Having spent decades working with animals, I find it surprising that I’ve heard the words “dog whistle” more these past few months than in all prior years combined. Of course, these are two very different types of dog whistles. In today’s politics, “dog whistle” means coded, sub-textual language used to gain support from one group without overtly alerting another. In my world, a dog whistle is an actual high-pitched whistle, inaudible to the human ear, used to train and signal dogs. Come to think of it, since humans can’t hear it and it’s used for training, I’m not sure that a political dog whistle is much of a compliment to the intended audience, since “Hey, you nonhuman, do what I demand” is pretty much what it means.
Back to real dog whistles, if blown too loud or too long or too close to a dog’s ear, these things can cause pain or harm, but they are considered a benign means of working with a dog if used properly. It’s simply something a dog can hear that goes unnoticed by you and me. In fact, depending on wind and other factors, dogs can hear them from two miles away. The training concept – while long distance – is very much like most others. First from up close, further and further away over time, Fido responds to a cue and earns a reward, most commonly a yummy treat. Eventually the dog associates the sound with that positive thing, learning to respond even when the yummy isn’t forthcoming. It’s just one more thing politics has screwed up, I guess.
The long list of things screwed up by Covid now includes PHS/SPCA’s annual fundraising event — but since we can’t let the animals down, we’ve taken the show virtual. Please join your fellow animal-lovers from 4-5PM, Saturday November 7, for our first ever virtual Home For The Holidays event. Find more details and RSVP here at https://phsgala2020.givesmart.com for what we promise will be fun and, most important, life-saving. PHS/SPCA has long guaranteed a home for every healthy dog and cat in our care, and so these funds go to our Hope Program which makes well and then finds homes for the animals who come to us injured, ill, and behaviorally compromised. I hope to see you (virtually) there!