What Relationships with Dogs and Cats Reveal about Ourselves and Others

What Relationships with Dogs and Cats Reveal about Ourselves and Others

My mother with puppy Ching

What Relationships with Dogs and Cats Reveal about Ourselves and Others

By Ruth Schimel PhD, Career & Life Management Consultant, Author © 5.22.22 Do not use commercially or share widely without permission from Ruth
www.ruthschimel.com, ruth@ruthschimel.com

          A dog story. Ching, the chow dog, was my only sibling. He was so smart he would blow on the couch to cool the warm spot that exposed his banned perch when he heard humans coming. This apocryphal story revealed a family value of cute cleverness. Ching was no longer with us by the time my father shared it with an amused twinkle in his eye.

          Other messages in this story may be:
Cleverness may obscure naughtiness.
Dogs can be smart and adorable. (Could this be a model?)
What does your favorite dog or cat story reveal to you?

          A cat story. I enjoyed caring for one and a half feral cats during summer vacations. Grayie, the handsome, placid, maltese father cat had been domesticated and was almost affectionate; his mottled mate had luxurious whiskers. I predictably named her Whiskers.

          Some summers, a highlight was finding new kittens under a discarded wooden plank or in a tree hollow. I fed them milky pablum in the mornings – probably not a vet’s choice. But that’s what I imagined they’d like and was available to me as a young kid without cooking skills and animal nutrition knowledge.

          One evening, all three of us two-legged creatures went out to the back porch to investigate a din and found a fox attacking the cats. The adorable cream-colored kitten had already limped onto the porch with a mangled back leg. My father immediately got his rifle, used only for target practice. He killed the fox, but not before it attacked him and ripped his pants’ leg.

          From that behavior, we feared the fox was rabid, especially given reports of a mini epidemic. After confirming required action with the local health department, we gathered all four kittens, Grayie, and Whiskers for euthanasia, as well as the fox carcass for rabies confirmation.

          I get a little teary writing this story even though it happened long ago. The cats were my last four-legged pets, but I keep their and Ching’s memories current in my password adaptations.

          The messages from the cat story are darker than the playful dog one:

  1. Danger lurks in nature, yet there are protections. (Good lesson in today’s climate.)
  2. Commitment and caring can involve loss that influences choices in later life.
  3. Realistic images of suffering and emotion-laden hard decisions keep experiences vivid in memory.

          I wonder how this experience colored my avoidance of having pets, even traditional motherhood. Probably my father’s brave attempt to protect and rescue the cats remained a standard for expectations of protectors later.

What do memories of pets and experiences with them reveal to you about influences in your life?

Where do I get my animal fixes now?

          One safe though passive source of pet substitutes for me is the TV channel, Animal Planet. For your own visual adventures and learning about animals, you can find it without cable on Philo, Hulu, DirecTV Stream, Fubo, YouTube TV, Vidgo, or Xfinity Choice TV. It’s also available on cable stations.

          Animal Planet programs are full of examples of moving, educational pet-human relationships. They show meaning, purpose, and attractions for a range of people who connect with and care for all kinds of animals. Beyond conventional situations with cats and dogs, you’ll see reptiles, elephants, meerkats, birds, and many other species that people relate to and enjoy.

          If not already known to you, explore Pitbulls and Parolees. To learn about the range of veterinarian work, see Dr. Jeff, and The Vet Life: https://sjinsights.net/2020/04/05/the-top-8-vet-shows-and-5-things-i-learned-by-watching-them/

Ideas for your own in-person pet fixes.

          With full and hybrid returns to offices now, many employers are accommodating pets accustomed to their parent’s, as many choose to call themselves, presence at home. Whether owner or pet, some are experiencing separation anxiety.

          One of the more endearing stories is about two-year old border collie, Wallace. His obsession is watching ping pong when he accompanies his owner a few times a week to Rhombus Systems.

          Given 23 million households that adopted a pet during the pandemic, such pet-friendly environments offer employers an additional option for keeping and attracting employees. In this current competitive employment environment, Google, Amazon, and Uber are joining the pet-permitting club.

          If your work situation permits pets, that’s an opportunity to share the tactile pleasures and appreciation from mutual attention, as appropriate. Other choices include:

  • Pet-sitting
  • Fostering a pet awaiting adoption
  • Walking others’ pets
  • Volunteering at a pet shelter
  • Training dogs and other service animals

          More informally, I enjoy the increasing numbers of neighborhood dogs walking their owners in the street and sometimes get into chats with both. Most dogs seem hungry for connection, or at least acknowledgement, even if some owners are indifferent.

Insights into needs and behaviors from how pet owners train and care for their pets and vice versa. Pandemic yearnings for tactile and emotional connection have exposed continuing voids or dissatisfactions of some people. Though there is little fear of rejection by dependent pets, there are challenges in training and providing for them.

          To learn more about other people, watch how they train, indulge, and punish, as well as deal with demands, needs, and conflicts related to pets. How do they benefit themselves and their pets in mutually healthy ways? What ploys have pets learned to get what they want from their owners? That may provide new understanding of pet-person dynamics, what needs attention, shifts, and perhaps change.

Stay alert to your associations with pets for insights about yourself.

          Your attitudes, expectations, and experiences with pets show useful directions for choices ahead. They may clarify what you’re missing, what you value, and what you want. The kind of relationships you seek with a dog or cat could also remind you of your life stories, hopes, and needs. More valuable now, though, are how such insights can help you appreciate your attitudes toward freedom and responsibility related to both animal and human connections.

Ruth Schimel Ph.D. is a career and life management consultant and author of the Choose Courage series on Amazon. She guides clients in accessing their strengths and making viable visions for current and future work. To access Ruth’s seventh book Happiness and Joy in Work: Preparing for Your Future and benefit from her invitation for a free consultation, explore her website.

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