If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other. ― Mother Teresa
Note: This blog post is available as a podcast at our website.
Hello friends! And Happy Almost March! Seriously, how are we nearly in March already?? Time really does fly when you are having fun, feeling love, and when you are in gratitude! I hope you are enjoying February and are ready for more amazing things to come in March.
If you haven’t seen it yet, Unconditional Love was the epicenter of our February Newsletter. I wish this story made the cut, but it just occurred so you’re getting the scoop here first. Although this post is also centered on love, we will switch gears a bit. This is a look into how we overcame a stressful situation by coming together as a team. It was fun to make. I hope you enjoy it. And I hope it’s helpful.
Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. ― Leo Buscaglia
Ok, let’s get to the nitty gritty of today’s post!
But first, I have some questions for you:
How do you feel about going to the veterinarian with your pets? How do your pets feel about going to the veterinarian? Do you dread it? Do you avoid going at all because it kind of sucks for everyone? Are your pets terrified at the sight of a cat kennel? Or do they dread seeing the door to the vet’s office? Where is your stress level when they are stressed?
Going to the veterinarian does not need to be a stressful experience. In fact, it should not be. Not only can going to the veterinarian be a positive experience for your pets, it should also be a positive experience for you as their guardian. Health challenges, routine checkups, and emergencies can be challenging to say the least, but they don’t have to be terrifying for anyone involved.
Both you and your pets can feel empowered together, in any situation.
The experience that each of you will have in any of these circumstances is directly linked to one another. Not only will your stress levels affect each other, but your attitude, responses and reactions are inexplicably linked. You may have separate physical bodies, but the emotions and energy between you are connected.
You are a team.
Today I was reminded of this in a very powerful way. I am incredibly grateful and inspired after what happened, which is why I’m sharing this with you! For the first time in what feels like forever, our family had a wonderful experience at the vet. I am not exaggerating when I say that it was by far the most positive experience I’ve ever had at a veterinarian’s office. I wish for everyone to have these kinds of experiences. And I wish that every animal companion had access to this kind of care.
Our companion animals are deserving of this and more.
I created a video describing a couple of aspects concerning this subject. I guess you could call it a Vlog (a video blog). But before you watch the video, it would be helpful if I gave you a bit of history about each of the animals that you will see in the video. It’s important to explain these aspects because with any animal companion in question, their individual history, individual temperaments, preferences, and personalities are all very important aspects to consider when it comes to creating conditions for compassionate animal care.
For the sake of time and to keep this short I will be brief about each of them.
Hocus Pocus is a 7-year-old Black-mouth cur with a history of reactivity towards very specific unfamiliar dogs and familiar cats who “creep into her canine space.” Over a year ago she was diagnosed with Hypothyroidism, and was immediately put on medication. Hocus’ reactivity to unfamiliar dogs, and the cats with whom she shares her home dramatically decreased. We have not had an indecent in reactivity in well over 8 months. With regards to people, Hocus’ trust and love of humans (of all ages and physical stages) knows no bounds. She is a true love bug when she is at her best.
“Mood swings and unexplained aggression can be caused by low thyroid.” – Shannon Wilkinson
Hocus’ overall experiences with veterinary offices (from my observation of her behavior) have been very positive over the past 6 years. During her first year of life she had one very aversive experience with an old school vet, concerning her ears. But thankfully, we have not had a repeat of that unkindness. I invest a lot of time and effort to build up Hocus’ confidence and to create lasting positive associations with the staff, the machinery, and the sight and scent of veterinary clinics everywhere we move.
The positive associations pay off profoundly.
Bred to Hunt!
Hocus‘ breed was designed to chase, hunt, and kill small mammals. Despite this inherent genetic predisposition, she became very bonded to our beloved King Albert the Grey. She remained by his side until his soul left his Earthly vessel. Since King Albert’s passing, Hocus has become very bonded to Beaux. She keeps a close eye on him on his walks, body blocking other dogs if they come closer than she would prefer 😉 She has now become exquisitely attuned to Mr. Beaux since the beginning of his seizures. She races to him when she hears any sudden noises that sound like the start of a seizure, and she alerts us whenever he appears to need help.
Hocus Pocus has become Beaux’s Guardian.
Mr. Beaux is a 19+ year old cat. He is considered geriatric at this age. Mr. Beaux has a history of extreme aggression that only manifests in a veterinarian clinic. This aggressive behavior stems from extreme fear.
Fear is the apprehension of a stimulus, object or event. Fear is a highly adaptive response, which is essential for survival. Fear manifests itself in many forms in all species. It’s not something, as their guardians, we are to judge, make wrong, or be embarrassed by. It’s quite natural. More importantly, as this post poignantly pointed out, the appropriate response to any fearful reaction should be compassionate, kind, and unconditionally loving.
