Compassion and Calculated Creativity: Stepping Outside the Proverbial Pet Box

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.🎙



February 2019

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.

Hocus Pocus popping by the vet, just to hop on the scale & get yummy cookies from the staff and lots of love.

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.

Friends Don’t Hunt Friends 😉 Hocus Pocus & Mr. Beaux enjoying a car adventure together after a short stroll on the “frozen tundra” here

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.

Plants, like these sunflowers, have proven to have amazing sensory abilities, but scientists aren’t exactly sure how.

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.

Feeling Only Good Vibes at our home in Cali at the beach

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.

Come what may. We are never victims of our circumstances. We can chose another way/.


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


Stay Inspired!


Recommended Reading & Related Links

Fear & Empowerment 101 :

VET Success!

Canine Hypothyroidism & Behavior:

Senior Cats

Plants Who Respond to Threats In Environment


Baby It’s Cold Outside


Originally Posted Winter 2013 Cold Cat Winter

I grew up in the harsh winters of Kansas.  As a kid, winter was bliss.  I didn’t have to shovel snow, or scrape the icy windshield;  I got to play in it.   However, my dad believed that the dogs were fine out there in the dead of winter, unless there was a blizzard or “big storm-a-coming.”  Only then would we prepare the basement for our black Labrador and German Shepherd-Golden Retriever mix, Sampson and Sheba.  They were both allowed inside, but had to stay down in a carpet-free, secured area of the basement for the night.  To a 7 year old girl who adored her canine companions,  this was fine to me because I got to see my buddies inside for a night!

Things are different now.

It’s not recommended that you leave your animal companion outside in the freezing temperatures, with or without snow.  Most dogs and all cats are safer indoors.   No matter what the temperature, the freezing wind chill can threaten their lives.

Fur isn’t gortex.  A dog or cat’s fur doesn’t always protect them from extremely cold temperatures.  In fact, when most pet fur gets wet from walking through snow, they actually become more susceptible to hypothermia and frostbite because their fur chills them instead of keeping them warm.



Cold Weather Protection 

Cat ShelterIf you know of any cats that live outdoors consider building (or buying) a structure where they can go to get out of the inclement weather.  Provide insulation in their shelter.  Use blankets.  Straw (not hay) is also a good insulator.  Provide a heat source.  Some houses have the capability of connecting a light bulb as a heat source.   Other options may be warm water bottles.   Be careful with heating pads, as they can chew through them.  Anytime you are providing a heat source, be sure that the animal is able to move away from it if they get too warm.   Alley Cat Allies has an extensive list of shelters that you can build.   You can build a basic shelter, or an elaborate one.  Check out their Cat Shelter Options!

Click on the image / Link below to learn how to make an easy shelter.

cat shelter winter outdoor cats

Building Winter Shelters for Community Cats




Slap The Hood!  Keep ’em on Leash! And Wipe Those Feetz!

We have all heard the stories about outdoor cats and their terrible injuries or deaths because they sought warmth in a car engine compartment.  You can prevent this by simply slapping the hood a couple of times or honking the horn before starting the engine.   The noise will startle the cat and hopefully encourage him or her to make haste and leave!

When you are out and about with your canine or feline, keep them on a leash at all times during a snow storm.  In snow, they can lose their scent and easily become lost.  The ASPCA states that more pets are lost during the winter than during any other season.  Keep their ID tags on at all times!Lonely cat waiting by the road by Shutterstock

Be sure to wipe off their paws, legs and stomach when they come inside from the sleet, snow, or ice.   The salt and other chemicals used to melt snow and ice can make them sick and irritate the pads of their feet and their stomachs.  Check to make sure there is no ice stuck between their toe pads. These pieces can be very sharp and tear their skin.

Consider getting snow boots and a coat for  for animal companions!

ruffwear_bark_n_boots_polar_trex_insulated_dog_boots_
RuffWear has amazing snow gear!

Keep those “Cold Blooded” Critters Warm!

