Maps of Reality | Blog the Change for Animals

by Jules on October 15, 2012

I’m emotional and I have a big mouth. Two things that have gotten me into lots of trouble. As I’ve gotten older, I have learned that my opinion is just that, my opinion, and that telling someone what I think about the way they are treating their dog doesn’t matter to them. Sometimes I still get myself into trouble. A few months ago I witnessed an off leash dog narrowly miss getting hit by a car. I jumped out of the car to try and call it and a man walking down the street turned the corner and kept walking. After a few minutes the dog ran off after the man and I asked him if that was his dog. “Yes” he said and kept walking. I asked if he saw it almost get hit by a car and he told me to “mind my own business”. Some very unflattering words came out of my mouth and I got back in my car and drove off. Did I feel any better for what I said? No. Did I change his mind about being an idiot for allowing his dog to run down the street off leash? No.

Several years ago I listened to a speaker talk about “maps of reality”. Every single person has their own map of reality based on what they have learned from teachers, parents, friends, acquaintances and experiences. These maps of reality make up our “beliefs” about what is right and wrong and how we should act. Sometimes we fail to realize that our map of reality might be skewed and it’s quite possible that what we believe really isn’t true.

I grew up in sunny California and we had a dog named Crybaby. She was never allowed in the house and spent 100% of her time in our backyard, alone. It breaks my heart now when I think about it. I loved her, but as a child, I never really thought about spending time with my dog. She was just a dog, an animal. What was wrong with her spending all of her time outside? THAT was my map of reality.

Fast forward many years and my heart breaks for a neighbors dog that is condemned to a life alone in the backyard. When I walk by I wonder why they even have a dog. I have to remind myself that everyone has a different map of reality. Maybe they grew up in a family that believes that animals belong outside.

Cali is my first dog. The day we got her we ran out and bought a bunch of books on how to raise a puppy. We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into, but we decided to educate ourselves. The more we learned, the worse I felt about my childhood dog. Luckily, my husband grew up in a house where the dog was a part of his family and I learned a new map of reality. The reality where a dog is an integral part of the family, not a possession you keep in the back yard for your entertainment.

So how can I change my neighbors mind about leaving their dog outside? Or the mind of the guy that is letting his dog ride in the back of a truck? How about the minds of the people that believe Pitt Bulls are a dangerous breed?  We can’t. All we can hope to do is expand their maps of reality by sharing our experiences, and try to educate them by showing them another way. Hopefully then, they begin to question their beliefs and develop new ones. I know it can be done, I’m living proof!

I have some ideas that I’m working on to help spread the word, our challenge is getting the information in front of the people that really need it. I feel like it’s a worthy cause, don’t you? How will you help make the world a better place for animals? I can’t wait to hear all about it!

THIS is the life!

 

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  • http://twitter.com/S_Wagging Pamela Webster

    Fabulous and thoughtful post. As one of the people who thought a dog was just a dog and didn’t expect him to live anywhere but outside, I appreciate your mention of maps of reality. And yes, they can change, when we’re ready for them to.

    Hearing stories is one of the things that prepares us to adjust our maps of reality. Thanks for sharing yours.

    • http://www.thedailydogblog.com Julie Melfi

      I have a friend that still leaves her dog outside. It’s not my place to tell her she is wrong, but I feel bad for her dog. All we can do is the best that we know how to do, right?

  • http://twitter.com/shivathedog Kristine

    I love the way you put this: “map of reality.” My map once upon a time consisted of using dominance-based methods to gain “control” of an unruly dog. If I can learn I do believe others can too. I have to try to put myself in my former self’s shoes. Yelling at me wouldn’t have changed my mind, nor would have unsolicited advice.
    What did change my mind was showing me how much better positive methods worked. I spent weeks yanking on my dog’s leash to no effect. But after watching a demonstration with a clicker I was stunned at how quickly a dog’s behaviour could be changed. And I never looked back.

    • http://www.thedailydogblog.com Julie Melfi

      When we were learning, we did the same thing. The first book we read was by The Monks of New Skete – which encourage you “flipping” your dog to show dominance. Can you imagine? I was so uncomfortable with it, that we look for books that “felt” right and we found Karen Pryor’s “Don’t Shoot the Dog”. We are so thankful. Dominance training never felt right to us. The difference is that we found something that “felt” better. Thanks for your comment Kristine!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=747384797 Jodi Chick

    What a thoughtful post and a great analogy. I think this will stick with me.

    • http://www.thedailydogblog.com Julie Melfi

      It definitely stuck with me :) Sometimes we just need a good analogy, right?

  • http://twitter.com/ForLoveofaDog Sue

    What a great message! I think we all tend to assume other people live like/think like we do. It takes time – which most of us have very little of these days – to consider otherwise. And you’re absolutely right: we all have different maps of reality. (Love that phrase, by the way!) I am emotional, have a big mouth, plus have a temper and I know, the hard way, that never helps. Very much looking forward to your ideas!

