Monday, October 11, 2010

Patience is a Virtue

I think more than anything else in my life, working with dogs has had the biggest impact on my capacity to be patient. Dogs really can humble you -- once you think you have them figured out, they throw you a curve ball.

And I haven't learned to just be patient when working with dogs -- patience has permeated other aspects of my life. I've learned to empathize when dog owners are experiencing behavior problems, and when they're struggling to teach their own dog something new. I've also learned to be more patient in the non-doggy aspects of day to day living.

The current semester of PETS (Positive Empathy Training for Success) program I'm doing with Lad Lake -- a school for at-risk kids, has been underway for a month now. This is the third semester I've done this program, and this is the youngest group of kids that have participated. They range in age from 11 to 14 years of age.

PETS involves 20 minutes of PowerPoints on training, behavior and other dog related topics, and the last part of the hour has the kids working with shelter dogs. I've had to be more patient with this group of kids because they are younger, and so it's a bit more difficult for them to understand some of the concepts in the presentations. I've had to learn to go a bit slower with them, and to review concepts and terms as we go.

Some of the kids are students at Lad Lake precisely because they lack self control and don't have much in the way of patience. This is very evident with one of the PETS participants in particular. He is an extremely bright kid who loves to participate in discussion. He has very good problem solving ability. But he's a bit bossy with the other boys and interrupts when someone else is talking. He has so much promise if he can just learn some patience.

That's what the PETS program is all about. We still have 3 months to go in this semester, and I hope working with HAWS dogs can make a difference for him.

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