While attending a conference on "The Rise of Pet Friendly Communities in America " I remembered the conversation I had with some of the other parents over dinner which centered around pet ownership, at Four Paws Preparatory last weekend when I went to visit Mrs. Parker and Little Fricke. Both are doing fine and adjusting to boarding school nicely. I included a sweet potato pie which I baked the night before in their care package and I remembered to bring MonkeyB ( Fricke's "Teddy Bear" ) and MonkeyG ( MonkeyB's playmate:) Although there is no standard model for "pet ownership" there is some consensus about what it means to be a "good pet parent" ( this is of course tossed about for pets without parents ). Below are some of the situations which I recall people and their "pets" discussing ( Parker and Fricke are my children we don't use the term "pets" ) over coffee and dessert, perhaps some will look familiar to you?):
THE NEIGHBORHOOD PETS
1. "I know you will love my dog too!"
Please don't assume your new neighbor will appreciate your dog.
A common mistake neighborhood "old timers" make with their new neighbors is the lack of a proper introduction of the new dog on the block ( your's ) to theirs. Yes we can't predict outcomes but a slow approach here ( unless the initial meeting is at a dog park ) is probably best, just so you know where the old timer(s) stand on new pooches who will now be part of their turf:)
2. "WHERE IS THE DOG PARK, I KNOW THERE IS ONE SOME WHERE?"
Was a dog park listed in the local things to do? Do you remember Googling ( to Google is now a verb:) "local dog parks in the area"? Dog Parks take effort and a conscious desire by people who live near them to maintain them. Many are public spaces, usually organized and kept up by volunteers. If there is none to be found that is convenient to you and your canine companion, consider inviting neighbors over for some hot cocoa and talk Dog - only good things can come out of it - for you and your four legged friends:)
3. "THAT'S THE WAY--- WE BECAME THE BRADY, BUNCH!"
Did you discuss melding your pets with your new spouse / partner / roommate ? Are your familiar with the idiosyncrasies of different dog and cat breeds - who may get along with each other or for example, with your new partners small children? Dog and Cats are very loyal and territorial bringing together two families to make one big family pet pot presents many challenges including space and time issues. Before the big get together there was more space ( and time to interact with YOUR cat or dog ) not that your families have come together it twice the chaos of "live and pet live". Please don't mis understand me - I am all for two families of humans coming together and including their four legged and winged friends. But understand that this is not an undertaking to be taken lightly ( especially for the non humans involved ).
4. OH DON'T GO TO ANY TROUBLE MY DOG AND CAT WILL EAT ANYTHING!
Would you let your kids eat anything without being sure it was good for them ( or at the very least not harmful )? Please take your pets diet seriously; this simple, well thought out consideration will save you time, money and prevent unnecessary injuries and illness to the animals who have come to depend on you! Your pets can't shop at the local market - you can:)
5. "MY CAT LIKES TO SLEEP WITH ME AND WELL SHE'S SO SMALL I DID'NT THINK ANYONE WOULD CARE?"
I have seen so many people try to sneak a cat into a hotel and bed and breakfast it may as well be a common occurrence! There are resources available to the general public which provide "pet friendly" information about their business and services. Fortunately Pet Friendly is not unusual, like being a vegetarian it has become common place! Know the rules of your bed and breakfast or your hotel before you check in you. You don't want to be stuck without a place to sleep with fido and frisky in tow, with no where to sleep, in the middle of no where:)
6. "IT'S OK, I DID RESEARCH AND FOUND OUT THAT CATS REALLY CAN SEE WELL IN THE DARK SO I LEAVE THE LIGHTS OFF, WELL BE BACK IN THE MORNING, THE CAT WON'T MIND"
Yes, it is true that cats vision far exceeds the vision of healthy human eye sight in darker or dim light, it is a myth that cats "prefer to be left in the dark". Please remember that the domestic cat most likely appreciates the light on especially when YOU - the person whom they love is not around, when your kitty turns into an owl - leave the lights off:)
7. "WALKING IN THE RAIN WITH THE DOGS IS FUN AND CATHARTIC IT IS SO REFRESHING"
Taking a leisurely stroll with our dogs can be wonderful ( under ideal circumstances ). But because humans ( and dogs ) are not aquatic our vision is limited when we are trying to navigate in rain. While walking with the dogs in the rain can seem very romantic this too has it's challenges particularly when walking dogs off leash and in urban areas where other people are having difficulty seeing too! BTW most dogs would greatly appreciate a rain coat, I am certain they like that warm, and dry, fuzzy feeling too:)
8. WHAT DID YOU SAY? I CAN'T HEAR YOU, I HAVE'NT HEARD THIS SONG SINCE THE 80'S I LOVE IT, THE CAT NAW, SHE LOVES IT TOO!
While no kitty would presume to ask you to "turn it down" or to "dim the lights" because "I was sleeping", or "I am feeling under the weather" or "I want to listen to the birds chirp" think of it this way. Would you like it if the tables were turned and the person who you shared your home with did not consider your quality of life and disregarded your feelings by turning on lights when you are sleeping by stomping on the floor dancing over your head on up stairs when you are feeling under the weather? Or by Inviting their drinking buddies over after you've had a long week of litigation for a late night drinking and game session? Your pets probably do not appreciate this either.
9.. CONSIDER CREATING A CRASH COURSE ON "YOU" or " ME AND MY DOG" BEFORE YOU ENTRUST YOUR PETS AND HOUSE TO SOMEONE WHO IS OUT OF YOUR INNER CIRCLE.
In this way pets are like people they probably won't appreciate your being home one minute and or your leaving in the morning and at 5pm when Fido comes to the door a total stranger introduces themselves: "Hello its party time!" as the new pet sitter. Explain to the animals in your care that there will be a change if you are no longer going to care for them AND if you are going to be away for an extended period of time - your relationship will be the better for it:) It is unfortunate that many animals live their lives with people who do not consider their feelings and treat them like a piece of furniture when it is convenient to do so. Whether you are a past, current of potential pet owner, please consider standing in your pets shoes from time to time. If you were a cat wouldn't you appreciate a clean litter box ( they can tell us but I am positive that they do too.