Feb 07 2012
I’m so excited about my special guest this week, Darlene Arden. =^..^=
Welcome, Darlene. Tell the cool peeps about yourself!
I’m an author, journalist, certified animal behavior consultant, speaker and learning facilitator. I’m really all about the human-animal bond.
As you know, I’m an animal lover and a writer. But you, lucky woman, write about dogs and cats! Please, tell us what that’s like.
I love animals. I’ve written about a variety of topics in the past but this allows me to help people take better care of their animals and develop a deeper, stronger bond with their pets. I may have attended and spoken at more veterinary conferences than some veterinarians. I just know it’s gratifying when someone says that something I wrote, or something I said, made a difference.
You’re also a certified animal behavior consultant. Sounds quite intriguing. Can you give us an insider’s view?
While it’s all about the animals, it’s really about the owners much of the time. They often don’t really understand the other species and I try to help them understand while resolving the problem at hand whether it’s litterbox issues or housetraining issues. Those are so common for cats and dogs. Once the problem is resolved and the lines of communication are opened between owner and pet, the bond is enhanced.
Tell us about your life as a professional writer and how it springboards to radio and TV?
The books have really done that. Once the books go out for review part of the process, as you know, is PR. It does no good to write a book if no one reads it. This has led me everywhere from radio interviews all over the U.S. and Canada (and today most can be heard all over the world thanks to the internet) to Fox News Network’s pet show that was cancelled when the Clinton Affair heated up. Sad. It was a good show. I’ve had an opportunity, thanks to my articles as well, to land on TV everywhere from D.C. to Albuquerque. Boston is home and I’ve found myself as a “go to” person for local media as well as national. I’ll admit that it feels “funny” to be on the other side of the interview. I’m so used to asking questions that I have to bite my tongue to keep from doing it when I’m the subject of the interview.
You’ve written several books. Please, don’t be shy. Tell the cool peeps all about them.
My first book, The Irrepressible Toy Dog, was the first to look at dogs 20 or 21 lbs. and under. They’re dogs but they definitely have special considerations including health and behavior. Only a few years ago I had the opportunity to update, expand and revise the book, which is considered “the bible” for small dog owners. It has a new title, Small Dogs, Big Hearts, to reflect the changes. It’s everything anyone needs to know who has a small dog, is thinking of getting one, or who loves them, including an entire chapter devoted to housetraining which is a big issue for little dogs. The Angell Memorial Animal Hospital Book of Wellness and Preventive Care for Dogs, took me to the famed Boston hospital every week for a year to research and interview in order to create a book that reflects their wellness program. It’s the first time their client handouts have been made public for anyone to use in concert with their veterinarian. With this book and your veterinarian you can create a wellness program for your dogs based on the place where you live, your lifestyle, etc. It goes from Puppy to Final Decision.
Rover, Get Off Her Leg! is my behavior book for owners of dogs of all sizes and shapes. It’s also the book written with my warped sense of humor. I think people learn better with humor. I’ve taken the most common behavior problems and told what to do, what not to do and then illustrated it with anecdotes from people around the world, most of whose names had to be changed to protect the guilty. If you think you have a problem, someone had the same problem or worse so laugh and let’s get on with changing the behavior. There are a couple of other dog books but my newest books is, finally, a cat book. I’ve wanted to write one for at least a dozen years. The Complete Cat’s Meow is all things feline, from where you’ll get your cat, to cat training (yes!), socialization, health, wellness, and more. There’s a section of color photos in the middle but there are black and white pictures throughout and I’ve chosen to use cat trivia as captions.
My cat, Captain Jack, like so many animals, has exceptional radar for who is worthy and who is not. Is it common for animals to be better judges of people than human beings? What do they sense that we humans miss?
Ahhh, yes. They are not only tuned into us but spend a tremendous amount of time watching us, and our body language. I wish we would spend more time watching and learning theirs. They see more than we do because they are so good at this. I encourage people to learn cat and dog body language to better understand their pets. They signal so much to us and owners so often miss important messages.
What are some of the easiest, and some of the most difficult things to teach a dog? A cat?
The easiest of all is Sit! There is a saying among clicker (operant conditioning) trainers, “Sit Happens.” And it does. Every dog has to sit eventually. Everything takes practice. Coming to their name is also easy. But getting a reliable recall takes longer, of course. Cats also learn to Sit easily, wave their paw, come to their name.
We’ve all heard incredible stories about lost pets who have found their way home —some traveling across the country to be reunited with a family, and some finding their family’s new home. It’s freakin’ miraculous. How in the world do some animals do that?
You know, Molly, I agree with you. It really is miraculous. I’m not sure how they do it: scent, sight, sound? What combination? I know that they make excellent use of their senses, which are often heightened.
You are an animal welfare person. Many people confuse that with an animal rights person. Can you explain the difference?
I’m glad you asked, Molly. So many people misunderstand. That’s because the term, “animal rights” was co-opted years ago. It is no longer what people might think it means. If you look carefully at the materials of the animal rights groups you’ll find that reading through it lets you know that their ultimate goal is that none of us will have any companion animals, no dogs, no cats, no service dogs, no therapy pets, no police dogs, no assistance dogs, no horses for riding and enjoying. Nothing. Years ago, one group’s members were accused of letting dogs out of their crates at dog shows “freeing” them. There are probably no more spoiled, beloved companions that dogs, cats, horses, etc., that are shown. The head of the organization and her publicist immediately filed paperwork so that only they were members so they could say that the people who did it weren’t “members” of their organization. Some groups have downright terrorists. I’ve seen the head of one animal rights group at a book signing where dogs were present and being “flooded” by crowds. There was no thought to the dogs. The people with them didn’t bother to ask people to step back and give the dogs some air and space. I had a signing at the same huge event in NYC but I can tell you that the canine musical freestyle demo dog I had there for my signing was given lots of space and people were supervised around her.
