Achieving Balance and Harmony


"Leader of the Pack" Episode 12: Saving Sophia

Sophia was rescued by Italian authorities from a man who was illegally keeping twelve dogs in substandard conditions. Incarcerated in a shelter for most of her life, Sophia never learned to socialize or trust people. She is terrified of everything, and when a human tries to approach her, she collapses in fear.

She spends most of her time hiding in her kennel, and has to be carried out by two shelter workers when they want her to leave the building. Dogs like this are rarely adopted because nobody sees them, which is a shame, because Sophia is definitely not aggressive and has never even tried to bite anyone.

Sophia’s caretaker from the shelter near Rome, Barbara, has lost hope, so she asks Cesar Millan for help in finding the right family, one that will have the patience to help Sophia overcome her fears and learn to be a dog.

At the Dog Psychology Center in Miraflores, Cesar has Barbara let Sophia loose in one of the open runs to see how she reacts. While looking unsure, Sophia still scouts the area, although her strange gait makes Cesar think that the dog may have been so restricted growing up that she never really developed properly, and didn’t learn how to do normal dog things, like running, stretching, and playing.

When Sophia meets Junior, the results is good — she is not afraid of other dogs and, out in an open space, she can be a perfectly normal dog. She hasn’t lost her natural curiosity, something Cesar says is really hard to bring back. Still, she is going to need a very strong pack leader, one that can provide the proper protection and direction.

The first candidates for Sophia are Daniela, her husband Carlo, their children Rebecca and Riccardo, and their dog, Lily, a playful cocker spaniel. They also have another dog at home, Matisse, who is elderly, ill, blind and nearly deaf. Cesar asks the family to introduce themselves to Sophia, who cowers in the corner of the run. Sophia and Lily don’t click, since Sophia is not in the mood for Lily’s outgoing puppy energy.

The next candidates are Salvina and Peter, a mature and funny British couple who have always wanted a dog, although they have avoided doing so because they have a cat. Their initial meeting with Sophia is promising, although the dog still shuts down a little while on the leash.

The third candidates are Sara and Danilo, a young couple with an older dog named Aaron. While Aaron gets along well with Sophia, Sara almost causes a disaster on their first meeting when she opens the gate to the run and lets Sophia rush out.

Cesar must decide which of the candidates will properly help Sophia get over her fears by providing strong leadership so she can join the eleven other dogs Cesar has saved in the first season of “Leader of the Pack.”

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