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Norwich Bulletin - 3/19/2006

Ten Commandments Of Care

Losing one of my favorite cats last month, has made me reflect on how I care for my animals and if I did everything that I could for Mouse while I was lucky enough to have him with me. I have always followed my ten commandments of care, but since losing Mouse, I have rewritten and redefined that quality of care.

1. Thou shalt not abandon me. Our animals give us the gifts of love and absolute trust and loyalty. We have a commitment to care for them as long as we are allowed to have them with us. It is not acceptable to simply abandon your pet at a shelter at one, five or ten years of age because your lifestyle has changed. The only thing your pet will understand is that you threw him away and he no longer has the home or the people he loved.

2. Thou shalt give me time. Whether you are bringing home a brand new puppy or kitten, or an older animal from a rescue situation, the human must understand that their new friend is scared and not sure of its surroundings or place in your household. Give your pet time to adjust and learn how to be a companion. Do not expect too much, too fast.

3. Thou shalt trust me. Give your love and trust honestly and freely. Animals sense your moods and what is in your heart. They depend on you Ė you need to depend on them.

4. Thou shalt not be quick to anger. You leave the house and go to work. You go out with friends, you go to the movies. Your pet has only you and you are the center of his universe. So when he has been locked up for twelve hours and perhaps, chewed up a chair cushion, climbed and tore the curtains or left a pile of poop on the floor, do not punish the animal. A dog or cat forgets what it has done seconds after it is done, so punishing the animal for his mistake, is useless. Also, donít sweat the small stuff. Enjoy spending time with your pet when you get home Ė it is far more pleasant than wallowing in anger all evening.

5. Thou shalt talk to me. Animals recognize their humanís voice and respond positively. Also, it gives you someone to talk to that wonít ridicule your thoughts and ideas.

6. Thou shalt treat me as you wish to be treated. The golden rule works with animals too.

7. Thou shalt not strike me in anger. Before you go to hit your pet, think about a few things. One is that your cat or dog could crunch the bones in your hand if it wanted to, but probably wonít. Instead you will have succeeded in taking an animal who believes in you and crush his spirit by your actions. So do not let lifeís frustrations cause you to mistreat the one creature who shows you nothing but love and kindness.

8. Thou shalt not jump to conclusions. Before you scold your dog or cat for being lazy or uncooperative, check and see if something is wrong. Perhaps your pet is sick or just getting old and not as fast to respond to your commands as he was in the past. Also, animals have good and bad days too, just like you. They are happy and they are depressed. They canít tell you if they are ill or sad. Do not assume that what you term as inappropriate behavior is your pet acting out. There could be other reasons, either medical or age related. Give your pet the benefit of the doubt.

9. Honor me when I grow old. After having a beloved pet for ten plus years, if he forgets where the litter box or pet door is, clean it up and be done with it. After giving you the best years of his life, it is nothing less than criminal to dispose of your elderly pet because it is no longer convenient. For those of you who do this Ė I wish the same for you in your old age.

10. Thou shalt say goodbye. Go with me on my last journey. Do not tell me that you cannot bear to watch me or let it happen when you are gone. Everything is easier for me if you are there. Remember that I love you and have always been there for you. After a lifetime of love, trust, companionship and friendship, do not leave your terminally ill pet at the vet to die alone. Hold him, tell him what a great pet he has been to you and how much you will miss him. Celebrate his life and remind him of those special times you spent together. Be by his side when he closes his eyes for the last time and his spirit leaves this world. Your pet deserves this and will not be afraid if you are there.

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