Learning From a Dog

By Jackie Cushman

Published on

A few weeks ago, while visiting my husband's grandmother, I noticed a book about dogs called "Cesar's Way" on a side table in her living room. I thought this was a bit strange as she has no dog, but, since my husband and I were planning to get a puppy for our family, I borrowed it.

I began reading that night and was instantly engrossed. While not a specific how-to book, it offers valuable insight into how to be a good dog owner and how to create an environment that will increase the probability that your dog will be happy, healthy and well-behaved.

Cesar Millan's approach is to focus not on changing the dog, but on changing the owner's thoughts, approach and habits in interacting with the dog. He recommends that, rather than treating the dog as we would a human, we should treat the dog as a dog. Instead of wondering why the dog sometimes does not behave, we should bear in mind that a dog is an animal first, then a dog, next a member of a particular breed and, finally, a dog with a name. In other words, it is not the dog's approach to us that needs to change, but our approach to the dog. By taking a different approach, we can evoke a different response from the dog. Isn't this true in other parts of life? While we might want to control others around us, it is helpful to remember that one has control only of oneself. This is most apparent when one works hard, creates habits and rituals and is disciplined. By controlling one's own thoughts and actions, one can affect others and, in turn, their interaction with us.

Cesar continually repeats that exercise is the base of all other dog activity; that an unexercised dog is an unhappy dog. The minimal recommendation is for an owner to ensure their dog exercises for a half a hour twice daily. This is to ensure that the dog is expending enough energy so that it will be able to relax and behave during the rest of the day.

I find this concept of exercising to provide an outlet for energy that would otherwise be turned into uncontrolled behavior to be true for my children as well. A bit of time to run around and expend energy allows for focus and concentration for children as well as dogs. I am reminded of this on days when errands and commitments get in the way of activity, and we all get restless.

According to Cesar, after exercise and discipline, owners must take into account the dog's natural pack mentality and the impact it has on the owner-dog relationship, especially when it comes to discipline.

Cesar writes that dogs view all interactions from the point of view of a member of a pack. A pack leader sets rules and boundaries, which is the job of a dog owner in a good relationship. Without clear rules, boundaries and leadership, a dog becomes stressed and unsure of how to act, often acting inappropriately.

I find element to be helpful when communicating with other people. That it is important to look at events and activities from the other person's perspective rather than one's own perspective. I also know that I often get so consumed with my perspective that I forget that there are others.

Cesar mentions the importance of the owner projecting a calm, assertive energy to convey to the dog that the owner is in charge, is in control, and is the leader. This aura of confidence radiates between people as well as from people to dogs. People are drawn to follow others who are able to project this calm assertive energy. It is simply quite a challenge for me to maintain this perspective at all times.

Finally, Cesar talks about affection but only as the third element of an owner-dog relationship, after exercise and discipline. Cesar contends that humans often project their desires onto their dogs, in the belief that if one needs a lot of affection and attention from one's dog, then the dog must need and desire the same level of affection as well. While certainly affection is good and appropriate, it makes for a happy dog only in the context of exercise and discipline.

This is the hardest element for me, remembering that my own need for affection should not get in the way of what might be best at a particular moment in time. Not to smother my child with affection if they run into any difficulty, but to allow them to learn and gain strength on their own.

Last weekend, armed with a new perspective, new information and a new approach, we acquired a new puppy. Midnight is a 7-week-old black Labrador. To say she is cute is an understatement. For the last few days, we have focused on leading so she will follow and providing her with enough exercise to expend her pent-up energy and grow stronger. She is receiving plenty of affection.

Currently, Midnight is quietly sleeping in her crate. She ran after the children before school this morning. I am hopeful that, after expending a bit of energy themselves, my children will focus on learning and the dog will continue to sleep, at least for today and then we can begin again all over tomorrow, trying to incorporate what we learned and where we made mistakes the day before, continually learning from a dog.

