Someone once wisely stated that a measure of a society is how well it treats its animals.
Thankfully, in Canada at least, for the most part we have clear evidence that many of us care very much about the fauna population. From animal support organizations to volunteer groups to, simply, individuals wanting to make a positive difference, stories abound of efforts to make their places in the world better – hopefully outweighing terrible revelations of what the uncaring or outright cruel do to creatures whose main fault may be to expect humans to act humane.
As a pet ‘parent’ over several decades, and a firm believer in animal rights, I’ve found opportunities for learning and growth as a person, due to interacting with these special non-human dependents, land-based and otherwise.
In the interests of disclosure, let me state that my observations are based primarily on living variously with dogs and birds. (It’s been said there are dog people and there are cat people, but I believe this is a matter of degree. While I have nothing against cats, dogs clearly are more interactive. Try getting exercise by taking a cat for a walk.) Like many pet caregivers, I’ve had limited experience with other species like fish and turtles. But due, alas, to a combination of short lifespans and difficulty in establishing much interaction, some creatures seem destined for less symbiosis.
Here are what I’ve gleaned as meaningful life lessons:
- First of all, establish a relationship based on trust: pets are dependent on us for food and safety; as they come to understand we can be counted on to provide these basic needs, we can start to move up their ladder of comfort
- Establish eye contact: it’s considered a truism that dogs bond with humans through eye contact; however, I’ve found that this also helps with budgies as they become tamer, more so as they sit on one’s shoulder or arm (or wherever)
- Speak softly but carry a vocal stick: dogs definitely respond to commands and tonal variations; sometimes a soft voice carries the day, and this is especially the case with birds
- Persevere to engage their active response: training pets, even if they seem clever, is a painstaking effort, but the reward in their eventual responsive behaviour is well worth it
- One may be pleasantly surprised by their initiative: sometimes a dog or bird will demonstrate its wanting to contribute to the relationship, such as resting a head on your foot or gently pecking
- Loyalty: dogs are known for fiercely defending their masters, or their perceived territory near the master; budgies will more naturally fly to known territory around or on their caregiver
- Lack of pre-judging: no matter how one is coping, and displaying life’s ups and downs, your pet is waiting and ready to be your friend