Friday, September 30, 2016

The Crossover Dog Trainer

I am a late bloomer in certain areas, despite sometimes getting an early initial start. One of these areas pertains to dog training methodologies. A brief history, before I launch into my actual point:

I began training dogs (well, a dog; mine) when I was nine years old. I got the job as a result of the professional trainer my parents initially hired for the job quitting. He quit because I was relentless in my challenges to his punitive methods. He just wasn't capable of jerking and slapping my collie around, while simultaneously contending with behavior from me that he couldn't just punish away. I made him have a very hard time doing his job, so he bailed. Good job, little me.

I took up the task of training my dog with intention to teach, rather than brutalize, him. I read books about dog training critically, analyzing them for any inconsistencies, suggestions for the use of cruelty, and ridiculousness that seemed to go against a budding logic based upon observing various neighborhood dogs, and my own dog, doing the things dogs seem to generally do. I kept bits that made sense without being mean, and applied and then refined them.

I evolved, and I was pretty certain I was on the nice-trainer side of the 1970's spectrum. Still, I used the modern tools of the trade, impacted by the culture of my particular time and place. Choke chain? Check. "Pop" the collar? Check. Scold, shame, hit, reprimand? Nope. I was pretty certain if the unwanted consequence seemed (key word, there: seemed) to be coming directly through the environment, the dog would not feel compromised in his trust of me. If anything, after manufacturing an environmentally aversive event, I was quick to model heroics, removing the problem sock or tissue or whatever, and accepting the dog's view of me as protector and safe harbor. Little did I know, I was basically creating Stockholm syndrome for dogs!

I was adhering to a means/end-lite argument. After all, I was a strong advocate of NO PERSONAL PUNISHMENT. I advertised this; I later wrote about it, and lectured about it. I separated the cause-and-effect consequences I rigged, such as penny-can booby traps, as "remote" punishment. My big argument, back in the day was against PERSONAL punishment, directing what I termed as "bipolar" type dog training toward emotionally compromised, dependent, animal friends. I saw the poisoning of eye contact, petting, and spoken words paired with both affection and hostility during so-called training. I really saw myself on the cutting edge, and felt I was pushing for a higher level of human analysis, empathy, and self control in human-dog interactions.

So, more background, or perhaps full disclosure. I dropped out of high school at age 17, to pursue a path of self education in a not-yet-academically recognized field: dog behavior. I missed the opportunity to learn about animal behavior, learning theory, or psychology in general, because I was stuck on a narrow subject. I decided to go it alone. Needless to say, many wheels were reinvented. I came to conclusions I later learned existed, and had strong empirical (vs my anecdotal) evidence backing them. Oh well. Yes, Pavlov. Yes, Skinner. My research supported your findings without me having read yours until after the fact.

But still, I knew I didn't have the whole story, and once I knew I was missing important information, I went looking for it. At the age of 49, I got my GED. I enrolled in community college and did really well. I then got some large scholarships, including the illustrious Jack Kent Cooke Foundation undergraduate transfer scholarship. I transferred to a four-year college and earned my BA in anthrozoology, graduating summa cum laude. Next, grad school, through University of Edinburgh, clinical animal behavior (I'm currently pursuing my MSc). And, I'm still self educating, and peer-educating, as well. Conferences, clinics; check. My point is: I am still trying to figure things out.

Meanwhile, I make my living teaching people how to teach their dogs new ways of behaving. Like most people my age who trained dogs across a spectrum of years, I have moved with the times, dropping outdated methods as new research renders them inappropriate, incorrect, or obsolete. This creates a vacuum, in some cases, where the new methods, based upon science and strong, empirical data, wipe out a set of skills that have become automatic, embedded in my mind, and in some cases, body. I have retained outdated behavioral artifacts; ways of moving, that involved "remote" punishment. "I'm still the good guy but it sucks for you" sorts of things, where on the sliding punishment scale, I used personal judgement for how far I was willing to go. Penny bottle? Sure. Pull-outs (walking backward to allow a forging dog to "self correct")? Yes. Shock collar, also touted as a "remote correction"? NO. But the little bit of punishment, based upon my personal judgement, that I included in my tool box, and shared with students, was like serving some gateway drugs to people who may have different tolerances than me. I was still teaching people how to stop unwanted behaviors (and plainly, that is punishment), rather than exclusively focusing upon teaching dogs what TO DO while managing unwanted behaviors.

