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The weed people

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When I was a kid, my mom used to rage about people who had weeds growing in their gardens.  Those weeds go to seed and those seeds get blown around the neighborhood, leaving my mom’s pristine garden a hapless victim.

Weeds in her garden were the result of inconsiderate, stupid, ignorant weed people who simply didn’t care about anyone but themselves. What’s wrong with people these days? (Apparently, all of those folks who think it is the current generation didn’t know about my mom’s weed problem).

It never occurred to her that maybe her neighbors had different interests. Or maybe they had a different vision of what a good garden might look like. Or maybe they perceived her as eccentric and silly, especially when she started calling the police to report the worst offenders.  Who knows?  My mom was a master gardener.  She knew the facts, and their weeds were a problem, even if the offending parties weren’t much interested in learning about it.

I heard about weeds my whole childhood, as did the neighbors.

My mom was right about weeds but she was wrong about people. The weed people were not bad, malicious, or thoughtless; they were simply operating with a different set of priorities.  Her efforts to bludgeon the neighbors into submission through education were not being ignored because they were unable to learn; they were being ignored because they didn’t share her priorities.    Her mistake was assuming that once they were educated then they would gladly give up their own interests to ensure that her garden and their neighborhood remained weed free. And when that didn’t happen, she became increasingly frustrated and angry.

When we have a passion, in particular one which is not shared by most of society, we struggle with perspective. We forget that we’re the weird ones; the people with special requirements which are outside the societal norm. We are the problem.

It really doesn’t matter if you’re right. My mom was right. But being right did nothing to solve her problem because her point of view was not the normative one and she was unable to communicate in a way that might have helped other people understand what she needed from them.

“Dog people” seem to struggle with this as well.  If you are reading this blog then your beliefs about dogs almost certainly do not fit what is typical. You may have all kinds of knowledge about dogs and how things should be and you may be right! But understanding that you are outside the societal norm might be helpful the next time you try to bludgeon a person into acquiescence when they do something that isn’t to your particular liking.

What’s your issue?  Flexi leashes? Dog food? Dogs riding loose in cars?  Dogs sticking their head out the car window? Dog parks?  Off-leash dogs?

Or maybe your issue has nothing to do with dogs or gardens; maybe you’re the driving police.  Everyone should drive exactly the speed limit, use their blinkers at each intersection, cross only at marked crosswalks, and count a full second before proceeding after a stop sign.  And if they don’t follow the rules?  You’ll be sure to let them know because you are right!

Or maybe you’re all over the map, picking and choosing what you are right about while waiting for the world to recognize your knowledge so that you can finally be appreciated for the prophet that you are.

Really, perspective is everything.  And yes, that is exactly how other people perceive you.

Can you take another perspective? Can you list out several reasons why a perfectly decent, thoughtful, normal individual might raise their dog in a different manner than you do?  Or break the speed limit on occasion? Or ingore the weeds in their garden? Or feed their dog cheap store bought kibble? Or walk their dog on a flexi?

If you can’t do that without going right back to rationalizing why you are still right, then you are the problem – you simply cannot get far enough out of your worldview to recognize a different possibility. If you cannot stop focusing on the exception, the one neighbor who really does spend their every moment trying to mess with others, then you are the problem. If you really see yourself as the “bearer of truth” who bears the burden of sharing important but uncomfortable truths with the ignorant masses, then you are the problem.  If you really cannot recognize that most people are not out to get you, then it really is about you!  But maybe not the way you thought.

When I figured out that I was the problem because of my unique perspective on dogs, I became much more able to set up circumstances around me that let me focus on solutions rather than stewing in the unfairness of it all. I found myself getting my needs met, and I had better relationships with others.  A net win.

As my mom aged,  arthritis made gardening painful and dementia made it unimportant. And while I have no idea if anyone else in the neighborhood cares, I can’t help but think about it every time I show up and realize that my mom is now one of the weed people.

About dfenzi

I'm a professional dog trainer who specializes in building relationship in dog handler teams who compete in dog sports. My personal passions are Competitive Obedience and no force (motivational) dog training. I travel throughout the world teaching seminars on topics related to Dog Obedience and Building Drives and Motivation. I own Fenzi Dog Sports Academy, a comprehensive online school for motivational training of performance sport dogs.

21 responses »

  1. Elizabeth Cook

    For quite awhile, I have enjoyed and learned from your books and posts on dog training and behavior. But it is through posts like this, and the one on ” molecular redistribution” that I realize how lucky I am to have access to your ideas and advice. Because becoming a better “dog person” is almost always about becoming a more self-aware and compassionate person. Thank you for sharing your wisdom.

  2. Very well said. I will put this on the fridge and read it every day.

  3. Casper O' Hane

    Me driving: “please follow the rules because I DONT WANNA DIE.” 😨

  4. Casper O' Hane

    I could care less about flexi leads. But I am upset when someone’s dog that has been repeatedly allowed to run loose through the neighborhood attacks my neighbor’s dog. (She’s still not sure if the dog is going to make it or not.) I have a problem with that. I have a BIG problem with that. Leash laws exist to keep us safe. Traffic laws exist to keep us safe. LAWS exist to keep us safe.

