thoughts on ‘cautionary letter’

Well we went for a nice long hike this morning, up towards Ross Peak in the Bridgers. I do a lot of thinking when I am out and about in the mountains. Movement, fresh air, and lots and lots of sweating!

I thought of so many things I wanted to say in regards to the post ‘Cautionary Letter’, and specifically, the comments the post has been receiving. Some thoughts I had were so simple, and some thoughts totally brilliant. And as soon as we arrived back at the trail head, POOF! everything was gone, couldn’t remember a damn thing. So it will suffice to say, gorgeous hike, and now I will start from scratch.

I can’t comment on anything outside of the letter posted. That is information that is not made to be public. I will say that the letter was written with sincerity, raw honesty (which I applaud), and with courage. Owning up to a mistake is hard enough for a person to accept on there own. Being honest with ones self is the first step in anything. Owning up to a mistake publicly and standing there with arms wide open, ready to take some hits, is something totally different, and to me it is someone who has let go of ego, and when ego is gone, so are limitations. This is where healing, love, and kindness begin.

Let me try to address some of what is being discussed –

Kindness and Gratitude – Thank you to those that read the letter and understood the intent of trying to forgive ones self, help someone else through a difficult event, and to hopefully move on and become a better person. Holy crap, that is a major life event, life changing, and raw. There was no sugar coating through all of the mistakes, none.

My BLOG – My blog is my name, Nancy Tanner. I purposefully did that so people had a pretty clear idea of who’s words they were reading, and if they comment, they would be commenting to a person. I am a for real person, you don’t have to address me in the 3rd person, I am right here. I write as if I were talking to you, and I read everything that is posted in the comments, whether I agree with it or not. I have formed some really nice friendships over the past year, around the world, and it has been an awesome place to share conversations and ideas. I have gone through birth, death, and everything in between with some of my readers. I consider this relationship a privilege.

Judgement – I knew there would be judgement with this post but was honestly blown away by the level of hatred and condemnation that was laced with even a deeper level of judgement. This letter was a nano micro glimpse into an even smaller nano micro part of a persons life. That some of you had this person, and myself for that matter, all figured out was slightly creepy.

Not everyone in the world is dogcentric, in fact very few. Many of the responses assumed that these people should have known better based on a dogcentric persons point of views. There are so many levels of dog ownership, dog knowledge, dog love, that it would be insane to try and fit everyone into one category. There are plenty of dog owners that love their dogs, but to you or I it might not look that way. Love is a super subjective thing, and I for one am not an expert by any means. If someone tells me they love their dog, I believe them, who am I to say “no that is not love, here let me show you what love really is”.

It is not for me to know how this persons love for their dog felt. It is not my life or my truth. Sometimes I think it is important to parcel out truth from belief. What I believe may not be someone else truth and visa versa. This is a fine line and it takes practice.

If you feel OK to judge others because you are perfect, than sign your posts with ‘Mother Teresa’. But I am almost certain she wasn’t perfect and stated that quite often, so…

My Work – If somebody finds me, contacts me, and shows up for an appointment, they are not lazy, far from it. There is a serious amount of effort that has to happen before I meet with someone. I am not a counselor, social worker, nanny, or busy body. I don’t pry into my clients lives. Sometimes my clients invite me into their lives, and sometimes they don’t, either way is fine, and either way I will give them my professional advise. And I treat this with grace. I am a coach and a trainer, and work with people who want to work with their dogs.

There are things I cannot guarantee and/or control; owner compliance , dogs genetics, environmental management, early socialization, and/or consistency. I coach, I advise, I train, but I cannot be responsible for another persons actions or thoughts. I do not carry pixie dust or a crystal ball, I cannot predict the future, and I don’t stay up all night trying to figure people out. This would be exhausting I believe!

For people to make judgement that I should be saving every dog possible, rescuing every dog that doesn’t work out for a family, re-homing dogs to better homes is simply not realistic, on any level.

