Saying the Long and Short Good-byes
to an Animal
By Allen and Linda Anderson
Another travel season is upon us. In addition to concerns over the price of gasoline, those of us who share our homes with animal companions have to figure out what to do when it’s time to leave for a trip. In 2000, the Airline Transportation Association estimated that more than a half-million pets each year were traveling on planes. Today, probably most animals are traveling by car. The rest are staying home.
What do animals do while you’re away? What do they think about? Do they miss you? Do they anticipate your arrival?
In his fantastic book, “Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home,” renowned scientist Rupert Sheldrake writes, “Dogs that know when their owners are returning home, cats that answer the telephone when a person they are attached to is calling, horses that can find their way home over unfamiliar terrain, cats that anticipate earthquakes — these aspects of animal behavior suggest the existence of forms of perceptiveness that lie beyond present-day scientific understanding.”
Perception is both a mental and spiritual quality that animals share with humans. Sometimes animals are so amazingly aware, people are left to wonder how much they could be learning from their furry and feathery brothers and sisters. An animal’s high level of perception leads to something most of us have experienced: They not only long for us when we’re gone, they know when to expect our return and hopefully, are looking forward to it.
In our first book, “Angel Animals: Exploring Our Spiritual Connection with Animals,” there is a wonderfully funny story by Mary Martucci about her dog Tanya. This resourceful creature taught herself how to press the automatic garage door button and let herself out of the adjacent enclosure while Mary was at work. After neighbors reported seeing Tanya going for daily walks around the neighborhood, Mary stayed home one day in order to solve the mystery. That’s when she discovered that Tanya also skillfully let herself back into the garage, closing the door behind her. The dog had to have known when Mary would be returning to have covered her tracks so well.
The Joy of Coming Home
One of our favorite sights is our dog Taylor bouncing around with joy when we come home. Her entire body trembles with excitement. Our cats bound to the door, also. They don’t seem to realize that they’re supposed to be aloof and should have a take-it-or-leave it attitude about our arrival. Our bird first screeches and then sings his greetings to the returning members of his flock. These are the signs we are truly home at last.
All is right with the world when family members are accounted for. Creatures big and small — reptiles and birds, mammals and fish — react to the return of their humans.
Did you ever wonder what happens when you run errands, visit with friends, or go to a movie? Most people can’t bring pets with them on these short journeys. The dangers of leaving an animal in an enclosed vehicle are too great. For longer trips, many people have to leave pets at home, although it’s heartening to see how many motels have become pet-friendly.
What is it like for your pets when you’re gone? Your prolonged trip from home may seem like forever to a pet who views the world through your presence.
Is the answer not to go out, not to travel, not to spend time away from your home? Do you have to become a recluse after a pet comes into your life?
Take heart, oh traveler. Below are steps we have found helpful for reducing the anxiety and fear animals feel when the humans they love are far away.
Phone Home, ET
When one of us is traveling and the other is at home, the absent partner calls. We’re not only checking in with each other but we take this opportunity to exchange small talk with the dog and cats. All right, it would sound silly to someone overhearing us chatting with Taylor while her tail wags furiously, but animal lovers understand. These quick conversations make Taylor much calmer and assure her that we’re not as distant as she might be imagining.
If you have a speakerphone for this type of call, that is even better. Then the at-home recipient doesn’t have to sit for five minutes holding a phone to the dog’s ear. (Our bird seems to be able to hear telephone conversations all the way from the other room!)
If you have a pet-sitter (who won’t think you’re nuts), you can arrange to phone
home when the sitter will be at the house. Then your animals will get their
daily dose of love and encouragement.
A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words
If you have a video cam, you can videotape yourself talking to your dog or cat and have it played once a day by the at-home person or pet sitter. (Record an audiocassette tape also so you can speak soothingly and reduce your pet’s separation anxiety.) The reassurance of your voice and image will be the highlight of your animal companion’s day.
Oh, for a Whiff of You
Find some article of clothing you don’t mind leaving behind — the smellier the better. Put this stinky shirt, sock, blanket, or towel where you pet plays or goes to sleep. Your familiar and beloved scent will help assure the animal of your presence while you are out of sight. Even one smelly sock can reduce a pet’s anxiety and allow him or her to get a restful night’s sleep.
Select Your Caregivers Carefully
If you decide to have pet sitters either come to your home or care for an animal in their homes, it is very important to check references by calling their other clients. Also, invite the sitter over to your house and see how your pet reacts to the person. Animals can be incredibly wise judges of character.
The same holds true for kennels. Inspect them. See where the animals are being kept and if the temperatures, feeding arrangements, and outdoor schedules are right for your animal.
Enjoy your physical and spiritual journeys in life. Just remember, there are
animal companions who are on the road with you in spirit even while their warm
little bodies are at home, awaiting your return. They’re more connected to you
than you can ever comprehend. Make your physical absences from them as
comfortable as possible. Upon your return, they will thank you with their
wiggling bodies, their welcoming purrs, and their delightful homecoming dances.
Allen and Linda Anderson are co-editors of “God’s Messengers: What Animals Teach Us about the Divine” (New World Library). You are invited to visit their website at www.angelanimals.net and subscribe to the free, online “Angel Animals Story of the Week” and enter the new Angel Animals Dog Story Contest. Send true stories to Angel Animals Network, P.O. Box 26354, Minneapolis, MN 55426 or by e-mail at email@example.com .
Is Your Dog an Angel in Disguise?
Has a dog performed an act of compassion, protection, healing, or courage? Have you had a miraculous or mystical experience with a dog? Submit your 1,000-word true story to the 2004 Angel Dogs Contest.
Allen and Linda Anderson, authors of “God’s Messengers: What Animals Teach Us about the Divine,” offer this contest to honor the spiritual connection between humans and dogs and to find potential stories for publication in their upcoming book, “Angel Dogs.”
One grand prize of $250 will be awarded to the first-place winner. A second-place prize of $25.00 will be awarded to an additional five contestants. There is no entry fee.
Submissions must be postmarked on or prior to November 1, 2004. Complete contest rules and entry form can be found at www.angelanimals.net/awards.html
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