Kathy Diamond Davis

Location: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, United States

Author of the book "Therapy Dogs: Training Your Dog to Reach Others," 2nd edition published by Dogwise Publishing. Canine Behavior Series at www.veterinarybehavior.com

Friday, June 24, 2005

Email Lists

I can't be the only one who has a love-hate relationship with email lists. It can switch from hate to love and back for the same list several times some days! I join them, I leave them, and I join new ones. I never learn. Lists seem like such a good idea, but experience demonstrates otherwise most of the time.

So, I don't know. There are too few hours in a day. I shall continue to work at making the best choices I can as to how to spend them. Tonight I decided that cutting my number of lists might help. I've been working toward the decision. Leaving an online community is not something I do lightly.

Not that I left all of them, or even half, or even the ones I work the hardest at. It definitely made sense to cut back. Had to be done sooner or later. A sane person would have done it sooner.

I wrote an article for the Canine Behavior Series the other night that I hope will do some good things. It will be posted next week. I hope every week that the article will do something, but this is one of the extra-special ones, I hope.

I talked to the folks at Pen City the other day about a problem I'd been having and they offered a solution I greatly appreciated. It's not here yet, but something to look forward to.

I was interviewed for an interesting publication this week, a big one. It's too soon to tell whether it will all work out, but fun to think about.

Too much to do these days. But it's interesting stuff.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Richard Russo's "Straight Man"

I finished reading "Straight Man," by Richard Russo this morning. Made me want to read "Mohawk," "Risk Pool," "Nobody's Fool" and "Empire Falls" by the same author. Such a rich work, especially in terms of character study, and good-natured, too. Living in a sometimes-hateful world, I appreciate that.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

The "Pit Bull" Controversy

If I were Empress of the United States, what--if anything--would I do about the question of whether certain breeds should be eliminated as too dangerous? I do not know. I would want to see as much as possible about what the effects of various actions would, long-term, be for communities and dogs before making such a decision.

You can't escape the discussions of this topic if you spend much time in dog communities online. Some feel that no one needs such a dangerous breed. Some feel that if the breed (which by the way is NOT a "breed," but rather an amorphous group of dogs that is vaguely defined by people who don't know much about any of the dogs they include) were eliminated by breeding bans, those who misuse these dogs would pick another breed or breeds to misuse. Doubtless that is true.

Would it be Presa Canarios or the like? I'm thinking not. One appeal of the "pit bull" type dog is that they can be easy to handle. The people who want a dog to go after other people or who ignorantly choose one that will do so are not looking for a dog they would have to train or struggle to control on a day-to-day basis. "Pit bulls" are not that big and not inherently aggressive to humans. The injuries to humans seem to be more about prey drive gone awry than about aggression toward people.

Another statement constantly made is that it will be other breeds next. Maybe, maybe not. What would happen next is speculation.

The real problem is that communities don't want to spend the money to enforce the dog laws already on the books. A prime example is something that happened today in my area. A three year old boy was in his back yard, apparently alone, and stuck his arm through the chain link fence alongside his yard, through the hole where a slat was missing from the stockade fence on the neighbor's side, and three or four (I'm not sure which number) of the neighbor's ten "pit bulls" tore up the child's arm so badly it had to be amputated.

The owner was not sure whether the dogs' rabies vaccinations were up to date or not, and he cooperated in having them put to sleep. It is legal to keep no more than four dogs where he lives, so now he has to get rid of some more, too.

The fence situation between my house and the house next door is exactly the same, except there are currently no dogs on the other side of that yard's tattered wood fence, and my dogs are let out to potty inside a third fence that is several feet back from all the property line fences. They're only out in the whole yard when one of us is with them. I've had scary dreams about what dogs might move next door in the future. I'm not afraid of dogs hurting me and I don't have children, but I don't want my dogs to get hurt, and dogs, not humans, are the main target of "pit bulls."

I feel that everyone should be entitled to have a companion animal of some kind, but not everyone can handle some of the more potentially dangerous dogs. The facilities you have for your dogs are definitely a factor. Complying with the law is a factor, and this fellow had far more than the legal limit of dogs, probably more than he could afford to keep vaccinated. At any rate, he didn't do so, which is also illegal.