My Clients – Here is a shout out! My clients are awesome. Some have been with me over 11 years, some just weeks. They all have their own reason for getting a puppy or dog, they all have their own level of dedication, and they all want to achieve their personal goals with their dogs. WOOP! Each person comes with their own level of tolerance too. If one of my clients needs to re-home a dog, I trust it is the right decision for them. If one of my clients feels that they need to euthanize their dog and it is a decision that has been made thoughtfully, I trust them. If one of my clients gets litter mates, I buy them a martini! 😉

Sometimes I will meet a person for a 1 hour session and never see them again. That is all they were looking for. Other times I see the same client every week for a few years. Every person and every dog is different. I offer this variety so what ever a persons comfort zone, it will hopefully work.

If someone comes to me, and they are not ready to learn, I can’s shove it down their throats and stalk them. That would hardly be productive. When someone is ready to learn they will hear the information, I have learned it is really that simple.

Marketing – Marketing is powerful, and if you deny that you are lying to yourself. We as human beings are influenced by marketing with each and every step we take, each and every day. Our food, cars, walks, stores, houses, apartments, computers, phones, hair products, lotions, and medication. Don’t buy it? The pet industry was worth $52 billion last year, marketing HAS EVERYTHING TO DO WITH THAT.

When someone, calling themselves a trainer, has slick info, promises of success, and testimonials, it draws people in. It is called a marketing technique. People go to school to learn how to do this. A family pet owner is not always in the know, a family pet owner is not a dogcentric person, if they feel they can make head way they will sign up for services. I see this happen all of the time.

Marketing is powerful, it influences how we think, how we act, and the flow of our lives. We have all made mistakes based on marketing. Think back to ‘The Pet Rock’, this dude became a multikatrillionaire selling freaking rocks!  Now think to the shelter today with the flowery description of ‘Tulip’, who is a diamond in the rough, needs lots of attention, family outings, love, and a comfy bed to lay next to you. And a few weeks after you get home you learn that Dear Tulip needs to run a marathon each day just to stay level, diamond in the rough means gangbanger in the making, next to you means separation anxiety, and if things are not meticulously managed and structured all the time, well than family only means you, because she is slightly anti social, and pretty much a kid hater.

Lumping – It is easy to ‘lump’ people into a category. It is neat and tidy, and helps us to deal. But the reality is, the first loss of lumping family pet owners is the loss of individuality, and being ones self. We forget that they are people that share the earth and breathe the same air as us. What if we were judged because of someones perception of us based on people ‘like us’. I personally think it would suck.

Perspective – Whenever something difficult or challenging comes up I try to shed some perspective on it. Someone who thoughtfully and compassionately euthanizes their dog is not the same as someone who lights a dog on fire or buries puppies alive. Someone who tries to do what they feel is right, even though it turns out to be horribly wrong, tried, they tried, and it is more than giving up. Someone who doesn’t want to change too much for another living being may not be ready. Maybe one day, maybe not. Perspective.

Welcome to our new subscribers from all over the world.

With love, Nancy …  in the pond after a long hike!!




39 Comments Add yours

  1. Jean Strong says:

    Well thought out. To me, my dogs are literally my children. I will unhesitatingly risk my life to protect them. I have faced down a bear (at least I thought it was one when I flung myself in front of my dog, only to instantly figure out it was a life sized carved wooden bear!!), faced down an angry aggressive dog, and sent a moose and her baby packing, all to protect my children. (I live in a relatively rural area of Alaska, so this is not uncommon.) I know that many people have different priorities. It’s very difficult for me to accept that, but it isn’t my choice. Sometimes I get angry because I feel people make the wrong choice. I can’t count the times I’ve loudly ranted that those people don’t deserve a dog, etc.etc. My heart is always with the dog. They are helpless and at our mercy. As much as I hate it, after a certain point, I have to let it go, or I would destroy myself from the inside out with anger and outrage.

    1. Nancy Tanner says:

      Thanks Jean, I will be in Alaska again this year, September. Thank you for your comments.

    2. Andi says:

      Thank you, Nancy! I am a new trainer and find the need to remind myself about many of these things with each new client! Thank you for your brave, fresh, and honest perspective.

      1. Nancy Tanner says:

        Hi Andi, you are welcome. Best of luck in your new training business!

  2. Linda Karell says:

    Lovely, Nancy: realistic, generous, kind, and accepting. Which is why you rock as a trainer (and a person)!

    1. Nancy Tanner says:

      Thanks Linda, the feeling is mutual!