Thankfully, the fear response can be changed in all species.
If you have read this past post, then you are aware of 4 common patterns of behavior in fearful animals: The four F’s (Flight, Fight, Freeze, Fiddle About). If you have not read it, I highly recommend it. As the article explains, the choice to F,F,F or F depends on the situation, but the tendency to choose one over the other also varies greatly with breed and species. Cats tend to choose to escape as their first response to fear. If they are unable to leave the situation, they often resort to fighting (becoming aggressive) as a means to escape.
When people, pets, and even plants, respond to stimuli in their environment, there is a very complex range of potential reactions. The response is both specific to the stimulus encountered, and to the situation. This will depend on two very important factors:
- The genetic influence on behavior. This influences the species and breed-specific behavioral responses that have become established over generations.
- The individual aspect of behavior. This has been established through the process of learning and which reflects not only the individual’s innate response to specific stimuli, but also its unique experience.
Beaux, when given a choice, will flee in the presence of danger or a perceived threat. In the past, at veterinary offices who did not practice force free medical care, Mr. Beaux did not have the choice of fleeing. So being the incredible House Panther than he is, his next and most natural innate feline response was to fight.
He fought hard.
Fast forward to today: I don’t allow that bullshizzill to happen anymore, with any of our animal family members, in any situation.
I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better. ― Maya Angelou
I have learned to love my failures and mistakes. They have become my greatest learning opportunities. Miracles come from mastering the lessons of our mistakes. Now I teach others how to prevent these kinds of situations, how to be proactive with their pets, and how to create conditions that help everyone involved to feel safe, secure, and as peaceful as possible. We won’t go into all of those today. We will just focus on a couple of conditions that were very helpful for our family in this particular situation.
Recently, Mr. Beaux had a seizure. Thankfully, he hasn’t had one of these in many months prior to this recent event. The last time it occurred was when we were living in California. At that time, he was under the care of a feline only health practitioner who practiced fear free techniques. This incredible veterinarian was assisting all of our cats with various medical challenges at the time. Because of the techniques that this certified fear free clinic was providing our feline family members, Mr. Beaux was learning to trust veterinarians and technicians for the first time in a long time. And considering he and King Albert were senior cats, they were being seen every six months. It was all going splendidly.
But then we moved. Again.
So, the search for a new qualified kitty vet began. Again.
Wanting to maintain Mr. Beaux’s level of trust, (for not only me, but for strangers who provide medical care to him), I researched, interviewed, and scouted out the best possible medical care facility in the area we now live. They say the third times a charm. And well, that was certainly the case with this cat. Mr. Beaux was seen by two other veterinary clinics before I “broke up” with them and began taking our feline family members to this new veterinarian clinic.
We hit the jackpot.
At first, I was incredibly disappointed that there was no certified fear free all feline (cat only) veterinarians in this new area. Going to a mixed species clinic has not worked out for our family in the past, so we usually avoid them when we can. But this new mixed species clinic did not disappoint. It was a calm and respectful experience for both Mr. Beaux, and myself. The staff were absolutely amazing. They did not push him, and they let him set the pace. I knew we’d be returning, and happy to do so when the time came to do so.
Six months later it was time to return.
To my great delight and amused surprise, taking Mr. Beaux to a mixed species vet worked out in our favor again. This time, our dog, Hocus Pocus, was invited to come along with us, and it was a smashing success.
Life with your animal companion, Improved.™
Of course, every situation is unique. Each person and pet bring both their individual and collective history, fears, preferences, emotions, beliefs, and energy into each challenging situation. And of course, who we choose to come along as our trusted companion will have consequences. This is true for both people and pets! I would not bring along a friend who asks a million annoying questions while I am trying to stay focused and centered. I would not bring along a friend who has the slightest aversion to medical offices or who has a history of panic attacks. I am going to bring the most grounded, calm, and secure person.
Bonus points: Someone who can make me laugh 😉
The two images below are examples of beautiful souls who can not only make me laugh when I am mad or sad, but they are giant oak trees who help me to stay grounded. Kathleen and Hocus are two strong souls I call on anytime I need support.
Get yourself grounded and you can navigate even the stormiest roads in peace. ― S. Goodier
Personality and energy set aside, there are also important puzzle pieces at play that we need to know about to stay empowered, together as a team. Below this post are a few links that go into this, including why we use food as a tool. The point is, there are countless ways to empower each other. There are tried and true science-based methods. And there are trials by fire. But to stay empowered takes time, compassionate effort, and a bit of creativity.
That’s what we did today. And it worked.
