Traveling Dog Lady: My interview on cesarsway.com

Sunday, February 13, 2011

My interview on cesarsway.com

Ambassador Profile: Kathleen Mueller
At Cesar Millan, Inc. our goal is to make the world a better place, one dog at a time. The Ambassadors group was created to harness the power of the pack in order to make a greater difference in our world. Cesar Millan Ambassadors is a volunteer organization that helps spread the word about Cesar Millan events and products on the internet and in their community; assist in events, such as Dog Whisperer auditions or fundraisers for the Millan Foundation, that are held in their area; and share their participation and outreach in their community with other pack leaders. Together, we work to build a greater awareness of our dogs’ needs and create a positive “ripple effect” in the dog community.
For more information on the Ambassador Program and to apply, click here.
CMI: How did you first learn about Cesar Millan?
KM: About five years ago, I started visiting an on-leash, dog-friendly beach on Cape Cod near my home. I've had dogs my whole life, and at this time I had my two mixed-breed males, Hobie a Lab/Shepherd, and Hector a "Heinz 57" mix (we think he's Coonhound/Lab/Border Collie/and some large breed because of his height). My dogs and I had a reputation for walking long distances and often picking up loose neighborhood dogs, unintentionally, while we walked. I would often have a huge pack of dogs by the time we got home, and would return them to their homes by automobile or sometimes on foot. But, I had not done a very good job of training Hector, the younger of my two, to greet other dogs politely. As a result, when we started frequenting the beach, which requires leashes, I would get pulled down on the ground and "dragged" by my two dogs as I held on for dear life because "there's a leash law."
On one particular spring morning, something like this happened and my wrist got slightly injured, but the more insulting injury was the reaction of the other dog owners at the beach. They threatened me and said "Don't come around here anymore!" I was devastated. My dogs didn't hurt anyone (except me!); they were just overly-excited in their greeting behavior. Not one person asked if I was all right -- they just shunned me from the group.
That morning, after I calmed down a little bit, I turned on the TV to watch "Regis and Kelly". Their guest that day was a person I had never heard of: "Dog Whisperer" Cesar Millan. As I watched Cesar help the various guest dog-owners, including one of the show's crew, I couldn't believe what I was seeing. I was blown away watching the TV that morning, having just had this awful experience at the beach, and I started watching "Dog Whisperer" on National Geographic Channel that week, and have never stopped.
CMI: What is it about his techniques and philosophies that interest you?
KM: Based on my own experience with Timba, I knew, and agreed 100%, with Cesar's philosophy of "exercise, discipline and affection in that order." I have always been a person who walked my dog very long distances, daily. People would point at me and my dog(s) because it was such a rarity to see someone in my community actually walking a dog -- I live in a farming community way out in the countryside of Massachusetts, there are not a lot of sidewalks out here!
Cesar's leadership technique is also something that came naturally to me, and something I was already doing. In the old days, people would say it was "showing the dog who is boss". That seems a little too aggressive to me, but if you tone it down and you compare it to being a supervisor, teacher or parent, it makes a lot of sense. You are the dog's parent, teacher, supervisor and finally friend. The dog will not respect you if you do not lead -- he will challenge you for that leadership position. I knew this from my experience, and was happy to know that Cesar used this simple philosophy as part of his techniques. As a person who has supervised many humans in my career, I discovered that I naturally have the personality of a leader.
Another important point is not to treat your dog like a human. Dogs are wired differently than us, and I think that's what gets a lot of inexperienced dog owners into trouble -- they expect that the same techniques that work for their human children will work for their dog, and that just isn't the case. If humans simply did not expect dogs to be humans, they would appreciate normal dog behavior and it could solve a lot of problems in dog/human relations.
CMI: How did you hear about the ambassadors program and what made you apply to be part of the program?
KM: After I had been watching Dog Whisperer for a while, I noticed a little pop-up on the TV screen in the lower right corner announcing that viewers could join the discussion online on Nat Geo's web site. Back in those days, hundreds of people would login to the discussion board on Nat Geo's Dog Whisperer page and beg Cesar for help with their dogs. It sort of happened spontaneously, but a few of us just started responding "on Cesar's behalf" so to speak, indicating to the person that Cesar was not available to respond to their individual questions, but we would certainly try to help. There were about six or 12 of us initially who did this. The Nat Geo forum started to become somewhat unmanageable, and C.J. Anderson set up a Yahoo! group and moved the discussion there. About a year later, maybe less, I was asked by C.J. if I would like to be a part of the new program she was working on with Cesar Millan, Inc. --that was the Ambassador program, and I, of course, said yes.
