Situational Sheepdogs

I think the guest speaker Sunday was a little surprised when he asked which doors could be locked from the inside and I began reciting them, working my way around the building, floor by floor. Most people don’t observe their environments that closely, or make that kind of mental note. Most people don’t look around rooms and make mental lists of what can be used for attack or defense, in what order to grab said items, and where all the exits are (although that is probably changing). Most people don’t assume that trouble is lurking in the bushes and that it is a matter of when, not if. But, fortunately, most people have not been the target of choice for bullies or other two-footed predators. Some of us have, and it leaves traces. How we choose to deal with it . . .

Because of that, and because of my personality and profession, I think of myself as a situational sheepdog. The whole “wolf, sheepdog, sheep” concept has been taken far from what the original writer intended and stretched into something that would make even Gumby go “ow!” But Lt. Col Grossman makes very good points, and as a way to think about how people in the aggregate think about violence (or don’t) it makes sense as a good starting point. To be a sheep is not an insult, it simply means that the individual has other concerns and prefers not to spend their time worrying about trouble and watching for trouble and actively cultivating a mindset for coping with trouble.

And at times sheepdogs act like sheep, and sheep switch to semi-sheepdog mode. Example:  a mom is watching a toddler or small child in a park. Mom looks down to get something out of the Mombag. A small child screams. Every single mom goes on alert and there is a surge of adults moving toward kids. Heaven help a stranger who tries to intervene or who looks threatening. One of the sweetest, kindest, fluffiest ladies I know turns into a buzzsaw if you look at one of her small children with uncharitable thoughts. She doesn’t believe in having firearms in the home but she’d probably knife an intruder to death if he threatened her family.

I seem to have the unenviable aura of someone who knows what to do. If you know how to turn this off, please e-mail me, because I am not a natural leader. I’m a superb follower, but I do not like leading. So of course, since the universe is mean, people gravitate toward me when the fit hits the shan. And because of having spent the better part of five years as prey, I’m very good at finding exits, avoiding crowded places, hanging out next to concealment, and looking around to see who does not belong (usually me.) An excellent and overactive imagination also leads to over-preparation, so I’m the one with everything short of a carrier battle group in her backpack. People mistake this for competence and clue-possession.

End result: a situational semi-sheepdog. I may not be armed but I know how to get out, how and where to hide and how to barricade the door, and what to use to distract/incapacitate/startle someone intent on mayhem. Me being me, I usually end up directing other people out the door/into the shelter. You can bet I know exactly what in the classroom could be used if someone tries to break in, and I may or may not have something extra tucked away or propped up in the corner.

As the scenario video was playing out, I began ticking off who was going to be in trouble, where other people could hide, who was going to draw the bad guy’s attention, and so on. I caught myself shifting into fight/flight mode and had to make myself sit back and calm down. The rest of the session and for a few hours after I was running in Condition Orange*. T’was an interesting day.

*Condition white – not completely oblivious but not paying too much attention to the world around you.

Condition yellow – aware and alert but relaxed and not concerned.

Condition Orange – very aware and alert and analyzing place and situation for possible active hazards, ready at any moment to shift to

Condition Red – trouble: escape, hiding, or fighting in progress.

Edited to add: Some people also list a Condition Black – what happens when you were so preoccupied that you missed the: cheesed off dragon, krakan in the water hazard, run-away bus, ax-wielding lunatic, oncoming train, dude wearing a puffer coat in Phoenix in late July, or the ticking sound coming from the parcel with all the stamps on it that appeared on your front porch.


7 thoughts on “Situational Sheepdogs

  1. What you are doing is maintaining Situational Awareness (SA)… Few people, other than military and LEOs do that on a routine (e.g. all day every day) basis. Re the leadership issue, by remaining calm, you ‘default’ to the leadership position… Sorry bout that…

  2. I have always maintained that there are four critters, not three. It should be sheep, wolf, sheepdog, and wolfhound. There are those that are more wolf that sheepdog, but they consciously choose to prey on other predators, those are the wolfhounds, or Orwell’s “rough men.”

    • As a good friend of mine says after he finishes scaring the heebeegeebies out of a coworker (again), “Don’t worry, I’ve chosen to use my powers for good, not evil.”

  3. I was a Police Officer for almost thirty years and Situational Awareness is an ingrained habit with me, I cannot help but always looking, noting and analysing what is going on around me. I find it relatively easy to see who ‘fits’ and who doesn’t ‘fit’ in the scene I’m looking at.
    It’s not a special talent, it’s what happens when you’ve spent long evenings and nights on some of the most crowded streets in the world, where a savage attack with a large blade can happen in an instant, where drugs deals gone bad can happen in almost any door-way. Kowloon in Hong Kong was my patch.

    • My introduction to the need to be always watching was not quite that dangerous (American public school in the 1980s-90s) but I learned quickly that ignoring things can lead to physical injury, if one is lucky.

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