  3. Lynn says:

    Hummmmmmmmmm, for not remembering all the brilliant things that came into your head on your walk, you certainly chatted a ton of paragraphs! hahahahahahahahaha

    1. Nancy Tanner says:

      Hi Lynn, all of my thoughts seem so perfect and genius in my head on my hike, and then gone 😉

  4. Mary Hunter says:

    Thanks Nancy for your thoughts on this earlier post. I read it with sadness and passed it along to others. I work with lots of different people and different dogs. You are so right that not all people are dogcentric to the level we are. They sometimes select dogs that are really hard to live with and then try to make it work. Many thanks to the person who wrote the letter. It is the reality that we live in. I am very sorry that the writer didn’t stick with you but appreciate the contribution made by writing the letter. We should all walk in the other’s shoes before condemning him.

    1. Nancy Tanner says:

      Thanks for this reply Mary. Imagine the General in a family pet home that just wanted a hang dog? I think about things like that all of the time, with my dogs too. Hello and love to you and the furry crew!

  5. I spent 14 years in veterinary practice as a licensed technician, and I learned a lot about people and their pets. Many people have the best of intentions and truly do “love” their dog-in the best way they know how. But I had to learn to accept that everyone’s way is not my way, and it is ignorance that causes people to make these kinds of mistakes. It is heart wrenching and I cried as I read this letter. When we know better, we do better-but sometimes the price is very high.

    1. Nancy Tanner says:

      Thanks for this reply Char~!

  6. “Sometimes I think it is important to parcel out truth from belief.” Many people have a hard time doing this and fall prey to their minds’ interpretation of the facts. Every mind has a filter that is built up from experiences and education but over half the time we make incorrect assumptions about other people based on what our filters are. You know what they say about assumptions. I hope people read this post after reading and commenting on the last one. You go Nany! You are more highly evolved than the haters.

    1. Nancy Tanner says:

      Thank Robin, Sincerely, Nanny

  7. I’m sorry about misspelling your name. I am tired.

    1. Joe Fisher says:

      I thought that “Nany” was just a pet nickname you had for Nancy…:-)

    2. joemontana57 says:

      I just thought that “Nany” was a pet name you had for Nancy.:-)

      1. Nancy Tanner says:

        Yes Joe, Robin calls me Nanny, and you can too 😉

  8. Janet G. says:

    I am stunned. It never occurred to me that your post would be met with vitriol. The heartache expressed in the letter was palpable and it left me wondering if I would have been able to reach so deeply had I been in their shoes. It took seconds for me to hit share. This reminds me of the response to Patricia McConnell’s posts about rehoming her dog and the caustic remarks that followed.

    1. Same here on feeling that way: Pat McConnell got a lot of criticism from those sincere, honest and heart-felt posts. Why is loving acceptance of other peoples’ experiences and mistakes so hard…

  9. Nikki says:

    Well said, Nancy! Words to be both shared and remembered!

  10. Kellie says:

    I concur – well said. After being in dogs for 25yrs it still amazes me how cruel people can be to others….and often these are the same people claiming that ‘every’ dog NEEDS to be saved. Compassion needs to go both ways.

  11. mtwaggin says:

    Your words are often genius! We humans are not put here to judge others (although let’s face it we all do in some manner). The owners that are willing to express their mistakes and share them are teachers in the highest form. They learned the lesson (the hard way) and are kind enough to share and teach the rest of us so we don’t have to experience the pain they have. I agree, it is hard to remember that everyone else isn’t always as dog-savvy as we might “think” we are but the love they have for their dogs is genuine. I struggle with that every time I place a foster and truly learn from it.

  12. Mark Clemons says:

    Nancy…as an owner/parent of 5 rescue dogs I am deeply appreciative of the the thoughtful words you have shared. The ‘Cautionary Letter’ is heartbreaking to read, but I could not agree more with you that any judgement passed on the writer is deeply unfair and is not the “take away” message.
    I have a deep gratitude for all you, and many others, do to provide a better opportunity for a happy life for dogs and their owners. I also know how challenging it can be as a dog owner sifting through all the information provided to help us train our “difficult” pets. For my wife and me our “test” is Franke, a hearing impaired dachshund. Every day is a training challenge…a challenge in patience…and, EVERY DAY is a joy in complete and untarnished love. Despite all the challenges…the tail wags, the licks and the unending personality, so easily wipe away all the challenges.
    Pet ownership is filled with deep joy…and can be deeply painful. Your warmth and caring comments are beautiful. Please keep up your wonderful work and your passionate support for dogs and their owners.


