Moments Like These

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“Snow falling soundlessly in the middle of the night will always fill my heart with sweet clarity”- Novala Takemoto

I hope you are enjoying a most relaxing weekend.  We sure are.  This morning I awoke to discover a soft fluttering of snow falling outside our house.  Considering the extreme lack of snow we have had in our nation’s capital this year, it was a most welcomed sight!

My heart leapt with joy when I saw the gorgeous details unfolding just outside my window.

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The evergreen tree boughs held the falling snowflakes ever so gently, and the grass gladly accepted each falling snowflake as if it were a dear friend helping a loved one settle down to rest.  The snow was falling effortlessly.  Not one of the snowflakes struggled.  Each unique snowflake drifted down with ease and grace.  They appeared to be so light and free.  I wanted to be those snowflakes!

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I stepped outside.  The moment I stood there under the gently falling snow my heart was happy.  My mind was quiet and at peace.  Every time a snowflake landed on my eyelashes and caressed my face I lit up with the joy and laughter of an innocent and playful little girl.

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After my giggles and laughter subsided, I felt another sensation.  What I noticed almost immediately was the calm, quiet, stillness of what I was witnessing. The world was silent.   No cars.  No kids.  No sirens.  Just beautiful silence.  It was if the chaos of the world had been put on pause by a giant mute button.  I was taken aback by the beauty in that silence.   And a part of me longed to experience that forever.

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In moments like these, the entire world appears to be completely at rest and in harmony.  Experiencing this kind of serene silence, stillness, and peacefulness is when I remember that we all have the power to experience this kind of peace of mind and stillness, no matter what appears to be happening outside of us.

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Life gets chaotic.  Work and home can get hectic.   It can be hard to weather the storms that come straight at us.  But we can learn how get through them all with grace and ease.

Whether we are struggling with finances, health, a relationship or career, or if one of our beloveds is aging or dying, we can still find peace despite the heartache and stress.  We can experience moments of deep peace in the middle of one of life’s storms.  Animals do this all the time.  In fact, it’s one of the most miraculous and beautiful gifts they give us; they know how to find that peace within. They show us how to do this.

We can also go within and find this peace.  We can find this peace when we look into the eyes of our beloved animal companions, our children, friends, and life partners.  We can find this peace in art, nature, meditation, prayer, and a million other ways.  We can find this kind of peace watching the snow fall with grace and ease.

This peace and stillness is always available to every one of us; we just have to choose to experience it.


Where do you find moments of peace?  Where and when can you enjoy the silence?

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“Thank goodness for the first snow, it was a reminder–no matter how old you became and how much you’d seen, things could still be new if you were willing to believe they still mattered.” ― Candace Bushnell

Cats and Claws Belong Together!

 

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The title of this post was a declaration made by a brilliant and highly respected behaviorist at Positive Cattitudes.

She was referring to cats who have been forced to have their digits removed.

Yes, you read that correctly.   It’s 2016, yet house cats, exotic cats, and other animals are still being forced to have their claws removed.   Take heed my friends:  the claw is only part of the picture.  The word “declawing”  is actually a fancy name for “de-toeing.”

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This medical procedure is still practiced by veterinarians! And it’s legal!

Declawing (or deknuckling) is thankfully, banned in many countries, including Switzerland, Israel,  Australia, India, Spain, and the United Kingdom.  Yet only ten cities in the United States have banned the barbaric practice.  But thanks to informed animal guardians, and advances in behavioral and medical science, this barbaric and outdated procedure may come to an end in other, progressive areas of our nation.

New York could be the first state to make it illegal to declaw cats and other animals.

Last year Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal introduced a bill (A.1297) which would make New York the first state in the nation to ban declawing.  The New York declawing bill would ban the procedure unless it is done to remove a tumor or for other medical reasons. The bill is now being reviewed in committee hearings.

State veterinarians have opposed the bill, insisting that decision on declawing should be left to the owners and medical professionals.

But we believe otherwise.

Cats need their claws.  They have a right to keep their claws.  And as animal guardians, we need to understand why.


 

What’s The Big Fuss About?

