The Power of Choice: Let Potential Pets Size You Up TooJul 31, 2019 07:12PM ● By Carrie Brady
You can’t choose your family, but at least you can choose your pets. Before meeting new animals, people usually narrow their preferences down to a general type (mammal or snake?) and then a species (dog vs. goat, for example). Once these key decisions have been made, however, keeping all options open—for both you and the animals you meet—can help you find a wonderful new addition to your family.
Does Breed Matter?
Considering breeds is an important part of the selection process, because different animal breeds have unique characteristics and needs. As you reflect upon the characteristics you are looking for in an animal, give equal time to reflecting on what the animal will need from you. Be honest with yourself about the resources, including time, that an animal requires. A young dog from a very active working breed, such as a collie, will require more of your attention than an older golden retriever who may be willing to spend most of the day just sitting near you. Note the common underlying characteristics of your chosen breeds in terms of temperament, size, attitude, energy level, behaviors, etc., and use those as your guide in selecting an animal rather than just the appearance of the specific breeds. Reflect on which characteristics are truly essential and which are less important to you.
Take Your Time
When you’re looking for love, you might walk into a room, scan the sea of people and spot an individual that looks exactly as you imagined—beautiful eyes, right height and gorgeous hair. You may approach, make small-talk for about five minutes and decide you are going to marry this person. This is not a good way to pick a mate, and it’s not a good way to choose a pet: making quick decisions based primarily on looks, rather than taking some time to get to know the personality that makes them a unique being, does not bode well for a happy long-term relationship.
When you walk into a room full of animals, let your eyes wander and observe which animals immediately stand out to you. Then scan the room again slowly, taking the time to listen to your intuition. Be sure to notice which animals catch your interest on this second scan, even if you don’t understand why. Spend some time with all the animals, and observe how they interact with you, as well as how they interact with each other. Have your list of behaviors and characteristics available so you can ask questions to determine whether the animals meet your essential criteria. Once you’ve narrowed the options down, spend time privately with each animal. Take some deep breaths and notice how they respond. Are they tuned into you or paying attention to something else?
If you are meeting only one animal, rather than a roomful, pay close attention to how your body feels when you first meet the animal. What is your initial gut reaction? What is the animal’s initial reaction to you? Don’t talk yourself into choosing an animal that doesn’t feel right to you, but also don’t reject an animal that feels right simply because the animal doesn’t look the way you imagined. Take your time getting to know the animal.
Invite the Animal to Come Home and Wait for a Response
Once you’ve decided to bring an animal home, offer the animal an invitation and a choice. After vividly imagining the animal in the new environment and describing what that would be like, explain that you would like to invite the animal home as a member of your family, and ask whether they would like to join you. Observe carefully how the animal responds; do they come closer when you ask the question? If they walk away, are they headed toward the door to go home with you? If you step away, will they follow? If you are unsure of the response, ask the animal for a clearer answer and wait to see what happens next.
If you need more clarity, you also can do a simple hand-question test. Put both your hands out in front of you toward the animal and ask if they would like to come home with you, explaining that one hand means yes, while visualizing the animal coming home with you, and that the other hand means no, while visualizing yourself leaving without the animal. See if the animal touches one of your hands. Then repeat the process to validate the answer, but switch which hand means yes and which means no.
Continue Offering Choices to Your New Family Member
When you find an animal that wants to join your family, ask if they are ready to go or if they need a chance to say goodbye to the other animals and people they are leaving. Offering the animal a few minutes sends a powerful message that you are listening to them, not just telling them what to do. When you get home, continue offering choices whenever you can, such as what, where and when they eat, the way they like to be touched and groomed and where they like to sleep. Be observant. As your new pet is learning your language, work to learn theirs. Animals are always communicating with us and will appreciate your efforts to give them choices, as well as your efforts to respond to their preferences.
Carrie Brady is the creator of Possibilities Farm in Wilton, where she partners with horses in innovative non-riding programs for personal growth, professional development and wellness. The horses are true partners who co-design and choose to participate freely in every program. For more information, visit PossibilitiesFarm.com. See ad, page 33.