On September 12, 2010, Puma and I participated in the Alki Community Dog Parade, had some fun at Family Fun Day, and then made an appearance as author and sidekick at the West Seattle Authors table. We were both tired pups when we finished!
One of the day’s highlights included meeting Alby, a 70 lb. albino Burmese python. Puma was fascinated, he had never seen a snake her size and insisted on repeatedly licking her. I was concerned he might conclude she tasted like chicken, so we left him out of the photoshoot. Alby had lovely energy and was very sweet and accommodating with her public.
The Dog Parade and contests were more educational than I had anticipated (visit photo gallery to see entire event, and click on slideshow). Puma was excited about our spending time together and mingling with all the other dogs. He was on his best behavior, even wagging his tail when approached by a local neighborhood dog that refused to acknowledge Puma as alpha despite having lost the last round.
Said dog, who shall remain nameless, attacked Puma once again. Puma simply roared back at him and subsided peacefully when I asked him to desist. His person clearly did not understand her dog’s body language or how to control him and insisted that the fact that her dog is an unneutered 7-year-old male that no one takes time to groom, and that has never been allowed to breed, has nothing to do with his frustrated desire to conquer.
And as I looked around, I saw other people who did not understand, either. One young woman had no idea how to properly let her dog know what she wanted him to do. Clearly angry, she repeated every command multiple times and, using his choke collar like a hangman’s noose, kept pulling him off his front feet in an attempt to control him with force. The poor dog, dressed in a costume he could barely see out of, was obviously confused as to what his person wanted from him.
Those incidents made me unhappy, so I tried to focus on the dogs and people who were having fun in a healthy and companionable way. As the dogs paraded down the beachfront (see WS Blog video, we’re at 00:48), tails wagging with excitement, the chaos was amazing, but fun.
Originally I had thought that Puma and I would try competing in the Owner Look-Alike contest, the only one I thought we might qualify for since he does not know any tricks (other than how to be charming). I vetoed competing in the Most Obedient category, assuming that it would be filled with people and dogs who had taken obedience training, something Puma and I had never done.
As we stood there, the judge announced that Most Obedient was starting and said, “If you think your dog can either stay in a down or sit position while I walk around, you are welcome to compete.” Hmm, I thought Puma and I might be able to do that. I figured it would not hurt to try.
I gave him the down/stay command and dropped his leash on the ground like I do when taking photos or leaving him outside our local Slices Restaurant while picking up my order. In the past, he had always stayed in position until I returned despite distractions from interested people or dogs.
I never thought what we did was anything special, but as I looked around, I realized that perhaps I was underselling us. I heard people pleading with their dogs, ordering and cajoling them, and one man loudly repeated, “Don’t move” over and over like some kind of mantra.
Puma stayed serene through it all, and I stood quietly by his side. The judge upped the ante by walking through with a dog toy, a blandishment that I knew Puma would ignore, not being much of a toy lover.
And then she asked us to walk with our dogs by our side, around in a circle. I was more nervous than Puma. While somewhat distracted by all the people and dogs milling around, he did not require any correction.
And then we all stopped, and the waiting began. I looked around at everyone else and thought that we had not done badly after all. Maybe we were better than I thought, perhaps I had learned more from Cesar Millan than I realized. Then again, maybe I also had a really intelligent and sweet partner in Puma!
Then suddenly I was being handed a blue ribbon, Puma and I had won! I had tears in my eyes as I hugged him, for the judges did not know how far we had come as a team from when we first met.
Puma was a blind date on the internet. I adopted him from a shelter in Montana, and they knew nothing of his history. He had been found, one morning, tied to their shelter fence. The instant Puma and I walked out the door together, he dragged me across the parking lot. I could not control him, it appeared that he had never walked on a leash.
Over the next few months, I muscled him into some semblance of control, but it took a lot of brute strength on my part. Then physical issues made that impossible. For a while, I had a dog walker, but I was not even 50% recovered when I had to take over again. I can vividly recall the first time I walked Puma solo. I communicated to him that he must be gentle with me, and he tried, but then he would get distracted, and I was in danger of getting hurt.
In desperation, I started watching Cesar Millan and reading his books. I implemented a few of his simple and gentle techniques, and the transformation was instantaneous. I suddenly became the pack leader!
As I tied the blue ribbon on Puma, I was so very grateful for his many years of loving companionship. No blue ribbon could ever give me as much joy as his company has, but the bragging rights aren’t bad. And with his blue ribbon came an added enjoyable bonus for my white-muzzled senior dog, a professional massage!
P.S. Thank you, Cesar Millan, I had not realized how much we had learned. I am forever grateful for the gift of a peaceful household and a happy, fulfilled dog.
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A WILD WAY TO HEAL
Rose De Dan, Wild Reiki and Shamanic Healing LLC is an animal communicator, Reiki Master Teacher, shamanic energy healer, and author. Her classes, sessions, and ceremonial work are inspired by wild and domestic animals who have issued a call to action for personal and global healing.