One of my favorite dog stories of the year made my short list because of the brouhaha that it caused and the attention it drew to the communication between species as well as the courage and integrity of those involved.
The story began with the incredible rescue by a fireman of the dog Max, who had fallen into an icy lake. A reunion of sorts was planned for the fireman who rescued him and Max, on live TV. In hindsight, this was not a good plan.
The video of the fireman swimming out to rescue this dog is truly chilling.
The anchorwoman, Kyle Dyer, while speaking with the fireman and the owner on live TV, was scratching and caressing Max, and believed the dog was enjoying the moment. If you look at the clip, one can see signs of anxiety and stress, such as tongue flicks, heavy panting and a moment when the dog freezes, followed by the bite.
Max was, in hindsight, clearly uncomfortable, and would have appreciated more “elbow room” and less “face time. ” Sadly, the anchorwoman had to have reconstructive surgery on her lip, but thankfully she understood what went wrong and did not blame Max, the Argentine Mastiff. Kyle’s recovery has been a long one, and involved two surgeries, 70 stitches, and some time with her mouth sewn shut. In her own words “I thought I was a dog person. I’ve lived with dogs all my life and that dog, I thought, seemed to really love my nails and my rubbing, but, you know, you just don’t know. It was a freak accident — I was too close, he was unsettled, we think we know what dogs are saying, but we don’t really know.” The post – surgery interview gives a glimpse into what sort of an optimistic, fair minded and remarkable person she must be.
Miscommunication is rife between humans, so of course it should be expected between species. But we rarely think of what our dogs are saying to us. Training, unfortunately, more often concentrates on how to tell our dogs what to do, and rarely involves training us to be sensitive to what they are “saying.”
An awareness of how dogs attempt to communicate to us would go a very long way in preventing incidences between species. I do believe that dogs try to understand our language, both body and verbal. It is in their best interests, as well as ours, to do so.
In a previous post, “Should You Really Hug Your Dog Today?” I wrote, “Becoming aware of differences in communication between species can help us not only in being able to train more easily, but also in being able to live more companionably with each other. I truly think that dogs strive to understand us and our language. We should give them the same courtesy. It is the polite thing to do.”
So why is this my favorite dog story of the year? Because unlike many, this restores my faith in humans. Kyle Dyer managed a difficult situation with decorum,aplomb, integrity and much courage. While there could have been much finger pointing and blaming, there was not. Kyle recognized the situation for what it was – an unfortunate accident. This story also struck a chord because it brought to light and promoted discussion about how dogs communicate to us their emotional state. If that is a topic that interests you, poke around on Patricia McConnell’s blog. Patricia is a scientist with a heart, and all of her books reflect this. For a deeper understanding of your dog, The Other End Of The Leash, one of her older books, can’t be beat. Her style is personal and engaging and it is clear that she is always striving for a deeper understanding of the dog/human relationship.