I have spent a lot of time thinking about all of this, and watch my students REALLY struggle to let punishment go, despite being intelligent people who truly love their dogs. And I think I have it figured out, because I have felt that struggle. Science shows that punishment rewards the punisher. There is a quick fix; the unwanted behavior stops, often abruptly. Phew! Relief! That barking stopped the second I sneakily dropped the penny bottle on the floor (it wasn't me!). Meanwhile, rewarding silence is a tricky concept. Instead, the dog needs to have energy that would have become barking, as a stress outlet, redirect into new, incompatible, reward-earning actions. Easy, in theory. Difficult when a busy person is struggling to get three things done at once and the dog barking is their inroad to awareness of the back-burnered dog. Stuff gets past even the best-intentioned people, who are truly trying to hold it all together and preempt or manage their dog's unwanted behavior.  People are not always in front of everything their dog does.

When unwanted behavior occurs in the presence of a person who used to use punishment (the "crossover" dog trainer), a collision of sorts may occur in that person's mind. There is a template, in their memory, for a "well behaved" dog that was built from a different set of tools, based on different rules. The expectations are for behaviors based in suppression, inhibition, subordinance, and submission. Their expectation of a "trained dog" looks and performs in ways that will never be replicated using modern methods! Dogs educated using methods that refrain from positive punishment applications are not the same end-result dogs, simply achieved using a different toolbox. They are absolutely different, and might feel foreign, or "off", in comparison with old expectations. The demeanor, intention, motivations, and subject status of dogs has evolved, along with training theories and methodologies. Dogs trained to perform wanted behavior in pursuit of desired (positive reinforcing) consequences feel more "out for number one" and less "seeking to please master" compared with dogs behaving out of caution.

But isn't it time to retire that old dog, and let a new, more self-actualized, confident dog step up? It may take some getting used to, and there may be feelings of vulnerability and frustration. That new dog may feel more like an animal, operating in his own best interest...but what is wrong with that?

Adhering to a plan to replace old habits and ways of viewing dogs and dog training requires patience and determined practice. Mistakes will happen, and that's okay; we are always learning, and our errors help us reconsider, calibrate, and improve. A desire for  a higher level of ethical, reciprocally humane connection with animal-Others remains the guiding light, and modern methods create a well-marked path to follow. It is an uphill climb, at times, but well worth the effort for all involved.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Animalia Journal: Anthrozoology and Anthropomorphic Poetic Expression

Anthrozoology and Anthropomorphic Poetic Expression

Peggy Moran

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Keywords: Anthropomorphism, Liminality, Poetry, Appropriation, Animal-Others
Talking about animals is always an act of appropriation. Expressed through another’s written ideas, thoughts, imaginings, biased observations, interpretations, and recordings, without awareness of their own status as a point of focus, the nonhuman animal is utterly subaltern, an object possessed and manipulated, where even natural behavior only occurs as permitted and portrayed by the author. 

As one of these authors, I like to write poetry about animals as viewed through an anthropomorphic, child-centric lens. This approach provides me with an ironic means for allowing the animal- as I do not know him- to peek back and gain an implied voice; paradoxically, the voice remains mine, posing as my interpretation of the hypothetical “Other”. 

Writing about the child, like the nonhuman animal, allows me to puppeteer my imagined human subjects into roles as inadvertent teachers or liaisons for animal-Other-centered connections at a more intuitive level. Children are, themselves, in-between, in a liminality or boundary space where they are suspended, for a while, between infancy- where they are entirely unaware of the greater sphere of lives around them- and entitled, adult, human dominion over nonhuman animals. Children are uniquely capable of identifying with animal-Others on a similar, shared plane of existence. Writing my human subjects as guileless children is an effort, on my part, to demonstrate a level of humility as I explore human-nonhuman attraction. 

In both of these poems, I push my imagined subjects to roam and explore anthrozoological boundary areas, but not without leaving very human footprints. 

