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Showing posts with label human-pet bond.
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Monday, September 30th, 2013, 08:42 PM | Updated: 09/30/2013, 08:42:01 PM | (Anonymous) [0 Comments]

As a student of human nature and someone who enjoys people-watching, I am fascinated by the way pets bring people together.  Whether you’ve moved to a new city and are looking to make some new friends or you simply wish to expand your social network, one of the best ways to connect with others is to step out with your pet.  Of course, this is ideal if you’re a dog owner.  Whether it’s a visit to your local dog park or taking your pooch for a walk, you are sure to meet other dog owners and inevitably strike up conversations.  Initially these conversations center on our pets.

It is this exact scenario through which I met Pat.  I can’t recall the first time Pat and I actually spoke and introduced ourselves.  But we first encountered each other one morning when Pat was walking her Maltese, Sam and I was walking my two Shih Tzus, Lucy and Ethel.  It was an instant doggie love-fest.   To describe Sam as adorable is an understatement.  How could I not reach down to pat his head, scratch his bum and rub his tummy as he rolled over on his back exposing himself?  Last year, Pat and her husband Larry expanded their family by bringing home a second Maltese named Sadie.  Sam and Sadie make a perfect duo. 

And so, on most mornings, Pat and I would meet on our respective dog walks and we would talk.  I do not recall the substance of every conversation; however, I do remember a compliment that Pat once paid me.  She looked me straight in the eye and said that Sam and Sadie clearly adored me and that was because I must be a good person.  She believed (as I do) that dogs possess a heightened ability (far superior to humans) to sense authenticity and kindness in people. 

Over the months, our conversations continued.  On occasion, I had the opportunity to visit Pat and Larry at their home, and even walk Sam and Sadie.  And through this all, my admiration and friendship for Pat and Larry grew.  What most attracted me to Pat was her larger than life personality.  She was a powerhouse!  The kind of person you could never forget once you met her.   Physically she was slight in stature with red hair, so visually she should stood out amongst others.  But it was her personal demeanor that captured one’s attention.  Her warmth and genuine kindness coupled with her high-pitched voice, sharp wit and one-of-a-kind laugh were magnets that would draw people to her.  When she would see me, her face would light up.  And my own heart would skip a beat with joy in anticipation of our conversation to come.  While we always talked about our four-legged children, our conversations also broached other topics.

Last week, Pat passed away after a brief illness.  I’ve wanted to post a tribute to Pat in my blog since then.  However, every time I tried, the words would not come as I choked up with emotion and sadness enveloped me.  Until now.  The most fitting tribute I can offer to Pat’s life is that going forward, every time I walk my own dogs or my clients’ dogs or for that matter, place my hand on a kitty client or some other adorable pet and gently stroke its head, I will think of Pat and the indelible mark she left on me.  She and I were like-minded.  We met through our pets, we grew to admire each other and developed a “simpatico” of implicit understanding.  It truly is amazing how pets bring people together and forever change our lives.  The word “simpatico” best describes my friendship with Pat.  Moreover, her name is embedded in the word.

May her memory be a blessing!

Wednesday, August 14th, 2013, 03:54 PM | Updated: 08/14/2013, 03:54:22 PM | (Anonymous) [0 Comments]

A best practice of high quality pet care that I always follow is fully engaging the minds and bodies of my pet clients.  In addition to the dog walking and in-home pet sitting services requested by my human clients, I also focus on the physical and emotional needs of my animal clients.  This doesn’t mean that I’m looking to be the next Dog Whisperer or Cat Psychic.  What it means is being attuned and sensitized to what the pet needs for its own comfort, pleasure and safety.

When I pet sit for a dog, and especially if it is for an extended period, one of the ways I connect with the animal is through reading.  (You’re probably thinking that this blogger is in need of expert psychiatric care.  However, please read on and indulge me a bit further.)  It is not unusual for me to sit next to the dog or rest the pooch on my lap, then open up a book and read to the pet.  It is through my calm and soothing voice that I seek to engage the dog.  I probably could read almost anything to the pet but I generally choose a series of children’s books about a dog named Walter.

The character of Walter the Farting Dog is the subject of five books by William Kotzwinkle, a respected novelist, children’s author and screenwriter.  (Mr. Kotzwinkle wrote the novel based upon the screenplay for E.T. the Extraterrestrial).  As you can imagine, the Walter books tackle a rather sensitive subject, but Kotzwinkle handles it in a humorous fashion.  The series begins with Walter’s rescue from a local shelter.  Soon after his arrival into the home of his new family, Walter’s propensity for flatulence reveals itself.  While Walter’s parents vow to return him to the shelter, their children protest.  Through a turn of events and some sidesplitting storytelling, Walter saves the day by committing some acts that literally thwart catastrophe and danger.  In short, as a result of his flatulence, Walter rises to the position of family hero and much-loved pet.

Now I can only imagine how entertaining these stories must be for young boys and girls who rely upon their Moms and Dads for bedtime stories.  But wait!  Here’s an Ah ha! moment.  When I read these stories to my doggie clients and change my voice to get into the different characters, my clients move in closer to me, wanting to be held and embraced.  The rise and fall in the cadence of my voice soothes them.  They look up at me with wonder and interest in their eyes.  And typically as we reach the end of a story, they want to drift off to naptime.  If it’s evening and I’m on an overnight, it’s a perfect way to settle down a dog for bedtime.

So before you dismiss this as sheer nonsense…try reading to your dog.  You’ll discover that reading out loud engages your pet.  Perhaps you’ll also discover that Reading is Fundamental*in your relationship to your dog.

*Reading is Fundamental (RIF) is the oldest and largest nonprofit literacy organization in the U.S.  Its purpose is to promote children’s literacy.  As of the date of this blog, it is my understanding that RIF does not take a position on pet-owners reading to their dogs.

