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Influence Positively Interview - Deborah Flick

BoulderDog_Sadie_Deborah Deborah‘s life changed four years ago when she brought Sadie home. Deborah was consumed by Sadie’s fear and helping her to overcome it. She was two and a half years old when Deborah started blogging about the joys and heartache of loving a fearful dog. Deborah soon discovered a community of smart, compassionate, and very knowledgeable dog bloggers. What started out as a blog exclusively about their journey soon evolved into a vehicle for improving the lives of animals in community with other like-minded bloggers. Deborah has a Ph.D. in Communication and a M.A. in Psychology and resides in Colorado.

What is your idea of perfect happiness? Hiking in the foothills west of Boulder on a cold, sunny day after a snowfall. I love to watch Sadie confidently dancing and prancing down the trail, invigorated by the feeling of snow between her toes. She's so joyful, jumping and spinning in mid-air between forays into the brush to sniff out new scents that the moisture of the snow has amplified.

If you could come back as a dog or a cat, which one would it be & why? Well, it depends. If I could come back as my sister-in-law's cat, then a cat, definitely. On the other hand, if I could reincarnate as my friend's dog, I think I'd rather be a dog. I'd have fresh food prepared for me daily. We would hike, off-leash, on a different trail everyday with my doggie BFF. Then I'd go to work with my person where I would make the rounds of her colleagues offices and soak up 'ear scritches' and goodies. After that I would be tired and take a nap in my comfy memory foam bed next to her desk.  

What is your pets most treasured possession? I don't think Sadie has an all-time favorite possession. When we're playing fetch at the Boulder Reservoir, it's her tennis ball. At the park, she only has eyes for her Frisbee. When she's working on her stuffed Kong... well, you get the idea.

Your proudest achievement so far? In this context, it's "Sadie," in a manner of speaking. Sadie's extreme fear of everyone and everything as a puppy overwhelmed me. I felt inadequate and incompetent to help her. As she grew into adolescence she lunged and barked at people who looked intently at her or appeared to be approaching her. I was terrified that she might become fear aggressive. Despite feeling like I was trying to dig myself and Sadie out of a pit a thousand miles deep, I was bound and determined to help her build confidence and feel as comfortable as she could in the world. I immediately sought help from two positive reinforcement trainers (they helped us with different things) and a behaviorist. I read voraciously everything I could find on helping fearful dogs. I watched tens of hours of DVD's of Patricia McConnell, Ian Dunbar, Turid Rugaas, Jean Donaldson, Nicholas Dodman and many more. I scoured the internet for resources for fearful dogs. Today Sadie still has her fears and occasionally startles and barks at someone. But, she and I have come so far. If you had asked me four years ago if Sadie and I would be where we are today, I would have said NEVER. She, of course, is still fearful, but her confidence is much higher as is mine in my ability to help and protect her. Sadie is teaching me so much.

Who are your heroes in real life? Again in the context of dogs, I greatly admire people who deeply understand dogs. Who can tune into the subtlest of body language, accurately interpret it, and respond in ways that are helpful to and respectful of the dog. I admire people who have cultivated a dogs-eye-view of the world. As humans we are so, so species-centric. Far too often it's 'all about people,' not about the dogs. I respect people enormously who reject the human-centric view that sees dogs from the standpoint of what they can 'do' for us humans. Rather, such people see dogs as having intrinsic value as 'dogs themselves.' I especially hold in high regard people who do not take for granted the tolerant, adaptable nature of dogs. These people ask not How can the dog benefit me?, but How can I benefit the dog? They ask, first and foremost, Is this good for the dog?, not Is this good for the me? I aspire to be one of those people. As such, I am a very humble work-in-progress.