A Confession on Bias

I’ve written here at least once about the problems associated with breed stereotyping certain dog breeds, and the often completely incorrect assumptions the public or the media can make about “bully breeds” such as Pitbulls or Rottweilers.

But even when sweeping generalizations don’t lead to breed specific legislation, I think it’s fair to say everyone harbours different kinds of bias with respect to dogs.  Sure, we all know dogs vary across the spectrum for size, energy and age, and we’ve all met a surprisingly calm lab or a crazy excitable Great Dane, but assumptions are still there.

Whether it be a fear of Schnauzers because one bit you once when you were little, or an affinity for Golden Retrievers because your family had one when you were younger, certain preferences and experiences can shape our decision making  – whether we acknowledge them or not.

For example – and you may want to take a seat, since this may surprise you – I have a pro-large-breed bias.

Who you callin' large?

Shocking, right?  But the other side of that coin is actually an anti-small-breed bias.  There.  I said it.

When someone talks about a small dog, I generally think of this:

What an adorable companion...

Or this:

Good God.

I heard Malachy, the Pekingese, won Westminster last week, and I wondered when cats became permitted to enter the show.

There's a dog in there? Seriously? (Photo: kasa.com)

Nothing against cats, it’s just that these concepts don’t necessarily make it into my ‘bucket’ of how I’ve come to define “dog”.

At least not lately, though should I encounter a Maltese that is actually an adept and trained mouser, I would be super impressed.  And the fact that some hotels have a 20lb limit on the pet policy stuck me as ludicrous (still does, for the record).

But then, one fine afternoon not too long ago, I caught myself mid-thought and very surprised.

I was looking at a dog named Barkley thinking “gee, isn’t he cute”, as I often do, but then I realised something: I was looking at a SMALL DOG.

He was an unknown cross, but looked something like this. (Photo: aplacetolovedogs.com)

I know, WTF right?

A small dog that was cute and endearing?  I even wanted to pet him.  What was wrong with me?

Then I figured it out.

Barkley couldn’t have weighed more than 35 pounds and he was extremely well-mannered.  He heeled nicely, paid attention to his owners, and responded to their cues.  He didn’t bark – not a peep – and wouldn’t lunge like a maniac at the sight of an approaching person or another dog.

I don’t necessarily have an anti-small-dog bias, but I certainly have an anti-bad-dog bias.  And not “bad” as in immoral, but “bad” as in high strung, noisy, untrained, and uncontrollable.

And whose fault is in that a dog may be bad?  Well… infrequently it’s the dog’s fault.  Lookin’ at you, owners.

Should I think all small dogs are bad without exception, then we’re in the realm of unfounded stereotypes, but too often my experience with smaller dogs involves barking and lunging at the end of a flexi-leash.  And after enough repeat experiences like that, the brain starts to recognise a pattern.

Thinking about it more, my opinion about dogs of any size is strongly moulded by how they behave.  Sure, bigger breeds may receive some initial benefit of the doubt, but even after they’ve exhibited disappointing behaviours, rose coloured glasses come off and opinions change.

And though maybe those judgements should really be reserved for the dog’s owner (owners currently working on resolving issues with their dogs notwithstanding and deserving of my complete and total sympathy), I do suppose it’s a more fair assessment; we do that with the people we meet, too, after all.

Jon Hamm may usually set hearts a-flutter, but upon the revelation of his douchey nature, his Bridesmaids character Ted was just a bit less attractive. ...Right?

I can’t be the only one with these kinds of biases, so ‘fess up.  And knowing I am influenced by these kinds of things (and can’t be the only one) just goes to show how important training and being an ambassador for all dogs really is.

You can judge a book by its contents.

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Don’t Toews Me, Bro

I feel like I owe you an explanation.

Especially if you follow me on Twitter and want to know why in H-E-Double-Hockey-Sticks I felt so inclined to Tweet you all a lovely photo of my lunch today.

Remember back on January 18th when everyone participated in a blackout in protest of the American Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA)?

Well, just one day without Wikipedia and the  House Judiciary Committee postponed further discussion until a better solution is figured out.  It was great to see the online community band together to protest SOPA.  And now we’re doing it again – but with an essential Canadian ingredient: passive aggression.

First, there is Bill C-11, the copyright reform bill.  The major problem with C-11 is the inclusion of a digital lock provisions.