Cats’ claws play important roles in various aspects of their lives.  I have written about this topic at length before.   I invite you to learn why so many concerned cat-loving citizens are taking a stand to ensure that cats keep their claws.   The facts cannot be ignored:  there are countless  medical, physical, and behavioral complications of declawing.

A.1297 explains the justification for the bill: 

Cats use their claws to assist in climbing and maintaining balance, to help them fully stretch, to relieve stress through kneading, and to escape danger. When a person has its animal declawed, usually in an attempt to protect furniture, they do fundamental damage to that animal both physically and in behavioral ways. There are harmless ways to manage undesirable behavior through simple training and other established methods.

Declawing, also known as onychectomy, involves the removal of all or most of the last bone of each of the toes of the front feet, and tendons, nerves and ligaments that allow for normal function of the paw are severed, resulting in intense and chronic pain and other serious medical issues. Flexor tendonectomy, in which cats’ toes are cut so that claws cannot be extended also imperils their health and safety. Abscess-
es often develop as the area comes into contact with dirt or litter, and sometimes regrowth can occur spontaneously resulting in sharp pain or  infection.

After the claws are removed, the animal tends to shift its gait and where it places most of its weight, causing strain on its leg joints and spine, which can lead to early onset arthritis and prolonged back and joint pain. Declawed cats often develop behavioral problems that lead to their being surrendered to animal shelters where they are, for the most part, not adoptable.

 


Become An Informed Animal Guardian.

The article,  The War Over DeClawing Moves to New York ,  will change they way you think of cats and their right to keep their much-needed claws.   Some of the professional comments at the end of the article are insightful as well.   In fact, there is one comment in particular that I agree whole hardheadedly about.  It was written by my friend and colleague, Jacqueline Munera.   I invite you to read what she recently shared about this very important discussion:

I am a Certified Cat Behavior Consultant and a large percent of my cases involve declawed cats. 100% of my clients did not recognize the signs that their cat was in pain until I pointed it out to them. These are wonderful owners who love their cats very much and they had no idea how much pain their cats were suffering. Most are heartbroken that they didn’t realize their cats are in pain. Some had the cats declawed, others adopted or rescued them and they were already declawed. Additionally, many of these cats had recently been given the medical “all clear” by their vets before they saw me for the behavior issue. This means that the vet also either didn’t recognize the signs of problems related to declawing or decided that the signs were not important enough to raise red flags.

Obviously, I also work with some fantastic vets that notice the issue and treat it as best as they can. This is VERY expensive and can include further surgery to remove nail re-growth under the skin, clean out infected pus pockets, possibly cutting more tendons in order to free up frozen joints, etc. It can also involve physical therapy and laser treatments. At minimum, these cats require appropriate pain medicines and adjuncts like Adequan, usually for the rest of their life. They also often require more expensive litters or materials that are softer on their paws. Many times the environment needs to modified as well to prevent as much jumping force as possible (e.g. cat stairs, ramps, mats and padded materials).

This procedure is listed as a “procedure of last resort”, however it is well known that this is not how it is actually provided. Therefore, vets (some of them) have proven that they are incapable of self-monitoring. Admittedly, there are many psychological and false logic reasonings for this. Most vets do believe they are saving that cat’s life. Unfortunately, data from animal shelters and related facilities prove that this is not the case. They believe that if they don’t do it, someone else will and won’t do as good a job. That may certainly be true in some cases, however, that excuse just doesn’t work when you are dealing with something that is so potentially harmful. Almost all of my clients state that they would not have had the procedure done if they had the information that I provided them, which their vets did not. This is certainly a skewed population (people that care enough and have enough patience and money to pay for an expert to help solve their cat behavior challenge), however, if these people would have changed their minds, then that argues for the case that there is a population out there that would do the same if given the opportunity by their vet.

