Friday, November 13, 2009

Things I've Learned From Cesar Millan

You all know by now that I'm giving a lot of thought to adopting a puppy next spring. In keeping with this, I've been doing some studying up on the subject. This has led to an absolute addiction to The Dog Whisperer show on the National Geographic Channel. Cesar Millan has such a fascinating approach to dog psychology. His opening line is always: "I rehabilitate dogs. I train people." Well, I don't have a dog yet but congratulations Cesar! I am becoming trained.

I first noticed that his psychology was having an effect on me after a particularly stressful day at work. I kept hearing a phrase in my head "Live in the now". Where had that come from? I was driving down the highway toward home and things around me began to come into focus. The leaves were changing color - I'd noticed that, of course - but just look at all the different colors. Beautiful. I will never again see these trees and these colors at this moment...God's wonderful's worth slowing down and savoring. Since then, I've made it a point to notice what's around me, be it nature or people, instead of just traveling from point A to point B. I finally remembered where I'd heard that phrase - Cesar says that dogs don't think about the past or worry about tomorrow...they live in the now. How wonderful is that? There will never be another today...I don't want to miss a moment of it.

On one episode he needed to help a fearful little dog submit to medication. The animal was clearly terrified and acting out in aggression. Cesar's solution? He sat down on the floor next to the dog and waited for him to relax into a calm, submissive state. He didn't come at the dog from above him, as would be instinctive to most of us. He got down on his level and waited. Wow! Can that be applied to life! We are all frequently called upon to diffuse volatile personalities both at work and in our private lives. I've always found that a calm approach works best, but getting down to their level - showing that you understand where they are coming from - has great psychological impact. Isn't this what God did when He sent His Son to us? Everyone needs to be understood, not just patronized. If I can show you that I care about your feelings and will take the time to let you work through them without censure from me, you might just relax and we can work together toward a mutually advantageous end.

Exercise, discipline, that order. I don't have much trouble with the affection part of that equation...I love just about everybody. It's the exercise and discipline that give me fits. If I actually had (self) discipline, exercise wouldn't be a problem. Wouldn't that be great! During our years on the farm I got lots of exercise and I've never felt better. I slept well, ate well and all the pieces of life just seemed to fit together better. I'm not on the farm anymore and it definitely takes discipline to exercise. Cesar, I'm going to make conscious effort to improve in this area. I want that bright eyed, bushy tailed feeling back!

The Millan secret to handling all sorts of dog-psychology problems is Calm, Assertive Energy. Cesar can tame the wildest canine in seconds by simply letting it react to his attitude of calm, assertive energy. If you've ever watched the show, you know that this is the cornerstone of his approach. My nature is cowardly...normally I'll go out of my way not to create or participate in a situation that might make me feel helpless or afraid. I'm learning to take a deep breath and visualize myself in control. Positive mental imagery...perhaps that is the human application of calm, assertive energy. Once I visualize myself handling things, I usually find that I can. And when I do this exercise, I find that others involved pick up on my energy and treat me accordingly. In other words, when I lose the 'victim's mentality', I can become a participant in the solution of any situation. Thanks Cesar!

And now it is almost time for The Dog Whisperer to come on. I don't want to miss my weekly psychology session with Cesar so I shall end this posting. Just remember: Live in the day; get plenty of exercise; help others by remaining calm and submissive toward God; and exude calm, assertive energy when the situation calls for it. I'm telling you - the man is a genius!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Remembering Jody

Autumn always makes me think of Jody. She was a delightful little Rat Terrier that owned me for about twelve years and we had a wonderful life together. I discovered her one October when she was only four weeks old at a breeder's farm down in Arkansas and it was love at first sight. She was so tiny - a minute, absolutely fearless ball of energy. We had hogs back then and she somehow managed to befriend the sows. Perhaps they thought she was just another little pig. She never missed a meal with them...snatching kernals of corn from beneath their very snouts. They never once hurt her, but they often flipped her out of the way just like they did their own babies.