CMI: What do you do as an ambassador?
KM: Due to my busy schedule, it is not always easy for me to do a lot in person, so I've remained doing what I did in the beginning as an Ambassador: communicating about Cesar's philosophies online. This means, responding to questions on the Yahoo! Dog Whisperer Fans group, which still exists today with a membership of several thousand; writing to bloggers who criticize Cesar's methods; assisting with internet outreach to promote Cesar's live appearances; reading Cesar's books and posting reviews about his books on sites that sell the book, such as Amazon and Barnes and Noble; and, mostly, networking on Facebook and Twitter with the hundreds (perhaps thousands?) of "dog people" I've met through this journey.
In 2009, I was lead Ambassador for Cesar's live appearance in Boston, and I arranged for several ambassadors to assist Cesar backstage and during the performance. I also promoted the show for several months beforehand by handing out fliers and sending email blasts to various dog-related organizations in the area. Being an ambassador requires teamwork, and the dynamics of doing things online vs. in person is extraordinarily challenging -- not only do you have the personalities like you would in any group of people, but there are time zone differences and lags in response, technical difficulties and a whole host of other challenges. It sure isn't boring!
CMI: What do you want people to know about Cesar and the Ambassadors?
KM: First and foremost is the important fact that not all dogs need Cesar's help -- only those who are unbalanced need rehabilitation using Cesar's Way. There is a continuing misunderstanding that Cesar is a "dog trainer," and people will often criticize his "training" methods. Cesar is not a dog trainer; he rehabilitates dogs that have often been given up on by frustrated, inexperienced owners. I want people to know about the countless dogs' lives that have been saved by Cesar. I want people to know that Pit Bulls and other powerful breeds are born as good dogs, it's the humans who raise them that make them turn out "bad." Cesar Millan's Ambassadors, in conjunction with the Millan Foundation, set forth to educate the public about these facts, and many others including the importance of spaying/neutering our pets; adopting from shelters or rescues; refraining from purchasing dogs from pet stores (puppy mills) or back-yard breeders; and just a general education on the most humane way to raise and train a dog. Cesar says it best when he says as long as the "training" method does not harm the dog, then use it -- there is no "one right way" to raise and train your dog.
CMI: When you’re not volunteering as an ambassador, what do you do?
KM: In real life, I'm vice president of U.S. operations at Passports, the student travel company based here in central Massachusetts. I currently live with my sweetheart, Gil, our two dogs Hobie and Hector, and three cats Newman, Tux and Cali.
I write dog and cat stories, and am currently working on a biographical account of my parents' early marriage which includes preserving and archiving what may be perhaps the largest collection of love letters written during World War II -- written by my parents. It's a fascinating project, and one I'm very proud of. Additionally, I live with chronic pain everyday due to fibromyalgia, and I run an online support group for women living in the same situation. I try to stay busy and active, because it helps, and I try to impress that strategy on others and help them by sharing my experiences.
CMI: Anything else you’d like to add?
KM: In my travel career, I've visited many countries, and I always marvel at the way other societies treat their dogs in comparison to we in the United States. In France, dogs are welcomed in restaurants, and lie at the feet of their owners while they dine on French cuisine! In the Caribbean, dogs still run loose, unfortunately, and spaying and neutering is a relatively new concept, but despite the somewhat adverse conditions, the dogs are balanced! I have observed Caribbean dogs knowing the boundaries of their homestead, and not venturing past a certain invisible line -- no fences, no leashes, just rules, boundaries and limitations. In each of these instances, the dogs are led by a strong but calm individual, they do a lot of walking and migrating, and the dogs seem remarkably happier than many dogs in our country.

It is my wish that we in the U.S. would all learn to take a calm, relaxed approach to dog ownership -- everything does not fit into a perfect little box, and I think we would have fewer unbalanced dogs if dog owners would try to understand dog behavior and not humanize their canine companions, and follow the exercise, discipline, affection recipe. In other words, help your dog be a dog. Above all, enjoy your time with your pets! Their time with us is short, and they teach us many lessons.