Tomboy runs willy-nilly through the wild dog woods,
sporting Father’s new camouflage boots,
stomping saplings and kicking up leaves,
breaking bittersweet and cockscomb, crashing
trembling brush with no consideration
For coyotes, who crouch, eyes darting at ankles
slim and tender; long-faded tan tucked under
corduroy pants, wide-wale whispers of 
thighs passing so near, unwieldy rubber
footwear can’t mask her smell; each cell tells
stories of the taste of a November child;
They toy with thoughts of bursting forth: fangs
and foamy spittle gnashing to pierce the girl,
still pulsing, darker shades of autumn,
sanguine, pooling in the roots of tall dead grass,
grey and fading golden; instead, they hold steady,
muzzles pressed to the ground, ears cocked,
Almost coy; soundless breath signaling southbound geese,
tiny clouds from snouts long and toothy;
smiling, they fight the urge to wag, joyful
as she sings her winter song to conjure
the full, cold moon.

On the morning after the Leonid showers, I skip school and bolt, 
a coltish girl, to the wild-horse beach, racing the squall line 
to follow him, spectral-bright; unfurling across shores of lifting terns, 
trampling trembling sea-rocket and salt-meadow grass; 

Tangled mane of wind-blown spume, all lightning-hooves and gusty-flare, 
snorting blasts of salty-fume, all pale and pearly iridescence; 
On his forehead, a tattoo, of the meteor-sort; rhythmic fragment 
of light, in flight, infinite, until I speak; and then he stands, transfixed,

Silver haze of misty-brume, billowing with the stillness 
of tidal pools in static air, holding breath before the hurricane;           
I tie a kite to his bowstring tail and give chase, ignoring accusations,
sharp glances cast over colder-shoulder, not once recalling the rain 

Of petals from the blossom tree, the sweetness of apple-breath; 
all a welcome to where we used to stand, discussing gravity
until too late; in a sea-foam froth of acrid sweat and vapor-plume,
all arc-of-spark and sonic-boom, reluctant wings unfold, unbound, 

To sweep the sky in thunderous, pounding waves.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

#SPARCS2015, Phoenix, Arizona: YES!!! (And also some academics-related musings)

Okay, firstly, I'm bragging a bit, but feel I must:

I WON FREE ADMISSION to the SPARCS 2015 Conference!

All of my canine cognition and anthrozoology heroes will be there; or at least a lot of them. Many are people I wrote to, asking them to be my home-school-grad-school mentors. None agreed, and very few responded, but that's okay. That was a silly and short-lived idea. I've gone ahead and applied to real grad school. Or, I should say, sort of real; it is through the amazing University of of Charles Darwin's almae matres!...but I'll be doing it as an online student. Boo :(
No teachers to bother in person.

In the interim, I'm still open to local offers...preferably ones that are accompanied by sweet fellowships, since two years ago, like an idiot (okay, like an exhausted person), I waived my continuing scholar support from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation :(
At the time, I didn't think I had it in me, to continue. Now I'm sorry I was so impetuous.

If I do get the chance to continue my studies, I have to stay local or do it online, so that I can remain within this life I've made for myself, surrounded by other lives I love and care for. I have no regrets, but if there were more 'me's to go around, perhaps I'd send one me off to study in Scotland. It would tie my early childhood Lassie fantasies (collie and I running across the moors, surrounded by the bonnie heather and moody highland skies), neatly together with my late-to-the-party academic scrambling, all in an awesome setting. If I get accepted into the University of Edinburgh program (still waiting to hear), perhaps I can eventually go there to graduate...and then afterward borrow a dog and run hobble across the moors!

But meanwhile, more realistically and in the here-and-now, the SPARCS conference has suddenly, amazingly become accessible, all chock full of legitimate dog researchers I hope I get the chance to pester with questions in person! This is something I can actually jump (okay walk) into with both feet, led not by a bouncing collie, but by my own frisky brain-- which I like to let run off lead as often as possible.It moves at a snappier pace than my body, these days.

My off-lead brain sometimes gets me into trouble. I'm talking about dropping out of school at 17 to "do research my way;" I eventually (at age 49) made up for that by doing a u-turn and dropping back into school, and I've been holding a pretty steady, "traditional," educational course ever since. My old, off-the-beaten-path ideas, informed by a lifetime of experience, are still percolating, but they have been tempered by my new found academic discipline, and I believe the combination is nicely balanced. Now if I could just find the motivation/ nerve to tighten it up and publish...