The child wasn't being watched, either, but was in his own fenced backyard with two fences between him and the dogs. Most people would probably consider that adequate, if they don't realize how easily a motivated dog can go OVER a fence. In this case a curious, active child stuck his arm where it didn't belong, and the dogs weren't biting a "person," but what to them was more of a disembodied arm.

We have to hold dog owners accountable because no one else can go in and control a dog if the owner doesn't do it. In terms of accountability, why didn't any of the neighbors report that the man had ten dogs? People who want ten dogs need to move to locations that legally allow that number. Dog owners don't want to hear that. But it's true just the same.

Does outlawing "pit bulls" prevent something like this from happening again? No. One thing that will likely happen to that dog owner now is the loss of homeowners insurance to cover liability for the actions of his dogs. I don't think owning too many dogs or not having them vaccinated is sufficient for him to have to worry about jail, but he'll be on the hook for 100% of the child's expenses at the very least. That could be a huge figure, because it's a permanent disability. But if he had had only the legal number of dogs, four, and all had been vaccinated, would it have prevented the injury? In this case, probably not. Sticking his arm in through the fence at even one dog could have cost the child an arm.

For the sake of the dogs and the humans, I'd like to see a set-up such as mine become a lot more common. My dogs exit the back door into a fenced area that is well back from the property line fences. No one can reach them and they can't reach anyone who is outside the yard. It literally provides a wide margin of safety.

By contrast, many housing divisions these days don't allow homeowners to have any fence at all. That is madness. I hope some huge lawsuits put a stop to such covenants. Perhaps it won't be lawsuits, but rather changes in local laws when the need for fences around dog yards is more recognized.

The wrong dog is the problem much of the time. A strong dog with strong drives is the wrong dog for a casual owner not interested in putting forth a great deal of effort to train and manage a serious dog. There are plenty of mild dogs that fit these situations well, if people would stop choosing dogs based on frivolous things such as looks or what the guy up the street has or some romantic notion of engaging in an activity they never actually follow through on. It's too easy to get a dog. People do it impulsively, and their neighbors bear the consequences.

Getting a dog from a shelter or rescue versus a breeder is no help at all in winding up with a dog you will be able to handle. It may be a detriment if the dog has undetected problems, or it may be pretty much the same either way, if you don't go to a responsible and knowledgeable breeder. Responsible dog ownership starts with choosing a dog you will be able to handle.

If we want to keep our freedoms with dogs, we need to do a better job of keeping up our end of the responsibilities. We need to insist that communities enforce the laws on the books before they pass more restrictive laws they aren't going to uniformly enforce either. We need to find ways of holding people accountable at an earlier point of irresponsible dog ownership, before someone gets hurt. One thing that needs to happen is citizens stepping up to report violations such as numbers of dogs that exceed the legal limits, dogs running loose in violation of local laws, and children being left in dangerous situations. It is just as dangerous to leave a preschool-aged child alone with a dog as to leave the child alone in a car. Parents need to know that.

This was a tragedy spawned by ignorance. Neither party thought such a thing could happen to them. And yet again, responsible dog owners and their dogs are at risk of paying this price for this ignorance. I bought a house in the first place so I could have the animals I wanted. I don't want ten, or even five. There might be a time I would want four, if one or two are very old and/or sick. I hope the laws don't become more restrictive because of people not obeying the laws already in place and failure of the community to enforce those laws. It's too easy to pass laws. And it only hurts those who sincerely try to obey them. The people breaking the current laws can just as easily violate the new ones, too.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005


In my annual journey through the Bible, I'm up to Isaiah. This jumped out at me:

"Lord, you will grant us peace; all we have accomplished is really from you." --Isaiah 26:12

and this

"Has the Lord struck Israel as he struck her enemies? Has he punished her as he punished them? No, but he exiled Israel to call her to account. She was exiled from her land as though blown away in a storm from the east. The Lord did this to purge Israel's wickedness, to take away all her sin." ---Isaiah 27: 6-9a


"Yet the time will come when the Lord will gather them together like handpicked grain. One by one he will gather them--from the Euphrates River in the east to the Brook of Egypt in the west. In that day the great trumpet will sound. Many who were dying in exile in Assyria and Egypt will return to Jerusalem to worship the Lord on his holy mountain." ---Isaiah 27:12

That feels something like my story.

