Episode of 'Griefcast' explores pet loss and grief, offers insight to those who are alongside the grieving

Conversations are unquestionably expansive in my work with families as a Certified Pet Loss and Grief Companion, and each of those that I have cement the notion that companion animals are an important facet of people's lives.

We build lives with our pets, as well as memories. Pets somehow become markers for significant events in our lives and it's no wonder: we spend more time with them on a daily basis than we do other family members, and for years on end.

I was super-amazed by a deep-but-lighthearted conversation between comedians Michael Legge and Cariad Lloyd on the latter’s podcast, Griefcast. I stumbled on it by accident, by way of a totally unrelated podcast but I digress. Serendipity. If you are grieving your loss of a pet, recent or long-since, I’ve no doubt you’ll be able to relate on so many levels. Lloyd gets grief and instinctively knows how to get to the spaces-in-between questions that matter and Legge expands beautifully on his life and the end-of-life journey an…

Does a fear of needles impact the way that you pursue medical tests or treatment with your pet? You're not alone

An article about needle phobia on the Canadian news site came onto my radar this morning, and I found it to be important for good reason. It highlights how challenging it can be for those—human OR animal—who are on the receiving end of the needle, and the need to create neutral or positive associations during these interactions for both species. 

Are you one of the many families in my care who are active caregivers with a profound fear of needles? Has it affected the way that you might like to pursue medical tests involving needles for your pet, and more importantly, how well you’re able to adhere to temporary or long-term treatment strategies for them involving injections or sub-q fluids? Have you chosen to forgo treatment altogether, or as some families have decided to do, make the choice to relinquish and re-home your pet because the fear was too great? 
You are not alone in this. It’s very common, and in this space, you are not judged or shamed for it. Though they're less…

Adopting or fostering a new pet? Please include your pet sitter in the decision

Not long ago, I'd stopped by one of my family's homes to get a hands-on update on a new diagnosis with one of their dogs. The chronic disease will require treatment that will keep pace with it, which means medication, diet, and monitoring. The family was a little daunted at this prospect, especially the former and that's a refrain I commonly hear. Listening, really hearing them expand on their early struggles with medicating the sweet chap, and knowing what I do about him, my ideas on how to hurdle them immediately started flowing. 
"Let's take the fear out of it—instead, we'll make it a positive interaction. I've some strategies that I learned in this workshop I attended, " I said, and proceeded to demonstrate how to do that. 
The reply wasn't surprising.
"That's amazing! This feels totally manageable, like I wasn't even giving medication. I'm glad we have you for support, you know so much about stuff like this. We've been kind …

Tending to other family pets helps you be a better caregiver to the one in hospice

While having a consultation with a family with one geriatric dog receiving hospice care under their vet's supervision and another who was a reasonably healthy and very active senior, one of their owners—the main caregiver—expressed feelings of being overwhelmed, somewhat frustrated and torn.

"I'm exhausted, keeping up with the younger one. She's like a toddler, always moving, doing something, getting into things. And her sibling, I can't get her to keep pace—she blanks out and gets confused easily. Walks are becoming impossible," she noted. (The older dog had Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome.)

During that first face-to-face conversation with a family, it goes without saying that taking a full inventory of any diagnoses, treatment or a palliative care plan as well as the pet's behavioral needs and cognitive level is in order. But I also make a point to get to know where the humans are in terms of handling things. With multiple pets, it can be a struggle at tim…

Snuffle mats are an unexpected food puzzle option for dogs of any age or ability

Enrichment is super-important for companion animals, so as a pet care professional, I'm always on the lookout for ways to incorporate it during my visits. I'll make suggestions to my families, sure, and they often follow through with setting up their pets nicely. That doesn't stop me from using my intuition when I need to when stepping up my game is required: usually by day 4-5 in my care, dogs need a little extra help in keeping their minds and bodies busy, while for cats, they can always use some brain work

Today, I'm going to focus on dogs if that's okay. 
I hear the old adage, '...a tired dog is a good dog', but I'll admit it makes me cringe at times. It seems as though the focus is so honed in on the physical aspects of what a dog needs, that the mental and emotional part of their being goes ignored. Sure, activity is essential—appropriate for a dog's age and ability, of course—but is there a mental component to it that suits them? Not always. 

Two crucial details can make the act of medicating pets in fragile health less stressful

I recall one of the things that Harold Rhee and I chatted about during one segment of the Pawprint Animal Rescue Podcast were the challenges that families face in medicating pets who are in fragile health or receiving palliative or hospice care. Whether it's pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals or supplements, what is meant to provide comfort care, pain or anxiety relief or even treatment for a disease can be a source of struggle for both pet and human. 

Having had plenty of personal experience with that, I use what I learned during that period and beyond to administer what is prescribed by way of the most humane, safe methods possible and to get the most cooperation from pets. Though I'm not Fear Free Certified yet (still waiting on that to become available), I have participated in Fear Free training, which built on my previous experience and existing philosophy: interact with pets in the most safe and humane ways while getting their permission. I use these skills and teach them to…

Aromatherapy, essential oils and pets: a safe combination or a recipe for trouble?

When meeting a new family for the first time, it's always important that I gather as much information as I can about each pet. Understanding their habits, preferences, their willingness or lack thereof to be physically handled—that kind of thing—is super-crucial in my having favorable interactions with the pet and providing a superior client experience. 
My questions are not limited to that, though. I take far more into consideration. It's not lost on me that there are many companion animals who may struggle with feeling overloaded with touch, visual and auditory input, not to mention smell. This can exacerbate existing behavior issues or create new problems, which is something we don't want, especially when there's a new caregiver coming into the picture. The senses are powerful, there's no doubt and being mindful of how that can affect what a pet might experience what's happening when I am spending time with them, not to mention how being out of routine becaus…