At long last your new dog or kitty is home! You have searched the internet far and wide to find the perfect match, gone through an interview, or maybe even a house visit, bought a couple of cozy pet beds, some bowls, healthy kibbles, a toy or two. You are ready for this new adventure, ready to bond with your dog.
1. Bringing Your New Pet Home
You arrive at home and let your pet out to explore her new environment only to discover that the kitten – who was super friendly and affectionate at the shelter - won’t come out from under your king-size bed. Or, the puppy – who was supposedly crate trained – chewed himself out of a wire cage and then pooped on your bedroom carpet. What happened you wonder? Why is this homecoming with your new pet nothing like you had imagined?
2. Understand Your Rescue Pet’s Background
According to Jim Hanophy, Executive Director of Operation Kindness, one of the largest no-kill shelters in Texas, one the biggest problems for shelters and rescue organizations is the return rate of their animals. Many adopters don’t realize that the integration of a pet, especially a shelter pet takes some time, and patience.The key to a mindful transition for your new furry family member is seeing the world through his eyes and taking the time to build a bond your new dog is not an overnight affair!
In many instances, the animal has been through a lot. Most likely he was found in an abandoned building, a dumpster or field. After an adrenalin rising chase he was captured and locked up in a small enclosure, a.k.a. cage. Next, a variety of people petted and prodded him trying to determine his level of well-being. He was washed, groomed and vaccinated, then neutered and eventually stuck in a room with other animals with similar levels of anxiety. This is all done with the utmost kindness and compassion. However, it’s a shock to the animal’s nervous system nevertheless.
Every so often, people will stop by, play with and pet him and … eventually leave him again. Until one lucky day, often months later, a person shows up and falls in love with the button nose, the brindle coat, or the unusually colored eyes. The animal will act sweet and playful in this environment because though it isn’t home or ideal, it has become familiar.
3. Building A Relationship With Your Pet
“Hallelujah” you are thinking as you sign the adoption papers. The drive home is filled with happy anticipation, but, once you walk in the house, open the carrier, or take off the leash, everything changes.
This is the story of Anne and Buster:
Buster was an outgoing and affectionate rescue kitten when I met him in his foster home, but when we got back to my house he vanished for 36 hours. I could tell that even when my husband and I left the house he didn’t come out to eat or use the litter box.
The second night, about three in the morning, I heard Buster mewing piteously from under a bureau in the bedroom. I got up and put his food within reach. I spoke to him. I dangled a shoelace. No go! He didn’t budge. Mew, mew.
What would Nicole do? I asked myself. “Nicole would tell me to lie down quietly on the kitten’s level and think reassuring thoughts to communicate with him.”
I got my pillow and blanket, lay down on the floor and closed my eyes. I said to Buster in my mind, “I know you are in an unfamiliar place, kitten, and it is very sensible of you to be cautious. You are an intelligent boy! You did a great job taking care of yourself out in the world by being cautious. Now you’re in your new home, a safe place. You’ll see it’s ok to explore and get to know us. We like you a lot and we are not going to do anything scary.”
Within two minutes the kitten ventured out from under the bureau. He lay down next to me and went to sleep. I could feel his tiny breath rising and falling as we cuddled for an hour and then he began to explore the house. Now he is the lord of the manor. The Nicole Method-- genius! - Anne Killheffer.
Anne understood, in order build a relationship she had to meet the kitten where he was … and he was scared and anxious.
4. Practice Patience And Wait For Your Pet To Come To You
Often, the most important thing we can do is to sit, or in this case, lie down with the animal and simply breathe. Breath is a beautiful way to connect with another being. A deep abdominal breath calms our mind and puts us immediately into the present moment. And when we are present and available we naturally offer a sense of security, which is exactly what our new family member needs. In time, you will begin to bond with your new dog or cat.
Making ourselves available through breath a few times a day will do wonders when we transition a cat, or dog into our life. As Anne reported, it took very little time to change the experience for the insecure cat, a few deep breaths, paired with a little patience can be the beginning of a beautiful connection.