Archive for February, 2012

Dog Running Zone
Having finished my class at DARG I drove to the beach in Hout Bay. I had never walked there before and wanted to put my feet in the cold water of the ocean, before heading for Dario’s coffee shop. Although it was a Saturday morning, the beach was almost empty. Enjoying the cool water around my ankles, the warmth of the sun, the light breeze and the view of the mountains all around me, I arrived at a spot where I saw a sign on my left hand side. I’m always interested in the information written on these signs. Coming closer I saw the text: “Dog Running Zone”.
Shaking my head I thought about how completely different this official was from the sitution in Spain. Over there sharks called “developers” have poured concrete over every Spanish beach and a bit later laws were proclaimed, prohibiting everyone to walk with dogs on the sandy leftovers. Over here I have never seen a beach full of high rise buildings, tourist trap restaurants, bars and shops selling Chinese junk. A beach is still a beach with water, sand, dunes and plants. And now I had discovered the Hout Bay beach with a “Dog Running Zone”. In Muizenberg, on the other side of the mountains, there is another sign on the beach inviting people walking with dogs to do it before 9 a.m. or after 6 p.m. What a difference with Spain!
Teaching in DARG has offered me the opportunity to clearly see the difference not between beaches but between two totally different kinds of dog loving people. In the many green belts where the wealthy Capetonians walk with their dogs I meet many confident, fast walking, friendly, assertive people with up to 8 (eight) dogs off leash. They do not wait for their dogs. They seldom call them. They walk and the clear message for the dogs is: “Hey, pay attention to me”. The dogs understand that clear message and follow the leaders. In these surroundings of the green belts I have never witnessed a fight between dogs. For that reason I started calling the “Alphen Trail” the “Alpha Trail” as all the walkers I meet there walk like Alpha leaders of their pack. They certainly do not need someone like me to teach them how to walk their dogs.
The other category of dog lovers are the many female volunteers who walk the dogs on the DARG estate. I see how the dogs of the charity pull them along all over the grounds. When the dogs stop, they stop and wait too. When the dogs jump up, they praise them by stroking them and speaking to them with baby talk. In these volunteers I see no signs of confidence, no calm assertive energy. In their faces, voices and in their body language I clearly see how they want to give love. Why? Because they themselves need love.
During the meetings with DARG’s president, she had asked me if I would admit her volunteers for free in my classes.
I agreed.
But both the president and I had made an assumption.
The assumption was that the volunteers would be interested in learning how to walk a dog properly. You know what happened when I started teaching? Only a few of the volunteers attended my classes once or twice and then disappeared. Walking over the DARG estate I had distributed business cards, inviting the female volunteers who did not attend my classes to send me an e-mail message, enabling me to send them my free weekly letters. I thought it was the least I could do to help them. Not one of them sent me an e-mail. The message was clear for me: They do not want to learn how to walk a dog. They only want to love the dogs. I suppose that loving the dogs the way they do it has a therapeutic effect on them, which of course is very good. Making the assumption that they also wanted to learn something more about how to behave themselves with dogs in my classes was my mistake.
Love and blessings from Bruno

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