While most exotic animals are housed indoors here in the northern part of the states, there are still some key things to keep in mind during winter.  When housing reptiles in the home, remember that your house temperature drops as the temperature outside drops, so you will need to adjust their enclosure heat sources accordingly.  The most important part of their heating set up is a good quality digital thermometer.  Place the thermometer where the reptile will be and measure the warm and cool ends of the cages as well as the night temperature.  If these temperatures fall outside of recommended ranges, then provide a supplemental radiant heat source.  Use a lamp -not a hot rock or heating pad — Burns can result from these.   Here are a few more tips for keeping your reptile friends safe and warm during cold weather.

NOTE:  Overheating (even from heat lamps) is much more dangerous than the cold is for reptiles.  Use caution!   Hibernation is not recommended for any reptile without a reptile veterinary consultation first.  Many pets die every year from incorrect hibernating techniques.

Little David in his pond

Even native turtles need a source of warmth in the winter. Here Little David is enjoying some rays of sun on a cooler day.


Feathered Friends Need Warmth and Shelter, too! 

winter_parrots_cartoon

Ideal Temperature Ranges For Parrots

The majority of birds should not be kept outside when the weather is below 40 degrees – unless adequate shelter is provided.  The ideal temperature for most birds is between 65 and 90 degrees F.  African greys, cockatoos, and amazon parrots prefer temperatures around 70 to 80 degrees.   Miniature parrots (parrotlet and fig parrot) cannot be kept in temperatures below 50 degrees.

How to Keep them warm

  • Get a heater!  Ceramic heaters produce a constant flow of heat without light that disturbs your bird’s sleep. Keep the heater away from the bird and enclosure; these heaters can get very hot.
  • Get a warming perch. Birds lose a ton of heat through their feet; heating perches are a great way to keep them warm.
  • Solo birds don’t have the option of huddling up with a mate to keep warm. Provide your loner bird with a warm soft fabric to snuggle with!
  •  More Temp Tips
  • More Winter Tips to keep your parrot healthy, including how to provide adequate UV Light!

Soothe the Seniors’ with Added Warmth!

These rapidly fluctuating temps dipping down well below normal can really affect aging pets with arthritis.   And since we always want to look at the BIG picture when it comes to our animal companions, we need to recognize that joint stiffness and pain can exacerbate (or create) behavioral issues and tension in the home, especially in multiple cat homes, or in homes with multiple species.  Chronic pain can lead to increased vocalization, irritability, aggression, fear, and a host of other behavioral issues.

One of the many ways that we maintain peace and harmony in our home is to make sure that each senior is content and comfy 24/7.   One way that we do that is by placing “warm spots” for them on each level of the house.  This allows him to retreat to a safe, warm, and soothing spot when they want to, they all have their own places, and it allows them to find a warm patch when a cold snap comes through. As you can see, this homemade heated bed is for our senior cats, who have a hard time navigating in and out of tall beds.

pet heating pads_senior cats_arthritis .png

We also LOVE these heated cat beds for the more agile cats in the home. You can view them here. thermo-kitty-bed heated cat bed

The image below is of our Beaux, who is twenty years of age. He, like most cats, gravitates toward warm spaces. Beaux is safely sleeping on a heated pet bed.  At a mere six pounds, he gets chilly easily, so Beaux loves to be covered up! 

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Although this sort of low heat source is not likely to penetrate deep into a cat or dog’s hip joints, many are soothed and comforted by having a warmed spot, and the warmth can encourage blood circulation through those stiff muscles.

Martin Conscious Companion_pet warming beds
Hocus Pocus is seen here sleeping on Mr. Beaux’s heating pad area. As you can see, the heating pad is directly on the couch, with a regular pet bed on top of it. When Beaux is ready to nap on this, we add a blanket over the pet bed (for extra safety and to prevent over-heating).

Safety First:  Always be sure your pet does not have access to the wires, or anything else that could be harmful.  And be sure the PET heating pad is set on the lowest setting, and it’s well insulated under blankets and other materials.  If you have a home with pets who can not be trusted around wires and such, here’s a non-electric option.  

