Dogs, bugs, writing
My interests are varied, and each weekly newsletter will include a feature about my volunteer work at the animal shelter, what’s going on in my yard, and news and bits about writing.
I’ve lived with a dog, or dogs, for most of my life. In the early spring of 2020, my old dog, Gudgeon, a black Lab mix, died. I decided that rather than think about getting another dog, I’d volunteer at the local animal shelter. I put in my application, and a few days later the shelter closed to volunteers. It would be just over a year before I got a chance to take part in training and begin to work with the dogs there.
Since that first day, I’ve been returned to the joys, frustrations, and occasional sadnesses of the world of hanging out with dogs. In these pages I hope to share the insights I’ve gained, nourish others who find joy and meaning in shelter work, and learn from the good souls who love dogs.
This pretty girl is Spot. Reported to be a Cattle dog - Dalmatian mix, she’s got energy to burn, and the smarts to go with it. Soon after I started working with her, I was looking for ways to tap into her best qualities and introduced her to some agility equipment we’re lucky enough to have at the shelter. (I had done a couple of agility courses with Gudgeon and figured I knew enough to get her started.)
It was obvious agility was a brand new concept for her, and it took some treats and trust to encourage her to try going through the tunnel in that first lesson. But she was up to speed in no time. Here she is during our third 20 minute training session - Spot's third lesson with the Agility Equipment. My agility technique could use some polish, but Spot sparkles in spite of my rookie efforts.
Spot is good looking and on the small side of mid-sized, and those are popular qualities. But at the shelter she’s reactive to the other dogs, and she’ll need folks who are content with just one pet or experienced with techniques for dealing with reactivity. Some dogs aren’t bothered too much by the shelter environment, but Spot’s not in that group. She’s under a lot of stress. But she really likes people, and getting into a home could really help her settle down. She’s at the Potsdam Humane Society in northern New York.
This organization offers free online training for animal shelter staff and volunteers. I recommend it. Their training program covers best ways to house and handle dogs and cats in a shelter, right from the intake process. User-friendly modules and quizzes are self-paced. When I started the program I wasn’t able to play the videos, but I was curious and wanted to get started, darn it. So I read through the materials and took the quizzes without watching the videos.
In the last year and a half that I’ve been working with the shelter dogs, I’ve watched a lot of videos as I researched, and read scads of website info on whatever issue I was working on with a dog. So I had a solid head start on understanding canine behavior and kind, effective methods. And, my philosophy on how to approach working with dogs lines up nicely with the Fear Free Shelter approach. I passed all but one of the quizzes without watching the videos. But when I was able to get video functioning back, I went back to the program and watched every one of the them. It was time well spent.
Out in the Yard
Last spring I did lots of research into native insects and the plants to support them. You might say I went overboard when it came time to order plants, and I’d agree with you. But, over 80 shrubs went into the ground and leafed out. We’ve just been through a big snowfall followed by a couple of days when it dropped below minus 10, so it’s a good test year for winter hardiness. I hope the little twigs I planted last spring make it through. I left lots of leaf litter under my shrubs, and hopefully that will aid some insects in getting through this harsh weather, too.
Looking to improve habitat for your local bees? Ohio State University offers an extraordinary collection of resources on ways to attract and nourish pollinators. Check out the link, and don’t forget to browse around the website - there’s more!
At the Writing Table
Of course, the big news is that I’ve set up my Substack account and posted my first newsletter. I’ve had a WordPress webpage and blog for a few years, eudorwatson.com and I found that setting that up was good training for setting up for the newsletter. When I first started blogging, I posted a lot about insects and plants. When I started at the shelter, I focused my blog posts on the shelter dogs.
I felt like I shouldn’t jump around with my topics on a blog. But I do have many interests and many have no overlapping characteristic. But I’m passionate about dogs, and bugs, and providing good habitat for them . . . so I guess that could count as a commonality. And I really enjoy writing about them. Another thing they have in common.
I’ll be offering links to resources I’ve found really helpful in my quest to be a better writer, and I’ll start off with recommending Jane Friendman and her website. I took a webinar of hers to get me going on my website, and her book, The Business of Being A Writer, is a kind but super-realistic guide to exactly what the title promises. Her newsletter, Electric Speed, never disappoints.
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Love the writer's style. So much to explore, imagine and think about after reading!
The newsletter is really good