Tell Me A Story

fairytalesPeople like stories. We like bedtime stories, scary stories told around a campfire, stories in books, on television, in movie theaters, and on blogs. Every culture has its stories. Every religious holiday we celebrate is based on a story.

What we don’t like are stories that we’re told that we are led to believe are true, but aren’t. It was certainly a believable story when Mike Daisy detailed his experience visiting an industrial complex in China where Apple products were manufactured. There is no shortage of stories about workers who are taken advantage of so it was not a stretch for a major radio broadcaster to believe this one, except they shouldn’t have. That parts of the story could be true, does not change the fact that the story was told unequivocally as the truth, and it wasn’t. When James Frey admitted that his riveting, autobiographical story of drug abuse, was fiction he had to face the wrath of Oprah who had endorsed his book.

Some stories, told as truth, but having no evidence supporting their validity, may be harmless. That George Washington did not actually chop down a cherry tree, does not necessarily lessen the value of the parable for children, future presidents own up to their actions, even when they’re kids. However that this is fiction should matter to us as adults. The poignant words and sentiment of Chief Seattle’s famous speech have moved generations of environmentalists. That he did not actual make the speech does not make it any less stirring, unless you care about historical facts.

One of the best storytellers in the world of dogs is Cesar Millan. He and his whispering proteges have concocted complete works of fiction when it comes to dog behavior and rehabilitation that it’s surprising Oprah hasn’t called him onto the carpet to own up. But even Oprah likes a good story. It’s even more challenging to see through the guise of a piece of fiction being passed along as non-fiction when some parts of the story mesh with our own experience. A good lie always has elements of the truth in it, any teenager or politician knows that.

But lies matter. Some maybe not so much- maybe orange isn’t really your color but no sense making you feel bad about it now that you’re already at the party- but others matter more than you may realize. They may seem innocuous but they gather debris as they roll along, attaching implications that affect the way you think and behave. That growl, a plea for space, becomes tainted with the fiction that it’s a step toward control and domination of the household. Instead of being given information to help a dog learn new skills people are fed the empty calories of “calm assertiveness” and “wolf energy,” leaving them starving as they struggle with creating permanent, positive behavior change in their dogs.


13 comments so far

  1. Mel on

    Beautifully and powerfully written. Thank you for dealing with this topic in such a wonderful way Debbie. How many more dogs will suffer under these lies?

  2. Abby (Doggerel) on

    Amen! Would that more American dog owners could hear and receive this same message. I got SO much vituperation for daring to question Millan’s practices and methodology; so many people have bought his fables about dog behavior.

    • fearfuldogs on

      We just need to keep telling our story! The story based on science, research and what we know about animal behavior and dogs.

    • Cybele on

      I agree. There is as much polarization between the CM followers and those who choose to listen to trained professional who seek to communicate with our dogs via patience, reward, and the latest in dog psychology as there is between political parties in the US.

      Television loves conflict and I blame National Geographic for foisting the drama of the out of control, vicious dog who succumbs to the awesomeness of the fearless pack leader every episode.

  3. Anthony on

    You have links for the Frey article. Do you have anything specific you are speaking on with Milan?

  4. Bob Ryder on

    Nice piece. Mr. Milan has always been a charlatan. Before I knew better, I was persuaded by his nonsense. I’m grateful to those who, like you, pointed out the pseudo scientific bs and showed his techniques for what they are – ego driven bullying behind white teeth, good hair and a charismatic personality. Keep up the nice work – no doubt many a dog will benefit from it! =-)

  5. Gillian Shippen on

    beuatifully written

  6. Natasha on

    Excellent! Yes, you are a wonderful writer! And, I felt this was building toward a theme. But it stopped! Well, we have read many pages of your work, so maybe this coul be a new prologue. 🙂

  7. Judith Ann Gouveia on

    I was once lined up to drink the Kool Aid. Used to love watching his show, but I realized that I do not want my dog to be in fear of me. We have a partnership and the dog and I each have rules to follow. My being the dominant one is not needed.
    Thank you for a well written and well told blog. It is important to continue to shed light on Cesar and his harmful ways.

  8. Jessica on

    A dangerous story, too, because it accounts for *everything.* That makes us want to believe it, so much. People desperately want an answer to “why is my dog doing that?” and they want it so badly that they don’t really care if it’s true.

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