If you decided lockdown was the perfect time to add a new puppy to your household, you may have missed out on puppy classes and advice from a qualified dog trainer. Which is why we wanted to put this video of me (Corrine!) here for free, explaining how you can introduce a new puppy to your household and get a great start on toilet training, preventing play biting, managing chewing and socialisation!
Sadly as many of you know, I have had to stop offering training and behaviour services as I'm now a full time vet student at the University of Surrey so you will see mention of my classes at the end of this video which are no longer running, but there are a number of amazing trainers in Guildford now who can help instead.
Driven by my own current state of loss, I have decided to touch on the subject of grief and loss in this blog. Should the subject of grief, when dealing with the loss of a much loved animal and family member, be as taboo as it sometimes seems? Can sharing our experience ultimately help with the grieving process that so many of us experience and yet, go through quietly? Should we just get on with it..."oh for goodness sake, it was only a cat!"?
So, here goes...last week, we sadly and suddenly lost our young cat to the road. Safi would have been two in summer, so she was still so young. Having lost her sister to the same, awful, fate last year, Safi seemed to show no real interest in going near the road (that we know of), instead revelling in the paddocks, fields and stables behind our house. There was good hunting to be had, in the form of mice and rats, and she would frequently come home smelling very much of horse! On the morning of the day she died, she brought home a young rabbit, and both my husband and I thought the same thing...oh damn...young rabbits are often spotted in the grass verges at the side of our road. We suspect that later that day, she discovered this fact too. Now she and her sister are reunited in our garden and I am hoping that they are both terrorising the local rodent population in their blissful spirit forms.
Safi's untimely death was a massive shock, despite knowing that her sister had met her fate in a similar way. Having her wrenched out of our lives so suddenly has left us broken hearted. Over the last week we have felt the massive hole that Safi's passing has left in our family. And not just amongst the humans...our poor dog, Gizmo, is also now grieving for the loss of his 'sister' – he waits for her to jump over the fence back into the garden, he is confused that he now has full access to the bed that she monopolised for herself...small cat on huge cushion...the dog on the floor ha ha!
So we find ourselves grieving.
Firstly, after the shock of being told by a neighbour that our cat had been hit by a car, to the panic of rushing her to the vet, to the realisation she was gone. In this state of shock, we brought her home and buried her next to her sister, with some of her favourite toys and the open packet of Dreamies.
Secondly, and this stage is still very much ongoing, is the fluctuating between anger, sadness, guilt and sorrow. I feel angry that (yet again) some careless person had been driving too fast along our road to notice a black cat. I feel angry that we couldn't keep her safe (I am not a strong believer in keeping a cat indoors, but I accept that for various reasons, people do) . I even feel angry at Safi for going near the road when she usually avoided it. Then all of these reasons turn into sadness and the hole in our lives becomes even more visible yet again. Then I feel guilty...I made a silent vow to Toothless when she died that I would do everything I could to keep Safi safe from harm and loved. She was certainly loved, but I guess I failed at keeping her safe – sorry to both of you. This all then descends into a soul-wrenching sorrow, where I would quite happily sell said soul to have my velvet coated, bristle-tailed, stable-smelling gorgeous girl back with her family again (and that goes for her sister too). And then, it all wheels round again...anger, sadness, guilt, sorrow....rinse and repeat! I am sure that with time, the loss of Safi will become easier, she will never be forgotten. Having lived with cats for most of my life, I now find myself in the horrifying situation of being too fearful and guilt-ridden about getting another cat...especially not here! But is that real, or is it the grief talking?
The process of grief packs a punch. Whether dealing with a sudden, unexpected loss, especially in a young animal, or whether dealing with death that follows the natural ticking clock of life in an elderly animal...saying goodbye is hard. Struggling to reach the decision, or realising when the time has come to offer our much-loved four-legged companions a peaceful passing, is every bit as traumatic and devastating as having them snatched from you in a split-second. The grief process remains fundamentally the same. Shock, anger, sadness, guilt and sorrow, rinse and repeat.
The wonderful thing is that by talking about it (especially with fellow animal-lovers, of which ForPaws is amazingly, luckily blessed to have so many) we get to share our experiences of grief and loss with people who can empathise first hand. These are people who don't think 'it was only a...'. they're people who have their own tales of loss to tell. That in itself is a huge help in dealing with grief.