    • Does it give you pause that even with leash laws in place, your neighbor’s dog may still die? Does it help to know that you’re right?

      I need to get along so that people will try to cooperate with me. Because honestly, if my dog gets killed by another dog, my dog is dead regardless of what laws were or were not followed. I need a solution, not the chance to be right.

      And anyway, since I do occasionally speed when I drive, roll through stop signs and jay walk, I’m not in a position to hold others accountable to laws that may make as little sense to them as not crossing the street away from the crosswalk makes to me.

      • Casper O' Hane

        No, but humans are humans and I think it’s unreasonable to expect people not to get upset over things like that. What could help is more widespread education in this area about responsible dog ownership. Educating someone does not have to involve “bludgeoning” them, and if it does then it’s being done wrong. But I don’t think it’s okay for people and their dogs to get hurt or killed because other people’s priorities are different or the laws don’t make sense to them. Just because the law doesn’t make sense to you doesn’t mean you’re excused from following it.

    • I tend to agree with Casper. There is a big difference between loose dogs and weeds. Loose dogs cause real injuries and even deaths. When there are enough loose dogs in my neighborhood, I cannot even walk my own dog on her 3 foot leash. I take a risk going biking.

      It’s fine to say “find solutions,” but I was hoping you would give examples of how you have done so. The article rather glides over that part. Just: find solutions! But when you think about it, laws ARE solutions. They exist to let everyone know what is expected.

      • Where I live, loose dogs that kill other dogs are not considered “typical and normal” and the article was pretty clear about addressing circumstances where YOU are outside the norm, not your rogue neighbor. Regardless, if I lived in a place where normally accepted behavior included aggressive dogs roaming and terrorizing, I would never walk my dog there – my dogs would be in my house, my yard or in my car to get us from here to there. Same as when I lived in the ghetto where people killed each other pretty regularly (true story); I didn’t hang outside at night and then I moved when the opportunity arose.

        If you want to ask how I handle examples that would be on point to the article, then consider taking classes at FDSA, joining the alumni group on FB, and engaging in this sort of dialogue there. It’s what we do! Lively discussion on challenging topics.

      • Casper O' Hane

        Thank you, that’s kind of what I was trying to say only you said it better. 🙂

      • Jenny Haskins

        I didn’t see the article as about ‘loose dangerous dogs’ so much as different people with a different agenda.
        (Actually I sort up in a sort of ‘weed people garden’. Not that it was untidy or even weed strewn — just not forced into military exactness.)
        I might not quite approve of how the neighbours garden, or bring up their kids or train their dogs, but unless they are causing a ‘public nuisance” I will not complain.

      • Jenny Haskins

        I don’t seem anble to edit my posts, 😦 What I did mean to say was I GREW up in a weed-people family 🙂

    • Jenny Haskins

      Casper, complain to the relevant authorities. As for yourself, be sure to have safe and secure fences, just as your neighbour should have.

      • Casper O' Hane

        Yes, I’m pretty sure my neighbor has already reported them. I don’t have a fence currently so I go out with my dog every time she goes out and make sure she never leaves the yard.

  5. agree with Eliza beth Cook thankyou.

  6. This is quite thoughtful and thought provoking. Your posts frequently give me pause. And, because I pause & contemplate, I believer I’m a better person for it- thank you.

  7. karin l bendel

    This was a very thought-provoking and excellent post. I agree, being right isn’t going to solve the problem and we must work together to find solutions. I do have a solution for those that walk where dogs sometimes might be on the loose. I use a stun gun baton. It has stopped large dogs closing in on my two small dogs in their tracks. It makes a horrible noise and can shock if needed, which I never had to use since the noise is so loud. This works and gives me comfort. Even in safe areas, there is always the dog that gets away from the owner, so it is good to be prepared. Just thought I would share this.

    • Casper O' Hane

      That is a really good idea. Though I still think if one is having an issue with loose dogs coming onto one’s own property, (as my neighbor did,) it is perfectly okay to talk to the owner, and (politely, of course) explain to them that it is unacceptable, and if the problem continues, to report them (as my neighbor now has.)

  8. Interesting responses. Obviously many of us have a ‘need’ to be RIGHT! Always thought-provoking and I am enjoying thinking about how I fall into this, too – driving, gardening and dog-training. Thanks, Denise.

  9. Wise words
    Spot on thoughts
    Thank you for taking the time to share them
    I do enjoy your I sights ,

  10. Jenny Haskins

    Re loose dogs coming onto your property, When we were first here , our fences were not dog proof, so when the dogs were outside they were tethered. We had one neighbour who thought it OK to let her dog roam, and he would come onto our property and annoy our dogs. So one day, I put him on a lead and tied him to out house block gate post. Where I knew his people would be able to see him. Just as evening began their two boys came sheepishly up up to our house and asked If they could please have their dog back. Oh, yes, certainly, I said. I was worried about him getting killed on the road, so I tied him up to keep him safe! From that day on they managed to keep that dog and their subsequent dogs in their own yard.


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