As explained in the Montreal Gazette:

“Bill C-11 would make it illegal to break digital locks on media like DVDs and CDs, even if it is to make copies of content for backup or personal storage purposes. In some cases, critics say, it would even make it illegal to alter the format of a DVD bought in another region to enable it to play on a computer or DVD player. […] It would make it illegal to jailbreak an iPhone, or to copy a movie or DVD to your hard drive; it defines what you can and can’t do with media that you bought.”

In addition to the digital provisions, concerns also arise about what it may mean for the copying of texts for educational and research purposes by students and instructors.

Source: Canadian Coalition for Electronic Rights (CCER.ca)

BIll C-11 has been slated to go to committee where it could undergo further revisions.

But what’s really heating up right now is Bill C-30 (formerly Bill C-51).

The bill has been dubbed the Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act by the Conservative government, which I’m sure sounds very perplexing because who in their right mind would protest that?

You’re right: no one.  But the means to that end is the problem.

As explained by the Calgary Herald:

“The law would require Internet service providers (ISPs) to install equipment that would allow them to monitor and preserve the Internet surfing activities of their customers. The providers could then be asked by police to collect and preserve surfing data of anyone suspected in engaging in criminal activity.

[The bill] would make it easier for law enforcement authorities to activate tracking mechanisms within cellphones so they can know the whereabouts of suspected criminals. If they’re suspected of being international terrorists, the law would allow such tracking to go on for a year, rather than the current 60-day limit, according to a previous incarnation of the law introduced last year.”

That’s right.  The handing over of personal information, without a warrant.  And now your personal information is being collected and stored by the authorities.  What could go wrong?

theglobeandmail.com

Conservative MP and Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, who does not participate in gutter politics, has accused those in opposition to Bill C-30 as standing with the “child pornographers”.

Our fearless leader and Prime Minister, Stephen Harper – ever the beacon of party unity – followed up with: “with regard to child pornography, our party is totally against it and I encourage the NDP [opposition] to adopt the same position.”

NationalPost.com

And now, even after saying he will “entertain amendments”, our pal Vic is the receiving the brunt of the Bill C-30 backlash.

VIc wants to read through all your personal information?  Let him.  In fact, let’s help out and get started early!

That’s the reasoning between #tellviceverything and #donttoewsmebro on Twitter; if the Public Safety Minister is so concerned with our actions, let’s ensure he’s in the loop – about everything!

Twitter users (yours truly included) are copying the MP in Tweets (cc @toewsvic), and I’m given to understand others are also copying him on their personal emails, leaving him detailed voicemails, and faxing copies of their grocery lists (seriously? people still fax things?).

A step even further has been the release of Vic’s own less-flattering and personal (but already public) information into the Twittersphere by the anonymous @vikileaks30, presumably giving him a taste of his own medicine.

The drama escalates as the source of @vikileaks30 was traced to the House of Commons and the Progressive Conservatives blame their political opponents while Vic demands an inquiry. [Update: the @vikileaks30 account has voluntarily shut down with the final message “I am shutting down before any other innocent people are targeted. Please keep up the fight against #C30 Canada.”  An unaffiliated mirror account has appeared reiterating many, if not all, of the original posts: @vikileaksmirror.]

“As we have said over the last number of days, we are not interested in any details of [Toews’] private life,” said NDP MP Chris Charlton to the National Post. “His public statements are troubling enough.”

So if you’re also not a fan of potential warrantless collection of information and being lumped in with pedophiles – and are even less impressed by the unlikely case that the government will be able to keep that large store of personal information safe and confidential – make sure you sign the petition here: http://stopspying.ca/ and tell your MP.  And Mr. Toews, of course.

Actually, just tell Vic everything.

Liberal MP, Justin Trudeau

Dog People Problems

You’re probably familiar with the meme.

It comes in two formats:  “_______ People Problems” or “_______ Problems”.

For example:

Don’t like how your new Mercedes rides?  First world problems.

Mistakenly went to the wrong Toyota Rav 4 in the superstore parking lot?  Middle class problems.

Can’t get into House of Lies because every time Don Cheadle breaks through the fourth wall you have Saved by the Bell flashbacks?  Twenty-something problems, Preppy.

Hipster problems.

Drug store out of SPF 70?  Ginger problems.

90 minute daily commute – one way?  Calgarian problems.

FIrst world problems.

Legend has it, the meme evolved from lyrics to a Matthew Good Band song.

So as I was complaining to the Husband that our sedan is no longer big enough to accommodate long family road trips after adopting Alma, it hit me: dog people problems.

Moses snoozing in the back seat of the car - back when he didn't have to share.

And there are a lot of dog people problems.

