Mama used to walk me on a prong collar and a retractable leash. She would let me run wild, hit the end of the line, and correct myself with those icky metal prongs poking into my neck. She had no idea how to control me, and it never occurred to me that a retractable leash + prong collar combo was not a good choice. Before we went to see a quality trainer, the combo and the leash jerking that was “teaching” me how to not pull had rubbed most of the beautiful white furs off the front of my neck.
My best friend and uncle, Tex? He is from a breeder. Yep, that’s right. Mama, my grandparents, and my aunt Kareaux decided they wanted a dog 10 years ago, so they did what they knew was the best way to get a good dog — they researched breeders, found a good one, and bought a puppy. A beautiful, 8-week-old black lab from working lines named Tex.
For years and years, mama never clipped my nails. Never, ever, ever, until they were so long that they making my toes kind of squoosh to the side when I walked and ran. I didn’t like having my nails clipped, so mama didn’t clip them. It was not pretty!
Mama used to let me hike off leash illegally, even though I am not always totally reliable when she calls me. She would let me run around, eat deer poo, sniff other hikers and bark at their dogs, and then get annoyed when people gave her dirty looks or yelled at her to put me on my leash.
Mama once carelessly left me and my Tex at home together with some kongs stuffed with the yummiest snacks you can imagine, and we got into a scuffle when she was not at home, even though we are best friends. Mama not only broke the golden rule about not leaving dogs unsupervised with prized resources, but she didn’t even know about the rule.
Mama used to make broad generalizations about me and other dogs who look like me, even though she didn’t really know for sure. She would say things about how we have more jaw strength than other dogs and can’t feel pain, and say that she thought maybe I was a bait dog before she adopted me.
And yet — despite all these confessions — most people would call now mama a relatively good, responsible dog-lover. How many of us have judged her — or somebody committing one of these confessions — in the past? It’s so easy to judge another person or dog based on a snapshot — a single story, a random encounter, a bit of gossip. It’s much harder to do the humane thing and reserve judgment. We are all in different points along our journeys, and it is human — and canine — to learn at our own pace and make mistakes along the way.
So why not try a little gentleness on this fine, summer Friday?