My nifty American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) calendar tells me today is World Spay Day . In fact, 2017 is the 23rd annual World Spay Day.
The big difference goes beyond your home, however. The Humane Society of the United States estimates between six and eight million homeless animals entering shelters each year, with only half of those finding homes through adoption. Every litter of puppies or kittens grows this problem.
Our choices make a big impact. Fortunately, Tacoma has an amazing resource for spay and neuter surgeries in the Northwest Spay & Neuter Center (NWSNC). The mission of the NWSNC is to promote and provide affordable, high-quality spay and neuter services for cats and dogs in an effort to stop the killing of animals due to overpopulation. Since the NWSNC began in 2008 (as Coalition: HUMAnE), its veterinarians have performed 89,090 surgeries.
It gets even better, though. NWSNC offers safe, climate-controlled shuttle transportation to and from the clinic for dogs and cats, including feral cats. Currently the shuttle serves South King, Pierce, Thurston, Lewis, Grays Harbor, and Kitsap Counties.
We love our dogs. We want to live with them peacefully and help them to understand and adopt the behaviors that are most compatible with our lifestyles. We want them to have training.
This human-dog thing is like any other kind of relationship, and that means that each party needs to see and accept the other. Each party needs to meet the other where that person (or dog) is. Dogs are masterful at this. They aren't into judgment or trying to change your ways. They don't shame.
Dogs love. They show up and give everything they have in their relationships. Brittanie sees that, and she also acknowledges that if there is a rough spot in the relationship due to behavior, it's the human's job to change.
Brittanie Pivinski is the lady behind Modern Day Dog Training, LLC, an in-home service based in Tacoma. She describes herself as a force-free trainer and offers a discount to humans who trade in choke chains, prong collars, shock collars, and other unpleasant devices. If you are looking for someone who respects the canine brain and believes that learning should be a joyful experience, she's the one you want to call.
Brittanie and I sat down recently to chat and I recommended her to a client of mine the very next day. I went to a family's home to deliver portraits and the canine resident, who shall remain nameless, enthusiastically wooed my leg for the duration of my stay. It was an uncomfortable time for everyone in the room except for him.
When I asked Brittanie about her inspiration for this line of work and her method in particular, she told me about her volunteer experience with the Kitsap Humane Society. A woman there introduced her to Karen Pryor's work and since then she's been all in. In the shelter environment she saw many animals who were surrendered because of behavior and wanted to help in a bigger way.
"I try to keep dogs in their homes."
Brittanie works with her human clients to observe their dogs, begin to understand their language, and help guide their behavior. "I try to keep dogs in their homes," she said.
She likened it to learning something at work. Would it help you learn a new task if someone yelled at you when you did something wrong? Would you be eager to try new things if you were worried about your boss jerking you back by your shirt or pants?
It's easy for a person with greater status and resources to resort to physical domination under duress. We run out of ways to resolve issues and turn to base tactics like hitting or yelling to intimidate and threaten. Brittanie fills this gap by giving her human clients tools and techniques to understand the world from the dog's perspective. She helps humans respond to their dogs in ways that build the relationships. Humans are the weak link in the relationship when something is off with the dog's behavior.
We talked about dog parks, old dogs, puppies, and all kinds of other things. It was delightful to watch her light up talking about this work she loves so much. She shared with me that the best part of her work is watching people reach that "aha" moment when everything they've learned comes together and makes sense. That is a powerful thing.
Dogs really enjoy being with us. We owe it to them to be the best partners we can be. When you are ready for a little relationship boost with your companion, Brittanie is eager to help. And she likes big dogs.
You can find her on Facebook and online.
Pictures courtesy of Brittanie Pivinski from Chelsey Grant Photography
Yesterday this fellow left this world for his next adventure, where he is surely waiting for his person. They were beautifully bonded to each other, and his person had planned one final camping trip for the two of them together after learning only last week of a cancerous mass on his jaw.
Coming to know such remarkable creatures is a great blessing. Great peace and love to his family.
I'm Shannon, and I love and am loved by four Great Danes, four cats, and one horse (four Danes, one cat, and one horse are no longer walking this earth). Here I'll share stories of my adventures in grief photography for companion animals, my own grief journey, and thoughts on caregiving.