During all the holidays this season, it is important to take into account how our companion animals will be affected by the changes in our routines.
For those of us travelling, please keep in mind that animals do get lonely and miss us when left at home alone (cats) or in boarding situations (dogs.) Usually dogs are better off because they need someone to walk them several times a day, so they receive attention then, but they will still miss us. Make sure you always ask/hire a trusted caretaker. It is also nice when dogs can stay with friends or family who have dogs they get along with well, but only if they are comfortable with the all the animals in the host household.
There tends to be a misconception that cats are perfectly fine if they are just left for several days (or longer) with enough food, water & fresh litter in the box. This may be sufficient for their physical needs, but they also have emotional needs. Try to have a trusted person come to check on them at least once a day, ideally someone who is familiar with your cats and the type of attention they need. Especially if you have a single cat, he or she will feel very alone without you and depend on the daily visits to stay positive emotionally. Even if they don’t snuggle or “play” much with the caretaker, it helps them to have someone visit & talk to them, for at least 25-30 minutes, longer if possible.
You can also telepathically/energetically check in with your animal companions while you are away. Picture them in your mind, send them love and talk to them the way you would if they were in front of you. Remind them that you will be home in __amount of days and not to worry. Even if you can’t “hear” them they can usually receive your message and that is comforting for them. Before you leave town always explain where you are going, for how long and reassure them that you will return.
If you have visitors for the holidays, especially large groups, think about how that affects your animal companions too. Try to have their food bowls in an area that does not have much foot traffic. Having someone they do not know well standing in front of their food (or water) may deter them from it. If you have indoor-only kitties make sure guests know to never leave an open door unattended. Never assume that anyone automatically knows to do this. If your dogs like to greet guests enthusiastically that is fine. Simply warn the guests in advance and be grateful that you have such a friendly dog. Don’t send the message that your dog is doing something wrong. They are simply doing what they feel is their part to be welcoming & most likely genuinely excited to see/meet your guests. If it really creates an issue or goes on for too long simply & without reproach re-direct their attention with another activity.
If you have older dogs or cats that move slowly make sure guests are careful not to accidentally bump into them or step on their tails. If you are having a very large party it may be safer to confine them to an area of the house where most guests will not go, like a bedroom. Try to check on them & always let them know what is going on.
Setting expectations is a great way to make sure everyone is comfortable and happy. Protecting the comfort of your animal companions in the home you share is key and your guests will have a wonderful time with the understanding that they are helping you keep your fur kids safe and knowing all are equally valued members of the family. This in turn allows you to be calm & to focus on hosting & enjoying a fantastic gathering.
When our beloved animals cross over the rainbow bridge-part III-These are the days to remember (like the song.)
I had a dream last week about the subject of today’s blog post, and in that dream I was dictating this into a recorder so that I wouldn’t forget to post it. The topic addresses my continuing series on dealing with grief after the loss of animal companions.
I was thinking about how our animal companions have much shorter lifespans than we do. The 14-15 years that I was graced with having Juneau and Jarvis here with us, I somehow managed to be a little bit in denial that someday they would cross over. Of course some part of me “knew” it would happen, but it was a “far off in the distant future” concept in my mind.
When Jarvis was diagnosed with cancer in 2012, it shook the foundations of my world, a world where I believed I could always protect them & keep them safe. This was something I had no control over. It was past the point where treatment would work. I was able to give him healing Reiki energy and medicine to keep him comfortable, but ultimately his wishes were to simply enjoy the time he had left. Less than a year later Juneau also got sick & followed his brother across the rainbow bridge.
As we enter a third year with our beautiful kittens Gracie Belle and Merlin, I have noticed that sometimes I experience a sense of “energetic overlay” where I am very aware that our time is limited. Hopefully limited as in “20 + years limited,” and of course there are no guarantees, but I am more conscious of time. I have to be mindful not to give in to fears of losing them someday, and instead focus on the only thing we have control over, which is now, today.
Today I can make sure to indulge Gracie Belle when she wants me to stay in bed longer for an extended snuggle, smiling as she purrs, today I can play for an extra few minutes with Merlin even though I am running late already, and watch him smile as he chases a ribbon toy. I can treasure each second we spend together and be fully present when they need me. Of course there are lots of times when we simply sit together and maybe they sleep on my lap while I read or watch tv, but when they ask for attention they get it. Because even as I am grateful for each minute, I now know these are finite. I think once we have gone through that type of loss & grief, it takes an extra dose of strength each time to adopt again, to start over, in a sense, knowing that the end result will be the pain of separation.
But it is not about the end result, it is about all the days & hours in between, no matter how many we are lucky enough to have. About lives shared & lived fully together. About memories and love that does last forever & transcends lifetimes on earth. And I have found the best way for me to deal with that is to remain in the present as much as possible, grateful for the sweetness, every single moment of it.
*The hawk in the photo was perched on our garden gate the day we adopted Gracie Belle & Merlin, in the morning before we went to the adoption event. I thought it was a lovely sign.