Life after Dog Whisperer: Lenie and Tucker Find a Home
By Nicole Pajer
In the final episode “Dog Whisperer”, Cesar helped to rehabilitate Lenie Pew (née Pictou), a pregnant homeless woman who was living in a camp in River Bottom along with her friends Ally and Josh. When Lenie was presented with the opportunity to move into a homeless shelter, she didn’t want to leave her dog, Tucker, behind. Tucker, however, had become extremely protective of Lenie and had some aggression issues that needed to be worked out.
Employing a handful of techniques, Cesar showed the 22-year-old mother-to-be how to take control over her dog and establish herself as the pack leader. We caught up with Lenie to see how she, Tucker, and the baby have been doing since the show aired.
We just wanted to touch base and see how life has been going since Cesar worked with you and your dog.
Things are good. We’re looking into getting our own apartment and we’re back up in the Oxnard area. We were down in Riverside before. We’re living in a house wish some friends right now. We got married in January and I’m a stay-at-home mom, but my husband is working at a parent’s advocacy group. He helps people that enroll in the program and get an advocate assigned to them to help them file any legal papers that they need -- any child support, custody, restraining order, divorce…
And you had your baby?
Yeah. He was born in May. His name is John.
Tell us about your dog.
Tucker is now five years old and I absolutely love him. He’s a mixed breed but I always say he looks like a dingo. When Cesar first met him, (Tucker) was really protective. We were in the river bottom and he had to protect me. When I got pregnant, he became way more aggressive.
What advice did give you on how to work with him?
Cesar helped him to not always be on alert. He was always on guard when we were living in the river basin. When we were transitioning into the shelter that we went into, he couldn’t be like that and he didn’t need to be like that anymore. Cesar took him to go for a run and it really helped. It seemed to reprogram him.
How has Tucker been since Cesar worked with him?
He’s been great since the show. I’ve been using the techniques — especially the “Tsch!” thing. It works wonders. It’s kind of funny. He’s not so high-anxiety anymore. He’s a really mellow dog now and he likes to hang out with us and go on walks. He’s not a really high-energy dog anymore. He’s different.
Did Cesar give you any other tips and techniques in addition to the “Tsch!” thing?
He also taught me that I need to be the dominant one and that I can still use his dominance whenever we’re in a place that is shady. I can turn it on or off, which is nice. As long as I’m being a pack leader, as Cesar put it, he should be better behaved.
So you’re just working on taking him for walks and being the boss?
Yes, which I never was with him. In the past, I just let him do his thing. My husband is such a pushover though. I have to get on his case to be more of a pack leader. He lets Tucker do whatever he wants.
How is Tucker around other dogs?
He loves other dogs. He never has issues. The only times that he really has an issue with another dog is if they aren’t fixed. I’m not sure why. I think he might be jealous [Laughs].
Does he get along with your baby?
He loves the baby. When the baby cries, he’ll start whining. He’ll pop up on the bed and be like, “Oh what’s wrong with him?” and he’ll look at me like, “You need to do something.”
How did you initially get in touch with Cesar?
My pastor’s sister was friends with Kay (Sumner), the producer. I did an interview with her and she took a video of me and she wasn’t sure if they were going to do the show but she said that she would help me do any kind of training that I needed for him so that I could go into a shelter. A week and a half later, she got back to my other pastor and they decided to start filming.
How did you initially wind up being homeless?
My mom and grandma moved out of the house that we were living in for a while. My mom went up north and my grandma went south and I decided to stay in Ventura. I rented a room and I was working and I ended up quitting my job and I had another job and then I met my now husband who was currently homeless. We decided to go to New Jersey for a job and that didn’t work out. When we came back, we ended up on the streets. I got pregnant. He relapsed and went to a program and I was down in the river bottom with Ally and her boyfriend Josh and five dogs. Ally originally had two dogs and Josh had a dog and then I had Tucker and my husband’s dog. Ally ended up finding one of the dogs a home and I found a home for John’s dog. She was a husky but she was so high energy and demanded so much.
How did working with Cesar change your life?
My dog can now go in public without wanting to attack anyone that walks by. He used to have a real bad habit where we’d be sitting on a bench and somebody would walk up behind me — whether it be kids or an old person or anybody — and he’d go off and charge them. He doesn’t do that anymore. He’ll look to me to decide what he should do. He’s better in public. That was always the issue.
When you were pregnant and you noticed that he was protective, were you worried that he wouldn’t get along with the baby?
I had kind of thought that he might not. He had always been my baby since I had him since he was a month and a half old. He was a total mama’s boy with separation anxiety to the max. On the show, Cesar talked about how bad his whining is. I was concerned and I wasn’t sure but at the first sign of aggression, I wasn’t going to put up with that. He hasn’t showed any aggression towards him at all though. He loves him.
Have you watched the episode?
Yeah I just saw it Saturday night.
Did that bring back a lot of memories and emotions?
It was just a trip to see it. A year ago I was in the river bottom. It’s just a trip... to see it and to know that. Kay told me they are going to get me a DVD of it and I’ll be able to show my son when he’s older so he can see what his mom went through. I definitely got emotional when I saw it. I also didn’t realize it was the last episode of “Dog Whisperer”. I read that recently in an article that Cesar wrote and I thought, “Wow! That was pretty neat!”