I'm starting to read "The Name of the Rose," by Umberto Eco, and "The Key to the Name of the Rose." It seems intriguing, and so does the study of semiotics.

I've just reread "The Koehler Method of Dog Training." Very controversial book. I'm glad to have dogs who respond so well to much more moderate training methods. I'm like most people training a dog these days, not using any one method exclusively. Gabriel is retired, but I find great joy in spending time with him. Believer is still very actively working, and I find deep satisfaction and and pleasure in partnering with her.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

The Coin Task

I talked to my Paws with a Cause Oklahoma state Director-trainer friend Barbara Lewis the other day and asked about the coin task. She said she's not seen dogs harming themselves by swallowing coins, and the nickle Believer swallowed must have been a fluke.

I don't know what it is about her, I've known her for probably 20 years, not best friends, but we've been around each other handling dogs and she's very supportive of me being out in the community here with an assistance dog. The few times I've talked with her on the phone since starting to work Beevy in this job have helped beyond belief. We speak the same language.

So I've put a quarter on my desk, and when I get a moment I call Beevy in, drop it and let her work it one time. Still have the same quarter. The trainer told me practice will help the dog figure out how to hold it, and I see that happening. It's a nice clamp, no messing around.

I'm not using a leash or food, just the dog's desire to work, petting and praise. She and I speak the same language, too. At the moment she's dozing with her head on my foot. Good place for it.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Book Idea, Maybe

I had an idea for a book I'd like to do. I haven't proposed it yet. I've not been well, and the work of jumping through a bunch of hoops to dot "i's" and cross "t's" for a publisher to "think about it" just wears me out. In other words, I don't want to write a book proposal. That's like a query, bluck. Just a big fat waste of time. If I do a book, it will be a work of the heart, my whole heart, and they want it or they don't. I want to spend the energy doing the book, not dancing around with other paperwork. There's so much research, writing and rewriting. No energy to waste.

We'll see. Maybe I need to bite the bullet and get an agent. But I have an awful feeling an agent would merely find more energy-wasting hoops for me to jump through.

I've been thinking about getting a small dog after Spirit goes to heaven. I'd like a Miniature American Eskimo or an undersized Shetland Sheepdog, a dog around 15 pounds who could romp with (and help exercise) the Tervs and be a cuddle buddy to all of us. But looking at things from the assistance dog point of view, I want to avoid any situation that could take away from either Believer's or my next male's (maybe his name will be Savior) ability to work as my assistance dog.

On the other hand, it will be hard for an assistance dog, or one in training or one who is retired, to stay home while I go out with the other. A little female dog would be a companion to the assistance dog sitting out that trip.

It would be another dog to train, a dog who could not assist me and therefore would need to go out training and socializing when--what--I take an assistance dog along to help me? But then I'm leaving an assistance dog home alone, ARGH!

There is also the noise factor, as most little dogs and certainly both these breeds are barkers. We do not have that problem now and would be quite unlikely to have it with two Tervuren. Two Tervuren could probably accompany us on an emergency trip for a family emergency. Three dogs might not be able to. I've never taken three to my parents' house.

If I need a program-trained dog in the future, they will not place an assistance dog in a home with other dogs in most cases. One case where they will is a retired assistance dog. If I reach the point where I have a retiring dog and need them to train my next, not getting this small dog could make things work when otherwise it might not. They could decide to make an exception, but there are reasons for the rules.

And then there is the work and the cost of taking care of three versus two. A small dog is not less expensive. Dental problems in particular are a concern.

I think I need to cool my jets about this idea, and perhaps one way to do that is to make up my mind not to even consider it until I've had my next male at least two years. Training him is going to be a huge undertaking for me. I also want to get Linda's and my book brought to birth satisfactorily, and do the other book I have in mind. Two more huge undertakings.

Well, on to my exercise and reading and eventually to bed. And tomorrow I hope I get some fried chicken and cream gravy! I had planned to go to KFC today and decided not to, so I'd be able to go out for that tomorrow if hubby wants to go to a place that serves it. Don't want to eat that two days in a row, because there are some lesser-quality carbs involved. I had great food today, though, something new I put together. Kind of a "salmon melt," lots of sauteed onions in butter, canned salmon, lots of French's yellow mustard, and grated sharp cheddar cheese. I think this will become a staple for me.