Core Values

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As an Army Brat,  I traveled the world, and experienced cultures across the globe.  It was an incredible way to grow up.  But no matter how far afield we were, my parents held fast to the Midwest values they had both learned growing up during the Great Depression.

As an Army Colonel, my father always exhibited those core values: honor, honesty, faith, decency, thrift, moderation, and service to others.  As children my siblings and I were expected to learn and model the same beliefs.  Fair play and respect were incredibly important in our household.  Bullying wasn’t tolerated, nor were tattling or whining.  Our word was something to be protected.  A reputation was something that should never be sullied. Those weaker than us were to be protected and lifted up.

I think that is why this campaign season  is so bothersome to me.  I’ve seen multiple Presidential campaigns come and go…but never have I seen one so divisive.

When did we become a country who would applaud someone who is the antithesis of everything we hold dear?  When would bigotry, egotism, bullying, misogyny and racism become not only OK, but something to be celebrated?

I will not mention names, nor will I try to convince you to vote for any one candidate.  I just want to remind you that there are certain principles that American’s have always embraced…..until now.

We have always prided ourselves on being the world’s “melting pot”.  Now we are calling for borders to be closed.

Our country was founded on freedom of religion….but we are now distrustful and hateful towards folks of other faiths.

We have always believed in concept of innocent until proven guilty….now we are damning entire ethnic groups due to the actions of a few.

This wonderful, amazing country was based on the belief that “all men are created equal” but now we are inciting violence against others who believe differently than ourselves.

There is no honest discourse.  There is no compromise.  There is no thought of the greater good.

People of morality and faith need to stand up and cry “enough”.  It may be too late this election cycle, but we need to remember the things that made our country great. And we need to work together to make sure our children and grandchildren can enjoy the freedoms we may have begun to take for granted.

This is the greatest country on earth…just as it stands.  We can choose to take pride and joy in that, and continue to grow.  Or we can sink into a cesspool of fear and hate.  It’s totally up to us.

love your country

My core values will remain the same, regardless of the outcome of this election.  I refuse to allow fear or insecurity to damage the beliefs I hold dear, the lessons my parents taught me.  I will hold strong to the belief that it is my duty to protect those who need protecting, to teach the young the things they need to help make the world a better place, and that a hand extended in friendship goes much further than a fist raised in anger.

Bubba’s Place in the World

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I am socially inept.  I haven’t the first idea how to make small talk.  I hate groups of people, and being in crowds can cause me to panic.  Shopping is torturous for me. I would rather jab hot needles in my eyes than to to a concert or other event where there are a lot of people.  If I didn’t have to make a living I would be happy to never leave my home again.

Only others who have suffered from anxiety disorders can understand how debilitating this disorder can be.  Add in severe ADHD and depression, and you’ve got someone with a whole host of social issues. My entire life I have felt odd and different.  I knew I wasn’t the same as other kids and they made sure to let me know I was abnormal.

There is a loneliness and a sadness to having a brain dysfunction.  You are always aware of it.  You are always hyper-sensitive to being perceived as “weird” or “different” and that awareness actually makes the issue more pervasive.  My behavior has often been considered rude, when in actuality I am just beyond my ability to cope.

For most of my life I just tried to suck it up and deal with it.  I wish I had a penny for every time someone told me to calm down, slow down, settle down.  Telling me didn’t help me get control of myself.  If anything, it made things worse.  Medications can help, but they can’t fix things.  As an adult I finally accepted that a social life was never going to be easy or maybe even possible for me.  I know my husband has spent years frustrated by my reluctance to do anything that requires me to be outside of my comfort zone: home and work.  Bless his heart for hanging in there with me for the past 40 years.

Then along came my little brown dog, Ray the Vicktory Dog.  He clicked in place against my soul and suddenly I was able to talk to people.  I could go places which would make me stress out before.  I had someone else to concentrate on.  When Ray flew with me on an airplane, the trip was literally smooth sailing.  In the past I would obsess about security, getting to my gate in time, checking my bags, my seatmates, where the bathroom was on the plane, and everything else you can think of.  Every decision was fraught with danger.  Ray changed all that for me just by commanding my attention and placing himself between me and the world.

When he died I was lost.  Not only was I missing a family member I loved dearly, I was missing a support system that allowed me to function on the same level as “normal” people.   I started seeing a counselor to try and get past his loss and she pointed out something that should have been obvious: Ray had instinctively become my service dog.  He did exactly what he needed to do to increase my comfort level in public.

It was my counselor’s suggestion that I find and train another dog in the same skills.  She wrote me a “prescription” for a service dog and I started looking for the one who would be able to partner with me against the world.  I knew I wanted a larger dog, who could keep jostling crowds at bay.  It had to be a male dog, so it wouldn’t cause friction with our selective female dog Turtle.  I was looking for a dog who wanted to please, who was smart enough to learn quickly and who was good with animals and with people.  And finally, I wanted a pit bull terrier like dog, in honor of Ray.

