Friday, May 22, 2009

Cesar Millan: Controversy or Sign Of The Times?

I'm hearing and reading more and more lashings out agains Cesar Millan and "The Dog Whisperer" show. And while I disagree with the majority of his training methods, I am also heartily against all this finger-pointing. Some articles sound as if we should through the poor guy into cage full of angry pitbulls. Educating the public is critically important. But getting nasty is just counter-productive.

Firstly, I believe in my heart that Cesar is a true dog lover and wants to help people. His intentions are good. He has explained himself that the methods he learned and uses are from observations and experiences since childhood. He is not a Ph.D, a veterinarian, certified or even holds any professional memberships. He is completely honest about his "resume". You know what you are getting.

Charismatic Cesar became popular among "the stars", including Oprah. Because of his increased exposure, NatGeo gives him a show. Because he's on TV, people watch. When people see it on TV, they believe it without question.

AH, here is the real problem...

Should Cesar Millan modify his training methods? Sure, I'd love that. But when millions of people buy his books and videos, there is no motivation for change. The fame and fortune positively reinforce everything he is doing.

Shouldn't National Geographic be more responsible about what they air? Millions of viewers continue to watch, and advertisers are still paying. No matter how many "tsk-tsk" letters and blogs are written, the dollars are saying "yes give us more".

My concern is not as much about what Cesar does, but that people just blatently accept what is spoon-fed to them. "Oh I see he can calm an agressive pitbull, so his methods are definitely right for my Golden Retriever". Um, no probably not. What you see is a 10-minute clip of entertainment. Oh, you missed the disclaimer explaining you should contact a local professional trainer? That's alright...just copy the 30-minute TV show that EDITED hours/days/weeks/maybe even MONTHS of behind-the-scenes work that went into the training. It obviously wasn't important.

This mentality is pervasive in Western society, and quite frankly frightens me. It's a problem not only with the people we follow, shows we watch, materials we read. Most of us don't even know exactly what's in the food we eat, where and how our products are made, and more.

We are busy people and need quick fixes. Hey, if you have heartburn, don't go through the trouble of analysing and changing your diet. Continue to eat fast, easy crap and just take our magic pill. Mother Nature says women should menstruate evey month...what does she know? Our medication will put a stop to that nasty inconvenience.

We are a culture of Instant Gratification. The Public does not want to put a lot of time, effort and money into our pets. Cesar is obviously giving people what they want. Do I agree with it? No. But I'm also not going to lash out against a dominance-based trainer by being a bully myself.

In closing I also want to point out that the popularity of "The Dog Whisperer" and subsequent training/rehab shows have done good. In my area at least, more dog owners are asking for professional help. I thank them for that.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Learning Gratitude

The other day, I was walking around with my lunch in my hand trying getting ready to sit in front of the TV. And it dawned on me, that if my dogs were human they would think me very rude. If someone made a big bowl of steaming hot, cheesy pasta and didn't offer you any wouldn't you be offended? Well, I didn't give them any, because Buddy is on a grain free diet, and I don't believe dogs should eat dairy. I don't think they quite understood my explanation. But they still were happy to lay calmly and quietly at my feet.

And then I also thought how I wouldn't be very happy if I could only eat twice a day and had no say in what I was eating. But still, my dogs are very happy to get their raw, tripe and occassional treat.

When we walk, they are happy to go where we go. They can't even potty until we allow them to potty.

The point of this is not that I feel the dogs need a lifestyle change. Rather, it is a reminder to me to be assess my true needs, be grateful for what I HAVE and not worry about what I don't.

Of course, if my pets didn't have some basic needs met, they would be very troubled indeed. This reminds me to prioritize. My family needs food. If I take a hard, honest, look we have more than we need. We don't NEED to go to McDonald's after a soccer game. But we can. We need shelter. My house is not very large by American standards. But how lucky we are that we each have our own room and live in a friendly neighborhood. When I look at my life in this way, I realize how much we really have.

As our Pit, Jesse, grew older she could do less of the things she loved. Yet still she always was happy to go on her walk no matter how short. She always gave kisses full of love and gratitude when I let her on the bed. At 14, she would still get excited to see a meal coming her way. That dog never took one single moment of her life for granted.

I think I've learned a lot about gratitude from dogs. And I am very grateful.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

What's One More?

For those who don't know, or remember, we lost our beloved Pit, Jesse, this past Decemeber. Last week, I got a yen to go onto Petfinder and search for adoptable female Pits. As expected, there were many. But, unexpectedly, I came across one that looked almost exactly like Jess did when we first adopted her.

When hubby got home that night, I asked him to talk me out of emailing the contact. He did not. I was put in touch with the foster who called a few days later. The dog sounds absolutely wonderful and I was all ready to meet her. But when talking with my husband again he had some more, good logical questions. After some more Q&A and a good night's sleep, we decided it's not the right time for us to adopt a third dog.

Yes, you read me right. We already have two adult dogs. Our 11-year old Golden is actually one of the main reasons we decided not to adopt again. He is starting to slow down and require a bit more care. As it is, I have taken to walking the two dogs separately. Chloe, our hound, needs more exercise, while Buddy is needing less. Also, when we meet other dogs on the street, it's much easier handling one dog. Do I really want to walk a minimum of 3 times a day?

Another reason we decided to wait and rethink is our kids. When we adopted Jesse, we had no kids and thus, much more time to devote to her special needs. Yes, we've done it before and I could do it again. But I can't assume it will be the same. Our lifestyles have changed. People very often forget to consider this when they get the adopting-bug.

Finances also factored into our decision. We feed our current two a high-quality (cha-ching) diet of frozen raw and canned tripe. I don't want to have to cut back on quality to account for quantity if it's avoidable. The rescue dog would also have required a lot of up-front veterinary care that woulbe be better put aside for Buddy as he is aging.

While there would, of course, be emotional benefits to rescuing a third dog it's just not the right dog at the right time.