And lastly, for those who state “It should be decided by the pet owner” and “keep government out of our lives, blah blah blah”… In many cases, we don’t leave abusive activities up to the individual to decide to do and we will stay out of it. This is particularly true when the individual has a responsibility to care for another individual that is incapable of caring for themselves (e.g. senior, child, PET). Sure you can decide to lock your child in a closet and starve them, but if you get caught, that means the old government is going to step in and punish you (hopefully). Too many pet owners and veterinarians have proven incapable of making the correct choice to the benefit of the cats. Therefore, someone else has to step in and help them make the right choice by taking away the possibility of utilizing the harmful choice of mutilating a living creature’s feet.

P.S. I’m adding a thank you to all of the wonderful owners, veterinary professionals and humans of all types that agree that cats and claws belong together! Purrrs to you!


 

Complications Hidden In Plain Sight

As a behavior consultant who works closely with families who are concerned with frustrating animal behavioral issues in their home, I see the all too common connection between what pet owners decide to do for convenience sake, or “as a last resort”, but they fail to see the larger picture; medical issues and behavioral issues are often intertwined.  A quick fix is never the solution.  And a “simple” medical procedure such as declawing often later becomes a complicated mess in the home, hidden behind a myriad of behavioral issues.  As Jacqueline explains, there are times when we need legal oversight to ensure that our animal family members are protected.  I agree.  My hope is that the bill will be passed and this will be the last time we talk about this outdated, risky, and inhumane procedure.

 

Some people feel it’s unnatural to remove a cat’s claws, and it’s done for the owner’s benefit and not for the cat’s benefit. There are many other arguments you can make for this — the pain they go through, the complications after declawing. But I think it really boils down to cats are born with claws and they should keep them.    ~ Drew Weigner, Atlanta veterinarian and president of the Academy of Feline Medicine

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Dr. Dennis Turner from the Institute for applied Ethology and Animal Psychology is fighting to help all felines keep their claws.

Don’t Give Up on Your Cat and His/Her Claws!

Do you feel like declawing is “your last resort”?  Please don’t give in to the justification for declawing, and don’t give up on your feline family member.  There are many other humane options!   The four cats that we have shared a home with all have their claws intact.   Have we had any issues in the past with undesirable scratching in our home?  Sure.  It’s what cats need to do.   But I didn’t chop off their toes because of it.  We compromised.  And I taught my cats where and what to scratch on.  I took the time to learn my cats’ individual preferences, and their individual thresholds so they would never feel the need to scratch inappropriately.  It’s humane.  It’s fun.  It works.  And you can do this too!  Don’t give up.  Find a qualified feline behaviorist to help guide you and your feline family members.   You can create a harmonious home.

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Recommended Reading

Why Cats Scratch:

Physical Consequences of Declawing

Alternatives to Declawing

Alternatives to declawing (2nd article)

Does your scratching post measure up?

ANTI-DECLAWING LEGISLATION

Let Us Do No Harm From This Day On

“Cats are sentient beings who deserve to be respected. “

Dude, Can’t You Take a Hint?

Are you that kind of pet owner or animal lover that doesn’t know when to back off?  I used to be one of those people with my animal companions at home.

A few years ago I went to a workshop for Reactive / Fearful Dogs hosted by Grisha Stewart of Ahimsa Dog Training​. One of the many techniques she taught was the 5 Second Petting Rule.

How Do We Do It?

Grisha explains:

Here’s a way to ask your dog if he or she likes the way you are petting. I call it the 5-second rule. Every person who interacts with a dog, cat, or even a horse should know it, because it’s excellent bite prevention and also just basic polite manners!

1. Wait for the dog (or other animal) to interact with you, scratching the body part that is closest to you first, like the dog’s side.

2. Pet for no more than 5 seconds. (Pet less if the dog is shy or not a dog from your family.)

3. Stop and wait for the dog to turn or move toward you, asking you for more.

4. Repeat steps 2 and 3, alternating between petting and waiting.

You also need a way to tell your dog to stop asking for petting.  If you are done and the dog is still interested, give an All Done hand signal.  In the video, the “All Done” signal is two flat hands, showing that both hands are empty. After you give the signal, ignore the dog for a little bit so that the meaning of the All Done signal is clear.

