“The lives of animals are parables of our lives.”- African Proverb
Dr. Asa Hilliard on Mind Training:
“Recently, I saw a television program on training sheepdogs. It made a great
impression on me, so much so that I have used the story as an example in several
speeches. It makes many points that are important for the education of our
In most places where people raise sheep, a special type of dog with a special
type of training is used to watch a flock of sheep. If one of the sheep wanders
the sheepdog will bring it back. This dog will protect the sheep flock from all
other animals, including other dogs. When the sheepdog is with its master,
it is usually described as loyal, gentle, and intelligent. But the most striking
part of the description to me is that the things that are said about the sheepdog’s
behavior are all from the point of view of the master and involve the master’s
needs. The dog’s own needs are not really considered, other than to determine
how those needs may be used by the master to make the dog do what the master
How does this happen? How does a dog come to lose interest in its own
independent direction or in the direction which, as a member of a ‘dog family,’
is expected to keep? The program on television showed how it is done. At birth,
the puppy is separated almost at once from all the other dogs — from its brothers
and sisters, from its family. It is then placed into a pen where there are
nothing but sheep, including the young lambs who are nursing. In its normal
drive to satisfy its hunger, it seeks out a ewe and tries to nurse from her,
along with the other lambs. When it is successful, it continues, and is then
raised with sheep as a lamb until it is sufficiently developed to be trained.
Notice here that it continues to look like a dog as well. It will leave the
track of a dog and will have the speed and strength of a dog. Yet, while it
has the intelligence of a dog, it will develop the mind of a sheep! Once that
happens, it no longer acts like, or in the interest of itself as a dog, or in
the interest of other dogs. Notice also that this dog has mastered the ‘basic
skills,’ from its master’s point of view. It would also have passed very high
on the ‘D.A.T.,’ or ‘Dog Aptitude Test.’ Moreover, it will see its own brothers
and sisters as ‘the enemy’ since this dog does not know them as brothers and
Let’s take a moment to review what this story teaches us.
For the dog’s master to work his will with the dog, he established a training,
not an educational process that had certain key features in it:
1. The dog was separated from its family and group at an early age.
2. It was continually isolated from them during its learning years.
3. It was placed into a sheep’s (alien) environment.
4. It was fed a sheep’s (alien) diet.
5. It was given a ‘special education.’
6. It was totally dependent upon the master and never allowed to hunt for itself.
7. All the decisions about its training were made outside of the family and without its consultation.
Now we can begin to see what must have happened to the dog so that it would
dedicate its life to the service of others while seeing its own family as the
enemy. Because of separation, it lost its people’s collective memory or history.
Without memory or history, neither the present nor the future can be interpreted.
This is the first step toward developing dependency. The dog becomes totally
dependent upon the knowledge and interpretations of others. Because of isolation
from its ‘people,’ it can not learn the normal survival rules and agenda for dogs.
It can not learn from the experiences of other dogs nor test its sense of reality
with theirs. It even loses opportunity learn dog ‘language’ so that it can ‘ask
questions’ later on.
Because it grows up in a sheep’s environment, it begins to live in a world of
illusions, seeing itself as a sheep. Because it is nurtured on an alien diet, it
comes to crave that diet and to depend upon those who could provide it, since it
can not produce the diet for itself. Because of its ‘special education,’ it
accepts training and confused it with education (critical awareness). Because
it is dependent, it can never challenge the master or ‘bite the hand that feeds
it.’ Because none of the decisions about its training or education can be made
by its parents, family, or community, and because it can only agree or disagree
with what is provided, it becomes a living, breathing, highly skilled, and quite
intelligent, robot. But to all outward appearances, few would ever know.”
The Maroon Within Us