THE BLOG
06/13/2014 11:40 am ET | Updated Aug 11, 2014

PTSD and the Power of Cesar's Pack

WARNING: this is LONG for a blog!

I'm a broadcast journalist who's in recovery from severe PTSD relating to the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the USA. 

I have only recently come to realise I need to work with dogs, not microphones, if I'm ever going to truly be well. And that means only one thing--The Dog Whisperer. Cesar Millan, famous TV star and best selling author now runs five day training intensives at his Dog Psychology Center near Los Angeles, California.

As most people these days know, Cesar is a people whisperer as well. He trains people in calm-assertive energy, which he says is essential before your dog will become calm and balanced.

I went to Training Cesar's Way knowing it would be potent. It was. Here's what happened. 

From the start of the course, there were many touching moments for a number of participants; tears, revelations, "ah ha" moments. Such is the power of dogs in our lives.

Zoom to Day 3. On the leash I had a super-mellow GSD mix, Dodger. I was surrounded by a pack of 40 people, many with their dogs, walking calmly in the canyons of Santa Clarita. At the head was Cesar, showing someone how to master a pack of five dogs with one hand.

I suddenly felt a Oneness, a deep non-separate connection to Dodger, to the pack, the hills, the sky, the bright sun -- and to the healer who was leading the pack.

Tears rose, as they had done several times before, but this time they kept coming. 
I moved to the back of the pack as tears turned to weeping, then to sobs. Someone took Dodger and as the pack kept walking, I stood sobbing, overwhelmed with a nameless, joyful sorrow. An Aussie course participant (and new friend) Dez Rock came and wrapped herself around me. As she held me, I felt my diaphragm muscles contort and from my depth came a cry which was also a scream. Then it just kept on coming -- more sobs and more screams. My legs were shaking, Dez was holding me up and I was screaming and crying into her shoulder. I had no idea what was going on. I don't know how long it went on. Finally it subsided and I was offered a ride back to the building. But I wanted to stay with the pack -- why leave the centre of calm?

The primary feeling I had then was joy. Joy that after years of trauma, depression, suicidal despair, searching but not knowing where -- if anywhere -- I could dance with life again, here I was, in it, dancing. With Cesar. With dogs. It had simply been too much unadulterated happiness to contain. It's a cliche, but I knew I had come home. All the jagged edges polished away in that moment of catharsis in the clear Californian sunshine.
 
Now, only days later, I'm working with Cesar's humans to create a course at the DPC which I will co-lead, aimed at helping PTSD sufferers begin to heal via the power of the pack. The idea was Cesar's. As he said "I can't teach that, because I haven't been there. You can because you have." 

Cesar Millan has done for me what he has done with many -- dogs and humans -- before. He has taken what appeared to be a curse and turned it into into a gift. 

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