Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Leader of the Pack

Leader of the Pack

By Allison Adams 12-12-09; submitted to The Greeneville Sun 12-12-09

As I reported several months ago, our pooch – Charlotte Jean – vanished into thin air. Poof.

In the months since her disappearance I have gradually settled into a comfortable, dog-free lifestyle. I can come and go as I please without having to think about how long I’ve been gone and whether or not somebody has sufficient shelter, water, or food. I can decide to take an overnight trip at the last minute without thinking – oh wait, I need to hire a dog sitter. I can leave a full plate of food unguarded knowing my meal will be right where I left it upon my return. My wardrobe is no longer dusted with a fine coat of white dog hair. I also holler no, hush, and down a lot less frequently.

I’ve even seriously considered replacing our canine-compromised carpet.

For a dog-free me, life has been simplified – a fact my husband cannot deny.

Not so for the other dog-free people with whom I live. While I became secure in the knowledge that I could finally put a candy dish filled with chocolates on the coffee table without worrying that I might later need to make an emergency trip to the veterinarian’s office to have Charlotte Jean’s stomach pumped, my children were making plans to convince me that I needed a dog in order to be fulfilled.

Bring it on, kids.

Well, they brought it all right. They worked every angle at every opportunity. They begged and pleaded, but I ignored. They forced me to look at numerous, too-cute-for-words puppy photos, but I remained reticent. They went on reconnaissance missions to the Humane Society and excitedly reported their findings, but I was unflappable.

Then they unexpectedly scored a major victory. They lured my husband to their side. When he became one of them, I was left to fight for my dog-freedom alone.

In no time flat I found myself in the car with my son and traitor-husband, headed for the Humane Society. On the way there I spoke to God and explained that while I really wasn’t ready to bring home a new dog, but I would if there was someone special who was meant for our family. I asked Him to help us find each other.

We surveyed the pups and hounds and were inexplicably drawn to one, lovely, limping lady. We had found each other.

And because she needed to recover from an injury sustained before she arrived there, she could not be discharged from the Humane Society’s care for several weeks. I had some time to get ready to bring home a new dog.

Now, if I’m being honest I must admit that the mysteriously departed Charlotte Jean lacked a few redeeming qualities. I realized that was most likely the result of poor training on my part. The mother is always to blame.

Determined to be a better dog mother I decided to read Cesar Millan’s book – “How to Train the Perfect Dog”. Perhaps some of you have watched his “Dog Whisperer” episodes on the Discovery Channel. Millan successfully trains dogs based on the philosophy that they relate to a “pack” environment. When you adopt a dog in to your “human pack” you must take careful steps to assert yourself as the pack leader; show your four-legged friend who is the boss, so-to-speak. Millan teaches his readers how to do this in a natural, loving, non-aggressive manor by practicing consistent behavior, kind discipline, appropriate affirmation, and silently - using your eyes.

Every now and then I’ll camp on one particular the page in the book and use my pen to carefully underline the important points. I enthusiastically announce to whomever might be in earshot: “I’m learning to be a pack leader!” (There’s something about declaring that out loud that makes me feel like it might actually happen.)

Empowered with the Dog Whisperer’s philosophy, I decided to practice what I learned on one of my own litter:

“What are YOU looking at, mom?”

“I’m pack leader-looking into your soul to convey that I want you to fetch the garbage cans from the curb without giving me any lip.”

“Hmmmm. Nope. It’s not working.”

“Drat. Well go get the garbage cans or you’re grounded.”

“Now THAT’S effective.”

Thankfully this pack leader still has time to review her material before we welcome our new dog home. Wish me luck.

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