TRAVEL TIPS - WHEN YOU GO AWAY
Yes, I've finally done it. I'm either going to write myself out of business here or just feel fulfilled that I've finally brain dumped the Tips I've figured out from what the animals tell me...
You're going away. You know they're going to be upset, miss you, not "get it" about how you're coming back (no matter what you say). You contact me for HELP!
What are we commonly up against?
When you started considering the idea of your going, so did they. Hate ta tell ya.
It's no different to them than a trip in the car to the local 7-11. Why can't they go?
When you walk out that door, will you ever actually return?
They get that there's something "different" about this venture out...will you be killed out there in the big world?
Why is your stuff disappearing into that box that gets zipped up and whisked away? Why are you doing this!??!
Do you really think they're going to be happier at The Vet?! A Kennel?!
What did they do wrong?
In a nutshell, your pet is at the mercy of your comings and goings. You (and I) can talk to them all you want - and you'd better! - but there are also certain bases to cover which exist in "real life" but are commonly overlooked.
Here are the most successful tips I've come up with. They work better than anything I've come across when used with the usual and common actions one does when leaving a pet such as lights, music, someone coming in to feed/walk them and talk with them, etc. (or boarding, which has a separate approach).
A. TELL THEM
1. Often behaviorial problems stem back to when you and Daddy (whoever) started to consider the idea of "going away".
Rover heard (telepathically or verbally) "going away". Instant freak-out.
Let them in on it. Discuss it in front of them. Even if you are saying "Belgium might be nice in August!", look over at Rover and say, "What do you think, Rover?" and send them the concepts of "Belgium", fun, new place, Daddy and Mommy having fun, mental picture such as the ones in the travel brochure, etc. Rover usually has no clue of what this all about - what kid does? - but gets caught up in the excitement and simply feels happy that Mommy and Daddy are "including" them in something so "fun". You'll see tail wagging and doggie grins.
2. Sit down with Rover or utilize some quiet reverie time when you can tell that Rover's receptive to hearing about something "serious". Tell him that Mommy and Daddy are going to go away to Belgium. Belgium's a place far away. Humans go there for human-fun. Doggies aren't allowed to go to Belgium. No, doggies can't go to Belgium! And you can't help it! (It's always handy to blame it on some-vague-one else.) But you are coming back and you'll bring him something special from Belgium!
3. As things are firmed up, you'll be on the phone or on the net making reservations, planning logistics, seeing about getting the mail held, who's going to look in on the place and so on. Occasionally point out to that this is part of the trip, such as you get off the phone with Aunt Ruth and then turn to Daddy and say, "Wow! Aunt Ruth is going to come in and feed Rover when Mommy and Daddy go to Belgium!" then, basically, drop it. (If you are too honed on this, Rover will think Aunt Ruth's about to walk in the door...)
Now's a good time to have an Aunt Julie Consult with them about it as well. That's worked wonders for some of my clients. A few of my old salts just do a quickie a few days prior to their departure. We cover who's going to feed them, what their considerations or fears may or may not be, etc. I'm pretty good at judging their depth of understanding of concepts (what is an "airplane"? What is a "business trip"?), too, so that's handy.
When's the right time to tell them?
Not too far in advance and not right before you're out the door... as best you can. If you're leaving in August, telling them early July is nice to pave the way but you should reinforce it mid-July and then one more time 2-3 days before you go, even if it's just a quick check-in /reminder. Could take 5 minutes on that last one! but it's worth it.
B. MAKE THEM PART OF IT
4. Packing is a key part of things. When those suitcases come out, Rover is now part of the process. Let him help you pack. That means the suitcases come out, zipped open, you ask him to Help you. He explores them. He sees you go through your things and start putting them into it - he gets to sniff and examine everything and help you "pick" what goes in there. He prods it periodically with his nose. The prodding gets acknowledged and thanked as being Help. (A cat may wish to lay all over it. If so, wait patiently - if possible! - until they're done "owning" it and rubbing their odor all over it, blocking you from doing anything, etc. If you hang in there with it, they'll leap off when they're done with it, and that's their "green light" to you to continue packing....which is a form of agreeing that it's OK that you go! Be sure to THANK THEM for helping you Get Ready To Go On Your Trip. Whoops! They accidentally agreed about your going!)
It does weird pets out to see the parents putting possessions into the "funny boxes" and whisking them - and themselves - off for some unknown amount of time and so on. So they more they feel they have participated, the less "effect of it all" they feel.
NOTE In some cases it's better for the pet(s) to not witness the packing and the owner being (even slightly) sad about leaving them. One owner writes:
"What I did was (a) followed your instructions for leaving per your website, (b) kept the comm with them simple and I didn’t keep harping on it, (c) packed AFTER they were off on their own adventure (may or may not be important for other pet owners), and (d) brought something home for them!!!
"See, twice now I have followed the instructions and the results are getting better and better! Just imagine what would happen if there were another biz trip! They’d be like “Mommy who??”!!"
