Our animal companions play such an important role in our lives and surprising research shows that human-animal bonds can have huge psychological and physiological benefits.
Stress Reduction—A brisk walk with your beloved canine can sooth nerves and offer instant relaxation. And the relaxation carries over once you’re home. Studies show that individuals who live with companion animals suffer less stress than those who don’t and also react better to stressful situations. Many hospitals, assisted living care centers, nursing homes, and similar facilities have begun to invite therapy animals into their establishments because of the proven positive impact on stress reduction and overall health. One therapy dog I spoke to told me it gave her a sense of purpose and that she knew she had come into this world to serve others. Continue reading →
Ten Things Your Animal Companion Wants You to Know
Years ago I lost my beautiful tan tiger kitty, Taz. Weeks later, in the throws of grief I sat at my desk crying, my head resting in my hands. Suddenly I heard his voice. I am here. I’m not leaving yet. There’s something I want you to know. In fact every animal companion want’s their human to know these things. And he began to share a stream of conciousness that I raced to capture, scribbling furiously as he spoke. Here are the ten things he shared with me.
Be faithful – To yourself, to your word, and to your commitment to me. I need to be able to trust you.
Be love – Surround yourself with love so you can in turn surround me with unconditional love as I do you.
Be clear – Before you ever bring me into your home; be clear with your intent, about what you want, and about what you intend to give back to an animal companion. Then ask yourself if you are ready to do what it takes to care for me.
Be wise – Know what my needs are. Equip yourself with knowledge about what I require nutritionally, physically, mentally, emotionally and if you can…spiritually. Be creative in finding solutions outside of the traditional. And be aware that I need balance.
Be there – Do not bring me into your life if you cannot be there for me physically and emotionally. While I do sleep a good amount, my waking hours without you can sometimes be lonely unless I have another companion.
Be aware – Of how I and my needs may change as I grow older. Be cognizant of the slightest changes in my state of being. And be ready to address them holistically.
Be kind – Always. I have a reason for everything I do and you may not be aware of my purpose in any given moment.
Be compassionate – Your needs and desires are not more important than mine. Always remember that I have a purpose and destiny that is as important to me as yours is to you.
Be consistent – With feed, care, nurturing, timing. Patterns are important to me as is knowing what to expect.
Be the change – Be the change you want to see in the world. Speak up against abuse and neglect. Help others to change inappropriate attitudes and behaviors. Be a role model for love and compassion.
When he was done speaking, I was awestruck, as I am so often about the wisdom present in the animal kingdom and the lessons humans can and should learn from these noble creatures. Thank you for sharing, beautiful Taz.
Luke was a stunning, dramatic boy. Wolflike and intense, he commanded attention and respect. His coat was predominately black, with a strip of tan on his underbelly and a hint of creamy white fluff on his hind legs. Deep golden eyes pierced his ebony face and were rimmed under a dark tan whisper of an eyebrow. At first glance, you might have pegged him as fierce.
He had the look of a warrior primed for battle, but despite his looks, Luke was a rather shy, sweet, and unassuming boy. But that might have been due to his circumstances, which perhaps masked his sweet, beautiful personality. Because on the inside, Luke was devastated.
When I tuned into him, he told me that he was a wonderful boy, and he told me that I was right: there was a fierceness to him, but he kept it hidden because he didn’t want people to label him that way or shy away from him because of it. Most of us partition off certain aspects that we’re not ready to reveal about ourselves. We hide our flaws until we can trust enough to show our whole and true selves.
For the first three years of his life, he lived with mom and dad, their children, and a German Shepherd brother. During that time, he’d known the security, love, and protection of a family. That all changed when his family was shattered by a painful divorce, and his future that once seemed so certain was altered forever. Luke was relinquished to rescue.
Now he was scared, depressed, and insecure. The pain in his heart was unbearable. And even though he was embraced and loved in the rescue and showered with affection and attention, Luke longed for a family and a home to call his own. Heartbreak and sorrow were all too apparent in his eyes. When he was alone in his kennel, he retreated to a corner, perhaps dreaming of a home with another dog, children who would know how to properly treat a dog, and a family with some German Shepherd experience.
But we sensed that he’d most likely be adopted quickly. He was not only stunning, but also reserved and well-mannered, although his looks would have conveyed otherwise. And in many ways, he was the ideal family dog: housebroken, socialized, and playful. His favorite thing was to play fetch with the volunteers, dodging their efforts to retrieve the ball and reveling in the game of chase that would ensue when volunteers would attempt to reclaim the ball from his mouth. And he was well-behaved in the car, settling peacefully in the back seat. He also knew some basic doggie obedience.
Within days of joining rescue, it was apparent that Luke was floundering in the kennels. He became apathetic and lethargic. His appetite dwindled, and his depression worsened. So we quickly placed him in a foster home. In foster, Luke improved, but broken hearts are not healed overnight. And like most abandoned dogs, Luke must have been wondering, Why am I here? Where is my family? Who are these new people?
As we predicted, it didn’t take long for our beautiful Luke to find a home. A previous adopter with two older female German Shepherd in her pack decided to add our handsome boy Luke into the mix. Because of his past, he is quick to form bonds. And the female GSDs in his new family seemed to sense that Luke needed time to ease into the meet-and-greet, so they quietly allowed him to sniff and get acquainted and feel comfortable. Within moments, Luke started to relax, and bonds began to form. Because Luke can be anxious and has a bit of separation anxiety, the two additional female GSDs as constant companions will help keep our boy feeling secure. His new mom is wonderful, calm, and experienced with German Shepherds. Luke’s new home is an extensive park-like property with tons of room to roam and squirrels to chase. Our Luke is in great hands!
