Ah, the rural life. Critters, events, opinions and trivia.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Lessons in humility

Per Wikipedia: The term "humility" is derived from the Latin word "humilitas", a noun related to the adjective "humilis", translated not only as "humble", but also alternatively as "low", or "from the earth", and "humus", humid.

My Old English Sheepdogs fill my life with joy in many ways. They also ensure that I don't run the risk of becoming over-confident.

A recent example:
A beautiful late Summer day and I will be joining friends at a gathering to promote dog rescue. Many dog rescue groups will be in attendance and we (New England Old English Sheepdog Rescue) will be pleased to join them. It is our hope to: educate the public attendees regarding the nature and variety of rescue dogs available; suggest that rescuing a dog is a wonderful alternative to obtaining a puppy from other sources; engage individuals who may we willing to act as foster homes for our dogs pending their adoption.

To accomplish that goal, and to attract attendees to our booth, I brought my energetic OES Rescue, a 2 year old named Zen. Zen is an unusually large OES both in terms of size/height and weight. He and I have not completed his entire obedience training, because I broke my wrist before we finished the class. He is for the most part, well behaved but in exciting public situations he is challenging to control -- he wants to play with everyone and every dog.

After years of study and practice, and obedience competition with former OES Rescue dogs, I assume that I have some level of competence in handling my own dogs. I understand the importance of providing strong leadership, especially for large dog breeds. I understand the importance of helping my dogs understand that I am their leader. I thought I had mastered those concepts with Zen -- HA!

I was speaking to a lovely couple who had expressed interest in becoming a foster home for Old English Sheepdogs, and I was explaining that many of the dogs in the Rescue program are already trained for the most part and just need some "polish" and gentle reminders of appropriate behavior.

The gentleman of the couple smiled and looked at Zen, then said to me:
Do you know that your dog is peeing on your leg?" And indeed he was. Zen had chosen that moment to assert his own leadership role and wanted to tell the world that I belonged to him. It certainly left me feeling "humble", not to mention "humid".

Good thing I have a sense of humor and a high threshold for embarrassment. Previously, Zen had urinated on his toys in the yard and on our female OES, Brie. Clearly he wanted to make sure that his possessions were clearly identified.

I returned from the day's event realizing that I should never assume that my leadership role was understood by my dogs, and that it requires regular reminders to show who's in charge.

Sigh. When I get a chance, I should post my many other lessons in humility, taught by my beloved OES Colby during our days of Obedience competition. At this point, I should be the most humble person on earth....

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