May 30, 2012

Raisa Stone: In Praise of Small Dogs

Years ago, I didn't really like small dogs. Yep, I was a dog snob. And because I avoided them, I didn't listen to them. 

When I was a veterinary assistant, I even landed in a clinic where the groomer despised small dogs. She had special mean names for them. We all laughed. Looking back, it wasn't funny.

Thankfully, I was well on the road to small dog appreciation before I went professional as an Animal Communicator. When you make the transition from "picking and choosing" your rescues to cooperating with big rescues, you work with who's in front of you.

To my surprise and delight (and some self-recrimination), I found a world of brilliant personalities.

Here's what I now know about small dogs:

-Small dogs have the same needs and desires as big dogs. They want to: run, play, socialize, scratch, eat yummy things, roll in stinky stuff, have sex, be part of a pack,
sleep in your bed, protect you, have a job, know their place is the home, chew bones, and be with you.

-Though every small dog has the heart of their wolf ancestors, they feel extremely vulnerable due to their size. They can be afraid of: too many feet (on sidewalks and at festivals), people and other dogs approaching too quickly, being picked up without permission, children, loud noises, tall objects, cars, bicycles.

Part of what I do as an AC is actually "go inside" the animal's body and experience the world through their senses. It is quite frustrating and frightening to be a small creature in a world of large ones.

Small dog advice:

-Don't carry them around when they can walk. They find this embarrassing. It subjects them to razzing from larger dogs. Carrying them in your pink purse, is, well, like dressing kids in frou frou clothing. Pick them up only in unfamiliar or crowded situations. As well, lack of weight bearing exercise can cause osteoporosis;

-Housetrain them as rigorously as any large dog. Pee pads and ignoring "accidents" because they're small, is a subversion of their strong natural instincts to potty outdoors. It eats into their self esteem and makes them anxious. Is it acceptable to go in your pants when you only have to go "a little bit"? You'll also find yourself more welcome, socially. No matter how nice your friends are, believe me, they talk about the pee pads and newspapers behind your back;

-Adult large breeds make the best pets for children. Small dogs, especially puppies, are easily injured;

-Give your dog stature. Whenever you can, put them up on a (safe) chair or bench beside you. A small dog likes to view her surroundings. The other day I facilitated this for a mini Poodle at a powwow. She had been cowering under a chair, fine with the drums but terrified of dancing feet. I suggested her Mom put her bed on a chair. The little sprite stopped shaking, looked me warmly in the eye, and in a wee, high voice, said, "Thank you!";

If you leave them during the day, give them a safe perch that lets them watch the world outside. As a dog ages, they may need steps to reach their perch. Don't mistake their gameness to jump and please you, as unlimited ability to do so;

-Don't for one moment think of them as a "toy." They have the same feelings and needs as anyone. Give them big beefy bones they can growl over. Let them socialize with other dogs;

-Use your good sense and compassion when choosing accessories. Many small dogs are mortified by the costumes they're forced to wear, and act this out with misbehaviour and anxiety. I'll say it again, "Dogs make fun of each other, just like we do!" Don't work out your own fashion issues on your pet.

I deal with clothing/collar/blanket/dish/tack preferences all the time in my practice. Yes, they do see colour. Yes, they care about texture. Think about how very simple animals' possessions are, and that they don't have the ability to change these. If you sense discomfort, leave it off, or ask an Animal Communicator;

-Give them a job, whether it's fetching one slipper at a time or an agility routine;

-Recognize that much of the time, the "yapping" other people complain about is a combination of being treated as though they're not dogs, and their desire to protect you---along with the knowledge they can't really do the job. Build their self esteem in other ways;

-Small dog breeds have some special health needs. Read up on your breed. Many have poor teeth, and need extra dental care. White dogs can tend towards deafness.

And please: if you're thinking of acquiring a small dog, look to local rescues and shelters first. Such genuinely nice dogs get dumped. The Spaniel in the photo was an unclaimed stray, with not a thing wrong with him physically or behaviourally. The main reason people get rid of pets, is because they don't realize how much responsibility they are. In BC, we have a double problem: low vacancies at exorbitant rates, with landlords who don't allow pets.

If you're thinking of adopting, please feel free to consult with me. I can look at rescues' photos and give you an idea of their personalities. A session with me can save you much time and effort.

Here's to small dogs, and the people who love them!

Kind regards,
Raisa Stone
Expert Animal Communicator

Join me on Facebook

To receive the complimentary Animal Soul Newsletter, with informative articles about animal care, communication and training, visit my website.

