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An Open Letter to Cesar Millan

Dear Cesar,

I love you. Will you marry me? Okay…I can’t marry you. I’m already married. But, could you maybe move in with us for the next…oh…five years or so?

With hugs and kisses,

Cathie

I’m in love with Cesar Millan. Shhh…please don’t tell my husband; I don’t think he’d be the least bit amused. It’s not that Cesar is more attractive than my husband – though he is certainly an attractive man and there’s a lot to be said for that accent!! Ooh-La-La! If I close my eyes I could pretend he’s Antonio Banderas or the fictional character, Ranger, from the Stephanie Plum series of books by Janet Evanovich. Now that would be yummy! But, once again, I digress. No, I’m not romantically interested in Cesar Millan; I’m in love with him because he’s The Dog Whisperer. He intuitively understands dogs and can bring even the most difficult canine to heel. And, frankly, if Cesar doesn’t respond to my letter and move in with me soon, I may well lose my mind.

Sir Herschel Barksalot. Hershey to friends. He’s cute and playful and a downright beautiful boxer…in pictures. In real life, he’s a hellion. In real life, he’s given me more gray hairs than even my kids have given me in these last sixteen years. You see, as beautiful as he is – and he really is a beautiful boy – he’s 55 pounds of boxer with 300 pounds of pure brute strength. He’s 8 months old and doesn’t understand that he’s a big dog. He thinks he’s a chihuahua. Really. Don’t believe me? Come for a visit, but make sure you wear full body armor.

In the first few days after bringing Hershey home, he was on his best behavior. Within a few hours, we taught him to sit, lie down and go to his crate. And even house breaking wasn’t all that difficult. What has been difficult, however, is teaching him that (1) every object in his path is not a chew toy, (2) countertops and kitchen tables are elevated because he is not to put his paws on them, (3) people are not there for his playing pleasure and do not enjoy his slobbery kisses and (4) unlike the custom in some countries of belching at the table after an enjoyable meal to show your appreciation, humans do not appreciate you showing your excitement at their presence by peeing on them.

What do we do with Hershey? Deep down he’s a sweet dog, but his overzealous exuberance is going to try my patience. In fact, just last week, my husband’s own father – who came from Oklahoma for a visit – decided after only two days that he was unwilling to stay another moment in our home with Hershey, even if it meant missing his granddaughter’s 16th birthday and surprise party over the next two days. He’d rather drive back to Oklahoma and miss all of that, than spend another moment in Hershey’s presence. Nothing could change his mind. After several hours of discussion, we found a compromise and sent him to doggie daycare. Hershey, not the father-in-law. Though it was a toss-up there for a while. Upon reflection, I think the other dogs at doggie daycare might’ve preferred that we’d sent my father-in-law instead, as even they were having difficulty tolerating Hershey’s exuberance. He doesn’t have an ounce of aggression…he just wants to play, but even the other dogs found him annoying at first. Luckily, after five days of doggie daycare, Hershey’s behavior is improving. He’s learning to slow down and keep his paws on the floor. He’s slowly figuring out the rules of etiquette when being introduced to other dogs, and he has even been able to have some “free playtime” with a few of the other dogs at daycare, which is something that was completely out of the question on his first day or two. He’s learning what it means to be “gentle” and that “no paws” means he’s not allowed to “box” with his canine and human companions. But there’s still a great deal of room for improvement.

Luckily, in spite of all of the stress he’s brought us, Hershey has also brought us as much – or maybe even more – humor. And this is a good thing. You can get through almost anything if you can find some level of humor in the situation.

For example, when dealing with the issue of his constant need to put his paws on the kitchen table and countertops, and snoop through the garbage, we took the advice of a local trainer who suggested using tobasco sauce. “Put a little drop of tobasco on his tongue, then spray down your surfaces with a solution of water and a small amount of tobasco sauce.” He went on to tell us that his sense of smell was so acute that he’d smell the tobasco and stay away from it entirely.

After a couple of hours of attempting this solution with no luck, I called the trainer back. “It didn’t work,” I said. “What do you suggest now?”