My friend and fellow Vicktory adopter Rachel had been volunteering and fundraising for ColoRADogs out of Ft. Collins. So I reached out to them with my list of specific needs.  Nancy got back to me within minutes to tell me about a new dog they had just accepted named Bubba G.  It didn’t take long to determine that Bubba was exactly what I was looking for.  He came home to live with us just a month after we lost Ray.

The first week he was with us I had him evaluated by our Canines with Careers program here at the sanctuary.  If he passed his screening he would qualify for a grant to fund his training.  Although he was undisciplined and rowdy, it was clear he had the heart of a lion and the intelligence needed to become a support for my daily life. He was accepted into the program on the spot. That week Bubba began training to learn the skills he needed and he has continued with the specialized service dog trainer every week since.

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Bubba when he was still considered “in-training”

At first when we were working in public I would be evasive and would mumble something about training to become a therapy dog.  It was hard for me to admit to anyone that I needed a service dog.  I was embarrassed by the situation. I didn’t know how I could explain my need in a way that made sense to people.  In ways, I felt like a fraud. But I finally realized I needed to move past that attitude.  What I have learned and am experiencing could help others have the courage to admit they needed help.   This article is my ultimate “coming out” opportunity.

In the past year Bubba has gone from a hyperactive, mouthy juvenile to a dog who has learned to be supportive and protective in public.  At home he is a goofus who specializes in zoomies which bowl over his sister and in selective deafness when his name is called.  But once he has his vest on he becomes a vital support system for me. He has learned to accompany me into stores and restaurants.  He has shown the ability to tune out people and crowds.  When I am standing still, he positions himself in front of me, and leans against my legs, keeping the world at bay.  I am thankful every single day that Bubba has given me back the ability to walk into public with confidence.  I can concentrate on my connection with him, and I don’t have to worry about anyone else on the planet.

More and more people are beginning to use service dogs for “invisible” disabilities.  Just because you can’t see an issue, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.  I never realized just how freeing it could be to have a dog beside me as I venture into the world. I wish that everyone  dealing with a problem or a difference could have the same opportunity I am enjoying…the ability to finally feel normal.

Bad Parents/Bad Dog Owners

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Studies have shown us that children who have parents who do not raise them well have challenges in life. If parents don’t guide, educate and supervise them, they grow up not knowing how to behave in society. If parents beat them they grow up thinking aggression is an appropriate response when someone angers you. If the parents do not provide adequate nutrition,  it can have long lasting physical and mental effects.  If parents don’t give them a curfew or care where they are, children can easily find themselves on the wrong side of the law. If parents are too doting or permissive, children do not develop empathy and can suffer from self-absorption issues. It has absolutely nothing to do with the race or ethnicity of the family and everything to do with the actions of the parents. We know that, we believe that, and we place the blame where it belongs….on the parents.

Why then, don’t we understand that the exact same thing holds true with dogs?  The people who have the most influence on a dog are the ones who feed and care for him.  If they are violent towards the dog, he can develop aggression issues.  If they allow him to run at large, he can get himself into a lot of trouble.  If they do not train or socialize him properly he can become a danger to other people or animals.  If they do not provide adequate food or medical care the dog can develop major health and behavioral issues. If they chain him in the yard, he has no way to develop positive human relationships, and he becomes a dangerous dog.  It has nothing to do with the breed of dog and everything to do with the actions of the humans.

Bad parents can cause children to become a liability to society.  Bad owners can cause dogs to become a liability to society.  Unfortunately….it is often the same people causing both issues.  Until we can understand that, there will continue to be problems with both children and dogs.  We need to put the blame squarely on the shoulders of the adults in charge.  Stop blaming the innocent, and start holding the people causing the problems responsible for their actions.

Innocents Out of Control

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Studies have shown us that children who have parents who do not raise them well have challenges in life. If parents don’t guide, educate and supervise them, they grow up not knowing how to behave in society. If parents beat them they grow up thinking aggression is an appropriate response when someone angers you. If the parents do not provide adequate nutrition,  it can have long lasting physical and mental effects.  If parents don’t give them a curfew or care where they are, children can easily find themselves on the wrong side of the law. If parents are too doting or permissive, children do not develop empathy and can suffer from self-absorption issues. It has absolutely nothing to do with the race or ethnicity of the family and everything to do with the actions of the parents. We know that, we believe that, and we place the blame where it belongs….on the parents.

Why then, don’t we understand that the exact same thing holds true with dogs?  The people who have the most influence on a dog are the ones who feed and care for him.  If they are violent towards the dog, he can develop aggression issues.  If they allow him to run at large, he can get himself into a lot of trouble.  If they do not train or socialize him properly he can become a danger to other people or animals.  If they do not provide adequate food or medical care the dog can develop major health and behavioral issues. If they chain him in the yard, he has no way to develop positive human relationships, and he becomes a dangerous dog.  It has nothing to do with the breed of dog and everything to do with the actions of the humans.