Copyright 2007 by Jackie Cushman

All Rights Reserved

Too Good, but True; A Sheriff enforces the law

By Jackie Cushman

Published on

Most of the chain e-mails I receive, I delete. Occasionally I read one that appears to be humorous or interesting. My mother sent me one titled SHERIFF JOE IS AT IT AGAIN. This e-mail, while not humorous, is definitely interesting.
The chain e-mail is about Sheriff Joe Arpaio and the operation he runs in Maricopa County, Ariz. The e-mail says the inmates live in tent cities, there are female chain gangs and inmates eat brown-bag lunches. I had received Sheriff Joe e-mails before, as had my husband, and we always dismissed them as urban legend, amazing, entertaining, but certainly not true.

Intrigued by the latest e-mail, I thought a bit of investigation was in order. The Web site for the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office includes information about many of its programs. The inmates do in fact live in tent cities. They wear pink underwear, which has eliminated the problem of underwear being stolen. The POSSE program assists in collecting child support from deadbeat dads. In addition, the Web site posts pictures of area residents recently charged with crimes.Based on my initial Internet research, I concluded that Sheriff Joe Arpaio is a real person and runs a real operation. My next step was to talk to a person in the department. I reached a public affairs officer on the phone. He was very professional, nice, providing me with an e-mail address and stating, "We all have Blackberries, so just e-mail your questions." I typed up a list of questions, e-mailed them out and a few hours later received a call from Sheriff Joe Arpaio himself. Now I was really intrigued. The voice matched the persona and reminded me a bit of John Wayne, deep and husky with the underlying feeling that he was shooting straight when he talked.I asked Arpaio if all the information in the e-mail was true. No, he said, "we didn't take over the county animal shelter, we started our own." The jail, which once housed inmates, became empty after the tent cities were built. Now the facility has become an animal shelter, housing 200 dogs and cats. The horses, which "do not fit in the cells," are kept in the tents with the inmates. Sheriff Joe noted, "The women prisoners take care of the cats and dogs and the men take care of the horses."As for the brown-bag lunch, that information was not correct either. Instead of feeding inmates three meals a day, Maricopa County feeds its inmates just two meals a day. The first meal is "brunch" consisting of a bologna sandwich. The day's lone hot meal is served at night. This plan results in a total cost per inmate per day of $0.30 for meals.

Inmates either work or they are put in lockdown; TV is restricted to authorized programming, which often includes the 10-part series on government by my dad, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. When I inquired if the inmates liked the tapes the answer was no, "Not my problem, not why I show them."

In addition, Arpaio stated he "took away their (the inmates) Kool-Aid, so they are drinking a lot more water now." Water for showers is also limited, the inmates shower only twice a week.

While this might sound harsh to some, Arpaio's philosophy is, "Inmates should never live better inside our jails than they do on the outside because, simply put, jails are not hotels." Clearly he does not view making the inmates happy and comfortable as part of his job.

In addition to managing inmates and animals, Arpaio is enforcing immigration laws, something that few other sheriffs have taken on. His staff includes 160 deputies who are 287 G certified by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. His view is that he was elected to enforce the law and that is what he is going to do.

There are three groups that work on immigration enforcement: human smuggling, jail operations and community actions. Combined, they process around 1,000 suspected illegal aliens per month. Jail operation includes determining the immigration status of inmates. If they are illegal, they are identified and turned over to ICE. If they are convicted and sentenced under state law, they serve their state time first and are then released to ICE. There are currently 2,100 illegal aliens being held.

When asked why few other law enforcement leaders are following his lead, Arpaio surmised, "They can't take the heat." When asked if he received any pushback, his response was clear. "I'm taking heat now, locking up illegals." However, he made it apparent that a little heat was not going to make him change his ways.

As to laws not being enforced by other law enforcement agencies, he noted; "They think they can enforce the laws they want." noting that pressure from groups might sway some. When I asked why he enforced the laws his response was simple "That's my job."