She was raised with cats and was quite protective of her feline friends. It was not uncommon to see her 'carrying' one by the scruff of the neck across the yard, even though some of them were bigger than her. Even the toms would just relax and let her do what she wanted - she could be quite bossy. I remember one time in particular a stray beagle came to visit. He was wearing a collar and I was able to contact his owner, but the man was unable to pick him up until after work that evening. Jody spent the entire day keeping her cats corralled on the porch - when one would try to leave, she'd haul it back up. If the beagle approached the porch, she'd chase him back to a spot she chose for him under one of the big shade trees. By late afternoon, she was exhausted, but still worried about her charges. She finally darted around the house into the back yard and came back carrying an old rug. She took it over and offered it to the beagle, who scuffed it around a bit before curling up on it. She then went back and brought one of her toys and gave it to him. Once he was resting on her rug, the toy by his nose, Jody felt she could let the cats off the porch. It was the most amazing thing I've ever seen.

After my children grew up, we sold the farm and moved to a larger community. Jody wasn't very happy in a town home and neither was I, so we moved again, this time out onto a small piece of land in the country. She knew instinctively that she was home just as soon as she got out of the car - that little dog ran around with a smile on her face for weeks. She had the run of the place...only the flower beds were off-limits to her, and she was very good about staying out of them. That is, she was until we met Bob, the man next door.

Bob had been widowed for several years, as had I, and we soon became good friends. Jody wasn't sure if this was a good idea or not and she began a brief campaign to keep us apart. When she saw us chatting over the fence, she'd head for the nearest flower bed and stand in it - legs stiff, a fiercely defiant expression on her little face. Of course I would have to say sternly "Jody! Get out of that flower bed." and that was her goal...she had focused our attention off of each other and onto her. She'd then trot up and look at Bob as if to say "See! Jean is my mother, not yours!" It didn't take long for him to win her over, though. He is an animal lover and, by the time we were married, she was his dog as much as mine.

I've had many dogs over the years, and perhaps I'll have another one soon. I think I'm almost ready to welcome a new puppy. But there's one I'll never forget...autumn always makes me think of Jody.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Honest Scrap Award

Thanks to fellow blogger Beth Carter who nominated me for the Honest Scrap Award. This award goes to bloggers who write from the heart. To fulfill our Honest Scrap duties, I must list ten things about myself and nominate others for this award.

Ten Things About Me:

1. I love the Lord and cherish my family.
2. I have four awesome sons, three beautiful daughters-in-law and three precious grandchildren.
3. I am a Certified Dietary Manager, Certified Food Protection Professional.
4. I have to get 44 hours of continuing education before next May to keep those credentials.
5. I procrastinate (see above) :-)
6. I am a Missouri native, although I have lived in four other states.
7. Some of my favorite authors are Jean Stubbs, Mary Higgins Clark, Harold Bell Wright, Gene Stratton Porter & Sara Donati.
8. My favorite breed of dog is the Rat Terrier.
9. I've finished writing one novel and am working on another set in the Ozarks of Missouri.
10. I used to raise hogs and cattle on an eighty acre farm with my sons.

Okay, that's it! Now I pass the Honest Scrap Award on to bloggers Barb Huddleston, Ruth Hunter and Kaye Calkins.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Rewards at the end of the day....

The drive home from work today was, as always, my reward for whatever has been required of me during the past eight or ten hours. Morning is good, but I truly love the evening - or the gloaming, as my Scottish ancestors might have said. I usually turn off the highway onto the rural roads at 7:45 PM or so and that's when the endorphins start to kick in. No more more rigid schedule...a hot bath (or cool shower)...supper...and, best of all, my loved ones waiting there at the home place.

