Power of the Pack - Excerpt from the Book "A Member of the Family"
Like human beings, dogs are eternally attracted to the concept of family. When they live in the wild, all canids naturally arrange themselves into family-based packs. Even if the dogs aren't related to one another by blood, the bonds of living and surviving together turn them into a smoothly functioning unit.
Within that unit, there forms a loyalty, a trust, and an understanding so deep, we as humans can only look on with awe. These are the qualities we dream of having in our own relationships with the families that we are born into and the families we create, but being "only human," we often fall short. But when we bring dogs into our lives, we have access to their inborn integrity. By making dogs full-fledged members of our families, we have the ability to make those human families stronger.
When an owner calls me in to help a dog, what I am really there to do is to create an orderly, functioning pack out of what appears to the owner as chaos. That pack can be anything from a single woman and her one dog living in a small apartment; to a monastery filled with twenty candidates for the priesthood and their watchdog; to a college sorority house and their canine mascot; to a senior citizen's home and the therapy dogs that regularly visit there. To me, a pack is a family; they are one and the same. And wherever you have a dog that needs a home, you have the potential for a fantastic pack.
But although we yearn to include dogs as members of our families, we often don't work together as families to welcome them into our human world. Just as it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a whole family to create a smoothly running pack. My intent with this book is to invite myself into your family while you're reading my book. I want to stand by your side and guide you and your family through every phase of your dog's life, from the day you bring her home, to the day you say goodbye and celebrate her life and death. I hope this book will reach out to every member of your family - from youngest to oldest - and invite each of them to participate in way of connecting with dogs that creates balance for dogs and humans alike. This connection doesn't really require money, and it doesn't really require any great level of education or intelligence. What it does require is putting common sense and instinct first, and understanding that sometimes, what seems best for the human is not the best thing for the dog.
I believe a strong family is the foundation of all achievement. If we have a family behind us cheering us on - whether that means just one dog or one human; or ten people or fifty dogs - we have a springboard of support to go out and reach any dreams to which we dare to aspire. Since my own human family is such a big part of my own mission, I have enlisted their help in the writing of this book. I also include the wisdom of the dogs that are always members of our family, especially Daddy, the oldest member of my pack, and Junior, the youngest. We are always learning from the wisdom our dogs share with us. Dogs teach us to live in the now. They teach us that the trappings of our human existence don't matter so much in the long run - as long as we celebrate the moment, and never forget to appreciate one another.
If we remember to fulfill their needs first, dogs can add so much to our human families. A dog will always have your back, no matter what. With a dog in your life, you will never feel alone. And if you do, just go to a shelter. There is always a dog there, waiting, just looking forward to becoming a member of a family.
From the Introduction to "A Member of the Family" by Cesar Millan.