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!