So the e-mail I got was mostly true, the core is there. Sheriff Arpaio's job is enforcing the law, and he is doing his job. What's he not worried about, what others may think. He's doing his job, are we doing ours?

What is our job as citizens? To be active and involved, to pay attention to what is happening in our communities, to demand that those we vote into office do their jobs, or to replace them. After all, they do work for us.

Copyright 2007 by Jackie Cushman
All Rights Reserved

Sweet Thoughts of Tradition, Persistence, and Resourcefulness

By Jackie Cushman

Published on

Traditions are the glue that helps hold families together. They remind us of times we have shared together and trials we have some through together. My favorite cake is red velvet cake. For the past few years, my mother has baked me a red velvet cake from scratch for my birthday. This week, mydaughter turned eight. She requested that my mother, (her Gigi), bake her a red velvet cake for her birthday. Red velvet cake is delicious, the deep red of the cake and the white of the frosting provide a rich visual contrast when the cake is cut. It is a sweet, but not-too-sweet, moist cake with a hint of coco that contrasts perfectly with the incredible sweetness of the icing (made with almost a whole box of confectioners sugar).My first memory of a red velvet cake is from my freshman year in high school. My sister, Kathy, who was a senior, decided to make a red velvet cake for her boyfriend's Valentines Day present. She bought all the ingredients and began the task of making the cake. Not one for following directions, Kathy left out the flour. When she pulled the cake out of the oven, it was flat, and she figured out that she had left the flour out of the cake and threw it out the back door for the birds to eat. Kathy then returned to the store a second time to get the myriad of ingredients again.The second time around, Kathy remembered the flour, but -- while the cake was in the oven cooking -- she noticed the coco was still on the counter and had not been added. This led to her second cake being thrown out the back door for the birds. Kathy made a third trip to the grocery store.By this time, Kathy was a bit frustrated, but very focused on reaching her goal. I can still picture her looking down and reading the recipe. I was sitting on the side of the kitchen in the dining area, intrigued by her process, but keeping out of her way as she cooked.The third time around was the charm. All the ingredients went in as listed, the cake rose as expected and came out of the oven looking lovely. The birds did not get this third cake, but instead Kathy added the icing, and the present was ready to be given.

At the end of the marathon cooking session, the recipe was covered in spots of red food coloring, reminding me of scars, marks of the trials and tribulations Kathy had suffered while making the red velvet cake. It may have taken longer than expected, with a few more trips and ingredients, but Kathy was persistent and successful.

This same recipe has been used for years in our family, and every time it is pulled out, it reminds me of Kathy's afternoon baking marathon, which eventually led to success due to her persistence.

This year, Gigi did indeed make the red velvet cake for Maggie's birthday. She added a new twist by using a heart-shaped pan to symbolize her love for her granddaughter. But the larger pan, and my old oven, which tends to cook at whatever temperature it pleases, resulted in burned edges. Gigi solved that neatly: simply cutting the edges off and declaring it a fairy cake, telling us that the cake's hard bottom should be left for the fairies to eat.

Simple resourcefulness, but it worked. Maggie was thrilled with her cake, the taste was wonderful and the fairies were left with a treat.

We often try to ensure that everything turns out perfectly, especially for our children. If we actually accomplish this task, what do we really teach our children -- to expect perfection and not be happy with less? While perfection is a worthy goal, we must keep in mind that it is a goal that is often missed. When challenges, obstacles or delays appear, it is best to gather ones' resources, move on and adapt maintaining the same end goal, but understanding that the process needed to get there might change. The moral of this story is simple. It's a reminder that not many things in life turn out perfectly, but if you are persistent and resourceful they will often turn out right, useful and memorable.