Thursday, August 8th, 2013, 10:33 AM | Updated: 08/08/2013, 10:33:55 AM | (Anonymous) [0 Comments]

One of the most gratifying things about spending time with animals is having the opportunity to communicate with them.  I don’t profess to have the talents of Dr. Doolittle, the fictional physician and subject of Hugh Lofting’s children’s books.  However, I manage quite effectively in “talking” with my pet clients.

One of my cat clients, SOCKS, and I spend a significant portion of our time together communicating.  I use my human voice and sense of touch, while SOCKS uses his feline voice and body language.  For example, when I sit next to SOCKS and brush or stroke his handsome coat, he lets me know that he’s thoroughly enjoying himself by purring, lying on his side and stretching out his body in a way that asks for belly rubs.  I comply by gentling rubbing his belly and using a soft, soothing tone of voice to engage him.

In today’s post, I’m going to go out on a Dr. Doolittle limb and detail how a typical conversation would go if SOCKS had the capacity to produce human speech.  

A Conversation with SOCKS:

I turn the key in the lock, push down on the door handle and enter his home.  SOCKS is always upstairs so I let him know that I’m there. 

Me: “Good morning SOCKS, it’s David.”
I immediately proceed upstairs and am overjoyed to find him waiting for me on the top landing.  My experience tells me that when SOCKS greets me at the top of the stairs, he’s going to be in a particularly talkative mood.  
“Hi SOCKS, it’s so good to see you.  How are you doing today?”
SOCKS: He looks up, “Hey David.  Doing quite well.  Been waiting for you.”
Me: “So what have you been up to?”
SOCKS: “Just kicking back this afternoon, taking some cat naps, snacking in between.  Other than that, there’s not much happening.”
Me: “Really? But you’re such an intellectual cat.”
SOCKS: “That’s true.  I do have a rich inner life.  Actually, I was sitting over by the window earlier looking out.  It’s entertaining to watch birds fly by.  They’re always in such a hurry.  Guess they have to look for their three square meals every day.”
Me: “Yes they do SOCKS.  Of course, that’s why I’m here.  I’m going to give you your dinner so you don’t have to expend any energy searching for it.”
SOCKS: “Thank you.  Appreciate your efforts when my Mom is away.” SOCKS rolls over on the floor, stretches out the full length of his body and throws his head back.  “Before you go grab my food, do you mind a little belly rub?”
Me: “Well of course SOCKS.  I don’t mind at all.  My pleasure.”  I sit down on the floor next to him, and start to rub his tummy gently.  SOCKS begins to purr.
SOCKS: “That sure feels good.  Oh yeah.  Work those tummy muscles David!  Mmmm!  Feels good.  A little bit lower.  Oh yeah.  That’s right.  Right there.” SOCKS purrs continuously without interruption.
Me: “Feels good?”
SOCKS: “Just like cat Nirvana dude!”
Me: “Glad I can help.” SOCKS sways ever so gently, relishing all the attention.  
SOCKS: “That’s so good.  But I’m getting hungry.  Do you mind……?”
Me: “Absolutely not.  I’ll be right back with your dinner.”
SOCKS: “Don’t be too long.  I’ll start to miss you and might require another belly rub.”

I hope you get an idea from this brief dialogue how SOCKS and I communicate during my visits.  As a cat care professional, I listen closely and take cues from my kitty clients.   When they’re as expressive as SOCKS, the communication is easy and very straightforward.

Gotta go blog readers!  My cell’s ringing.  Hmmm!  I recognize that number.  It’s SOCKS calling to catch up.  “Hey SOCKS……What’s up?” 

Tuesday, July 30th, 2013, 08:19 PM | Updated: 07/30/2013, 08:19:02 PM | (Anonymous) [0 Comments]

Yesterday I had an errand that required a visit to a local pet cemetery.  Never having been to a pet cemetery before, I took the opportunity to walk around and see for myself what one is like.

Visually the landscape was similar to a human cemetery except on a smaller scale.  The grounds were very well maintained with flowers placed on or nearby some of the graves.  The majority of the graves were marked by flat (flush with the ground) stones.  Small sculptures, mostly recreating the likeness of an animal or specifically, someone’s deceased pet, also graced the grounds.

By far, the most compelling part of my visit was reading the inscriptions on the gravestones.  Some were very simple, including just the name of the pet and his/her years of birth and death.  Others were more elaborate with the words carefully chosen to reflect the depth of the pet owner’s relationship with their loved one and the profound loss they experienced following their pet’s death.  Still others were more whimsical or humorous, capturing some favorite pet pastime or memorable personality trait.  Rather than feeling sad as I read the epitaphs, I actually felt lighthearted.  Clearly this was due to the meticulous thought pet owners had given to the words they had engraved on their pets’ tombstones.  And so as I read each epitaph, my mind tried to visualize the animal associated with it and I found myself smiling, occasionally even laughing out loud.

It wasn’t until I walked back to my car that sadness began to settle in around me.  I felt like I was leaving so many loved ones behind and I could not take them with me.  My mind leaped forward to those days somewhere in the future, when my own dogs will no longer be with me.  And that caused me to consider what I will do with my pets’ remains.  Would I bury them in a pet cemetery like this one?

While this cemetery was a beautiful place and only goodness inhabited it, I concluded that it was not a place that I would want to bury my pets.  Rather, I would continue down the path that I started more than thirteen years ago when our last pet passed away.  Our pets’ ashes will be with us in our home.  And when I leave this world, I will have their ashes buried with me.  I will clearly need to do my homework on how to make this happen.  But for right now, it gives me a great deal of comfort.

I had no idea that a visit to a pet cemetery on a sunny San Diego morning would lead me to do this kind of soul searching.  What an amazing day!

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