Breaking Our Stereotypes About Animals
I am delighted and amazed by the wonderful animals and people I meet in my work. I am always touched by my clients’ willingness to work with their animals in a collaborative way. I so often find that our animals are incredibly willing to work with us.
I recently met one of the happiest animals I have ever encountered. Aya Peard called about her hooded rat, Meecy. Meecy greeted me by saying that she’s a “very, very busy being”. Aya confirmed that Meecy has many “architectural projects” she’s working on around their home. Meecy said that she gets lots of exercise! And, Aya confirmed that Meecy has the run of the place and does get lots of exercise! Then little Meecy told me that she loved to attend parties! I thought I was making that part up but when I relayed that statement to Aya, again she confirmed! She said she takes Meecy to dinner parties and all of her friends enjoy Meecy. Meecy described her little carrier and said she never tries to get out because she knows that Aya will let her out to go visit with everyone at the party. Meecy is so delighted with her rich social life! She has many friends, including a big Labrador retriever. Aya includes her whenever she can, taking her to work when possible, and to visit friends. Other friends stop by to see little Meecy. Aya asked Meecy how she likes her massage and Meecy said she loves it! I’ve included two photos; one with Meecy receiving her massage and the other in her Christmas party skirt! Even though many animals do not like to wear costumes Meecy adores this little skirt. She says,” I get lots of compliments”.
When I checked with Aya to see if it was okay to feature Meecy in my newsletter, she added a couple anecdotes from our conversation.
“I think it was very funny that she was chewing on my list of questions before we started, then told you she already knew the questions–and she did! It was very true that she is always a perfect guest, which she had said, and that “she is a little celebrity”–because she is! Everyone loves Meecy at my job (we are working on American Horror Story, making the two-headed lady and joked that Meecy was our supervisor because she could catch details we miss.)
But most of all, the story of loving The Mouse and the Motorcycle…. Meecy loved that book. She dragged it off my bed into her new nests more than a few times and chewed it so much….No small task dragging this book off the bed and around…it’s a hardcover! This is the only book she has ever chewed or taken off the bed 🙂
And I had forgotten all about that, until she told you about it 6 months later! “
Aya used to read the book to Meecy and Meecy requested that they start that tradition again.
The connection between Meecy and Aya is so clearly full of love and appreciation, it is a delight to witness!
The other day I was talking to my friend, Kathleen, about her rabbit, BunBun. He has full run of the house and the yard and gets along well with their cat, their dog, and the chickens. Kathleen says that he rules the roost and has relationships with everyone. What a delightful contrast to the typical pet bunny rabbit who spends his entire life in a cage.
A 12 year old girl who attended one of my animal communication classes told us of her pet chicken. She takes her chicken to school to teach children about chickens, how to pick them up gently, etc. That chicken rides in the car, sits on her lap on a towel and attends class. That is one happy chicken!
I would like to encourage you to break the stereotypes of what we can expect from individual animals. Help them stretch beyond the physical cages as well as our mental boundaries of expectations and watch how they can evolve. Watch their personalities develop and think of what a gift you are to them as you recognize the being inside that costume.
Deb Wilson reminded me when she made an appointment for her dog, Shiloh, to explain to Shiloh about the upcoming Halloween holiday. Imagine how frightening it can be for some animals to have many children ringing the doorbell, shouting “trick-or-treat”, and standing at the door in scary costumes! Instead, you might consider explaining to your animal that it is going to be a noisy night and you are going to put them somewhere out of sight. They can be “off duty” for this one evening.
I have found very few animals who enjoy wearing costumes. If this is something you feel you must do, please be sure that it is a comfortable costume. And pay attention to whether or not your animal seems to be enjoying the attention. Doing the doggie shake off and yawning a lot are calming behaviors in dogs. If your dog is displaying these behaviors while wearing a Halloween costume, you can assume that they are not happy in that costume. Maybe you can wear the costume and your dog can just be the dog in the scenario. Wizard of Oz…….Dorothy and Toto?
As the holidays approach, remember to consider your animals. If you are having guest in your home, be sure to provide a quiet retreat for your animal. Often a cat’s favorite place is in the guestroom and they get bumped out when company comes. Could you set them up with their bed in your closet? And show the new spot to them before the company comes. Elderly dogs with arthritis should not be expected to accommodate rough playing children. Look at the situation from your animal’s perspective and make accommodations before the company comes.
Please be especially careful with your black cats the week before Halloween. In some areas people kidnap their black cats for Satanic rituals. It’s best to keep them inside during that week. It would be heartbreaking to lose your kitty.
Words Create Images
A lot of confusion can be avoided by talking to your animals in words that create images. With awareness, it’s very simple to do. Just describe the behavior you want or the situation as it is. An example would be, “In two more nights, you will be going to the kennel to stay for four nights. We need you to stay there and relax and we will be back to pick you up.” That gives your animal a heads up on what’s going to happen and it also gives them instructions about what to do. On several occasions I’ve had to “call” a dog who escaped from the kennel and ask them to backtrack to the kennel. Usually, what the animal tells me is that they are trying to find their way home. When I explain to them that their people are coming back to that kennel, they are willing to get themselves back there. A lot of stress could be alleviated if the animal knows that you are coming back to pick them up. Your parting shot should be “You stay here, I’ll be back!” That is always a good exit line when you’re leaving home, too.
If you’re interested in more details on how to communicate with your animal, my CDs are available through my website. They make good stocking stuffers. In fact, links to vendors of several other great stocking stuffer ideas are also available through my website.
New Service Offering
Many of you work closely with rescue and foster organizations. In my continuing effort to prevent lost animal situations, I am exploring the idea of complimentary 20-minute talks to rescue organizations. I would like to share information about how to successfully transition animals to foster homes or to their new permanent family home. This can be a confusing time in an animal’s life and can sometimes result in them running from their new home in search of the old foster home. If you are involved in a rescue or foster organization – such as Carolina Poodle Rescue, Buddies of Bully Breeds or Bassets Forever, etc. — and think that an informational talk would be helpful to your group, please let me know. It may be possible for me to travel to your area, and I would like to coordinate with you to talk at an upcoming gathering of your fostering or rescue community. My mission is to help turn what can be a confusing and stressful time for an animal into a positive, happily-ever-after story.