I originally wrote this in 2009, a full year and a half before Flash came into my life.
Cesar Millan proposes, very well I think, that we Americans look at dogs as people. We treat them like family, forgetting they’re animals. If you haven’t read one of the Dog Whisperer books, I urge you to do so, especially if you’re thinking about getting a dog.
I was. I’m not now. I have had two great dogs in my life. My first great dog was a little terrier I adored who came from a shelter when she was two and lived another twelve years with us. She was naturally submissive and I treated her like she was a member of the family. When she died, I grieved as if she were a member of the family.
The second great dog was Lovey. I adored Lovey and catered to her every whim. Lovey was basically frightened of everything and when she became afraid, I coddled her, I crooned to her, I spoke reassuringly to her. Big honkin’ mistake. Lovey never got braver. Lovey never lost her fear of everything. I was Lovey’s pack leader by default. A snail would have been her pack leader.
Famous last words
Frankly, I don’t want to be a pack leader. I don’t want to lead anything or anyone. One thing Millan’s books did do for me, however, was help me accept my decision to euthanize Lovey. She had cancer and she had stopped eating, even out of my hand. I could have coaxed her along a couple of months more, perhaps, but I felt as if I didn’t have that right. One of the last memories I have of her is her dragging herself across the floor to be at my side. She had severe hip dysplasia as well and was in constant pain. I didn’t want that for her anymore.
I grieved deeply, because Lovey was a friend and a member of my family. Shoot, I even dedicated one of my books to her. But I also felt enormous guilt for my decision. After reading Millan’s book and accepting his premise, I realized Lovey was not a human in a dog suit. My decision was to spare an animal further suffering. One side effect of Millan’s books is that I can immediately spot a pack leader, as well as people who are going to have problems with their dogs. I have separated myself from that dog love I used to have and can see them as the noble, wonderful animals they are. And that’s the biggest change that’s come from reading Cesar Millan’s books. I accept dogs as animals now, not humans in dog suits.
(Oh, Karen, Karen, Karen, what an absolute innocent you were. Little did you know that you would put yourself in the position of having to reassert yourself as Pack Leader every day of your life.)