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Honesty is the Best Policy

Our pets treat us as they hope to be treated – unconditional love, sloppy affection, never ending support, and it’s not in their nature to lie. We turn all of that right back on them, and yet it is human nature to want to protect our pets physically AND emotionally. That may mean withholding the truth in some circumstances. I hope this post can help us to reframe our view of protecting our pets vs. supportive honesty. honesty with pet

Example: We need to tell Fluffy that we will capture her tomorrow, put her in a crate, make her take a bumpy, hot car ride, and after all those fun and games she’ll also be poked, prodded, her ears cleaned, and have a shot in the rear end. Who would blame her for hiding under the bed for the next 24 hours and hissing at you when you find her? We may think it serves us and our pet to bend or omit part of the truth. It seems easier, perhaps even kinder, to instead tell her that tomorrow she’s going to see a very nice man and it won’t hurt a bit. It’s mostly not a lie but there is a lot of omission, and she may be skeptical the next several times you reach for her while she is under the bed. The fact is, you are already carrying the energy and intention of capturing her, taking her to the vet, and you may even be holding the energy of “I hope you aren’t mad at me for this,” all of which she is picking up on. By not being honest about what the day holds, you lose points in the trust department for next time.

Let’s reframe this scenario with honesty and support. “Fluffy, I love you very much and it is my responsibility as your guardian to help you keep yourself healthy. Tomorrow we are going to take a car ride together to the nice doctor so that he can examine you and give you medicine to keep you from getting sick. I know it might be a little scary and the shot will hurt for just a moment, but I’ll be with you the whole time and then we’ll come home and you can {fill in with what she loves – play with a toy, snuggle in your lap, have a favorite special treat} and we won’t have to do that again for a whole year.” Fluffy may still hide under the bed when it is time to put her in the carrier, but your relationship with her remains one of trust and respect. Many clients have reported that the whole experience is easier when they are truthful up front.

I have so many examples of humans, myself included, sheltering our pets from bad news. It’s all done out of love and with the very best of intentions. Many clients say “I haven’t cried in front of him – I don’t want him to know that I’m so very sad that our days are numbered.” In fact, they know already, so by hiding away when you need to cry isolates you both and sometimes our pets think they have done something wrong. Reframe: “I know your body is changing, and that might feel scary for you. I’m sad and a little scared that your body is changing too, and sometimes I’m going to cry. But I promise I will be here with you every step of the way. I want us to have as many adventures, cuddles, and special treats as we can for as long as we can so that when it is time to say good-bye to each other, we’re more prepared and we’ll face that together too.” Frequently I feel a tangible shift in the animal’s emotional relaxation when their human conveys their love and support along with their honest emotions.

From now on when you have news to share, do so honestly. Upcoming vacations without the pets, preparation for surgery or medical procedures, acknowledgement that your rambunctious and extremely affectionate grandchildren are coming for a visit – they all fit into the template of empathetic truthfulness with your promise of helping your animal companions cope with whatever the circumstance. Try it – I bet it makes you feel better too when you aren’t trying to juggle all the secrets!

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