Building Relationships

We’ve become much more aware of relationships in the last few months at home – relationships that are developing and changing – between various members of our animal family. These changes range from a budding relationship between our Basset Obi and our house cat Diana to a radically altered relationship between our two barn cats Simba and Sophia. We also had a wonderful opportunity to observer human/dog relationships up close at a recent AKC dog show. We’d like to share some observations and insights that we have gained.We often have clients that talk to us about how their dogs and cats do NOT get along with each other. It’s very interesting to talk with both the dogs and cats in that situation, and see the real difference in viewpoint between the two camps. Cats on the whole seem to be very disdainful of dogs, and see them as less intelligent, immature beings. Sometimes they will extend themselves to bemused tolerance. Dogs who live with cats seem to have one of two viewpoints about them; either they see the cats as something to chase, or they are genuinely confused by them and don’t know quite how to treat them. Cats simply don’t respond to butt-in-the-air, tail wagging invitations to play, nor do they seem to enjoy being slobbered on in affection. Cats don’t understand why dogs don’t understand hissing and a big tail mean “BACK OFF!”.It’s very clear that dogs and cats have different behaviors and body language, so communication becomes very confusing. In watching Obi and Diana, I have noticed that each seems to have learned how to make the other understand them by adopting some of the other’s behaviors. For example, Obi will layout in the sun in the yard. Diana will come out, walk up to him, and bump him, rubbing against him. Obi will lean into her gently. What Obi has learned is to be still and quiet, and to moderate the force of his lean so as to not overwhelm Diana. Diana has learned that Obi likes the gentle contact. They have progressed to a point where I will sometimes see them laying close together in the yard.Diana does not have the same type of relationship with our other Basset Lukas. Lukas tries to do “dog” behavior with Diana to greet her (aka “sniff butt”), and he does it with the same force and persistence that he would with another dog. Diana simply walks away, leaving Lukas standing there looking very puzzled. Poor guy, he has not learned by watching her what will work and what won’t.Recently our barn cat Simba was attached and mauled very badly, probably by a young coyote. When Simba returned home from the vet, he had a huge hole in his shoulder which requires daily treatment. In addition, he suffered some neurological damage that effects how well he can use one of his legs. Simba and his sister Sophia have been together all of their young lives. Now Simba is in the house, and will most likely become a house cat. It has been heartrending to hear Simba call when he sees Sophia. Sophia is bravely trying to take care of the barn alone, but her normal confidence has been shaken badly.What I have begun to observe is Obi coming up to the door to the screened in porch when Simba is out there, and just simply laying down. Simba initially hissed at him, but has started actually sitting in front of the door when he is there. When Lukas comes up and starts barking, he backs off. Once again Obi seems able to communicate with a cat, and is slowly teaching Simba that he will not harm him.What does this have to do with the human/animal relationship? Humans and dogs, for example, also have different behaviors and postures. Sometimes it is easy for us to misinterpret the behavior of our dog or cat, and put a “label” to it that maybe isn’t correct. For example, we talked to someone at a dog show with a little dog. This person thought her dog was “terrified” of being in new places. In reality, based on what the dog told us, the dog was actually very sensitive to human and animal energy fields. Being at a dog show with people and dogs of varying backgrounds, emotional intensity, and energy was very hard for her. The human was seeing her little dog shake and hide her head, and labeling it based on her interpretation. In this case, we did some work with flower essences and putting an energetic “bubble” around the dog, and she relaxed quite well.What we’d like to leave our readers with is a homework assignment. If you live with a dog or cat, begin by observing how they interrelate with other animals (including humans). Don’t label or interpret, just observe. Begin to try to understand how they behave in certain situations, and think about how you might learn to respond differently so that you can communicate better. For those with dogs who like to play, get down on the floor, stick your rear end up in the air, and lower your shoulders, extending out your arms. See what happens – our dogs absolutely understand that this means “PLAY TIME”. If you have a cat, sit and be very still and see if your cat approaches you more quickly for attention.Have fun! 

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