But there are a few little mini-rewards along the way to my haven. The old black dog, for instance, that lurks near the crossroad, just waiting for me to stop at the sign. He slinks out of the brush, keeping pace with the car until I stop rolling and the time is just right...then he barks ferociously for a moment or two before trotting back to his home, head and tail high. I've made his day, as he has mine. Occasionally he is too tired to chase me, but he is always there and I would miss him if he wasn't. And then there are the two ladies who power-walk together...I've never met them, but they are always somewhere along my route and we wave as though we were old friends. How lovely that they have each other to walk with, and how sweet that they 'include' me with their happy waves. Every four or five months, there is a new litter of kittens playing in the ditch at one of the houses...there were five this time, I think. Lovely little kitties - all different colors. They are timid and race for cover , but I catch a glimpse of them before they are swallowed up by the tall grass.

Closer to home, I stop for a few chickens who have crossed the road and now desperately want to get back - they run this way and that, looking for their coop which is right there in front of them if they would only look! If I'm very fortunate, I might see a herd of deer in the field just north of the 'chicken crossing'. How many people who live in cities would love the opportunity to see a herd of deer in the wild.

I am blessed. And I look forward seeing all of my 'gloaming buddies' again tomorrow.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Watch out for wildlife.

My trip to work this morning was more exciting than expected. As I drove around a bend in the road, two deer appeared not ten feet in front of the car...a doe and her spotted fawn. A little late in the season for a fawn that young, but what a beautiful little creature he was...and still is, thanks to anti-lock brakes. Gliding over the fence in one graceful movement, they faded into the trees and were gone. That stretch of road has always provided me with poignant sightings of our wildlife neighbors. A large flock of wild turkeys live in the timber and can often be seen with their poults trailing behind as they forage along the roadway. Occasionally twenty or more deer feed in the hayfield just down the way. A blue heron stands sentinel in the creek as he waits for his dinner to swim by, and a raccoon family's eyes reflect the headlights if I happen to drive that way after dark. I wouldn't trade my little place in the country for the whole of any city.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Ordinary days...

So far this has been a week of ordinary days. Nothing big happening, but nothing bad has happened either. My loved ones are all healthy, fed and housed, all gainfully employed, free to pursue their interests and hobbies as they please, and free to worship God without fear of censure or worse. You know, ordinary days aren't bad at all, are they. In fact, a week of ordinary days may just be one of life's most precious gifts.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Ergonomically designed chairs...

Well, today was the day. Our new ergonomically designed chairs arrived at work. I sat down in mine, expecting to experience utter comfort and relaxation.... and came just about this far from tipping over backwards. Apparently you have to adjust the things before you go flopping about in them. Our office secretary rushed to my rescue and adjusted the height of the seat, the arm rests, the tilt of the back and the level of my lumbar (wouldn't my father just wash my mouth out with soap for discussing my lumbar in a public forum) and at last I experienced every working woman's dream. A chair made just for me. It even has my name on it. All we need now are ottomans for our feet. I suspect we won't be getting them though, so we'll just keep resting our tootsies on the CPU's (or whatever those things are called) under out desks as usual. We're blessed to have management who care about our comfort and well-being as we go about our duties. Life is good.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Tree frogs in the bedroom???

What a way to wake I stumbled out of bed and headed for the coffee pot, a dust bunny came to life and leaped into my path. Was I dreaming? screech would have awakened me if I was. My husband - ever the knight in shining armour - picked the thing up, dusted it off and discovered a tiny tree frog. Who knows how it got into the house or why it was lurking in the place where I keep all my spare dust. It's back outside now, enjoying the shade of a mature forsythia bush. My question is: if the frogs are getting inside, can the snakes be far behind??? Eeeewwww. I hope not :-)

Friday, August 7, 2009

August in the Ozarks

August in the Ozarks...the month that nature begins to ready itself for the winter that is to come. The changes are there, if you look for them...most plants have pretty well reached their peak and slowed down. Hummingbird feeders need to be filled more often. The creeks and streams are a little low.

We have had such a wet summer - our young trees have grown tremendously. They will need to be trimmed up a bit in the fall. Our Mimosa has gained back all that it lost in the ice storm and then some. The tiny pines and Scarlet Maple that I planted the summer I moved in now tower over the house - is there anything more comforting than coming home to a place where saplings that you nurtured now shade the lawn?

I hope you will share your own observations regarding August in your corner of the world...I'd love to hear from you.