Copyright 2013 Raisa Stone. All rights reserved. If you wish to reprint material from this blog, contact Raisa Stone. Must be reprinted in entirety with all links and credit intact.

May 16, 2012

Reisa Stone: Are Animals Our Mirrors?

I've heard from various sources, "Your pets are your mirrors." I've actually used the word "mirror" myself, then began examining it. It's a literal statement. A mirror reflects back precisely what it sees. No subletly, no interpretation is possible. I've had to think that over. If your cat is soiling outside the litter box, does that mean you're misusing the toilet? That's just silly!

The other thing that bothers me is the simplistic and judgmental values that can be attached to the concept of "mirror."

I volunteered hands on hours at a horse rescue. A big gray Thoroughbred mare had an unpredictable personality. She was all sweetness one moment, then would strike like a snake with hooves or teeth the next.

I tried to speak with her and simply brush her long neck. She turned a soft, sweet eye and voice one moment, then aggressively lunged with her teeth the next. She had nailed one volunteer in the knee, and others had marginally missed being injured. I told the volunteer trainer that this mare needed to be sent away to a professional to work with her troubled soul.

She had been a race horse, and found the betrayal of being intensely worked with one hour per day, then isolated in her bathroom (stall) for the other twenty-three, too much to bear. She was more like an angry cat than a horse. Mad at the world and also lacking horsey social skills due to this isolation, she even badly injured a sweet little mare who tried to befriend her. At 1100 lbs., making her safe would take many hours of daily commitment.

"Animals are our mirrors," responded the amateur trainer. Then came the kind of New Age judgmental statement that serves no one, "If you experience her as temperamental, you need to look at yourself."

I leaned on the fence as this philosopher worked with the gray mare in the round pen. The mare charged her. She came towards the woman with head in a low, submissive posture. Quick as a wink, she turned and expertly aimed her rear hooves at the "trainer's" head. I held my breath as the mare did this three times, her aim precise and muscular. She missed the middle of the trainer's face by scant inches.

To my amazement, the woman pretended nothing was wrong! She did not even practice the basic round pen technique, which is to first "join up" (create trust), then "send away" (make the horse run laps) when there is misbehaviour.

She was in mortal danger from a horse that had learned somewhere that the only way to deal with tricky humans, was to out-trick us. I felt compassion for the mare, but compassion does not mean allowing yourself to be damaged.

Not calling her on this behaviour was (a) dangerous to humans; (b) dangerous to the mare, as horses who act this way often end their lives at slaughter; (c) not fair to potential adopters, who were not told of the mare's unbalanced nature. Dishonest adoptions can end in disaster.

What I find to be true: animals are not our "mirrors." They are our Master Teachers. Mirrors usually teach us to be self-critical. Teachers educate us in how to work with our self-image, which is far more complex than a one-dimensional, literal reflection.

Animals are no more our mirrors than are our friends, our partners, our coworkers. They are fellow travelers in life, opportunities to further our soul's growth. They are not mimics.

Absolutely, this big gray mare had lessons to teach. As I had been badly injured by a horse with similar behaviours years ago, my own lesson was to not bite off more than I could chew. I could not change her behaviour with my minimal volunteer hours. 

Nor could I count on anyone to reinforce any positive steps I did take with her. With my now crushed spine (I can walk, but cope with chronic pain), it would be foolish to play SuperHorsewoman and volunteer extra hours to help.

No, my original assessment was sound. If there was any mirror at all, it showed me how much I've matured. I no longer pride myself on being able to "ride anything with four legs and hair." No one can. 

Until similar horse management issues at this rescue became overwhelming and I left, I turned my energy to the willing horses. They needed me as much as the dangerous ones. This is also a "people lesson" for me.

Whether it's biting, kicking, soiling, digging, barking, timidity or another distressing behaviour, raise your antennae when someone throws a thinly veiled criticism at you. This is different from a professional being forthright, using language you understand and have the tools to debate.

There is an abundance of specialized language floating around out there, from the concepts of Natural Horsemanship to various yogic disciplines to religious fundamentalism and alternative spiritualities/therapies. Whether you reach out to a trainer, a coach or an Animal Communicator, look for someone who guides you towards discovering what your pet is trying to teach
you. That takes plain talk and common sense.

Your friend in the love of animals,
Reisa Stone

I'm Dr. Dolittle. Questions?

Join me on Facebook

To receive the complimentary Animal Soul Newsletter, with informative articles about animal care, communication and training, visit my website.

Copyright 2013 Reisa Stone. All rights reserved. If you wish to reprint material from this blog, contact Reisa Stone. Must be reprinted in entirety with all links and credit intact.