    1. Nancy Tanner says:

      Mark thank you for your kind words. All the best to you, your wife and Franke!

  13. Randi Rossman says:

    Beautiful response to some ugly comments.

    Let your client who wrote that letter know that I was able to use her story to change the mind of a client yesterday who was frustrated with the work involved in behavior modification and management with her fearful dogs, and was thinking of turning to aversive methods.

    It is so brave of them to come forward and tell their story, and be willing to take a beating so others don’t make the same mistake.

    I, for one, will be including this letter alongside the AVSAB policy on punishment, with all clients.

    1. Nancy Tanner says:

      thanks Randi, your comment actually made me smile. All the best to your client. Nancy

    2. Jean Strong says:

      That is awesome. So glad you were able to have that influence.

  14. Noah Massey says:

    As someone who has had (and continues to have) the perfect storm of huge crazy puppy + my good intentions + bad advice blow up in my face I have to applaud that dog owner for confessing and taking ownership of their mistakes. It’s so hard to admit that we’re fallible. Sometimes I look at my old boy and think “wow there’s no one in the world who would have put up with all your nonsense and vet bills but me” and then I look in the mirror and think “wow what an absolute disaster of a dog parent you are.” Life’s all about having the courage to make mistakes, the bravery to take credit for them and the strength to try something else. Thanks so much for being a force for change in our little doggy loving world!

  15. Pam Garland says:

    My heart goes out to the writer; doing what she thought was best. I have a fear agressive dog and have heard so much advice that my head spins. I also was told what she was told regarding how to handle my dog. So many trainers and behaviorists; so many ways to “cure” my dog. If it helps even a little bit I would like to let the writer know that she probably saved the life of my dog. Now when people tell me not to acknowledge his fears and phobias I will stay true to what I’ve felt from the beginning. He is a sensitive, living being that needs love and comfort and to feel safe. His world will be smaller than most but he will feel safe and be able to feel happy and unafraid. Their lives are short enough already; they should be able to enjoy every minute.

    1. Sarah says:

      Pam, there is also a difference between ignoring his fearful behaviors (ie not encouraging them) & what the writer mentioned. She was encouraged to make verbal commands/strange noises when the dog was scared (when he was already afraid of noises), which sent him into further panic rather than calming him down. I feel for you though. I am working with a rescued foster dog who has a lot of anxiety & it is really challenging. My trainer said anyone into “dominance training” would destroy her. Good luck to you & your dog!

  16. monica says:

    Sorry – don’t see any compassion in that letter. They wrote it AFTER they euthanized the dog. Learning from their mistakes would be -” Hi Nancy – We took our dog to a another trainer because we were too lazy to do what you told us and now she is much worse and terrified of us. Please help us.”

  17. Sarah says:

    Thank you, Nancy, for sharing the letter. I hear someone living with regret and shame, who is trying to face it. We all make mistakes. I’m not saying we should just accept the outcomes but I think you both are brave to bring this discussion to light. There are many people who do much worse everyday and just don’t talk about it. My vet does not euthanize for behavior problems but who knows? Maybe her quality of life was extremely poor at that point. We can’t know the specifics. We can all feel very saddened by this dog’s suffering & everyone involved. It is truly heartbreaking. It’s really easy for people to be judgmental and cruel sitting behind their computer screens clicking away, but I think this woman has a good heart & it sounds like she is trying to do some good out of this tragedy. That is the silver lining.

    1. Nancy Tanner says:

      Hi Sarah, thank you. That is the silver lining.