SPARCS certainly may help. Every time I get exposed to people I respect, who have taken that next step and have moved forward into positing, examining, and sharing their research ideas, I get a little more motivated. Now that I'm actually rested enough after my four year, pedal-to-the-metal drive through undergraduate studies (thank you, Jack Kent Cooke Foundation!), graduating summa cum laude (I'm bragging again; its my way!) at 53 with a BA in Anthrozoology, I am ready to begin again. SPARCS this summer, and grad school in the I come!

Who knows? Maybe next year I might even present my own research at SPARCS 2016!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Rethinking Dog Research

In the not so distant past, people who focused upon domestic dogs as their favorite subject for academic research were viewed by the overarching animal behavior community as crazy dog lovers who were barking up the wrong tree. 

Image result for dog behavior research experiments

Okay, that is an exaggeration; I guess I was more referring to myself, back in the day, as a dog-obsessed, self-proclaimed dog trainer lacking an academic degree. The scientific literature pertaining to man’s best friend was out there; it just wasn't easy to find, and that reinforced my sense of loneliness and insignificance as one who desired to study, not just boss around or snuggle, dogs.

While investigating these matters, despite my fervent desire to see published dog behavior research juxtapose a breath of scientific reason into the library of entirely anecdotally-based dog nonfiction in my town's public library, I did not yet have a high school diploma (dropped out; long story). I was not in a position to break the ice and begin filling the void with accessible scholarly insights into the canine mind.

Luckily, other, more studious, disciplined individuals kept their noses to the academic grindstone and forged their way into just what was needed; modern scientific dog behavior research. Yea! This seems to have really caught on, along with the pet dog's rise from sort-of-subject status as a "pet" to family member/ surrogate child in most developed nations. Now universities around the world are rising to the occasion (and the more readily available grant money?), popping up with canine cognition laboratories where they perform dog studies and then publish their experiments and results.

Here are some awesome examples (I’d work for any of them if they begged me to). This list was put together by Julie Hecht and shared by Patricia McConnell on her blog:

Canine Cognition Research Groups 

Once lumped with the likes of snake charmers and dog whisperers, dog behavior researchers are becoming the rock stars of the animal behavior field. They get to interact with their subjects, and sometimes even engage with them in fun games posing as exciting experiments. They give Tedtalks and present lectures the public (nonacademic) actually care about; they get to publish crossover books that enlighten the average pet owner about the underpinnings of their research subjects, and people actually buy their books. (How many fairy wren researchers can say that!?)

Doing good animal behavior science requires respect for boundaries and a desire not to corrupt or compromise results. Besides being the way science is done right, perhaps this is because anthropocentrism is so attractive and full of whimsy. Despite the attraction to animals as not-quite-Others (“you are just like me!”), when people directly interact with nonhuman beings, things generally get weird/ bad. Applied behavior work with animals used to mean things like taming tigers for circus acts. 

My thoughts turn to a man named Roy, getting dragged away to a Las Vegas tiger’s den for snack time. According to Roy, in interviews from his near-death bed, this tiger, Mantecore, had purely altruistic, loving, “motherly” intentions; he simply wanted to extract Roy from the stress of the stage, the lights, and the thousands of staring audience members’ eyes, to whisk him away by the jugular—er, scruff of the neck—to “protect” him. According to Roy, Mantecore severed his artery as a deliberate, protective act of bloodletting, to relieve his brain of dangerously-building blood pressure. Stuff like this may impact the researcher contemplating the study of dog behavior as a hands-on science. On the one side, it sounds like fun: puppies! But then again it could also induce scientist-shame: interaction = meddling! Nobody wants to be the academic Roy.

But wait, there’s more! In this case, where we actually live with companion dogs in shared environments, academic meddling in the name of research is part of the bigger behavior-analysis picture. We NEED to be involved, in order to understand the ways dogs are impacted by, and respond to, us… so yes, PUPPIES!

Dog behavior researchers get to jump into the attractive gap between human kind and nonhuman others--that anthrozoological boundary area where most animal behavior research demurely, respectfully peers through a self effacing one-way mirror, or, where it looks for the deleterious impacts of us upon them. Dog behavior studies allow the researcher to (in a controlled manner) tear the membrane, step in, and engage with subjects in full, species-specific awareness of one another. They engage with their subjects (or have their assistants engage with their subjects) in search of understanding domestic dog behaviors and ways of responding to  human beings and the shared environment. The dog researcher basically is rewarded for getting right up into the nonhuman side of the anthrozoological divide, while still holding a position of academic respectability.

