Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Crisis averted…you may now return to your regularly scheduled chaos.

So, it’s been a while since I rapped at y’all. Here’s an update on life in general and some surprises I’ve encountered.

I usually like surprises. If they happen to be good that is. Like last Thursday morning. I was tired ‘cause I stayed up too late with my good friend TiVo the night before. I was in a rush, so of course I had to return to my apartment twice from the garage because I forgot things. I was late, traffic was horrible, and I was starving. As I’m hustling towards my office building I see that everyone is outside standing around and chatting. Unannounced fire drill? Anthrax scare in the mailroom? No, it was in fact the best possible scenario. There was no power in the building! We couldn’t use the elevator and there were no lights in the stairwell, and what can you really get done at work without electricity anyway? We killed about 45 min. at Starbucks while they were waiting to hear from the LADWP if we could expect the power back anytime soon. The executive decision to send everyone home was made! And the people rejoiced as they headed home at 10am! I got to spend the whole day with Jason. We went to lunch, walked the dog, and napped. OK, maybe it doesn’t sound too exciting, but in my book nothing beats spending a lazy weekday not at work. Also, the power went out for about an hour on Friday, so we went and took a long lunch to wait it out. FYI – these blackouts seemed to be contained to the vicinity of our office and the surrounding few blocks.

As you can imagine, the power going out yesterday was less than a surprise for us. We wandered around Koreatown for a while before we realized the extent of the problem and that we may not be able to eat lunch. This was unacceptable, so four of my co-workers and myself piled into my car and we risked our lives driving to Larchmont for lunch at the Avocado Grill. It was worth it. I don’t think I’ve ever elaborated on the dangers of driving (or walking for that matter) in the neighborhood of my workplace, but it is some scary shit on a regular day, let alone when there are no operating traffic lights. I actually stopped taking Western Avenue because I almost got killed at intersections two days in a row while driving into work. I am not making this up. When we got back to the office after another long lunch yesterday we had power, but the network was down. That means no internet, no e-mail, and I couldn’t access any of my electronic documents. Not a heck of a lot to do, but we were not sent home. I have a very clean desk now and my files are in very good order.

Bad surprises: Dexter had another case of diarrhea last week :~( I found way too many stinky surprises on my carpet over the 4 days or so that he was sick, but Pepto came to the rescue and worked its magic once again.

For those of you who may have missed this comment on my previous post by the ever helpful Anonymous:

Anonymous said...
Does Dexter respond to negative operant conditioning?
Do you consider a shock collar cruel?

I’m gonna take a wild stab and guess that Anonymous has not been a regular reader of my blog, so I’ll clarify my stance here. I would not subject my dog to anything I would consider as cruel or unusual punishment for a human child. And a shock collar would definitely fall under that. Dexter is a part of my family and I would not electrocute a family member. Not only would I consider it cruel, but I would bank on it being completely ineffective and if anything it would make the problem worse. So to sum it up, punishment that does not serve the purpose of eradicating the problem behavior and thus the need for further punishment = senseless animal abuse.

My cousin has a dog that he keeps chained up in his yard for the most part. The dog has adequate shelter (in the garage through a doggy door) and isn’t starved or really explicitly deprived (other than the fact he is woefully under-socaialized and untrained, but that is not a crime in our society). They put a shock collar on their dog because he barks all day, I expect because he is lonely and/or bored. This does not stop the dog from barking. Over time the dog has probably become accustomed to the shock and finds barking gratifying enough to keep up the behavior despite the deterrent. Why they continue to put the shock collar on the dog I don’t know. My dog has a serious anxiety condition that was probably caused by some traumatic event that he experienced while alone, or has just come to associate being alone as being traumatic in general for some reason. Does it make sense to give someone an electric shock to calm them down?

I am familiar with negative operant conditioning, and I’m guessing you’ve taken a few psychology classes if you’re using the term. My dog has a brain stem, and is therefore responsive to operant conditioning and we have used clicker training with him for a number of things. The key to operant conditioning is that the subject must be able to make a connection between their actions and the predictable effect their actions will have. For the shock collar to work the dog has to be in a state of mind where it can make the connection “barking = electric shock”, and also find the shock more aversive than the barking is rewarding. Once emotions have taken over to the point where this type of intellectual processing isn’t possible, operant conditioning is also not possible, and therefore operant conditioning techniques are useless. Desensitization on the emotional level is the only treatment that seems to be considered effective for Separation Anxiety. This is a very common condition that is probably misunderstood by far too many dog owners who think that punishment is the best way to handle it. This excerpt gives a good general overview of proper treatment for the condition:

Successful treatment requires patience, consistency, and praise. "Praise is an important part of treatment, because dogs inherently want to please," says Dr. Dodman [Dr. Nicholas Dodman, director of the Behavior Clinic at Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine]. "Positive reinforcement gives your dog the confidence to tolerate longer periods alone. Conversely, punishing a dog for separation anxiety behaviors that occurred earlier makes the dog more anxious because it doesn't connect the punishment with the undesirable behavior."

Rather than reversing the specific "bad" behaviors, treatment for separation anxiety focuses on reducing the dog's panic level just before and after the owner's departure. Because dog behavior is relatively complex, treatment usually entails a combination of methods: behavior-modifying desensitization (gradually increasing the dog's exposure to situations that produce anxiety) and counter-conditioning (training the dog to expect pleasure, not panic, when left alone). In difficult cases, anti-anxiety medications, "pharmacological shoehorns" as Dr. Dodman calls them, may facilitate behavioral treatment.

(I found this at http://www.ygrr.org/doginfo/behavior-anxiety.html and reposted here. Go check it out for more info if you like.)

I know that this is probably more than anyone ever wanted to know, but there are far too many well meaning but clueless dog owners out there. Dogs, contrary to popular opinion, are not furry little humans that walk on all fours. They need us to come work on their level.

This concludes this longwinded post with no coherence, much rambling and much ranting.


Blogger Leah said...

LUCKY! I wish our power went out. My BFF's sister works in the valley and their power was out for two hours and just as the boss people said GO HOME! The power came on and they were bummed. I think you spent your day off like I would, except it would just be in a constant vegetative state in front of the tv.

When one of my dogs does something wrong I talk to the other dog about it with hope that dog will talk to the dog having the issue - this has yet to work but it's getting there. Next I am totally sending in the cat to discuss.

1:57 PM  
Blogger GlitterGlamGirl05 said...

I wish the power would go out here and I could go home and nap! I'm jealous!

2:27 PM  

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