by Julie Ann Allender
Years ago, the teachings were very different with animals. The assumption was that animals had no feelings and didn’t talk. Today, it is no longer acceptable to abuse animals, to use them for animal research where they are treated inhumanely or abused. There are laws to protect animals and they are included in many more aspects of life. People take them in cars, to events and to hotels more frequently. Seat belts are used to keep them safe and they are active in helping people heal as therapy dogs.
Animals talk with their eyes, through body movements and body positioning, using very simple communication techniques. When a dog is anxious they will pant, drool, bark, bite, jump up or even run away. If one uses the old techniques of negative correction, the behaviors will often become worse. In order to get the animal to behave differently, one needs to listen to what he is saying—especially if the animal is sick. Anytime there is a major change in behavior, someone needs to be listening.
When pet therapy dog Bailey was dying of cancer, her communication was through slow walking, not eating as much and wandering off to be alone. She just seemed “different”, so it took some time for her owner to realize she was sick. On Bailey’s last day, she communicated by doing something totally out of character for her. She had been too sick to walk up the stairs, but that night, she was found in the upstairs bathroom. In the morning, she refused to eat or walk, signaling that it was time—she was done. Bailey mustered up the energy to get herself into the car, and at the vet, she said goodbye. She was an all-giving companion— a pet therapy certified dog to the end.
Daisy, who came from a puppy mill, was seriously traumatized there. She has post-traumatic stress disorder, so her two previous owners did not know how to talk to her. Daisy is clear that when she is scared—which is often—she needs to be in a safe place. She isn’t interested in food at that time, but will eat when the anxiety is at a lesser level. After three years of building trust, she is now willing to be held and petted when she is scared. Instead of walking away to find a safe place, Daisy cuddles up and stays to be pet.
To better communicate with our pets, the first step is to listen. Pay attention to their behaviors and notice when things change dramatically. They will communicate what is wrong, if only we have the insight to “hear” them.