  18. Maggie Bracher says:

    I have just accessed this site on recommendation from a friend and I was deeply moved by the cautionary letter and responses. I have always had rescue dogs, but my most recent young boy is the most challenging ever. He is EXTREMELY sensitive to all sorts of noises and for example, has learned to associate thunder with rain, so he now barks and whines whenever he hears the slightest rainfall on the window (this is among MANY other triggers which set him pacing and fretting). Imagine what our life was like last year!!! I have been given what I consider to be sound and kind advice to help try to manage this, but it isn’t easy when you are juggling life, family, work etc and there are times when I break from these routines and just get cross with him.I know that is not the way to encourage him to be calm, but I understand what the original writier meant by wanting to fix it, because sometimes you just don’t feel you have the energy to keep on with the programmes that have been suggested, which you know deep down are the best way to go.
    I think I possibly understand why the writer had the dog euthanized, as they thought that it had such an awful life, being so anxious continually, an particularly if they then felt there was no going back from the obviously dreadful advice they had been given about punishment. I feel lucky enough to say that my boy is not quite at this level and enjoys his life (and makes me laugh every day) despite his sensitivities, but I do know people who have had very fearful dogs and it has taken over their lives trying to get past this. I agree that we should not judge people, and I do respect the writer for their honesty. There is always something out there we can all learn from. As you say Nancy, none of us is perfect!
    Maggie B

    1. Nancy Tanner says:

      thank you for a lovely response Maggie B.
      Sincerely, Nancy

  19. cotonmama says:

    I’ve just stumbled onto this site and read this letter and it’s following entries. I realize this topic is quite done and over with by this date, however, I just felt the need to reply. This is such a sad and tragic story. However, I just want to give a great big hug to the writer of “Cautionary Letter” and you for being such wonderful people. She obviously tried many things and tell me honestly who “hasn’t been there and done that? at some point in their lives.” Sometimes one thing works for one dog and not for the other. And often you won’t know until you try.
    I have a highly reactive dog (3y), fortunately he isn’t to the point of her pup, but I have to guard him all the time when strangers, children, and other dogs are about. I’ve tried the gamut of possibilities (at least that is what it feels like) to get him to settle and relax. I’ve search for all positive trainers – though I surely know now, not all the trainers I used had methods they taught weren’t positive. Obviously they are no longer my trainer and sadly I often feel my pup may be worse off now than he was when he was younger. Though Perhaps this is a result of aging, perhaps it was the inferior training, perhaps it was just him. Who knows. (I have his younger 1/2 sibling and he isn’t overactive, just highly excited – loves the chase and happy and silly. (LOL) I don’t worry about the younger one, the older makes me sad to see him so jumpy and fearful – so I think he makes up for it in the barking, snarling, and nipping. While I haven’t given up on him and feeling this can be managed better. I am not sure if extremely fearful dogs can actually be fixed, but I feel he may be trained to manage his reactions better. Sadly for him, I often give up on me. I get frustrated when everything I think I am doing right, doesn’t have any signs of working. If anything, I feel we are going backwards. I understand completely how seeing the 100% guarantee, I couldn’t help feeling , “oh look, the magic potion to cure my dog” excitement. But obviously, that is not the answer. I don’t have the answer, but I can only continue to find a way to help him. Fortunately I now have a fantastic trainer who works with us and is definitely uses positive training methods. Both my boys love her completely and are often two different dogs around her. Yet, she sees what I deal with first hand, and helps me forgive myself on the mistakes I make now and those I’ve made in the past. I’ve never had a dog like this, and didn’t know where to start and how to continue. Thank goodness I found someone who is confident and strong, yet positive and gentle. I can only say to really follow your gut on how things are working with a particular trainer. Move on if things don’t seem right.
    I wish to thank you for following the writer’s wishes without the single hint of superiority over her. No brow beating, no ridicule, only love, respect, and compassion. You both displayed so much of what our world should be like. It is sad that people feel that condemning someone is somehow helpful. She was merely trying to help anyone else, why should anyone throw that back at her.
    I also thank the “Cautionary” writer for revealing her soul. I am sure she is a beautiful person with a heart of gold. And she did her best and wanted to share what she has learned no matter how much flack she would get. She seemed to so want to spare the heartache of many who walk in similar shoes. Why people can’t see that is beyond me. However, I have not been put here to judge anyone, but feel I was put here to learn from others. I hope she forgives herself and finds peace.

    Happy New Year to all,

    1. Nancy Tanner says:

      Thank You Sharon. I think we should all share the love, and peace as it was meant to be. 100% guarantees are what trip us all up at one time or another … Hopefully this will have helped someone. Happy New Year, Nancy

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