Bad parents can cause children to become a liability to society.  Bad owners can cause dogs to become a liability to society.  Unfortunately….it is often the same people causing both issues.  Until we can understand that, there will continue to be problems with both children and dogs.  We need to put the blame squarely on the shoulders of the adults in charge.  Stop blaming the innocent, and start holding the people causing the problems responsible for their actions.

Finally…..

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 17:  Cesar Millan, dog behavior specialist, poses in the Driver/Owner Lot at Daytona International Speedway on February 17, 2012 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images for NASCAR)

 

I have made no secret of the fact that I have no love or respect for Cesar Millan.  I know he is crazy popular with the general public, and I can only assume that is because of his showmanship…because it certainly isn’t due to his knowledge of behavior, training or even canine body language.

I have never said his methods don’t work…they can. And for a confident happy dog, there is probably no lasting damage. But in a shy dog or an assertive dog his methods can be and have been disastrous . how much pain and fear is ok when training your dog?..That’s the bottom line.

Millan’s fans are numerous and are massing to protect the man they think actually helps the dogs they see him work with on television.  They do not understand that the show is edited for content…they don’t see the harsh training methods that go on behind the scenes:  the choking, hanging, and physical contact.

Every single person that appears on Millan’s show has to sign an agreement to never, ever discuss what happened during the “training” sessions or after.  So viewers aren’t aware of the abuse, the number of dogs whose behavior became worse, the dogs who developed aggression, the dogs who developed learned helplessness, or the dogs who had to be euthanized.

There is not a behaviorist in the world that supports this man’s training policies. The relationship trainers I know are appalled by everything he does to dogs.  Yes, there are things he espouses that are excellent suggestions (exercise your dog people)…..but his other methods are junk science.

Last week I watched the video of Millan taking an aggressive dog into an enclosure with pigs.    I believe the title of the episode was “The Little Pig Killer”.  The dog had previously killed two pigs, and Millan was supposedly going to “build a new memory” so the dog would no longer be dangerous to other animals.

While on leash the dog appeared calm and was less than interested in the pigs.  So in his hubris, Millan removed the dog’s leash.  One of his assistants grabbed the pig’s back leg, causing the pig to squeal, which galvanized the dog to attack.  It was a frenzied and bloody event, leaving the pig with a tattered, bloody ear.  Millan grabbed the dog, and forced him down….trying to show how much control he had over the situation.  He lets go of the dog, stands upright, and takes a step away from him  A nano-second later the dog is in attack mode again, chasing and worrying the pigs, as they squeal and try to get away, all the time Millan is yelling “I’ve got it” and diving for the dog.

Here’s the deal…the first time the dog attacked was pure stupidity on Millan’s part, and could be chalked up as an accident.  But by allowing the dog to remain leash free and unmuzzled, the second attack is entirely Millan’s fault and is nothing less than animal abuse.

I don’t want to hear any BS about the fact that people eat pigs.  That isn’t the point and it is just trying to deflect the blame that rests squarely on Millan’s shoulders.  What if the dog had previously killed puppies, and that’s what Millan turned him loose among?  Or children?  The fact is the pigs were put in harm’s way, for no good reason.  You cannot magically fix aggression or prey drive in a dog in a ten minute “memory building” session.  Prey drive is a complex behavior that takes a great deal of training to modify and manage.

Millan is currently under investigation for animal abuse.  And he should be.

 

 

 

 

Dear Judge in Chatham, Ontario

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My name is Jacque Johnson.  You don’t know me, but I have a vested interest in the outcome of one of your rulings today.  You see, I was fortunate enough to spend time with the most amazing dog I’ve ever known.  He was named Ray by one of the people who was evaluating him after he was rescued.  Tim said he named him after Sugar Ray Leonard, because he was a scrappy little fighter. Ray, RayRay, Raynman, Ray the Vicktory Dog.  By any name he was a dog who was made to love people.

Ray was rescued from a notorious dog fighting operation.  He was damaged by his time of abuse, mostly emotionally, but also physically enough that the results ultimately took his life.  But under the PTSD of being forced to live a horrific life on the end of a chain, was the shining soul of an incredible dog.  A dog who became my heart dog.

I know in my heart that among the dogs you are ruling  on today is another Ray.  Or another Turtle, our other dog rescued from dog fighting.  A dog who was forced to fight.  Who is covered in scars.  Who is under-socialized and frightened. But who wants nothing more than a couch and a home and a family.

Dear Judge.  Please…I’m not saying all of these dogs might be safe or should be saved.  What I am saying is they deserve individual evaluations by people who know game bred dogs. Please do the right thing……

Bosco Update

Bosco has been returned to the loving arms of the Lucas County Pit Crew.  Thank you to everyone who wrote, called, emailed and donated to the cause.  Your efforts made a difference.  It’s hard to do the wrong thing when the white light of publicity and public scrutiny are shining bright.