Remember:  Heat rises, so the house may feel very warm to us, but at a cat and dog’s level, it’s considerably cooler.  If you have senior pets, talk to your veterinarian about what can help sooth those achy joints, especially during these cold weather months!

 


The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) has some great tips on how you can help your furry family members in cold weather:

Did you know?

  • Animal neglect is considered a misdemeanor crime in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
  • All but nine states (Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Mexico, and North Carolina) specifically require pet owners to provide adequate shelter for a pet outside, the definition of which generally includes some variation of “protection from the elements or extreme weather.”
  • Felony penalties can be levied in Massachusetts and Oklahoma for any animal neglect case.
  • Felony charges can be applied in animal neglect resulting in death in California, Connecticut, Florida and Washington, D.C.

Be a Conscious Companion!

PLEASE, If you see any animal that has been left outside in extreme temperatures (a neighbors pet, a business’s pet, etc.) find the courage to say something.  If you are not comfortable going on your own, take someone with you.  Be the voice for the ones who need your help.   Ask if the person if they need help setting up a shelter, if they need blankets, or if they would like help in anyway.   Don’t be accusatory.   Be helpful.  It will come across more meaningful and they may accept your help.  If they don’t respond well to your offerings, the HSUS suggests that you contact local law enforcement agencies.  Pets left outside in extreme temperatures without food and shelter are at risk of hypothermia, frostbite, and even death, and this places their owners at risk of facing criminal charges.  The HSUS lists details of how you can help neglected animals during these winter months.

Remember that even though animals have their own instincts, as their guardians we have to be responsible and take precautions for them on their behalf.  


Winter Weather Recap:

 

  • Never leave your pet outside during a snowstorm for longer than you’d would want to be out there with them. If it’s too cold for you, it’s too cold for your pet.
  • Consider caring for and/or building a safe shelter for outdoor cats.
  • Prepare indoor play activities for your pets who are used to more outside time.
  • Stock up on pet food and medicines your animals may need, as winter storms can take out power, close roads, and even trap you in your home.
  • Thoroughly wipe off your dog’s paws and belly with a moist washcloth after going outside. Snow-melting salt can be very painful to dogs’ feet and cause illness if ingested. Clumps of snow can accumulate between toes and cause pain as well. Dog boots and salves can be purchased to protect sensitive dog paws.
  • During the winter, outdoor cats sometimes sleep underneath cars for shelter. Bang loudly on the car hood before starting the engine to give any resting cats a chance to escape.
  • Consider giving short-haired or smaller dogs a coat and booties to wear outside to protect them from the elements and the chilly temperature.
  • If you lose power, be sure candles aren’t in locations where your pet can knock them over.
  • Be aware of snow-melting salt, which can be painful to animals’ paws and make them ill if it’s ingested.
  • Create an emergency plan.
  • Stay up to date on storm conditions and warnings in your by checking with your local Office of Emergency Management.
  • The ASPCA’s free mobile app provides pet owners with critical information on what to do before, during, and after a disaster, and gives personalized instructions on how to search for and recover a lost animal in a variety of circumstances.
  • You may also store your pets’ medical records and other important information — such as microchip numbers and veterinarians’ contact information — often needed when bringing your animal to an evacuation shelter. Visit ASPCAapp.org to download on iTunes or Google Play.
  • The ASPCA’s shareable cold weather pet care infographic may be found here. For more information on cold weather pet safety tips from the ASPCA, visit aspca.org/pet-care/general-pet-care/cold-weather-safety-tips.


How do you keep your animal companions safe during the winter months?  

Please share with us and help others!

Some cat and dog breeds are well adapted to cold weather, but the majority of them are not.
Some breeds are well adapted to cold weather, but the majority of them are not.
The Norwegian Forest Cat is a breed adapted to a very cold climate.
The Norwegian Forest Cat is a breed adapted to a very cold climate.

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