FAIR HAVEN, VT. — When veterinarian Dr. Dru Pollinger serves up breakfast to her pack, there’s no free-for-all.
Each one — two golden retrievers, a pitbull, a pair of deerhounds and a Pekingese — sits at her command. She tells each, “Stay,” and, “Eyes,” to establish eye contact.
Dru sets a bowl in front of each stock-still canine, then, with a downward swoop of a hand, tells them, “Eat.”
There’s no stealing from the neighbor’s bowl, just a companionable and a bit slobbery meal.
“It’s one of the most beautiful things that happens” with their well-behaved dogs, said Dru’s husband, Steve, from Fair Haven Animal Hospital in Fair Haven, Vt.
Steve recalls channel surfing some nine years ago and landing on an episode of “Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan,” getting so revved up about the dog-behavioral specialist’s approach that he called Dru at work to tell her about it.
Before long, their own dogs had achieved a level of calm they hadn’t before, and five years ago, Steve began contributing his own brand of treatment to pups at Dru’s practice.
“Every third dog comes in with issues,” he said in a phone interview.
As they wait to see Dru, Steve helps the owners address their dogs’ behavioral problems.
“The whole philosophy really comes from Cesar, about dogs being calm submissive,” he said. “And you add your own little techniques.
“It’s totally free, and it’s all Cesar’s methods.”
Saturday, Milan comes to South Burlington for an event presented by the Cesar Millan Foundation, in conjunction with the Pollingers’ veterinary practice and the Vermont Volunteer Services for Animals Humane Society.
The 6 p.m. show at the Lake Champlain Exhibition Hall at the Sheraton Burlington Hotel will focus on Millan’s foundation, which rescues, rehabilitates, rehomes and educates abandoned animals.
Millan will share stories of his experiences and present live training sessions. A silent auction will take place as well; the evening’s proceeds will benefit the foundation and the Humane Society.
Steve, 65, can’t say how it happened that the Animal Hospital and Milan came to cross paths.
“I’m discussing a movie project on this whole event,” he said.
But he and Dru are delighted, he added, to help bring the world-renowned television star and author to Vermont.
“This is really a one-time event for this part of the country.”
At the Animal Hospital, the Pollingers take a little extra time with patients so they relax rather than struggle.
Steve tells people that soothing a pup with “Good dog, good dog” when it’s growling on the exam table actually reinforces the bad behavior.
On a recent occasion, a woman asked for help with her too energetic pitbull. Steve replaced the dog’s harness with a more appropriate slip-choke and taught it the command to stay in seconds. A companionable walk prompted eye contact, and the dog was on its way to a more submissive existence.
“Discipline is an interesting word,” Steve said. “It sounds mean-spirited. But it’s about boundaries and limitations.”
He always tells dog owners to watch “Dog Whisperer.”
There are still tickets available for Saturday’s event, so folks can see Millan in person, see how they might bring more harmony to their own person-dog relationships.
“It’s a continual effort,” Steve said. “It takes some time.”
Tickets to the show are $100 and $49. Purchase them and learn all the details at cesarvermont.eventbrite.com.
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