I think this comes from two aspects of my personality: 1. I am basically a shy loner who would rather listen than speak (Yes. Yes. I know that's a weird thing for a teacher to say) and 2. I am a lifelong animal lover, so a lot of what I notice about people I tie back to the animal world. (For instance, I am working on a blog draft that compares types of teaching styles to different dog breeds. I am a mixed breed terrier--hybrid vigor and all that.)
This past weekend I volunteered to help them evaluate new therapy dog teams. As someone who has been tested twice, I have a lot of sympathy for how nerve-wracking that kind of judgment can be, as it's both you and the dog who are being tested, as well as the relationship you have with your dog. Tons of people are watching; it's a fraught situation.
Lots of teams failed the test, which is the first thing that surprised me. Dogs, because they are pack animals, are very attuned to the atmosphere around them, so it's only to be expected that if the handler is nervous, the dog will pick up on that. So that accounts, I am sure, for some of the fails, especially the dogs who failed the obedience portion. As far as the aptitude portion, well....
One dog mouthed the evaluator, with teeth. Automatic disqualification.
Another growled. Multiple times. Also an automatic rejection.
But the situation that upset me the most (and the one that really sparked this post) involved a chihuahua (I have never seen a therapy chihuahua...just saying; it could happen, though; any breed can be a therapy dog) who obviously did not want any part of being a therapy animal. Her owner kept saying, "Oh, she's just shy," or "She is fine once she warms up to you."
And I wanted to SCREAAAM. How can someone be so blind to the situation in front of her? It's never going to happen (with this dog) and it's cruel to think it will. Lady, your dog is temperamentally not suited for therapy work, although that does not mean she's not perfectly sweet. And that should be enough.
So how does this all connect back to my original wildlife observation thoughts--well, and this is not news, people have a lot of blind spots and what's terrifying to me is that I don't know what mine are. Who knows what really insensitive or irritating or dumb things I am doing?
Who's observed me and thought, "She's so clueless."
No need to respond in the comments about my foibles and failures. Leave me the protection of those blind spots.
P.S. It should be noted that I do have one therapy dog. But it has nothing to do with me or my training--his natural temperament is just a good fit. I also have two other dogs. The family joke is that they are dogs in need of therapy. Har har har.