Capture the Flag

I’ve been having a lot of childhood memories lately. Triggered by my mother’s death 11 days ago after an almost unprecedented 21 year battle with Alzheimer’s. Her death set off a myriad of events which turned into a nurturing soul cleansing of mourning. In my experience, the loss of my mom, this involved amazing support from family and friends — far and near, from a variety of times in a life long lived, traditions of eulogy and burial and then, omg, the food. I always thought unfrosted blueberry poptarts, lightly toasted, was the creme de la creme of comfort foods for me.  But the lox and bagels, the matzoh ball soup and the brisket, the deli trays heaped with cheeses and meats, the dessert trays laden with lots of chocolatey things…..the stories, anecdotes, photos shared — the intense oral history condensed into an abbreviated shivah — and, a most important message from, who was it? The funeral director? The rabbi? Or both? The message was “Do whatever you feel like doing. If you want to go for a walk, go for a walk. Let others take care of you. This is time to mourn and be cared for.”

I did go for walks. Every day, a long walk with the dogs. Time to reflect. It was heavenly. And I had this memory of summer camp when I was 8 or 9 and we played Capture the Flag. We learned there’s Version I where when you capture “the enemy” you “kill” them. Version II allows you to convert them to your side, hopefully not having to brainwash them but by proving you’re a better side, or Version III — lock ’em up in “jail” until the game is over.

Did you see what I saw?

Last night I resumed a dog training class (week #3 of 6) that I had  cancelled the week before. All the students were new to me, which is unusual. I usually have private clients in at least one or two slots. The dogs in this group range from 4 months to 2 years or so and I dare say their owners are working at applying a new method — positive and non force based — and finding incredible results. It may take longer and require more patience than force, but the results clearly show increased manners with practice and patience and a happier, mentally healthier dog.

One couple chose to drop out after orientation, apparently feeling their familiarity with choke chains and force based from a training experience 12 years earlier with another dog was the only way to go.

Those traditional trainers they seek, while not the enemy, are on a very different other side of the field of thinking from me. So in my own personal game of Capture the Flag, I am trying to go for Version II and convert people the way I see it happening — most recently with my small group class. And when I get the feedback it’s working, I remember to thank my own first teacher — my mother — may she rest in peace, for being such a positive influence in proving you could raise a child without force and help shape and nurture them to be their own adult individual. Her unflagging support in allowing me the opportunity to indulge my own passion for animals from very early on helped lead me on the path I am today.

Okay, it’s a beautiful day. Off to take a walk with the dogs.