  • houndstooth4

    I completely agree with you! I try to do my part by sharing how my dogs live with my students at school (many of whom only see big scary dogs outside people’s houses) and taking them to a lot of places that are pet friendly. People won’t know that their dogs can be included if they don’t see them out and about, and I am always happy to answer questions. I know that it’s a big turn off for me if someone tries to force their opinion on me, so I avoid doing it to others.

  • Jodi

    Great post Jules!! It’s interesting how our maps change and evolve as we change and evolve. I grew up with dogs that were just dogs. My first two dogs as an adult were just dogs, until Sampson came along, that was my map of reality. God I wish so much there was a do over button, I would use it in a heartbeat!

    Sometimes the best way for us to tell someone something, is to show them. In the case of your neighbor maybe asking if you could take their dog for a walk?

    I’m excited to hear the ideas you have for getting the info out.

  • audreysmutts.com

    Great post! So true, when you’re a kid, you don’t realize certain things (that are wrong) because you are taught in a certain way and told how to behave. And later on your mind opens up and starts questioning things.

  • BtC ForAnimals

    Oh, Julie. What a wonderful post. Seeing where you began and how much thought-space you’ve traveled, it’s inspiring. And you are certainly not alone either in your travel or your frustration with those who occupy different places on this reality map. I too grew up in a far away zip code when it comes to animal care and training (like you and Kristine mentioned in the comments).

    I like Jodi’s point, to live by example that which we have come to know. In that, there is no judgement or impatient reprimand of others. Words are not our only language, not that I ever shut my mouth. LOL.

    Thanks so much for Blogging the Change!

    Kim Clune
    Director: http://BetheChangeforAnimals.com
    Blogger: http://thisonewildlife.com

  • http://twitter.com/wantmorepuppies Pup Fan

    I like this maps of reality concept – a very neat way to look at things and to give us some perspective on our interactions with others. (Add me to the list of people who grew up in a household with a slightly different reality map. Our dogs were definitely treated as part of the family, but we had “inside dogs” and “outside dogs” and it never seemed odd to me until I got older and was exposed to different ideas. So, although our dogs were more than “just dogs” there are many things that I would do differently if I could go back in time.)

    A.J.
    Be the Change for Animals
    I Still Want More Puppies

  • snoopy@snoopysdogblog

    This is so true – not everyone sees things the same way – luckily there are people out there like you who look out for us Doggies AND try to share what you’ve learned along the way….

    Great post and great pic of Cali!! :)

    Wags to all,

    Your pal Snoopy :)

  • Guest

    What a thought-provoking message, I love the maps of reality concept! I work at a shelter where we don’t allow potential adopters adopt if they intend to adopt a dog and keep it outside. There are many that get VERY angry and it’s hard for them to understand why we do that. I guess some people grow up with their map of reality being that dogs are supposed to be outside, when in fact they should be a part of the family. At the same time, I need to remember that and put myself in their shoes, and try to best explain it to them so they can understand why we enforce that. This concept really hit home! Thanks again :)

  • Laura @ The Shelter Girl

    What a thought-provoking message, I love the maps of reality concept! I work at a shelter where we don’t allow potential adopters adopt if they intend to adopt a dog and keep it outside. There are many that get VERY angry and it’s hard for them to understand why we do that. I guess some people grow up with their map of reality being that dogs are supposed to be outside, when in fact they should be a part of the family. At the same time, I need to remember that and put myself in their shoes, and try to best explain it to them so they can understand why we enforce that. This concept really hit home! Thanks again :)

  • Jen@MyBrownNewfies

    What a great topic. Working in the vet world I have come across this issue with myself a lot. I have a big mouth and I use to be quick to judge, however over time I have learned to settle down a bit and take a more sensitive approach which honestly has worked a lot better!

  • Amy@GoPetFriendly

    Great post, Julie! I grew up much like you, with a dog that lived in the back yard. And, it didn’t occur to me that there was any other way to do things. I read somewhere once that no one does anything they believe is wrong – they always have a justification for whatever action they’re taking. And, in my experience, changing minds is extremely difficult. I think you’re correct that being a living example is the best we can do – that, and trying to approach conversations with an open heart. Conversations are much more productive when proving someone wrong is not part of the motivation.

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  • http://bringingupbella.com/ Leslie

    This is such a wonderful post. Since I am introverted and loathe confrontation with the heat of a thousand burning suns, I often struggle with how to changes the hearts and minds of people who don’t see things the way I do. I’ve come to the conclusion that my father had the right idea: lead by example.

    My dad was a quiet man but my friends would rather face the belt lashing they would get from their own parents than ‘disappoint’ my dad. He trained our dogs with patience and perseverance, not an iron fist. His influence changed many ‘reality maps’ for the better and I’m glad he shaped mine.

    Some people are good speakers and do influence people by showing them the error of their ways. But thanks for noting that there are some among us who leave lasting impressions for what they do more than what they say.

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