We live in an age that revels in the concept of the expert. We awaken every morning into a world that appears so complex and daunting that we are able to feel some security that somewhere out there an expert of some kind is working to manage some portion of the problem.
And to a certain extent, that is quite comforting, and for the most part, it is how modern civilization works.
But at the same time we are forced to put our faith in experts, we are unwittingly opening up ourselves to a certain number of con artists. Even the most discerning fall victim to them once in a while.
It is one thing fall victim to a useless extended warranty on a dishwasher. It is quite another to fall victim to a sleazy televangelist. With the former, the victim learns not to buy extended warranties on appliances. With the latter, the victim will deny ever having been conned in the first place.
When it comes to the world of dogs, there are plenty of people claiming to be experts who tell you many things that must be done to keep a dog healthy and well-behaved. Almost all of it is garbage.
The trouble is trying to figure out what is true and what isn’t. The hope is that when you do fall victim, as you surely will, that it is something like the extended warranty con. The danger is falling into the equivalent of the dog televangelists.
And the dog televangelists have created small empires for themselves. And because it is hard to find someone who hasn’t fallen for some line and some personality cult, it should soon be obvious why dog people spend so much time fighting each other. The televangelists in the world of dogs obviously don’t speak from the same party line or talking points, and when two people under the spell of two divergent views come together, there will be raucous conflict. Usually no one’s mind is changed, and both sides wind up either rage-quitting or triumphantly squawking about how badly they beat their opponent.
It is the conflict between fiefdoms of fiery arrogance and willful ignorance, and one that is sure to frustrate the lay person.
How is one to know what is truly expertise when it comes to dogs?
I don’t have an answer for that question.
I have a method that might help you figure out as much as you can.
The first step is skepticism. Seriously. Claims should be backed up with evidence. Appeals to authority are not evidence. That sort of thing plays to the con artists further up the food chain.
The other important thing is much harder. I call it simply humbling yourself before the Mystery of the Dog. The truth is that dogs are hard to generalize. Just about everything about them requires nuance and an acceptance that we really don’t know it all. Because dogs live so intimately with us, we think we know them, but that’s a comforting delusion. We just don’t know that much.
In that same vein, look to others who humble themselves before the Mystery. They are the only ones who can teach you anything.
Having been burned a few times by people claiming to be experts, I’ve found that the these two things help me keep away from the users and abusers.
I look for people who can be nervous and less confident about what they claim to know.
The truth is that I once wrote things here with a lot of confidence, but I didn’t know what I didn’t know. It is the hardest damned thing to realize this simple fact. I’ve written about things I thought I knew well, but the truth is I didn’t understand them at all.
Some have said I’ve been hard of myself lately. Guilty as charged.
I think it’s the only way I can make amends for failing myself and my readers.
I quit the dog online world because I am wrong, and I do not wish to lead you astray anymore.
I accept the Mystery and my inadequacies before it.
Maybe I’ll find the confidence to write about dogs again, but right now, I’ve got to work on that.
If it means ceding what I know to be true to the pontificating rabble, then it’s a price I’m going to pay.
A part of me wants to tell me to drop out of dogs altogether. I’d be a Dog Lover Going His Own Way. Someone who loves dogs too much to want to own another one and be dragged into the world of screaming fiends and obvious charlatans.
And yet that part doesn’t sound right.
The Mystery is as beguiling as it is humbling.
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