In her case, her dogs were going to a friend's house, and we had taken a little bit of time prior to make sure that this was okay with "the girls" and so on. It was, and even though there was some mild apprehension in advance, at the same time the dogs were basically Just Fine on the whole thing and were more like "OK, Mom - go ahead, outta here and have a good time! We'll be fine!" attitude after we all talked. Mom, a Pet Communication veteran already, had the good horse sense to not stir things up for them by then packing while being upset (I'm leaving my babies!) in front of them.
C. "AGREEMENTS" AND "GAMES"
5. Promise your pet a souvenir, and deliver. Bring him something which is familiar enough to enjoy (such as a toy), is all his (not some knick-knack you'd bring a human, which he cannot enjoy nor destroy), and which definitely has some unique "foreign" quality. That quality may just be the smell, which will also match the clothes in your suitcase; make sure there's something in there which smells like, well, Belgium. Some still-unlaundered shirt you wore while on your trip. A toy from a gift shop (suitable for your pet).
6. Let your pet know anywhere along the line, and reinforce occasionally, that he has a job to do while you're gone, a responsibility all his own. This is another way to help them contribute to your going on The Trip.
Think simplicity. Something they can do, in that they already do it ~ an example is "guarding the kitty". You know that Rover's going to bark like crazy if someone comes by and night. So you let him know that his Job is to Guard Princess the Kitty while you're gone AND Aunt Susie who's coming to stay! And when you come back you'll be SO PROUD of what a Good Job Rover did guarding them! This way, you've given Rover something to do which is natural for him yet he can feel proud and contributive and "occupied" while you're gone. Meanwhile tell Princess that her job is to make sure that no mice get into the apartment. You've noticed that there never are any mice there and never have been and, well, you know that that's because Princess is so good at it that they don't come by! So Princess, YOUR job is to continue the good work and make sure that no mice show up while you're gone as well so you have the same safe place to come home to!
And they are to watch over each other and watch out for each other and keep each other company.
They're into helping. They all are. Every one of 'em! (Regardless of what "face" they display, normally.)
7. The Countdown: Some animals like a daily countdown to when their owner returns. Not all can do this, but if yours can, it's fun for them. Pet Sitters can do this with them, and coordinate it with your phone calls (if you do call) to reinforce it: Mommy and Daddy are coming home in 4 days! Next day - 3 days!! and so on, and every day have it more exciting and give the kitties something to DO about that, like, Wow! you 2 are really keeping the place clean for Mommy! What can we do today for Mommy? How about we play with (toy) and then leave the toy where she can see it so she knows you played with it? Then when they leave, they put toy smack in the middle of the carpeting and gush about how Mommy will see it. Then they tip you off, and as soon as you walk in the door you gasp significantly about how there's TOY right there - you mean, you mean you guys played with it while I was gone?!!?!?? With Aunt Susie?!?!? Ohmigod that's great! Mommy's so HAPPY you found fun things to do ALL ON YOUR OWN while Mommy was gone! Ohmigod! Good kitties!
They kind of go...UhHUH...but they also they feel proud. They can't help it, they get caught up in it.
8. Make sure you get their "permission" to go on the trip,even if this means catching them a bit off-guard and getting them revved up in "excitement". Thank them and let them know you WILL see them again and you WILL see them again soon, and (where possible) you will Talk To Them (if you can make arrangments to call them daily - doesn't work with boarding and the vet, necessarily). If workable, have them see you out the door, that is, scoot you out to go on your trip. If they are being boarded or you are dropping them off at a friend's, make sure they know this is the last Good-Bye for a little bit and that you are going on The Trip and thank them for being a Good Boy (Girl) and you will see them again and....
It must be their own "determinism" and decision that is OK for you to leave on this trip. Try and work with that as a senior concept. It's OK, and they are in fact helping send you on your way.
Then reward them with daily calls if possible, for being so brave.
NOTE: A lot of people now use the term "Separation Anxiety". I hate labels which sound like psycho-babble. Label it what you will like it's some "condition", but really it's plain ol' garden variety "I miss you!" combined with and compounded by the domesticated animal's base-level dependency on their owner for actual survival which has been ingrained into them since being adopted by the human species. In short, they want and need you. They don't know where you're going, or why. You're sure they don't have a clue no matter what you say. When they're fine, they're only fine for a few minutes and get all upset again. ETC. With pets, the most important thing regarding their loneliness is that they are squared away. You get in comm with them and/or we get in comm with them, and you make sure things are as close to how THEY want them while you're gone (e.g. if you offer them a choice between boarding at the vet's and Aunt Susie checking in on them, and they say Aunt Susie, don't switch it on them at the last minute). If you've got all the basics in (shelter, food, water, any medications, light/dark, music, their favorite bed or toy and so on), you play into their being creatures of habit as much as you can, and if they consciously know you're not "leaving" them and they've done NO wrong and you ARE coming back, it helps more than you'd imagine. It IS about all that you can do, on a basic level.