I thank each and every one of you for taking time to read this tale, and in essence, taking a part in helping me with my grieving process. If you have your own tale or experience to share, please feel free to share in the comments below. It means alot that no matter whether it is sudden or expected, the grief we feel when we lose the animal hearts in our family, we as their guardians can unite to make the sadness and pain hurt that little bit less but more importantly make the happy memories feel much more special.
Give your animal an extra treat, stroke, play time, we never know when they may be taken from us and in so doing taking a piece of our hearts with them. We love you Safi!
We are all familiar with the concept of playtime with our canine companions! Go into any Pet Superstore or online petshop and you will find a huge choice of dog-toys. Balls in all sizes and colours, squeaky plush toys, Kongs to keep them occupied, maze games, memory games...the list is endless. Lucky pooches! There are toys galore to keep them happy around the home and out on walkies. We even brought our Border Collie, Gizmo, a bubble machine for Christmas! He loves it :-)
But what about our feline family members? Don't they deserve the right to play!
When we collected our two gorgeous kittens in October 2015, my hubbie was thoroughly bemused by the amount of 'cat-stuff' that Gabriel and I came back laiden down with from a pet-shop. If our gorgeous old duchess of a cat, Mo, could get by with simply indulging in her favourite pastime of hunting and playing with the odd blade of long-grass for amusement...why couldn't the kittens?
Now, I know it is widely acknowledged that cats 'do their own thing' – usually sleeping...but ever since I was young, I have strongly believed that cats are just as much entitled to playtime as dogs. It is a vital part of their development as kittens and it is just as much about fun when they are adults. It also plays an important part in how we build a bond with our cats.
Despite the mutterings that the kittens were being spoilt, Safi and Toothless happily spent their kittenhood chasing balls, jumping in and out of cardboard boxes, stalking feathers and going cat-nip crazy. Quite often, if they were playing individually to start with, they would eventually barrel into each other and play together. It was a lovely sight!
Sadly, one day we lost Toothless to a passing car, and I was worried that Safi would lose her enthusiasm for play and become depressed. Playtime became essential to making sure she didn't feel alone or isolated without her sister. And one year one from that sad time, we have a cat who still very much loves to play. Safi now even expects her playtime (preferably when the hound is out and about, so that he can't muscle in on the game). She will often communicate which toy she wants to play with – currently the favourite is the fishing rod with feathers on the end. She loves playing football in the garden, and has even made use of the slide on Gabriel's climbing frame on more than one occasion! Picture 1 – Safi on slide
Luckily for me, through looking after our ForPaws feline family, I see a wide selection of the cat-toys that people use to entertain their kitten-cats. I get to spend time encouraging our ForPaws Felines to chase 'red-dots', feathers, bouncy balls and string, or to roll around and go "catnip crazy" on an assortment of catnip-stuffed toys. It is fantastic to know that other people put just as much stock in the notion that playtime for cats is important as I do. And it doesn't have to cost a fortune either. One of Safi's strong favourites is simply an old walking boot-lace with a bell from one of her old collars tied to it, excellent for garden-chase and stalking games.
I also love that there are a wide range of cat-games that cats can play on your tablet. Seriously...go on to YouTube and type in "Cat games for Cats only" and you will find umpteen games to keep your kitten entertained! Who says a cat can't be part of the Digital Age!
One of my current favourites is the treat-puzzle (Trixie Cat Turnaround) that the lovely Lily loves to play with. According to Lily's mum, she got the hang of it very quickly and is amazingly good at getting her treats! And the fishing-rod feathers has been a massive hit with Safi along with ANYTHING CATNIP!!! I am sure as Safi gets older, she will become less inclined to play, preferring to find a nice cosy spot where she can snooze her time away. But, whilst she wants to play..I am more than happy to be her playmate.
So, with so much inspiration around for enhancing our cat's leisure-times, we would absolutely love to hear what sort of things you, our ForPaws Family, do to entertain your cat or cats!
It may even help us on those occasions when we are lucky enough to look after them for you :-)
Forpaws is a small team of pet carers who are both friends and colleagues, taking loving, professional care of pets in Guildford, Godalming and Woking.
To contact us directly, please either email [email protected] or call Corrine Lisle-Harding on 07500119232.