When dogs are stressed, how about a bit of patience and empathy?
Anyone with a heart would feel the need to help a dog in distress. When I see a dog struggling, I want to help, or at least try to help. It is an intuitive feeling I have. When my dog panted in the backseat of our car, I knew it was her way of managing her stress. She did not like being in the "flying bed" at all. Since I knew she could tolerate the pressure, I ensured she had the biggest payoff when we arrived at our destination. If we were going to the beach, we would stay and play for at least an hour or more. If she had to go for her vet check-up, we went for a long walk before we had to drive home. I empathized with her.
Whenever I am in the doggy loft at Muttville Senior Dog Rescue, and I see a dog in distress, I want to help. Over the years volunteering there, I have learned that sometimes new dogs will take longer to relax in their new environment. Since these are all old dogs, I may meet a dog struggling with untreated dental pain. Sometimes a dog is simply missing their old familiar life and person. I can understand and empathize with those feelings myself.
Having an abundance of compassion for any animal in distress is a good thing. I wouldn't change that, and I am grateful that at Muttville, they offer ways to alleviate all of the dogs' stress.
I sat with this pair of dogs for long periods throughout my volunteer shift. The spaniel's panting quieted with the occasional sound coming from her closed mouth when she heaved a big sigh. She needed some human companionship besides her little dog sister. I understood her need for extra reassurance that all would be okay. She understood the role humans played in her life, and I wanted to give her the confidence that she was in a safe place that she could trust. I knew if I helped her relax, her stress panting would slow and stop.
That morning I remembered my dog and channeled her energy into my words and soothing sounds. I thought of our time together and each gentle massage I gave to show her that she could relax and trust all would be well. I tried to transfer the good memories of my adopted dog's happy life into this spaniel. Slowly petting and massaging her furry body, I passed on the positive influence of my adoption experience, of how there is someone out there who will gladly give all they have to help her live her best life.
How do you respond when you see a dog in distress? Do you have a particular way of soothing their stress? I would love to read your experiences in the comments below.