Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Yellow Dog Project

A few weeks ago, I visited my parents in Connecticut.  My parents share their home with an 11 year old yellow Lab named Phoenix.  As a Labrador, Phoenix has a heart of gold.  As a geriatric Lab, Phoenix has a plethora of health problems: extensive osteoarthritis, some suspect degenerative neuropathy, lipomas, a locally invasive connective tissue sarcoma, and laryngeal paralysis.  This last issue resulted in a permanent tracheostomy just before Christmas (we lovingly call it her "blow hole"). 

Phoenix before her permanent tracheostomy

Phoenix after

I accompanied Mom to one of Phoenix's re-check appointments during my visit.  While standing in line waiting to pay the bill, an ad on the bulletin board near the checkout desk caught my attention: The Yellow Dog Project

Checking out their website when we got home, I came upon a brilliant grassroots movement amongst knowledgeable, compassionate, and proactive dog owners.  This project tackles the challenge of owning a, as the website puts it, "dog who needs some space".  This relatively broad category is somewhat vague for a reason: it encompasses many different types of dog situations and personalities. 

"Dogs who need some space" can include dogs recovering from a medical procedure, handicapped dogs, dogs undergoing rehabilitation or training, and dogs that just, you know, don't really want strangers all up in their business.  Owners of such dogs know exactly what I'm talking about.  My dog Shadow falls into this last category.

My girl Shadow
Shadow, a 10 year old black Lab mix is from a whole different personality universe than Phoenix.  Whereas the Pheener Beaner has a smile to share with the world, Shadow can be fear-aggressive.  When we walk in the woods and her unleashed canine counterparts bound down the trail to greet us, well, Shadow doesn't want to especially say "hi" and join in the fun.  A common conversation that then follows goes something like this:

Other dog owner: "Don't worry, she's friendly!"
Me: "Well, mine's not!"

This usually results in the other dog owner scrambling to gather his/her companion on the leash and out of our way and, I will note, occasionally give us a dirty look.

Enter the Yellow Dog Project.  The idea is simple: if you have a dog like Shadow, or a dog that fits into the broad category of "dog who needs some space", tie a yellow ribbon (NOT around the ol' oak tree) around the dog's leash in plain sight, giving a visual clue to other dog owners that your dog doesn't want to or can't play or otherwise interact with strangers.  Pretty neat, right?

Not quite what I'm talking about here. Unless this tree "needs some space".
The only problem here is this project requires a two-way street.  If I tie a ribbon on Shadow's leash but no one knows what this ribbon means, then it's a pointless exercise.  Hence, today's blog.  I'm here to shout from the rooftops about this awesome idea and strongly encourage everyone to pass it along.  The website has tear sheets to download and print off at your convenience - please do so and hang them up in your vet clinics, at the groomers, at the kennel, at dog shows, at your stable, even on your refrigerator.  I wish they made bumper stickers for this. 

My only question is: if I start also wearing a yellow ribbon myself, will people get the same message?

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