Also, be careful of the language. Once you say that you are your pet’s “guardian” you are on a slippery slope downhill to lack of right to own a pet. Animal Welfare people care deeply about the welfare of all animals and that includes finding cures for their illnesses, treating them with love and finding them forever homes as well as promoting that all-important human-animal bond. I’m proud to be an animal welfare person. I’m also one of the few layperson members of the American Association of Human-Animal Bond Veterinarians. I get aggravated when people lump “breeders” together as if they were all the same. There are commercial breeders, backyard breeders and responsible breeders. I believe that only responsible breeders should be breeding and I have some pretty exacting standards for them but I wish people would stop painting everyone with the same brush.
Switching gears a bit, I know you have a lot to say about being single and dealing with peeps who insist upon minding your business, not to mention those who ask absurdly personal questions. Care to elaborate?
Oh, Molly, I’m sure you can relate! Total strangers as well as family members think nothing of butting into your personal life! I had a much-loved uncle who was very old school. When I was in my early twenties he said, “This year I’ll wish you a Happy Birthday. Next year I’ll wish you a Happy Birthday. Oy, the year after that you should be married already!” Sure enough, on my twenty-fifth birthday I didn’t hear from him on my birthday. That lasted until I was thirty when I guess he gave up hope. I assumed that somehow this meant that if I was single, Jewish and over 25 I could be declared legally dead at any moment. I never wanted to get married for the sake of getting married. If it wasn’t going to be right, why do it? It’s only a path to heartache. I remember one woman in a beauty shop telling me in no certain terms, “You should settle like everyone else! Who do you think you are? We all settled!!” Good grief. I wish I hadn’t been so polite back then. I wish I’d had the courage to put her in her place or at least comment on something equally personal, like how much money she made or how tacky she looked. I just couldn’t bear to hurt anyone’s feelings. Apparently, others had no such compunctions when it came to me. I’m still single. I have no idea what people are thinking and I really don’t care. I live life on my terms, not someone else’s.
What’s it like living in New England?
Ahhh, it was wonderful when I was young and everything wasn’t overpriced. So much theatre, especially pre-Broadway tryouts, and so much culture: The Boston Ballet, The Opera Company of Boston, Brown Bag Opera, Symphony Hall, it’s mostly all there but unaffordable for me these days. Lots of culture. I grew up riding the Swan Boats in Boston’s Pubic Gardens, summer vacations in Maine and on Cape Cod. Theatre and concerts in The Berkshires during the Summer. And, of course, the brutally cold and snowy winters. People call us cold but we’re not. We just don’t make friends rapidly or easily because when we do you get a piece of our heart and we don’t readily give that away.
What else do you do in your very interesting life that I haven’t yet asked you about?
I used to do a lot of celebrity profiles, travel writing, women’s issues, etc. I like to take up new hobbies periodically. I’m currently toying with the idea of learning to make jewelry for no other reason than to explore something new. I used to be an actress/singer/dancer and occasional choreographer. I am a learning facilitator at Kutztown University, I’ve spoken at writers’ conferences and conferences for veterinarians, petsitters, groomers, behavior consultants, breeders, etc. I’d like to do more of that. I love meeting new people and exploring new adventures whenever I have the chance.
I’ve won the Maxwell Medallion from DWAA, the Angell Memorial Animal Hospital/American Humane Education Media Award for my body of work on veterinary writing and animal welfare; the Veterinary Partners Inc. special award for cutting edge veterinary medical article, tying with myself for it; my newest Muse Medallion from CWA is for Best General Care and Health Book for The Complete Cat’s Meow. I’ve also won a book award in the past from The National League of American Pet Women, an article award from an association of FL publishers, and probably more.
I started The Marcia Polimer Abrams Fund for Canine Behavior Studies at the American Kennel Club’s Canine Health Foundation. Whatever they fund usually helps people as well as dogs so it’s a win/win. I wanted to do something special in my mother’s memory, an ongoing legacy in her name.
I’ve been forever called picky, but I maintain that we’re all picky creatures. What are you picky about?
I’m picky about manners, about caring about others whether it’s people or animals. I’m fairly picky about language. I hate the sloppiness of texting. I don’t do it. I don’t want to do it. There’s precious enough privacy and “alone” time these days as it is.
Where can people find you in cyberspace?
I’m just about everywhere. In addition to my website, I’m on LinkedIn, Plurk, Twitter, I have three pages on Facebook; a member page, a fan page and a group page that discusses all animals and discussions are led by experts, Fans of Rover, Get Off Her Leg! which proves that you should never name anything at 3 a.m.!
Any parting words for the masses? Any shameless plugs?
Please don’t get a pet unless you are ready for a commitment for the life of that animal and take time to learn about the species and use the most gentle, positive training possible. Shameless plug? Please buy my books so I can pay my bills. I promise the content is worth the price!