Susan, Jeffrey, and the Bulldogs
Our Dog Whisperer Experience
I was truly at my wits' end. My husband was ill quite a bit of the time, the dogs were acting up. The fighting was becoming a daily occurrence; they were scarred and bloody, Dolly was on medication for anxiety and still was aggressive. I knew we needed help and went to a dog psychologist in LA and paid $500 for a two-hour session. Taking every word he said to heart, we tried our best to follow his instructions, only to find out that we were making the problem worse. Now we were really in trouble.
By chance, we saw the ad in the LA Times - an audition to work with the Dog Whisperer. For us it was a huge opportunity that we couldn't miss. When we were chosen, we were relieved that help was on the way.
The Big Day!
After delays in our film date, the big day finally arrived. The crew arrived and couldn't have been nicer. They allayed all our fears, assuring us Cesar would be able to help us and making us feel comfortable in front of the camera. When Cesar arrived, we could actually feel his presence in the house. He was gracious, as was his wife, Ilusion. Sue Ann was a life-saver, she led us through the process, and Sheila made us feel completely comfortable with the entire process.
This day, we didn't get a chance to actually see Cesar work with the dogs. We were brought out after he worked with them, to find them sitting together with a pile of toys and a bowl of food between them, and they were paying attention to Cesar and not each other. Amazing. I think we were overwhelmed; the rest of the day seems a blur. We went for a walk, and Cesar helped Jeffrey with proper walking techniques - and then it was over. When everyone left, we were full of hope. As the days progressed, we experienced a worsening of the dogs. Fortunately, Ilusion told us that this might happen, but when it actually does, you get disheartened. But we persevered. The walks became the most important task of our days. The dogs were wearing backpacks, and all three dogs were being walked together without incident. We began introducing Peaches with the bulldogs one at a time. There was some improvement, but when a fight broke out, we still panicked.
The Follow-Up Film Day
We were so anxious for this day. One, we wanted to show off how well the walks were going, and two, the fact that we were able to get Peaches into the mix. Again, the crew was great. They felt like old friends, and while Sheila wasn't there this time, Kay stepped in, in her place. This time we were full of questions for Cesar – and, fortunately (?!) for us, the dogs picked a fight with each other and Cesar immediately reacted. Then he proceeded to teach us the exact technique to use to break up a fight. As the day went on, we experienced with Cesar what we have been dealing with on a daily basis - fights in the back-yard, chasing Peaches, fights over toys, and each time Cesar made sure we understood how to use his techniques. It was a huge "Aha!" moment for me when Cesar took my hand and put it in just the exact spot on Dolly - and she responded. It gave me such a feeling of empowerment to know exactly what to do, and exactly how and when to do it. We finally "got it"! It all made sense, and, in conversations with Cesar, I now understand that the dogs were picking up on the "weakness" they felt in us, Jeffrey's illness and my stress, and they took over. When everyone packed up and left this day, we felt great sadness, as we felt everyone had become good friends, and we might not get a chance to see them again, but we also felt like we had experienced something great - and that our lives were truly changed forever.
I truly feel like the pack leader now, and while the occasional fight still upsets me, I now know what to do and do it. Jeffrey takes all three dogs on a walk at 6 am every morning, and I think it has improved his overall health, as well as the dogs’ mental health. Most afternoons we take them for another walk together. We've learned so much that we put into practice on a daily basis. I wish every dog owner could have this experience.
I spoke to the head of the Bulldog Rescue organization (who arranged for us to get all of our bulldogs), and she was so anxious to hear about our experience as they get bulldogs turned into them because their owners get frustrated when they experience the aggression a bulldog can show. I offered to send her up Cesar's DVD I purchased and suggested they give one to everyone who adopts a bulldog. I also told her that, if the show ends up being what I think it will, it could easily be called "Bulldog Handling 101" and would be of great interest for anyone who has one of these "gladiator" dogs.
Jeffrey and I cannot express in words the thanks and affection we have for everyone we came in contact with at Dog Whisperer: from Chris the cameraman, the sound guys, Nicholas, not to mention Sheila, Sue Ann, and Kay, and of course Cesar and Illusion. Our lives are better for having met all of you.
We have a minor set-back to report. Three weeks or so ago, Dolly developed an aural hematoma, and had to have emergency surgery on a Friday night. Not normally a big deal, but we lost our very first bulldog, Flex, to an aural hematoma surgery, and bulldogs are just a higher anesthetic risk anyway. She came through the surgery fine, but I'm afraid we spoiled her for the two weeks it took to heal. We moved their crates into our bedroom and had them sleep with us, and Dolly actually slept in bed with us a few nights. We went back as soon as we could to their walk schedule, but Dolly couldn't carry her backpack as they took off a small tumor on her back during the surgery. So, now that everything is "back to normal", we seem to be having more aggression than we were before this happened. We all kind of need a tune-up I think. We were cautious of using the claw on Dolly because of the area they took the tumor off is right there. It is healed completely now, but she still thinks she is the special princess and doesn't get why she's not in bed with us anymore! We just have to step-up our leadership a bit and add another walk a day in there, and hope that will do the trick! If Cesar has any words of wisdom to offer us on this situation, we'd love to hear from him!
Again, thank you all for your support through this process.
Susan & Jeff Tafralis
Dolly, Eton & Peaches