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Friday, October 7, 2016

Affecting Change

I wrote this post several months ago, and kept it as a draft - why I was not ready to post it yet I don't know. But when I looked back on it, I noticed something very interesting - I had written it on the day that Vinny, my current foster puppy, was born.  I had no idea at the time that two little double merle puppies had been born that day and I would be instrumental in their lives.  And so, due to this coincidence (or not!), I am ready to post this now ...

When there's something we are truly passionate about, it's easy to get carried away and to push hard for others to see our way of thinking.  We may end up getting angry and going after the other person in a way that we hope will intimidate them to change to our perspective.  But I have seen this scenario enough times to know that it rarely, if ever, works that way.  Anyone who has been on the receiving end of such a situation knows that the first reaction is to feel you are being attacked, and then the natural thing to do is to fight back. Very quickly things get out of control with words being slung around that are hurtful and alienating, and neither party actually accomplishes anything except to cement the idea that they are right even further into their mind. 

Those of you who read this blog already know that I am very passionate about educating people about the issues with merle to merle breeding and why it should not be done.  While I love my double merles and wouldn't change them, I could also love them just as much if they could see and hear normally, and no matter what color they were.  My favorite slogan is, "Until there are none, rescue one!"  Until there are no more double merles, I will continue to educate and to rescue.  

Tonight I am sad.  But I am hopeful.  You see, I initiated an online conversation with a breeder who is utilizing a double merle in a breeding program.  Out of surprise and sadness mostly.  Certainly not to attack this person, but more to express my sadness and concern.  Although I didn't initiate contact to place blame or as an attack, I sort of expected to get a nasty, defensive answer in return, as is often the result of such communications.  Instead I was pleasantly surprised that this breeder and I, with very different views, were able to have a lengthy conversation.  

Our views about our dogs were very similar.  We both love our dogs and enjoy participating in dog sports with them.  We discussed new rule changes in competition.  We discussed the good that this breeder is doing with the current dogs that he/she is working with - training, showing, therapy work.  

Our views about breeding were different.  Our views about breeding were discussed, but calmly, with no word slinging or accusations.  We both heard the other's opinions and perspectives.  Did we end up agreeing with each other on these?  No, but we both felt heard.  And neither of us felt attacked or defensive. 

This is the place where understanding and change can begin to occur.  We cannot think or consider or make decisions when we are attacking or being attacked.  We can't hear another's viewpoint and try to understand their perspective.  Without understanding, how can we affect change?  

It upsets me when people are nasty to each other in the name of change. How can we change if we don't know there is another way?  How can we change if we don't see another way that we feel might be right? When we are educating, it's important to model for people that there is a different way.  We cannot ever make someone else change.  That desire to change has to come from within themselves.  But we can model for them, and we can talk to them about different possibilities.

Remember, though, that each of us starts from wherever we are.  Whatever that person's perspective is, that is where they are. That is what they feel is right, and we all will defend what we feel is right.  As we show people that there are other ways of seeing things and other ways of doing things, they will realize that now there are choices.  Will they choose to change to one of those other options?  Maybe.  Or maybe not.  That is out of our control.  

If the other options we offer them are confrontational or embarrassing, will they be likely to choose them? Probably not.  If the options we offer them to think about are gentle and understanding and forgiving, they will be more likely to go away thinking about them, and more likely to choose them when they decide to make a change.  

Please be kind when you educate.  Remember that you once didn't know these things either.  You had to learn and make a choice too.  Listen to the other person's perspective and remember that is where they are right now and what they feel is right.  Try to understand why they feel that way.  If you can relate something you are trying to teach to something they already can relate to, it will be an easier jump for them to understand and think about. 

Change is not easy, and it does not happen all in one large, all or nothing swoop.  Change comes in stages. Trying to get all at once change is not going to end well.  Allowing change to happen as perspectives change and choices are made, can lead to lasting change, a new person out there educating in line with your perspective now, and possibly a new friend.  Be forgiving of mistakes or back sliding.  Remember this is a process.  It's hard to change our old habits and ways of thinking.  

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