Despite getting to roll around with the puppies while enjoying the guilt-free leap into the limelight of academic acceptance and—dare I say it?—credibility, might empirical dog studies still get inadvertently bogged down by a muddy line drawn in the shape of a heart? People share a bond with dogs that transcends the feelings generated by bees, fairy wrens, and other creatures of interest to the animal behavior researcher. We name dogs (and occasionally tigers), consider them friends, and many of us sleep with them when we are not at work studying them; we care for, and accept care from, dogs. Does this set the stage for confirmation bias? If so, I guess confirmation bias in companion animal research is yet another area of study just waiting to be explored!

All of this thinking/ rethinking aloud has served to make my mind up; its time to start a dog behavior research program! 

Now accepting volunteers with all of the following: 
  • PhD in a related field
  • Access to an illustrious academic institution with an awesome lab
  • Must love dogs
  • Lack of distracting, competing animal behavior research interest specific to tigers or other animals that tend to eat people

Friday, November 28, 2014

Talking to myself...

...but WAY less frequently!

So I guess my whole "home school grad school" thing fizzled pretty quickly. I would love to blame my readers for failing to inspire me with arguments, feedback, etc., but...there are no readers.

I've been keeping busy, training service dogs to assist USMC veterans with TBI/ PTSD with support from the Semper Fi Fund. So, that has been really rewarding.

I'm still missing school, and the whole idea of ideas; both having them and sharing them, as well as being exposed to and arguing with those from greater minds than mine.

For now I'm just sort of mindfully dormant. Maybe something will change. I'm always ready for a new opportunity. Or perhaps I'll get motivated enough to start posting again, but for now...nothing.

Friday, February 21, 2014

What do you think?

So far, this blog has just been me, me, me. Now I need to invite you to take a shot and share some of your insights into the human-nonhuman animal intersection, from whatever perspective you fancy. Obviously, I talk a lot about dogs, because that's my thing with work. In my personal life, I find every life fascinating.

How do you merge and converge with the other living beings that we share this planet with, either personally, professionally, or both? What do you think about?

Original art by Danny Coeyman

Monday, February 17, 2014

Can the Subaltern Dog Speak?

As a writer, I am most comfortable with op-ed pieces, and this is one of them; so if you were thinking I was going to get all academic with this writing, especially after dropping a big term like "research" in my previous heading, and a Spivak reference in this post's heading, think again. This is just straight up, opinion-based blogging. Read on at your own risk.

As a dog trainer, I share methods for motivating—and manipulating—cued responses and behavioral changes from companion dogs. I spend a lot of my time teaching people the basics of learning theory and force-free dog training applications, as well as how to muddle through the abounding popular dog training advice that, with the help of so-called reality TV, creates a lot of confusion and deposits misinformation-posing-as-science into pet owners’ minds. I sometimes think I am helping pet dogs develop coping strategies for living among human beings, and helping people develop a broader lens for viewing and interacting with their canine companions. Other times I feel like I am selling blunted, sugar-coated dominion; dominion-lite.

I spend a lot of time, when I am not working, thinking about the ethics, or lack there-of, underpinning not just my work, but more broadly, the whole human-nonhuman animal intersection. The easy argument for training dogs is it can help keep them safe and alive. They are here, domesticated and living among us, and yet they are not native to our culture and technologies; the way we live can present great risk to them. They cannot operate in their own best interest, left to their own devices. To grant pet dogs total freedom in most residential settings, here in the US, would be to do them harm.

Despite the fact it pertains to asserting change on other lives, which I have to question, I mostly like my job. I do appreciate animals immensely: humans and others. I am fascinated by both uniqueness and commonalities within and between species, and I like sharing myself with those who find me enjoyable company. Dogs generally seem to want to access me, to check me out, make contact, and even hang out with me. Dare I anthropomorphize and go so far as to say they do seem to really like me? 

I know research shows evidence of reciprocal domestication between humans and domestic dogs; and I've read (sorry, not citing here, but ask me and I’ll do so) about feral dogs repeatedly returning to human-populated villages after their numbers are wiped out, despite these culls being performed by people. The attraction between people and dogs seems to persist and be reciprocal, not just from my biased perspective, but also from a broad viewpoint.