Watch how to do this technique here:

 “Take the Hint: How to Use the 5-Second Rule for Petting Dogs” 


Why Do We Need To Know This?

When you are interacting with any breed or species animal, it’s very important to know if they are enjoying it, or merely tolerating it.  (You can learn more about that here.)   It’s important for a number of reasons:  safety, respect, and maintaining a healthy relationship.  This is something that we can practice with many different kids of animals.

Try it out.  You will be surprised to see how often the furry, feathered, and scaly ones we love might not love the interaction as much as we do.  Once you become aware of this, you can teach your kids, spouse, and guests!   I teach this technique to my clients, friends, and other family members, and also in my public workshops. It’s especially important for children to learn!

I hope that this brings some awareness to how you or your family members interact with your companion animals, and the animals that we meet in other homes


Related Reading

Are You Prepared? How to Evacuate with Your Animal Companion

If you believe you can accomplish everything by “cramming” at the eleventh hour, by all means, don’t lift a finger now. But you may think twice about beginning to build your ark once it has already started raining. ― Max Brooks, The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead

Hurricane Season Begins Tomorrow, folks. Are you prepared?

Conscious Companion

hurricane The Atlantic hurricane season lasts from June 1 until the end of November.  This year’s season is expected to be a very busy season.

Prepare Now.

Tornados, floods, fires and hurricanes, oh my!  We don’t expect them, but they do happen.  Nature can strike fast and furiously.   The Atlantic Hurricane Season is almost here.  It runs from June 1 until November 30.  This week (May 24-30) is National Hurricane Preparedness Week.   Please take a moment to mark this on your calendar.   This week is a time of the year that we all need to make note of every year, especially if you have a family, and one that includes animal companions.   Planning and preparing will save your family a load of stress, and could even save lives.   Officials advise to not wait until a storm is already in the Gulf of Mexico or the Atlantic…

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Why Did The Turtle Cross The Road?

World Turtle Day was yesterday, so I wanted to share this with you. I wrote this a year ago, but it’s still relevant today. In this post you will learn:
– why turtles cross roads
– when they are more likely to cross them
– how you can help them cross safely
– how we can literally save turtle species from extinction
“For if one link in nature’s chain might be lost, another might be lost, until the whole of things will vanish by piecemeal.”– Thomas Jefferson
‪#‎WorldTurtleDay‬

Conscious Companion

We are facing a turtle survival crisis unprecedented in its severity and risk. Humans are the problem, and must therefore also be the solution. Without concerted conservation action, many of the world’s turtles and tortoises will become extinct within the next few decades. It is now up to us to prevent the loss of these remarkable, unique jewels of evolution. ~ Turtle Conservation Coalition

turtle crossing roadTurtles on the road are on a mission! Help them accomplish their turtle mission!

World Turtle Day is May 23, so I wanted to remind everyone to be conscious of these very special animals that share the roads with us!  Where we live, we are surrounded by natural wetlands. But there are highways and roads that also surround these wetlands. This often means that native turtles do not fare well when they need to cross the busy roads.  I have seen far more than my share…

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Paws and Parenting: Resources for Families

Babies grow. Dogs age. We help families adjust with each stage.

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Recently I had the opportunity to share my insights into consulting with families.  The article,
Entering a Judgment-Free Zone: Guiding Clients and the Public Through Compassionate Education (pg 50), discusses how compassionate education is a powerful tool to guide families.  I discuss how this approach guides, educates, and inspires, and avoids judging, blaming, or shaming people for their lack of knowledge and experience.  Compassionate education is the backbone of my consulting, and how I approach every family member that I work with.  I am incredibly passionate about helping families to learn and grow together as they move through chapters in life with their animal companions.

Connection is the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship. ―Brené Brown

I share this with you because one of the many hats I wear encourages this same approach: I have the honor and privilege of being on the advisory team for Family Paws Parent Education, and a licensed presenter of their Dogs & Storks® and Dogs & Toddlers™ programs.  Compassionate, judgement-free guidance is the heart and soul of Family Paws Parent Education.  We have Jennifer Shryock to thank for that.

