Most of us lead busy, full lives with demanding jobs, family responsibilities, health concerns, engrossing hobbies, etc. As pet owners we often feel a sting of remorse that we are not spending enough time and attention on our pets. As the holidays approach, perhaps the best gift we can give our pets in this season of giving is the gift of our time.
How much time do you currently spend with your cat or dog? Of course, you prepare their meals, clean their waste, freshen their bedding, take them to vet appointments etc., but how much quality time do you share with them? Unfortunately for them, after the new-puppy phase has passed our pets are often taken for granted. This doesn’t happen overnight, and it is usually not purposeful on our part. We simply have more responsibilities as we grow older and our priorities expand to include children, spouses and more complex careers. As fellow human beings we understand this life dynamic, but do our dogs? I don’t think anyone can fully answer that question, however, we can speculate that in general our “best friends” would appreciate more attention from us.
Empathy is the ability to put oneself in another’s place and usually refers to our relationships with other human beings. This ability can also be expressed with our pets. There are many ways to strengthen the bond between you and your pet, to deepen your empathy with the glorious canine or feline living in your home. One simple way is to practice meditation with your pet. James Jacobson has written a book on that subject, How to Meditate with Your Dog: An Introduction to Meditation for Dog Lovers. This is a calming, centering experience we can share with our pets that can reduce stress for everyone. Other quiet activities would be more mindful play, introducing interactive toys and games and pet massage. Most of our pets thrive on daily touch, and massage takes that pleasure to a higher level. The Healing Touch, by Dr. Michael W. Fox gives clear instructions for massaging cats and dogs along with other great information. The sensual satisfaction of physical touch helps deepen your connection to your pet.
Loving observation of our pets improves our empathy, and for some people that observation will take a more active form. Dog sports such as rally, nose work, dock diving and weight pulling, (to name just a few) are good ways to deepen your relationship with your dog. These activities epitomize your dog’s definition of quality time, especially if you minimize competitive drives and focus on enjoying each other’s company. With cats, perhaps some new interactive toys might be in order or teaching your cat how to walk on a harness for some outdoor adventures.
Yes, all of these quiet or active ventures will take some time, but it will be time well spent. Being rewarded with happier dogs and cats and a deeper relationship with them sounds like a pretty wonderful present for one and all!