Compassion is the keen awareness of the interdependence of all things. –Thomas Merton
Questions to Consider
As the video alludes to, when it comes to creating empowering conditions, we want to consider:
- What will be helpful?
- What will be a hindrance?
- What will empower?
- What will be compassionate choices?
- What will create more fear or frustration?
- What will reduce fear?
- What will enhance everyone’s confidence, peace of mind, and sense of security.
Asking these questions is critical if we want to create a Life with Our Animal companion, Improved.
Sometimes it’s helpful when we step back, reevaluate, take carefully calculated risks, and think outside of the proverbial pet box.
Canines In Kahootz
As we all know, there are no coincidences in life.
No less than an hour after we returned home from the vet, our lovely mail person popped onto our porch, and began to share a similar story. While petting Hocus she explained how and why her family now brings her dog’s “BFF” with them to the vet, to help her senior dog feel more secure. Before trying this unusual technique, she could never get her whopping 100-pound Labrador through the front door, even with food, compassion, and a lot of patience. It took an entire team to force the dog into the vet, and the entire time the dog was terrified, the people were stressed, and the staff were strained. But when her best pup pal is by her side, she struts right through the door, feeling confident and more secure.
And the best part: Her pup chose to participate. No force needed.
Compassion is the wish to see others free from suffering. – The Dalai Lama
The Power of Choice
I am passionate about allowing all species of animals to have the power to choose in every circumstance. The ability to choose to participate or choose to walk away are choices that all living beings deserve the right to exercise. But what about our power to make choices as their guardians? We have the power to choose as well. And the choices we make affect their lives. Even the choices we make in our mind can have a powerful effect.
When a stressful event is on the horizon and you know that it’s going to affect your pets, you have choices to make. We have the power to choose to be in fear or to release those fears. Whether you choose to stay stressed, anxious, or worried is your choice. But what you choose will affect the experience and the outcome for all involved.
The success of your family and your animal companions during times of change depends upon you and how you choose to prepare, address, view, and react during, after, and before the event.
I’d love to hear from you.
What has been your experience with taking your pets to the vet? How do you manage their stress levels? How do you manage yours? Do your pets go to a certified fear free clinic? Have you ever brought a friend or family member along with you? Was this helpful or not? Do you have a good relationship with your pets’ veterinarian? Do you trust the staff? Do your pets? If you could wave a magic wand concerning your pets medical care, what would you change? What would you create? What would they change? What would they choose?
Know more today about the world than I knew yesterday and lessen the suffering of others. You’d be surprised how far that gets you. ― Neil deGrasse Tyson
- Learn more at our website about Cats & Canines in Cahootz!
- Follow the adventures of Mr. Beaux in his book trilogy!
- Stay connected with Conscious Companion.
Recommended Reading & Related Links
Fear & Empowerment 101 :
- The empowerment of “I Love You.”
- Calm After Chaos (the 4 Fs)
- Looking at Fear
- Navigating Challenges In Life with Your Animal Companions (with Grace & Ease)
- Living a Life That’s Golden – Aging with Grace & Ease
- 3 Words to Change Your Neural Pathway: I love You.
- Anal Glands, Superman, and Polyester Fleece
- Oh Mr. Postman …
- Dial UP the Dopamine!
- How Food Is Helpful
- Tools to transform your timid cat into a confident feline
- Why adolescent cats become afraid & what you can do to help
- Felines, Food, and Fear
- Using Foraging (puzzle feeders) as a Tool to Modify Fear in Cats
- Vet Visits: The Human Side of the Exam Table
- Stress Free Vet Visits – Part 1 (the Dreaded Wait in The Lobby)
- Low Stress Vet Visits
- Using Food to Calm a Cat During an Acupuncture Session
Canine Hypothyroidism & Behavior:
- The Effect of Hypothyroid Function on Canine Behavior
- Is Bad Behavior Caused by a Health Problem?
- Food Sensitivity and Intolerance Test
- Dr Mercola Hypothyroid Symptoms and Prevention
- “Wake and Hunt” – Safe Outdoor Food Foraging Enrichment
- Senior Cat Enrichment – Scent Work for Senior Felines! (“Nose Work” for Cats)
- Living a Life That’s Golden
- A Geriatric Cat’s Introduction to a Purchased Puzzle Feeder
- Albert’s Individual Enrichment Program (I.E.P.) for a Geriatric Cat
- Gentle Foraging for Geriatric Cats
- Beaux at 19 years young! Living Life to the Fullest!
Plants Who Respond to Threats In Environment
- New research on plant intelligence may forever change how you think about plants
- The 5 Senses of Plants
- Plants’ Response To Being Eaten – Similar To Our Response To Pain