What We Do

Our Family Paws Parent Education programs are uniquely designed and specialized to help families with dogs and a baby or toddler, in order to increase safety and reduce stress.

We offer ongoing support and resources for families with dogs.

How We Do It

I invite you to watch our newest video to learn from families sharing their personal stories:

We are ready to support you and your family as your baby grows, and as your dog ages.


We are here to help everyone adjust with each stage!

Dog and Baby Support Hotline

If you are a new parent and are considering re-homing your family dog, give us a call.

If you have a friend or relative who’s overwhelmed with their dog and baby/toddler, call us.

If you’re a shelter volunteer and would like information to support new and expecting families, give us a call.

(877) 247-3407

Reach out.  We are here to help.

Join us on Facebook! (Click here.)
Join us on Facebook for information and support dedicated to dog and baby/toddler dynamics. We help families and the professionals that support them! (Click on image.)


NOTE:  I know that not everyone who follows my blog is expecting a child or has a dog and toddler, but you may know friends, family members, and coworkers who do.  If you feel this information would be a benefit to them, please share this. I strongly believe that we can prevent heartache and stress by letting families know there is support and help available.  Education and sharing our stories and experiences with others is how we accomplish this.


Life is not a solo act.  It’s a huge collaboration. We all need to assemble around us the people who care, and the people who support us in times of difficulty and stress.


Things That Go BOOM In The Night

Happy New Year’s Eve! Conscious Companion would like to send you and your family many well wishes for the New Year.

As we prepare for New Year’s Eve festivities, we need to plan for our pets, too. It’s very important to recognize that our animal companions have a year behind them as well; they may be less tolerant of what they were tolerant of, or comfortable with a year ago.  If you are having guests over, please consider what this means for your pets! Be sure to plan ahead: Consider what your family might need to do to help your cat, dog, bird, etc. to feel safe and secure as you welcome in 2015!

If you’d like a few tips to make sure everyone has a safe, fun night, check out this post!

Have a Safe and Happy New Year!

p.s. This post is geared toward dogs, so if you are owned by cats, skip to the bottom to get kitty tips! =^..^=

Conscious Companion

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Happy New Year! This post was written for the 4th of July, but the tips and techniques in here work just as well for New year’s Eve!


Soon people all over the U.S. will be celebrating the Fourth of July and our neighbors to the north are preparing for Canada Day!  Folks everywhere are getting ready for the visual and sound Smörgåsbord paired with good food, great friends, and family.  However, most animals would probably order the food, but hold the fireworks. So while we are preparing to party, let’s prepare our pets, too.

If you have worked or lived with an animal, you know that most of them are frightened of loud or startling noises.  The fear of loud sounds is called noise phobias.  Even if your animal companion has not displayed this fear before, the sights and sounds on The Fourth of July could easily bring out their most intense fears.

scared-parrot “What are…

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Didga, the Cat with Mad Skateboarding Skills!

A cat is more intelligent than people believe, and can be taught any crime. -Mark Twain, Notebook, 1895

Didga the Skateboarding Cat _cat _skate board_Clicker training for cats

Behold the cat that loves to skateboard … and who does it well, I might add.  Meet Didga, a two and a half year young clicker trained rescue cat who shows us that cats are not only clever, but they can “Drop In” with the best of them!

Check out this video of Didga showing off her Mad Skateboarding Skills for local kids at a skate park:

Didga’s Story

Didga was rescued from a shelter at 13 weeks. At 2 and a half years young, Didga is teaching people everywhere what cats are capable of!  She and her human, Robert Dollwet, want cat guardians to understand the value of responsible cat ownership by keeping their cats indoors, while showing people that they can teach their feline friends to walk on a leash, and other fun activities. This kind of positive, force-free training gives “the indoor cat experiences like those of an outdoor cat BUT without the dangers”.

Check out Didga in her first Skateboarding video here!

You can see more videos of Didga in action at her YouTube channel.

The next time you think your cat can’t learn, come back and watch these videos of Didga in action.

Dogs have owners, cats have staff.  

images via catmantoo

Robert Dollwet operates Malbu Dog Training in Australia.