“He didn’t mind the tobasco sauce?” he asked.

“Nope. Not at all,” I responded. “In fact, I think he really liked it!”

“Well, maybe he’s just more stubborn than we anticipated. You could try baiting a piece of bread or something in the garbage by sprinkling a bit of tobasco sauce on it. If he tastes it, he won’t like it and then just the smell of the water and tobasco solution will be enough to deter him.”

Houston: We have a problem! The damned dog likes tobasco sauce and now tries to lick it off of all surfaces where we spray the water and tobasco sauce solution in a failed attempt to deter him. Are you kidding me? Thinking he’d never touch a piece of pizza saturated in hot sauce, I deliberately left it in the garbage to deter him. Moments later, he was zealously licking the sauce off of the pizza without batting an eye. There’s seriously something wrong with this dog!

Our next step was to set mouse traps on those areas we considered to be off-limits. SNAP! We experienced a brief moment of euphoria when Hershey showed signs of avoiding the areas with mouse traps…and then we started to see him thinking through the situation, looking for a solution. The problem-solving skills of those velociraptors in the movie Jurassic Park have nothing on this dog!!!! Within a day or two, he learned how to retrieve whatever item he most wanted and without once setting off the mouse trap! What the what?? This dog is smarter than we are!

The score on this currently stands at: Hershey 2, Cathie 0.

Yes, the humor Hershey has brought us has been just about the only thing that’s saved his life to this point. But when you put the 7-year old boy together with the dog, that’s when the real hilarity begins!

Recently Braden left his Darth Vader costume lying on the floor right next to Hershey’s crate. Typical of the problem-solving skills this dog has previously shown, together with his need to eat everything in his path, the dog figured out a way to reach the costume and pull it into his crate. I’m not sure how it happened; the costume had to be at least 18 inches away from the crate. But if I’ve learned anything about this dog, it’s that nothing is beyond his capability. I wouldn’t be surprised to find that he’d learned how to unlock his crate, got out and retrieved the costume, returned to his crate, and relocked it behind him so that none of us would realize the extent of his duplicity.

In any case, in the act of chewing on the costume, Hershey had chewed off part of the rubberized covering on the front of Darth Vader’s costume and Braden was livid!

“Now calm down,” I said. “Let’s just take a second to see how bad it is. Maybe it’s not that bad.”

“It is that bad,” Braden cried. “This is supposed to cover my penis! How is Darth Vader supposed to protect his penis with this flap missing! He’ll be doomed!”

Oh my gosh! I know it’s not funny to him, but I started laughing and couldn’t keep a straight face!

“Well, look…I can fix it,” I said. “I can detach this piece from that, and nobody will ever know that anything happened to the costume.”

“NO! That won’t work! My penis STILL won’t be protected! It’s RUINED!”

Oh my! How do I even respond to that? The kid was right. For a boy who seriously believes he is the real Darth Vader, this was going to be a problem! Darth Vader simply must protect his penis!

In the end, Braden did have the last laugh when we sent Hershey to get “married.” That’s a whole ‘nother story in itself and you can learn the details by following this link. But be prepared, it’s not for the faint of heart!

In a recent article on his website (follow this link to see the article), Cesar Millan suggested aromatherapy as one of many tools for calming a hyper dog. I’ve tried all of his other suggestions to no avail, so I’m off in a few minutes to buy enough lavendar-secented candles for every room in my house. Note: I’m not very confident about this solution since he’s eaten all of the lavender plants in my garden without the slightest change in his energy level!

So back to my original request: I need Cesar Millan. Not want, need. If he’ll just move in with us long enough to teach this dog to behave, I’ll do all of those things for him that I don’t do for my own husband! Now…get your minds out of the gutter! You’re seriously going to get me in trouble with Troy! I’m talking about cooking and cleaning…washing and ironing! Those kinds of things! If anyone knows Cesar, please send him my way! I’m sure we can work out a relationship beneficial to both sides.

In the meantime, I’ve decided that my next dog will be a Basset Hound. A very old Basset Hound. It might be a bonus if he’s blind and deaf and needs to be spoon-fed. Just sayin’.