23 November 2009

Cesar Milan: A Self-Help Guide

Last night, I indulged myself with some Dog Whisperer action via Hulu.com. Now, I love Cesar Milan. But after a few seasons, I tired of his 911 style episodic formula--it reminded me too much of reality cop shows that respond to crisis with "Bad Boys Bad Boys" songs and testosterone.

However, it had been about a year since I last saw an episode so I took a look and decided to watch the following:
Dog Whisperer: Run Home Roscoe! (season 5, episode 17)
Season 5 : Ep. 17

Oh, I had so much fun. The only thing better than being with the dog you love is to watch someone else love dogs more than you.

Cesar loves dogs. And he loves to rehabilitate them. With his silver hair, toned physique, and charismatic Mexican accent, he exudes what every self-help fan loves: confidence and easy to follow directions.

In this episode, Cesar helped Roscoe, an Akita, learn how to walk with a leash. Roscoe was incredibly fearful of the leash and refused to move. The owner had not been able to take it on a walk for the 2 years that he had had him. Cesar forced the dog to confront his fear of walking outside the grounds of the home (lots of yelping and jerking and panicked leaping about). As I listened to Cesar talk about how essential it is to help a dog overcome fear by confronting it and continuing to move forward and not back so that the brain is moving forward and creating new paths, I had a startling thought. Oh my gosh, I thought. That's me. I have trouble with my brain paths and when I'm confronted with my fear, I automatically try to move backwards, not forward. I began to see the connections between my fears, my brain paths, my need to confront and move forward. Aha!

Exercise, discipline, affection is Cesar Milan's "holy trinity" according to today's NY Times. Yes, I need those things, I thought as I watched his show.

By the end of the show, Roscoe was a confident Akita, no longer sulking and afraid. He got a bath for the first time in two years, he was confident around other dogs, and he could enjoy the grassy parks by his house because he had learned to move beyond the gate and walk on a leash.

I felt a deep sense of happiness, for Roscoe and his owner, George, and myself. Because you see, if Roscoe can do this, then so can I.

Cesar's ending line is classic: "Because he was willing to change, George has not only helped Roscoe, he has helped himself." That's what America likes to hear! Way to go Cesar for your genius! You combined dog training skills, America's favorite self-help language, and TV into one irresistibly entertaining, enormously profitable empire.

At the top of the most emailed NYT articles today is one about using Cesar's tips on your kids. So timely. Click here for the jump.

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