Traveling Dog Lady: dog whisperer: truly an inspiration

Sunday, April 1, 2007

dog whisperer: truly an inspiration

Yesterday, I finally broke down and started deleting some of the Season 2 episodes of Dog Whisperer from my very-full DVR. The DVR has been acting up, unable to function at times, because of so many Dog Whisperer episodes being saved onto it. During this process, a very interesting thing happened. I became inspired all-over-again by Cesar's true gift. He trains people, oh yes, he does.

I had recorded episodes all the way back to March, 2006 on the DVR. I started watching the segments that pertained to me, saving the ones that really pertained to me, and deleting whole episodes if nothing in any of the two-or-three segments related to my situation.

To reiterate: I have been immobilized by fear and unable to walk my dogs on longer walks because they have pulled me down on the ground in pursuit of cats or other dogs. I have been injured physically, and even got into some scuffles with humans during these incidents. The dogs even killed a cat (by accident) exactly a year ago this week.

A wonderful thing happened yesterday. I started taking snippets of information away from the various episodes I watched, committed them to memory, and took the dogs for a walk around the block.

In the "Bearz" episode, I heard Cesar say that you should go down the stairs slowly. I captured that in my brain for future use.

On to "Greta and Hoss" -- claiming the door. Well, I've pretty much mastered that, but there was information that I needed to hear again, and it helped.

The "Eppie" episode (eppie-sode!) reminded me of the fact that I have to keep my eyes forward, and that the dog has to pay attention to me, not the other way around. That I can feel what the dog is doing without looking at him.

My very favorite episode has always been "Major Jones." I cry every time I watch it, so inspired and in awe of what Major Jones and his owner accomplish in such a short time. I got the most out of that one yesterday, because Cesar said that if there's a trouble spot, you need to work in that area over and over and over again until it becomes second nature. In the case of Major Jones, it was going in and out of the gate calmly. In my case, it's passing the next-door neighbor's house, where the cat was killed last year, and two more houses on our regular walking route where cats congregate. I realized I can just keep walking, back and forth, back and forth, in the cat areas until the dogs become so acclimated to gentle, calm walking that they will no longer become excited and get into "chase" mode.

I took the dogs for a walk yesterday, after watching all of these segments of Dog Whisperer. I looked straight ahead, and didn't "scope out" looking for cats. I stayed completely calm, shoulders down, head forward and up. I didn't allow Hector to "scope out" for cats, either.

Hobie always walks with a slack leash, but Hector likes to pull in front and scope out the situation, in his hound-dog way. I know I have to use the backpack with him. Yesterday, I kept thinking a thought over and over in my mind, silently: "Slack leash, Hector." Within minutes, Hector was walking "in the zone", head low, as relaxed as Hobie, with a slack leash. I had spent a lot of time with Hobie during the year before we adopted Hector, and Hobie has always been very obedient on-leash, except when he's competing for a cat or strange dog's attention.

After our walk, we went for a very long drive. When we returned, the next-door neighbor's cats were in the yard. Same exact situation as last year. Hobie saw the cats as we drove by, and he perked up. Not wanting a repeat (and anyway he wouldn't be off-leash) but not wanting excitement, I gave Hobie a bite and a stern "Hey!" as we drove by. (I imitate Cesar's "Hey!" that he uses on the show.) I made sure my energy was right before getting out of the car. I calmly put the leash on Hobie. I got out of the car first. I left Hector in the car, and put Hobie in the yard, safely away from the kitties. Then, I let Hector out of the car, on-leash. A far cry from last year's incident, when I thought they'd follow me (the non-pack-leader!) into the house, loose, and instead they ran next-door and chomped down on the cat critically injuring it so it had to be operated on and eventually euthanized, at great financial and emotional cost to me.

This morning, I woke up and the old dread came up again when I thought of taking the dogs for a walk. But I said, no, I'm going to beat this thing. I started thinking about the things I heard Cesar say on the show. Things like, "If you only go one step, that is an accomplishment." For so long, I had been setting my sights on a one-hour walk (like we used to take). But thanks to Cesar, I realized I don't have to do that. If I walk only five minutes, that is an accomplishment. And, it's up to me to decide. I don't have to feel bad for the dogs because they're not getting an hour-long walk. That is attaching human emotions to the dogs. If I decide the walk ends after 12 minutes, then the walk ends. We live in the moment, and maybe we'll do a second walk later.

As it turns out, we took a 45-minute walk this morning. We even encountered a running cat, and I was able to turn the dogs around and go in the other direction, then walk past the cat's house a few minutes later with both dogs "in the zone", heads low, leashes slack.

And me, completely in charge.