One of my favorite blogs is the Pet Connection blog honchoed by Gina Spadafori and Christie Keith, and which includes many other wonderful contributors. Over this weekend, Gina shared her less-than-enthusiastic opinion about the movie Marley and Me - and she got lots of support from articulate dog enthusiasts, many of whom I admire.
I was not one of them. I liked the movie.
Yes, the Grogans screwed up big time with Marley. Let's tick off at least some of their mistakes right now: they went to a breeder who had way too many dogs. They didn't dog-proof their house. They went to a Nazi trainer (Kathleen Turner, how far you have fallen!) who loved choke collars. Bottom line: they were totally clueless.
Guess what? So are a lot of, if not most, American dog lovers.
And even more of them were clueless in the early 1990's, when the Grogans and Marley got together. Certainly I hadn't heard of positive reinforcement at that time. How many of us had? And how many of us knew how to find a good breeder, as opposed to schlepping on over to Jack's Dog Farm or the local pet store?
Before I go on, let me be clear: I am totally into positive reinforcement training; heck, I'm about to start a training apprenticeship here. With the exception of his advocacy of dogs' need for exercise, I completely reject the methods of this trainer.
But Marley and Me --and the book that spawned it -- celebrates the human-canine bond in a way that few of us writers and enthusiasts have been able to do (certainly not this guy). Let's give credit to the Grogans for what they did right with Marley and subsequent dogs. Let's hold true to our principles, but leaven those principles with a little pragmatism and empathy. That way, everyone -- including the dogs -- will come out ahead.
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