention (granted, my own example is not a good one, but this was before I really started to study “natural” animal behavior). Anyway, like I said, good sweet dogs. But, while I was dog-sitting, I had taken my 3 “wards” into the back yard in the middle of the day to relieve themselves. The boxers noticed our presence and joined me at the fence. Next thing I knew, they started fighting, over what, I don’t know, but they fought for a while. I walked away from the fence; I didn’t want to watch knowing that, as the fence was rather tall, there was really nothing I could do to stop their behavior. The sound of their raging died down, and, when it did, I peeked through the fence. One of the boxers was lying on his side panting while the other stood over him, head held high, calm and assertive. They stayed like that even after I took my 3 “wards” back inside (I didn’t want them to get too hot from the summer sun). It was rather amazing to watch nature at work, confirming that the technique really does work and is not harmful to the animal…just as Cesar said.

Growing up, my family had 1 dog, a  purebred Heinz 57. 🙂 Her mother was mostly collie; her father, well, he jumped the fence. The vet took one look at our dog when she was a puppy and said the father was probably at least part saint bernard. She grew up to be about the size of a collie with sheep-herding instincts and with the calm-protectiveness and the coloring of a saint bernard. We really didn’t know how to raise a dog, but she turned out to be calm-submissive…most of the time. However, we could not try to take food from her without her snarling and snapping, nor could we let her loose in the yard because she always ran away. She would listen to my dad like he was the pack leader only so long as his instructions did not interfere with her running away. She always came back home, never stayed gone for too long, but sometimes she would venture into neighbors’ yards, which my parents thought was inappropriate and unneighborly; so, she was seldom “free”.We just could not understand why that was the one area in which she would not listen to any of us (the snapping over food we attributed solely to animal instincts). I know now that, since we did not take her for daily walks, she was taking herself for a walk. Her migration instincts were more powerful than her instinctual desire to obey the leader of the pack; so, she walked…whenever she had the chance. I started walking the family dog when she was about 13 or 14 years old. I quickly became her pack leader, higher even than my dad, which had never happened in the past – to her, I had always been on equal footing with her. I no longer live at home and am not able to walk her very often, but she still remembers me, and she knows that I am still the leader, evidenced by the fact that, to this day, I am the only person she allows to take food away from her. She snarls and snaps at anyone else who tries, but, me? I can take it straight out of her month and, although she will reach for it as I take it away, she will not bite, snap, snarl or growl…just as Cesar said.

I could probably say a lot more on this topic, since I have watched other dogs who have left their homes to take themselves for a walk, read a true story about a migrating husky and his pups which he taught to do the same, watched a documentary on wolves, and personally experienced the bond you can form with a dog (even with an old dog) if you are willing to take the time to at least take the dog on a daily walk.

Now, you are probably wondering, ‘So what is the connection to children?’ The answer is simple: exercise is just as important for children as it is for dogs. No joke. I may not have children of my own, but I have many friends who have kids, I teach a children’s Bible class, and I babysit, not to mention, in the grand scheme of eternity, it was not too long ago when I was just a kid myself. I remember silently yearning to go outside just to ride my bike or swim laps in the pool or chase the dog. I hated being cooped up inside (and I’m an avid book-reader!). I remember enjoying running (well, I still do), and, had I not been afraid of doctors and of getting a physical exam, I would have joined the track team in junior high. Instead I went with band, but I loved the marching in high school. The girly-girls in band may have hated the sweat, but I secretly welcomed it since, as busy as I was with school, marching practice was the only exercise I got most days of the fall semester.

Another example is that of the 4 and 5 year-olds in my Sunday morning Bible class. I love the way they sit in their chairs because they know that it’s right, but they fly out of their seats as soon as you give them a chance! For 2 years, the only consistent student in my class was the daughter of a man in the military. This little girl doesn’t get away with much and knows how to follow the rules, but even she couldn’t always sit still in her chair. Half of the time she stood up to color, and she always welcomed the opportunity to leave her chair and join me at the felt board as I used it to display the Bible lesson for the day. I now have a 4-year-old boy in my class who listens much better and retains more of the lesson when I allow him to stand up, move around, and help me give the lesson, whether I’m telling it while using the felt board or by posting pictures on the bulletin board. He just remembers more when he’s moving around. Period. End of story. You just can’t fight that truth.

Both students are very intelligent young children, but both of them also have pent-up energy on Sunday mornings. And I can understand why. What parent has time to implement even a simple exercise regimen and get themselves and the kid ready in time to attend Bible class, especially if there is more than one child? I have a hard enough time getting just myself ready to get anywhere on time. It has to be difficult. Otherwise, wouldn’t it make sense that more parents did just that…?

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~ by Lady Molly on September 10, 2010.

One Response to “Animals vs children”

  1. Wow…that was long…

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