A Story of Choice

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about giving animals choices –in the sense of how they interact with us and how they express themselves. Animals are sentient beings with unique preferences, personalities, thoughts, and feelings. Often, we feel we know best or want to control how an animal acts, responds to us, or reacts to situations. I have long felt we should honor animals and their preferences whenever possible. Recently, I have been learning so much from Dr. Susan Fay about energy, how it affects animals, and how everything else falls into place if we regulate our breath, model an energy an animal appreciates, and allow them choices in how they respond.

Something happened recently that further solidified my belief that offering animals a choice in how and when they interact with us enhances our relationship and creates a more willing partner in whatever we endeavor to do with them. “With them” not “to them” is the key.
Last week I met a new pet-sitting client and her three dogs. The big dogs were super friendly; the little guy was frightened and apprehensive. He barked and did not approach me during the meet and greet. Often dogs are different when their human guardian is not present so I felt he would come around.

Fast forward to a week later, my first pet-sitting visit. The big dogs are thrilled to have a new person to shower them with attention and take them on a walk. The little guy was terrified, barking and snapping. I took the big dogs for their walk and came back to sit quietly on the floor with the little dog. I slowed my breathing and focused on creating a sense of soft confidence. As I held this feeling, the little guy would approach and retreat, coming closer each time but would bark and run if I looked his way. After a while, he put his paws in my lap and then quickly retreated. This continued for about 20 minutes, with him becoming more at ease with me. I still could not touch nor leash him, but he was more relaxed, sniffing and licking my hand. I did not pressure him to come closer or let me touch him. I just stayed in my bubble of soft confidence. Soon, I had to leave for my other pet-sitting stops, but I was happy with our progress.

The next morning, the same routine. More yapping and the approach and retreat routine. Then, the little guy started pushing his toy bucket around with his nose, coming to me barking and then going back to the bucket. After several times, I slowly walked over and gave him a toy. He dropped it. Four toys later, with the same reaction, I handed him a tennis ball. Tail wagging, he took it and ran excitedly around the room. I sat on the floor and waited. He came close with the ball and dropped it. I watched quietly. He pushed the ball to me with his nose. I slowly picked it up and rolled it. He brought it back and I thanked him. Our cautious game of catch continued for about 10 throws. He took the ball to his nest, sat down beside me, and licked my hand. I gently stroked him until he let me clip on his leash. We went for a happy little walk together.

Had I tried to force our friendship or slipped a leash around his neck to get him to walk, he might comply but there would be no trust. We would be back to square one on the next visit. Because I modeled the energy he needed and allowed him to choose how to get to know and trust me, my next visit went smoothly – he met me at the door, tail wagging, ready for a walk.

Laura Thomas
Three Cedars Reiki & Animal Communication

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