Upon receiving the news that my grandmother's health had deteriorated to the point of placing her to short term hospice care, I crumbled to the floor in tears. I was instantly surrounded by four furry faces. I absorbed all of their unconditional love but began to wonder about the toll all of our recent family tragedies has taken on the pets. Obviously, they know when something's not right with Jason and I. With the deaths of four family members in just three months, Jason and I have had turbulent emotions for quite some time. I can't change the inevitable endings and beginnings of life nor can I protect the pets from emotional traumas but I don't want them to think that Jason and I are always sad.
The pets should not feel that they are always having to cheer us up. Having worked my entire career as a caregiver, I am particularly sensitive to the strain constantly giving of oneself can take. Being a caregiver is very stressful for humans. Perhaps my sensitivity causes me to project similar stresses onto my forever sympathetic pets. With all of the trauma the last few months has brought, causing anxiety in the pets is one more stress I'd like to avoid. Hiding my emotions from them doesn't work. So how do Jason and I mourn our losses yet not force the pets to carry the burden of having to constantly nurse our sadness?
In an effort to reduce the effects my sadness has on the pets, I have realized that it's okay for Jason and I to mourn and be sad as long as we keep up on the promises we have made to properly care for our pets. Basically this promise is that everyday should include healthy fun. We can never skip playtime, walks or training. Consistency is key in physical, mental and emotional health. Once again I turn to my own experience as a caregiver and I know that the stresses sometimes caused by being responsible for another persons well being are partially soothed by a fair reward. All the stress of my day can be relieved by a simple "thank you for being here." It's amazing. In turn, I thank my pets for caring for me by continuing to build our bond, even if I am sad. The best way I know how to strengthen our bond, is to have epic adventures together.
When that call came about the imminent death of my grandmother, three dogs and cat lay on the floor next to me as I sobbed. Leo began to "cry" as well. Leo's sobs are an imitation of mine. He also mimics my laugh. When he and I both are sobbing, we usually end up laughing together. I like to think that Leo enjoys cheering me up this way. It would be my hope that Wilhelm, Brychwyn, Huxley and Amelia take pleasure in comforting me as well. On the day I began to mourn my grandmother, the sobbing quickly became laughter. Then the pets and I headed out for a walk and took pleasure in enjoying beautiful Cascadia together. Despite tragic news, the pets inspired me to have fun and we all felt better. I guess what I thought was a complex and possibly stressful care giving situation really just amounts to a "you care for me and I'll care for you" relationship otherwise known as love. And that love endures, even when any of us, humans, dogs, cats or cockatoos, are sad.
How do your pets cheer you up when you are sad? What do you do to nurture them while they care for you?
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