Brought only two poop bags on a walk where you needed three?  Dog people problems.

Don’t have a leash and collar set that match?  Dog people problems.

Tripe-based food is a heinous assault on the senses?  Dog people problems.

Lunchtime patio is not fido-friendly?  You guessed it: dog people problems.

Complain about the weather for Monday Mischief and get exactly what you ask for in less than 24 hours? Dog people problems. (Or Calgarian problems.)

Turns out that park isn’t off-leash after all?  The free treats offered by the bank teller aren’t grain-free?  Your local politician won’t answer your letters about the injustices of Breed Specific Legislation (BSL)?  Filled up your memory card with pictures of your pets?

Dog. People. Problems.

So let’s hear ’em – what are your dog people problems?

Annoying human won't stop taking pictures? Alma problems.

Monday Mischief 3: Melting

Calgary chinooks are both a blessing and a curse.

On the blessing side, obviously it’s nice and warm out and makes for great, extra long, one-on-one Sunday dog walks.

But I can’t be the only Calgarian fighting a losing battle against home cleanliness.

This nicely formed paw print might be endearing if it wasn’t on the kitchen floor.

I’ve got filthy dogs and a house to match, though Alma and Moses don’t seem too particularly bothered by it.

Is that a giant stick stuck to you, Moses?  (Among other things.)

No, your left.

There you go.

Time to dig out all the heavy-duty grooming tools and put the Dyson on overtime.

This post is part of the Monday Mischief Blog Hop.

I Love My Vet!

Remember last week when I wrote this post that had some not-so-subtle undertones of frustration and anger?

Well my tune has changed!

And there is a very good reason my favourite vet is my favourite.

Now, I know I mentioned I have a veritable team of veterinary experts for the care of our furry ones, but within that team, I do have a couple MVPs.  One, of course, is Moses’ surgeon.  And the other is more of a ‘regular practitioner’, if I had to put a label on his practice, but I’ll just call him The Best.

We’ve gone to The Best for more of your regular-type veterinary needs: spayed Emma, neutered Moses.  He gave us free post-op check-ups and took care of Moses’ staples at no charge after he bloated in Vancouver.  He’s no-nonsense and good humoured, and doesn’t baby talk to me or my dogs.  And to top it off, I overhead him recommend another client check out Tail Blazers for nutrition advice and good quality foods for their dogs; that alone is commendable!

So why didn’t I start there first when I needed veterinary advice?

Good question.

Alma was a little over-enthusiastic tackling an elk antler, and she’d pushed a tooth out of alignment – a lower incisor.

When she did it, it was immediately clear something was wrong because she was visibly bothered by some sort of ailment, pouting and playing Adele’s Someone Like You on repeat.

After giving her a thorough inspection and eliminating any wounds, broken bones, or digestive issues, I pried open her mouth and could easily see the tooth was pushed forward and no longer nicely in line with its neighbours, and the gums around it were quite red and swollen.  She’d still eat, but had no interest in chewing on or playing with toys.

She was clearly in pain, so I wanted to take her into the vet sooner than later.  And that is the problem with The Best – I’m not the only who thinks he’s great, and the office is always busy.

So I made a call to a vet office close to home who could get us in the next day.  We’re no strangers to them, either, as members of the ‘team’ who let us pop in just to use the scale or get up-to-date on rabies vaccines.

Of course, by the next morning Alma’s bubbly personality had reappeared, but the gums were still a bit red and swollen and I figured it would be best to get it checked out anyway.

One consultation later and I’m walking out with a tentative appointment, quote upwards of $800, and no confidence.

Second opinion time!

I booked us an appointment with The Best and called around to just talk general numbers with some other clinics.

By the time our appointment came around last night, Alma was back to nearly normal: the tooth was still misaligned, but the gums were no longer swollen and she was back to tackling that antler.

The diagnosis?  Her overall dental health is great and yep, she gave herself malocclusion (misaligned tooth), but no medical intervention is necessary and it will heal up just fine if we lay off the antlers for the next while.  We’ll go back in a couple of months for a follow-up just to make sure all is still well.

And there you have it.  I just saved a lot of money and The Best is even better in my books!

Even more importantly, Alma’s going to be just fine and we’re not putting her through any unnecessary procedures.

This is all quite timely considering February is Pet Dental Health Month.

Now that Alma's got a clean bill of health, time to give your pup's pearly whites a check. And when in doubt, always get a second (or third) opinion! Maybe you'll even find some Dental Health Month promotional pricing.