When I asked Luke how he was doing, he replied simply that he had never believed that what he’d had in his first home could ever be replaced but that he knew now that home is where the heart is, and he tells us that his heart is starting to heal.
He was a stunning black and tan. Classic, noble, and proud with keen eyes and ears. But on the inside, Tobias was falling apart. He had been loved once, but now he was in the shelter. His home, his job, his family, his everything was gone. His eyes told us that he was sad and confused and that he had given up hope. I asked him what had happened; all he told me was that it all happened so fast. Like a tornado had torn through his world, casting everything airborne in a whirlwind of change only to land broken and askew.
Our rescue was contacted, and we brought him in. Because he was so shattered, we searched in vain for a foster family rather than place him in our kennels. And we knew through experience that rescue gives a new lease on life. But with our resources exhausted, we had no choice other than to place him in the kennels temporarily. Volunteers rallied around him, showering him with love and affection, carefully introducing him to other dogs, and championing him during his play time.
He struggled with kennel life, but with time, he found a rhythm and settled in. He began to bond with other dogs and come out of his shell. Playtime especially seemed to pull him out of his slump. But we could tell he missed having a real home and a family to claim as his own.
As time passed, his confidence grew. And as his confidence grew, his true self emerged. While he had a sweet and affectionate side, he was also a strong athletic male with energy to burn. His leash manners were nonexistent. Walking him meant diverting and directing his energy constantly or you’d find yourself waterskiing behind him.
Meanwhile, a family from another county reached out to us—a large, extended family that had owned GSDs for thirty-five years, with grown children who had children and GSDs of their own. The family had recently lost a beloved male and companion to their female GSD, Bella. They were devastated, and Bella was inconsolable. She would spend hours mourning by his grave in the back yard. They’d been referred to our rescue by their daughter, and they submitted an application for Tobias.
We handled the first meet-and-greet carefully. We’d been warned that Bella could sometimes be a bit barky and pushy, but that didn’t happen with Tobias. Bella looked at Tobias, eyes wide, mouth slightly open in amazement. And she was in love. Later, off leash, they played as though they were bonded littermates.
But possibly the most defining moment was when the new family’s granddaughter stepped up to the fence to meet him. Tobias walked carefully to her as though he was navigating a mine field. He gazed into her eyes with gentle adoration and kissed her through the fence. And we wondered whether he’d been with children in his previous life. Perhaps part of his heartache had been not only losing a home, but also losing a family with children. When I asked him about it he said no, but he loved the innocence of children. They mean no harm, he said.
Now Tobias has a home again. He lives with his new love Bella on a half an acre. He has a large family with parents, children, and grandchildren to love. And he is part of a large pack that romps together when the family reunites for get-togethers. And although chaos and turmoil had separated him from his previous family, he has regained peace and love and all that he once lost.
So you think you’re ready for a new dog. And maybe you’re even considering a puppy. Here are nine important questions to ask before you get a puppy.
1. Are you ready to put in the time and energy to train your puppy—even if this means paying for professional training? If you answered no, don’t get a puppy.
2. Are you ready to have your personal possessions chewed, mangled, and stained? Puppies teethe, which means they’ll chew your favorite shoes, purses, books, etc. And they’ll have potty accidents and throw up on things. If you have no tolerance for this, don’t get a puppy.
3. Are you ready to give up sleep? Puppies miss their litter mates and can demand attention when you least want to give it…in the middle of the night. If you don’t want to get up every two or three hours each night to soothe your distraught pup, don’t get a puppy.
4. Are you ready to give up your free time? If you love to lounge around on a lazy Sunday morning (or when you get home from a long day at work) a puppy might not be the best choice for you. Puppies need tons of time and attention and exercise. If you don’t have time to provide this, don’t get a puppy.
5. Are you able to provide the right medical care? Puppies need shots, tests, spaying or neutering, and routine medical care. In the worst-case scenarios, they can require emergency care if they’ve chewed or swallowed something dangerous. If you don’t have the financial means to care for a puppy as you would a child, don’t get a puppy.
6. Are you ready to adapt if your puppy turns out to be different than you imagined? There’s no reliable way to gauge the temperament of your new puppy. What if he or she is more active than you imagined or less easily trained? Do you have the patience and flexibility to stick with it and adapt to the needs of your new puppy? If you don’t, don’t get a puppy.
7. Are you available? Are you around enough to provide for the needs your puppy will have? If you work full time or are away from the home for hours, don’t get a puppy.
8. Are you willing to establish a support system for your puppy when you have to travel? If not, don’t get a puppy.
9. Are you able to financially, physically, emotionally, and mentally provide for another living being? Having a puppy is saying “yes” to a 10‒15 year commitment. If you’re not ready for a baby, don’t get a puppy.
Want to form a more connected bond with your animal companion? One of the most profound ways is to learn to communicate with them and speak their language. From my experience all animal species communicate through telepathy using their minds, thoughts, and feelings to convey a message.
Once you have trained your mind or your intuition to receive messages they may take many forms. Animals communicate in pictures, feelings, emotions, and concepts. You can then translate these inner impressions in ways that we (and other humans) can understand. Continue reading →