Lucky Dog

A Conversation with Eric and Rashi Wiese

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Pandemic Pooches

I don’t know about you, but I have noticed a huge uptick in families adopting dogs over the past year. Every week I seem to see a new Instagram post with an adorable little puppy that somebody has brought home. This past year has been hard for so many of us, especially those who have been isolated from family and friends, and having an animal companion seems to have helped ease that loneliness for many.

My family has definitely fallen prey to this urge for a canine companion. My wife and I are decidedly not dog people. In the pre-pandemic days, some of this was due to our schedules and not being home as often. We also loved to travel, and it didn’t seem fair to leave a dog in a kennel or with a reluctant friend or family member.

Our kids on the other hand have always been begging for a pup, and my wife and I have slowly started to erode our no pets policy. It started with a betta fish last fall, which lasted about 3 months before dying. We replaced that betta with a few guppies, a shrimp, and a snail. As of now, the snail is the only survivor.

We’ve also begun to research a family pooch, although for non-dog people, this has been a challenge. We’ve found some interesting breeders near us, but their wait lists are 3 years long at this point, mostly because of the surge in pandemic demand. Maybe if things start to return to normal over the summer, we won’t feel the same urgency for a pet, but for now, we’re still in the researching phase.

That’s what made this past week’s interview both very timely and incredibly interesting to me.

Episode 78- Eric and Rashi Wiese

Last week, I had a fascinating conversation with Eric and Rashi Wiese, a married couple from Los Angeles that train and rescue dogs. They were recently named the new hosts of the long running (and Emmy winning) CBS series Lucky Dog. Here’s a trailer for the newest season, which premiered in January:

While Eric had done some on camera work in the past, this was Rashi’s first time hosting a TV show. She described to me how nervous she was at first:

“I actually had a little bit of a fear of cameras and production and all that, but I also had a fear of dogs once upon a time, and now we are doing a show on dogs, we own a dog resort, we have five rescues of our own. Everyone was really helpful in getting me comfortable and I’m just pushing through and so far so good.”

Within weeks of being offered the show, the global pandemic started, which completely changed the production plans for the new season, as Eric described:

“We were offered the show, I think it was February last year. So a month after we were supposed to actually start filming, COVID hit. It actually pushed our production to October of last year.”

For Eric, Lucky Dog is the culmination of his life’s work. He talked about how his passion for dogs has been with him for a long time:

“I showed an interest in animals at a really young age, as early as I can remember. I wanted to work with dogs pretty much since I was the age of 15, when I was old enough to volunteer at a boarding kennel/rescue. Ever since then, I had been fascinated.”

Rashi, on the other hand, took a more circuitous route to dog training. She had studied psychology in school and was working as a social worker when she met Eric. They were involved romantically before eventually becoming business partners as well. Rashi saw many parallels between training dogs and her work in studying human behavior:

“There were so many parallels to what I studied in social work and how I used to work with various populations. I would recognize all the similarities. I found it fascinating. I had a love for psychology and animal psychology is so fascinating, so just learning everything from Eric, I realized this is what I want to do with the rest of my life. I want to work with these types of animals and give them a better life.”

Watching Eric on TV is very impressive, but in speaking with him, it was clear to me that he really understands his work at a deep level. We talked at length about some of the ways he goes about forming a bond with a new dog, especially one that has experienced trauma. I really enjoyed hearing him discuss how dogs learn:

“Dogs in general learn the same way, unless we’re dealing with an impediment like a loss of smell or hearing or sight. Dogs will take in the world through their noses first, then they see something, then they hear something. So if you know how they learn, you can then adapt it to how we teach them.

“So first, if they learn through their noses, we would then lure them with something of value like a treat into a position that we want or to get them to do something that we want. Then we would morph that lure into a hand signal, so then they use their sight to process the information. And then the last thing would be naming what we actually want them to do, because they’re not a verbal species, so anything that comes out of our mouth at the beginning can actually confuse them.”

As I mentioned above, my family has been considering adopting a dog for the last few months, but we still aren’t exactly sure what breed of dog bests suits us. I tried to ask Eric and Rashi for their recommendation by describing our house and yard, but Eric helped me understand that choosing the best dog for a family involves a lot more information:

“It doesn’t just depend on your environment, but it depends on your lifestyle. Do you like to be active? Do you like to go out and hike? Would you like to go on longer walks or shorter walks with your dog or do you have the time to go on a longer walk? What type of environment do you live in? Do you have stairs? Do you have central AC and heating? It really just depends on the environment you have, how active you want to be with a particular dog, and then we can slowly start to discover what type of dog or what breed would best suit your lifestyle and what dog you would suit.”

The full interview is really interesting, at least to me who doesn’t know the first thing about dog training! Take a listen- I have a feeling you’ll learn a few things. Eric and Rashi are great teachers.

What’s Coming…

On Thursday, I will be talking with author Michael G Long, who has authored books on protest movements and fights for equality. His past work has focused on everybody from Jackie Robinson to Martin Luther King Jr. His latest book Kids on the March is his first for kids, and it looks at the power of marching and speaking out. He uses kids as examples to talk about historic events like the demonstrations in Montgomery and the historic March on Washington, all the way to present movements like the March for Our Lives and Black Lives Matter. I hope you’ll tune in.

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