I consider the meeting place between people and pet dogs to be a sort of boundary space. I visualize a private garden where I am compelled to look over the wall, but I don't trespass or invade. I make my presence known and then seek an invitation to enter; and dogs seem to welcome me, rather than run off or try to run me off. Once I am "in", I offer friendship in a one-sided manner, trying to consider the dog, but assigning a point of view corrupted by it being based in my mind. I try to imagine what a particular dog-someone might appreciate from me; but I can only interpret dog body language through my human filters, inferring from bits of observation and the cumulative generalizations I carry from past dog encounters. 

I know there is appropriation in my interpretation of the dog and our friendship. I am the only one able to do any of the actual talking; I have a voice and assign the dog an imagined voice: she says to me, "do not harm me!"--because I am able to imagine her saying this. Yet the dog cannot speak for me unless I assign her the task, for example: "Use your skilled snout to let me know if I am on the verge of having a seizure!" 

So, how do I justify speaking for the dog? I guess it is, so far, the best I can do.

Companions animals are actually safest from us (humans) because they live with us. I think this might be because we perceive them not just to be with us, but then to also like us, and even to be like us. More and more the line seems to be blending; for many pet owners—or these days, pet guardians--the individual pet we appropriate is converted into one of us. What other nonhumans have a better camouflage than this? (Okay, cats, too.) But beyond our pets, what generalized love do we feel for the other lives we share this planet with? 

We are not even generalized dog lovers, if we include the wild canid cousins. One area of my research, that I never actually got around to completing, pertained to sampling the way pet dog owners feel about coyotes, which have been popping up all over the place in increasing numbers. In response to their successful spread, it is open season on Wile E., anytime, no permit required, pretty much across the United States. These canines are considered "varmints" and don't have many fans among pet owners, who typically view them as big, bad, almost-wolves who want to eat their tame, cultured, distant cousins--the pet dogs. 

Domestication, reciprocal or not, has shape-shifted pet dogs away from their roots, slipping them into almost-human identities human beings have assigned. And once they are all dressed up in our imaginings, we believe our construction; we see what we want to see. The Emperor's new dog is not naked; he has an expensive new dog sweater. 

The pet dog, here in my part of the world, has risen from a working domestic animal selectively bred for form-relating-to-human-aiding-functions, such as helping to put food on the table or keeping enemies at bay, to a purchased or “adopted” friend/ family member whose primary function is to make people happy. Like a perfect circle, some of this human happiness stems from feeling good about doing good for an animal in need, for “saving” a good dog from a bad end. That sounds relatively reciprocal, so what am I complaining about? 

It is hard to pull back and look at the larger system, which first creates the harm from which dogs must be "saved", and allows our so-called friends to legally be mistreated and worse. In some parts of the world, right now, it is a criminal offense to put certain types of training collars, deemed "cruel", around a pet dog's neck. Though punitive training methods still are employed by many pet owners who view dogs as subordinates who need to be dominated into social compliance, these methods are being challenged by promoters of modern training methods that are based on purely positive reinforcement; and the outcry from dog lovers calling for humane training methods is growing louder. Yet a companion dog can be given up for adoption, sterilized as a behavioral intervention, and even euthanized at the "owner's" whim.  

We (the people) are the ones with the power to grant or deny other animals "rights." Personhood for nonhumans, if it were to be granted (and I truly doubt it will), would be a puppet show; we would be displaying our power though our choice to defer, by creating some pseudo equality. The dog cannot argue for himself, so the personhood issue becomes a moot—and dog-mute—point, with humans speaking for dogs; no matter what is said, the (subaltern) dog cannot speak.

It is sometimes easy to be ashamed of being a person. Some of us do awful things to other living beings, human and nonhuman; I personally hate to be part of it. When vulnerable, voiceless Others suffer at our hands, many of us cry out in their defense. We try to wash our dirty hands with our angry tears of rage at so much injustice. We watch movies like “Blackfish”; we get very upset hearing about Marius, the giraffe. Then we snap the leash on our dog and give him a good walk, letting him sniff and mark--despite neutering--an extra tree or two, finding some relief in the knowledge we care for at least one nonhuman Other as best we can.

And I settle down to the reality that my job is a good job, because even if I can't really do it, I truly aspire to create a middle ground where the needs of both my human and nonhuman students are tended to, where a voice for the dog is at least considered.