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Life Arts

Don't Sweat the Small Stuff When It Comes to Animals

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I love the book "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff...and it's all small stuff" by Richard Carlson, PH.D. Somehow I had forgotten its wonderful common sense and truth, but I recently unearthed the book, and without rereading it, remembered what a great teaching this is. I also realized that its wonderful axims should not only apply to humans but to animals as well. But it actually took Pearl, my white Angora cat, to make me realize that I was not always practicing them.

I realize that during my 35 plus years of companion animal "ownership," that I have frequently not heeded this wonderful advice.  But for me the final "awakening" occurred when I lost my temper with Pearl.  Pearl was surrendered to me ten years ago on a wintry day in January.  Her beautiful long-haired white body - the same color as the pristine snow which enveloped these two children on my porch, was snuggled in the jacket of the young boy who carried her.

The children told me that they could no longer keep her.  Would I take her?  Of course, I did. Later on I think I began to realize why the family no longer wanted her. She insisted on many occasions to bypass the 5 litter boxes I had and defecated in the corner of the basement. 

I tried to solve this problem by putting her in a cage with a litter box for a week or two.  It worked  for "a  week or two."  Then back into the cage again.  I don't know how many times this hoped-for corrective action was used but inevitably, we were back to square one. Sometimes I would scoop up her feces and place it in her litter box in the cage.  Nope, nothing changed.

I went to the internet for help.  They mentioned that some cats are very fastidious.  They don't like to share litter boxes and some had a preference for certain kinds of litter.  Well, that wasn't much help for me as I had no place to put her separately.  Recently, I thought I would try a type of food deprivation. No, I wouldn't starve her, but I would deny her the wet portion of food which I brought twice daily to the rest. She didn't seem to mind much until this past week when  I saw her nudge Jerry away from his dish. I went ballistic.  How dare she!  I angrily pulled it away from her while yelling like a banshee. I think everybody hid! 

Then suddenly I realized what a brute I had become in that instance because of Pearl's infraction.  Though irritating that it was - I just simply forgot the meaning of compassion.  Poor Pearl.  I have no idea why I could not train her- but certainly in this case, I WAS SWEATING THE SMALL STUFF and Pearl was suffering as a result and so was I.  Who knows?  Maybe she is mentally challenged and can never understand this foolish woman's insistance that she defecate in those "horrid" boxes. 

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Well Pearl, it took me 10 years, but I will never ever again try to punish you for this small fault in the scheme of things.  I feel so good now coming into the basement and lovingly viewing Pearl.  I even give her small kisses and she generously lets me give them.  

The biggest blessing, of course, is that I would no longer try to "sweat the small stuff."  My God, just how hard was it for me to pick up her droppings?  She and 4 other cats and a rescued bunny live in the basement where I had had the foresight to have gotten a new basement floor and wonderful industrial tile for just these kinds of "accidents."  Okay - hers weren't accidents, but now this wonderful insight re my furious anger and the utter stupidity of it had hit me like a thunderbolt from heaven.  Pearl can now use that corner whenever she wants and I will never again try to make her life miserable because of it. 

For those of you who have companion animals and may have shown similar uncalled for rigidness in the treatment of one or more of your animals - please just remember that we, as humans, are less than perfect, so why do we expect our animals to be perfect?  Casey, my dog has some irritating qualities.  I got her when she was 6 years old and even though she is now 12, there are still things which I seem not to be able to change in her.  Well, thanx to Pearl - it really just doesn't seem to matter all that much anymore, and I will try to give her space and peace. 

Yesterday, Casey's collar broke apart as we started our walk.  She dashed up to the corner as I followed excitedly calling her name.  In the past, I usually had the dickens trying to find her as she ran with all her might from me.  I worried she might be struck by a car since she ran without rhyme or reason.  Thankfully though, this time I caught up with her as she was doing her sniffing by the corner's apartment's grassy area.  When she saw me, she didn't pull away as she had always done in the early days.  Yes, she had learned something from me -
that I cared for her.  It took 6 years, but a blessing all the same. Now, hopefully -don't sweat the small
stuff will forever be ingrained in my life's dealing with animals and people. If you are expecting too much of
them and  even of yourself, you will greatly benefit from its wisdom.  I am forever grateful to God that I did finally learn this leason with Pearl  It's NEVER too late to learn. . 

By the way, my rescued bunny Jack is posing  a couple of "problems" for me.  Since, I want him to get
exercise, I crack open his cage daily so that he can venture forth for a couple of hours.  Most of the cats
go to "high" ground to avoid an encounter with him.  And since rabbits are nibblers - I realize that he will need monitoring on those times when he is out of his cage.  Already a small carpeted cat box  has been chewed through.  But Jack- you are lucky.  You will never hear me screaming like a banshee when you misbehave,
thanx to Pearl and Carlton's "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff.... and it is all small stuff."       


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I have been concerned about animal suffering ever since
I received my first puppy Peaches in 1975. She made me take a good look at the animal kingdom and I was shocked to see how badly we treat so many animals. At 77, I've been a vegan for the (more...)

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How right you are. We have a cat now who is 19 ye... by Joyce M. Simmerman on Sunday, Apr 10, 2011 at 9:35:22 AM
Joyce, I never tried newspapers. It's certainly w... by Suzana Megles on Sunday, Apr 10, 2011 at 9:59:02 AM
Over time my preferences have given way to my comp... by martin weiss on Sunday, Apr 10, 2011 at 2:20:33 PM
Your post as always is reflective, wise, and kind.... by Suzana Megles on Monday, Apr 11, 2011 at 6:12:00 AM