This summer I watched It’s Me Or The Dog for the first time. I’d heard of it before but never watched because I thought it was about finding new homes for dogs due to an angry spouse. Turns out its about training your dogs with positive reinforcement rather than the sadly popular and damaging dominance training. Victoria Stilwell is the trainer who works a miracle in every episode.
I have an animal rescue and the dogs I get are considered “unadoptable” because of behavior or health issues. I’ve found using Victoria’s techniques works even on the most difficult dog. Granted it takes a little extra time and patience, but they have made unexpected progress.
My excitement for this show and admiration for Victoria just grew with each episode. Finally, a trainer on TV who agrees with me that dogs do remember very bad things that happen to them and react accordingly. She is also against using shock accessories to train dogs. Like me she knows they can damage the heart, lungs, and nervous system of a dog. Now I have an expert on my side to reference in my arguments!
In my excitement, I decided to do a weekly column on the show when it returns for a new season. Right away I set up Google Alerts on Victoria — I like to keep up on what is being said of those I’ll be writing about. It helps give me a little background on the person and what others are saying about them. Imagine my surprise when I clicked on one of those alerts and read that when asked about the differences between gay and straight pet owners, Victoria said, “For me, I think maybe the gay couples tend to be better dog owners in some respects, because they just seem to give more time. I’ve noticed a little trend where they do make excellent dog owners because they take the time and effort to really understand and work with their dogs.”
I acknowledge we are all allowed our opinion, but when you are a public figure who is trying to reach the entire population, I wouldn’t recommend alienating any part of it, or even causing more friction between groups of people. I found this statement highly insulting and hurtful.
I have devoted my entire adult life to animal rescue. Everything I have goes towards their care; I don’t buy extras, not even new clothes. They have all my time, but I’m not as good with animals because I’m straight? I instantly thought of one episode where a gay female couple used a shock mat to keep the dogs away from the front door. Victoria touched it and screamed because it hurt. I’ve never used torture devices to train my animals (devices Victoria says she despises), yet this gay couple is still better than me simply because they are gay?
Oh wait, she used the word “tend,” not “always.” To me that’s still saying the majority of people of one group is better than me simply because they belong to that group. How about kind people tend to be better with their animals than selfish people? Kind and selfish can be found in every demographic.
I think what bothers me the most is I don’t easily admire anyone, especially where animals are concerned. I believed in Victoria so much I wanted to share my thoughts and belief in her with a weekly feature column about her show. It would have been as much as a thank you to her as an opportunity to introduce others to her amazing work with animals.
I think Victoria is the best thing to ever enter the animal care arena and now it feels like she will never think I’m good enough. I’ve also heard from others who are offended and one person even demanded I write about it.
I did get a nice message from Victoria’s forum host. He/she said they were sorry I was offended by what Victoria said. This person acknowledged and didn’t try to dismiss my feelings which I really appreciated. It helped to ease my anger but not my hurt.
Imagine you are a blue-eyed computer guru who has devoted your whole life to computer programming, and you admire and attempt to be as good as Bill Gates. Then you find out Bill thinks brown-eyed people tend to be more gifted. Punch to the gut, right?
Will I be back when the new season starts? Probably. I’m mature enough not to let my bruised feelings stand in the way of helping animals. Nothing Victoria says negates her skill as a trainer, and I feel all pets and their owners benefit from the show.