I first became interested in the way in which animals behave, both with each other and with us, and in turn what they were communicating, during a month long yoga trip to Goa. Within days we were spending much of our free time with a pack of beach dogs, learning through observation how they interacted with one another and how, over time, we were accepted into their pack. Our time spent with the dogs inevitably put us in touch with the local animal shelter in Anjuna where we would go every day to walk the dogs or simply to spend time just sitting with those who were either injured, unwell or just too traumatised to walk with us. Upon our return, I began to observe Daisy, our by then elderly rescue dog, with fresh eyes and began to have a much greater understanding of what she was communicating both to us, our cats and other canine friends.
Daisy passed away early in 2009 and I experienced again, something I had not seen since childhood – the very different reactions of my cats to her passing. My female cat, Bianca, had coexisted quite happily alongside Daisy as far as I was aware but there was not a particular bond; Tango, my male cat, however, had been very close to Daisy since we rescued him as a very unwell kitten and his grief was obvious. I began to research pet grieving and so began my studies into animal emotion.
Later that year we became involved with SOS Animals in Spain when we began volunteering with a new pack of dogs. It was here that we met Dexter for the first time. It was love at first sight and it was not long before Ant too succumbed to Dexter’s unique charm. He was not an ‘easy’ dog and it was quite obvious that Dexter had experienced cruelty and hardship before he found his way to the SOS shelter in Southern Spain. Yet what immediately struck me was how incredibly communicative he was if you knew how to read his signals. I began researching calming signals and body language and, with the help of a wonderful dog trainer, began work on basic commands and recall using positive reinforcement and force- free training methods. What I had begun to learn all those years ago from the beach dogs in Goa really came to fruition with Dexter and I can honestly say that he taught me so much about many things. We were to discover that Dexter had survived distemper, a serious virus that is usually fatal in dogs and this caught up with him in his later years. We sadly had to say goodbye in the Autumn of 2014 – a traumatic experience that broke both mine and Ant’s hearts. It also broke the heart of our little feral cat Lola who came into our lives Christmas Eve 2011 – a terrified, underweight kitten who was frightened of everyone except for Dexter. Like dogs, cats will communicate an awful lot through body language – we just need to learn what they are telling us. Dexter and Lola understood one another and through extending my research to cats, I was able to understand her better too.
In April 2015, we headed back out to Spain for some more volunteering at SOS Animals and it was here that we met Rebel who was to become our next ‘no hope’ Spanish rescue. Rebel is a wonderfully complex dog and once again, I found myself learning an incredible amount from my dog. I began to practise some different techniques from the Tellington Touch method on Rebel with great results and it has been truly wonderful to see yet another ‘unhomeable’ dog grow in trust and confidence.
It is my belief that all animals deserve a loving home and that all can adapt well to a new life if we, as human beings, take the time to learn what is considered to be normal dog/cat behaviour and what it is that they are trying to communicate to us. By taking the time to understand our pets, we make for a happier and more harmonious coexistence.
Please get in touch with me for advice on your cat or dog’s behaviour or to make an appointment. Cost will depend on duration and nature of enquiry.