Copywrite 2007 by Jackie Cushman

All Rights Reserved

What a Day, and What a Night

By Jackie Cushman

Published on

For almost a year, my husband, Jimmy and I had been counting down to Sept. 29. Last October, Jimmy was asked if we would chair the Atlanta Botanical Gardens Garden of Eden Ball. Without asking me, he declined, due to our busy family life with two small children. Later that month, while at Party City (picking up a few Halloween decorations), I ran into the ABG fundraising director. A few days
later, Jimmy and I had agreed to chair the ball, honoring Jimmy's grandfather, Philip H. Alston, Jr.. The ball was to be held Sept. 29, 2007. Remember, persistence often pays off.

A few weeks later, during one of our many conversations regarding the ball, Jimmy noted that "we will be closer or divorced when this is all over." While this was said with some levity, I took to heart the idea that this would be an opportunity for us to learn to work better together. Christmas came and went, and early this year, my father, Newt Gingrich, announced that Solutions Day would be held on Sept. 27 and 29. We now had an additional reason to look forward to Sept. 29.The week before that fateful day began quietly enough due to all the advance preparation for both events. But this rapidly changed when dad announced that a committee would be formed to raise $30 million in pledges, potentially leading to his running for president.During the week, I began prepping our children, hoping to give them enough ammunition not to be fazed by the thoughtless comments that I knew - from my experience as the daughter of a politician that some people would say to young children whose relatives are involved in politics. During one of our late-night talks that week, while we were both sitting on our kitchen counter, Jimmy said he would "support whatever involvement" I thought was best in my father's endeavor.Friday Sept. 28 was a whirlwind. It began with a 6-mile run with a friend (for the third day in a row, trying to maintain my sanity). I worked, went to the garden to cheer on the wonderful volunteers during lunch (I did fold a few napkins), returned home, called a radio show for an interview, met the children as they got off the school bus, picked up my ball dress and a T-ball jersey that had a child's name silkscreened on the back.Somehow it all worked out I began to have faith that no matter what was thrown at us, We would attain the goal of simply getting through it one breath at a time focusing on the present.The morning of Sept. 29, Dad called around 9 a.m.. We chatted about the probability of raising the pledges and I told him that "I will support you," and we discussed the fact that "we just have to live it out to see what happens."Our family stopped by Suntrust on the way to the garden for lunch. There, I ran into a friend who offered a pledge and her time to assist during dad's testing the waters. But when I returned to the car, I had a voice mail from dad. When I called him back, he told me that, due to legal reasons, he was going halt testing the waters, and continue as chairman of American Solutions. Again, I let him know that I would support him.Saturday evening, Jimmy and I greeted over 400 guests as they arrived for the ball. Once the guests were seated, Jimmy delivered the opening remarks, reminding us why we were all there; not only to have fun and contribute to a very worthy cause, but to honor his grandfather, Philip Alston, Jr, who had helped start the Gardens 26 years ago.Jimmy recalled the two adages that his grandfather lived by, "nothing is impossible," and "no man is an island." They guided his grandfather's life and helped create the legacy of the Garden."Nothing is impossible," when we work together, we can accomplish what appear to be miracles. Only through listening and including others can we really begin to work together.No man is an island. As much as we may try to get everything done by ourselves, our own way, it simply is not possible. We have to include and inspire others to get things accomplished with their help. We need to listen when we do not want to, especially when people do not agree with us, learning in the process and helping one another to move forward together.Saturday night ended as I had hoped it would nearly a year before, when we had agreed to be involved. The band played for hours, with my sister, Kathy, and I dancing to our favorite songs, and at the end of the night, Jimmy and I walked out of the door hand in hand and returned home to our children, closer for having worked together on this event.And what I remember from this day is, "nothing is impossible" and "no man is an island."

Copyright by Jackie Cushman 2007

All Rights Reserved


Walk On!

By Jackie Cushman

Published on

My sister, Kathy, was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis 20 years ago. This past spring, one of us talked the other into committing to walk a marathon (26.2 miles) to raise money and awareness for the Arthritis Foundation.
Since we made that fateful decision, we have persuaded three other women to join us in traveling to Athens, Greece to retrace the route of the original marathon on Nov. 4.

