Cesar Millan: Saint or cult leader?
Isn't our penchant to follow Cesar Millan's lead into a utopia of dog ownership robbing us of the idiosyncratic, chaotic and just plain fantastic aspects of our furry children? Are our lives so out of control that we must stamp out the joie de vivre of our best friends?
My guy has responded wonderfully to Millan's techniques. I follow them religiously.
For those of you who are cat owners or have been living under a rock: Cesar Millan is the host of "Dog Whisperer" on the National Geographic Channel. He takes dogs that are truly disturbed and reprograms them and their owners to create a balanced relationship.
Oscar's affliction was constantly pulling on the leash. The second we stepped out the door, he -- a 35-pounder with a suspiciously low center of gravity -- was off and I was taking up the rear at a fast clip. Drop the leash and Oscar scampered along at my side, with occasional dashes up trees after squirrels.
After much consistent walking following Millan's techniques, complete with positive, assertive energy, I have altered Oscar's behavior. I rarely feel like I am going to have irreversible shoulder damage. He's also improved with the 4 a.m. newspaper delivery. He has stopped his wee-hour charges down the hall barking, howling and shocking me out of sleep.
When we get home from our constitutionals, he follows me into the house. When I leave the room, he leaves the room. When I go to bed, he goes to bed. He's a whole new dog.
Sort of a robot dog.
My Oscar used to dance when I returned from work. Doesn't anymore. My Oscar used to scamper into the kitchen, take a bite of food, run back out to the living room to make sure everything was cool and jog back for another couple of chunks. Not doing that. My Oscar used to run down the hall ahead of me looking over his shoulder with a big old grin. Doesn't do that anymore either.
Wasn't all his chaos part of his charm?
The shame of having Oscar pull me through the streets drove me into the waiting arms of the Millan cult. As he cured dog after dog, I found I was watching up to three hours a day thanks to TiVo. I observed him and copied his every move right down to the sound. I came to understand the calm energy he teaches owners to adopt.
Don't get me wrong. I believe Millan is a superhero. He truly works miracles.
But there's a downside to all of this. Millan is working with hard cases. We, the viewers, are probably by and large pretty happy with our little guys and girls. They have some issues, but we correct them when they step too far out of line.
Millan is inadvertently dulling some of the magic in our special relationships. (Tell me it doesn't feel great when you make up.) We're applying his red-zone lessons to our off-white buds. (I say "we" because I've spoken to enough dog owners to know that you're in the sect too.)
It's part of the general trend. Life is getting blander. The recession has everyone down. We're all worried about our jobs. The end of the post-9/11 era can't even bring us true joy because we are witnessing the dawn of trillion-dollar deficits. And now the one unconditional area of our lives is under siege. O Cesar Millan! I wish I had never gotten addicted to your program of living.
I'm racked with guilt because -- while I miss my monster -- I'm not going to stop drinking the Kool-Aid.
-- Sean Gallagher
Photo: Oscar, well-behaved following his owner's Kool-Aid consumption. Credit: Sean Gallagher / Los Angeles Times