“Arthritis is still the nations most common cause of disability, affecting more than 46 million Americans, including 300,000 children, said Arthritis Foundation spokesman Ken Durden. The foundations Joints-in-Motion program is a great way for anyone who understands the seriousness of the disease to help raise awareness and funds to prevent, control and cure this chronic and often debilitating condition.

Our team, which we named America to Athens for Arthritis (A2A4A), includes Phyllis Head, one of Kathys closest childhood friends, Jeanne Cadwallader, a neighbor of Kathys, Cynthia Counts, my great friend and running partner, and me. As many teams do, we have even created our own mantra, Walk on, which reflects our teams goal of moving forward with purpose.

The mantra was a term that Jeanne coined, according to her, it was a bit of a joke (aka Move On) but it did capture a level of enthusiasm for the project. As we started to use became clear that it really does provoke a sense of encouragement for others on the team, comradery, and commitment to the cause. And it just seems like a nifty way to end a note.

As to how we initially got involved, Kathy and I accuse each other of having been the instigator; Phyllis asked to join after hearing her very best friend Kathy talk about the marathon; Jeanne was drawn in by the destination; and Cynthia realized only after participating in a 7:30 a.m. conference call, my God, I just agreed to do a marathon in Athens, Greece.

Joints-in-motion program participants are assigned an electronic coach to assist with training, planning distances, answering questions and ensuring that not only will we finish the marathon, but (I hope) we will feel good once it is complete.

Jeff Galloway, U.S. Olympian and best-selling author, is our coach. My grandmother contracted a severe case of arthritis when she was 35 and was crippled and in pain for the rest of her life, said Jeff, yet she was one of the most consistently cheerful people Ive encountered.

We need to do all we can to find cures for the various forms of arthritis. Helping advise runners with the Joints-in-Motion program is one small way to pay back my wonderful grandmother.

My sister Kathy agrees, Many people think they hurt because they are getting old; they don't have to live with pain.  Medicine can change peoples lives.

Five years ago, Kathy would not have considered tackling such a daunting challenge. In the past decade, she can remember thinking that moving from her bed to her bedside desk might be too much for her to accomplish. Then she began taking Embrel, a drug for autoimmune disorders. Now, Kathy states, I don't think about it (having arthritis) except when I see someone else is in pain, or hear their story, because of the gift of modern medicine.”Â

Phyllis has watched Kathys transformation. I saw her at a really bad point. Her attitude was fabulous, but you could tell she was in pain. Now I feel that she can do anything and she is proving that by doing this marathon it really is a miracle.

Jeffs training program has whipped us into better shape; we are having fun and are striving to reach our goal of raising $50,000 for the Arthritis Foundation. You can help us reach our goal by going to our team page and donating.

When we began, several team members were nervous and hesitant about getting involved in fundraising, but we have been pleasantly surprised with the process. In pursuit of fundraising, I have reconnected and caught up with lots of old friends, states Cynthia, and have heard numerous inspirational stories about others with arthritis. Jeanne has been “thrilled with people who are making contributions, coming from expected places, in unexpected amounts.

The experience so far, Lots of miles, lots of laughs, lots of fun and a greater appreciation of my body, states Cynthia.

How much I have enjoyed it, said Phyllis. Having a team mentality, having a trainer, you feel good when you accomplish the plan that has been laid out.

Jeanne has enjoyed the process, much to her surprise, as she is normally a goal-oriented person.

Kathy declares that, after the first six-mile walk, it has been fun.

As for myself, the long walks have been an anchor in a never-ending schedule filled with children, events and work “ the training forces me to get beyond myself and my crises of the moment and focus on helping others, at least for a little bit of time.

As for the actual training “ we all finished a 23-mile walk this past weekend. Kathy and Jeanne, the only two members training together, are currently debating whether their distance was 23 or 26.2 miles, but in any event I am sure that we will be able to do the distance come November 4.


Copyright 2007 by Jackie Cushman
All Rights Reserved

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