They should also know that you're going away on vacation, that humans do this, that it doesn't mean you don't love them just as much but (hec, blame it on someone else, that's always handy:) the Place says No Kitties! Gasp! And there's nothing Mommy can DO about That! but you'll bring them a souvenir from The Place! (and do that, and give it to them when you come back and so on, something "different" which smells like wherever you went - they'll know when they smell your luggage that it is indeed from "there" as the smells will match) and it's their way of having been able to share this Place with you.
YES Aunt Julie's VERY anti psych drug. There are natural alternatives which work for some and not for others, but how would you feel as a youngster being scared or upset asbout Mommy leaving you at school for the first time or going to summer camp or whatever and the first thing is being labelled something aberrant and haing the camp "counselor" put a "soothing" pill in your mouth? We'd have a society of druggies and wimps, those who can't just go, Oh, well, what have we here? Maybe I'd better get involved! Hey, maybe it takes a day or so but once they do, they're On Board and are active and bolder in life. Empathy and cuddling and caring is NOT coddling and validating, rewarding, such behavior. Two different things. The anguish, fear and loss are very real and understandable. Help them get through it, but don't drug it away for them or your dog or cat. In MOST cases, they're a LOT LOT more "fine" than you can imagine.
I've got a few links on my Good Links page you can check out if you'd like, as well as browsing the net and/or calling pet stores, holistic and "alternative" vets (and human doctors and nutritionist, if you'd like), search the net, and so on, to see what products are available which can substitute for psych drugs (e.g. Rescue Remedy, a lot of my clients like that). Drugs aren't "meds". Medicines are like, oh, mustard poultices for colds, antibiotics for infections. Many medicines are, literally, drugs, and all drrugs are drugs, but not all drugs are medicines. "Meds" is a buzz word for drugs which affect one mentally but somehow got "approved" to give to folks.
Ritalin is or was at one point in time the #1 street drug in Canada.
LSD-25 (acid) used to be prescribed by psychiatrists. When enough folks caught on about what it was like, it later became illegal.
I know from human babysitters that more times than not, with most kids, too, the parent drops Little Johnny off, he cries and pitches a fit, he can't live wihtout you (etc) and it's truly horrible at both ends. You drop him off and walk away, feeling the agony and knife in your heart (and back) as you go to your car. Ten minutes later, Little Johnny's playin' away. (Of course, a babysitter "schooled" in psych viewpoints on how to handle kids would make a fuss about it, validate the upset, drug the kid or make sure that you were informed on how horrible it all was and you should try Counselor X who's done miracles with Drug Y for "separation anxiety". (Ever notice how when a kid runs and slips and falls, they'll look at Mommy quickly to do a "reaction check"? If Mommy looks alarmed or gasps etc., the kid wails. If Mommy goes, Wow! Huh! Look at that! Big slide!!!! and grins broadly, the kid'll pause for a bit, his lip might quiver, then he'll slowly smile, all proud of himself and get up and scamper off. Actual injuries notwithstanding, of course, but you get the idea.)
Of course when the parent comes to pick Little Johnny up at the end of the day, she might inquire, How'd he do? and the sitter would relate the events, key things, what he ate, he napped, he this and that, and yeah, he was upset for about, oh, 5-10 minutes and cried in the corner and went under the table blah blah but she found that when she brought out the Fischer-Price new colorful Child's First Jigsaw Puzzle, he came right out and couldn't wait to try it! THIS is all good data for Mommy.
This is "separation anxiety". Bah.
No drugs, no labelling. Same with animals. They're beings, they have reactions and feelings and ideas about things.
BOARDING VS. THE PET SITTER
People frequently ask me which is better. It's up to you, your pet(s) and your living circumstances.
From your end: Do you like the boarding facility? Can you afford it? Do you like the pet sitter? Or your neighbor, family member, whoever said they'll "take care of things"? Do you trust that they will? How long will you be gone? How did your pet act when you went away before?
Surprisingly to some owners, I've found that a lot of the time, the animal has let me know that they feel that they would feel more secure and would be more emotionally stable if they were allowed to stay at home - YES, even if you can only arrange for someone to come and feed/walk them, and YES even though they'll be sleeping along at night.
Why is this?
Because you leaving is one change. Them leaving are two changes. The first is bad enough. The second is worse.
FOR SOME OF THEM. Some want to "go to Grandma's". But some do better if Grandma comes to them (hardship for Grandma, or not).
They'll be upset. They'll act upset. But the above is true, and is also relative, that is, realize that they could be even more upset if you board them when they'd prefer to be at home, or vice versa.
D. YOUR RETURN
When you return make sure you really notice everything they did and I mean first thing out of your mouth after the hugs and jumps etc. Rover! The place looks so SAFE! You DID it! You kept the place SAFE for Mommy and Daddy!! Princess! No mouse! No mouse! WOW! Good Kitty!
This takes care of about 95% of the upset about how you were gone, as well as reinforcing things for them for your next outing. It makes their pride soar. It's also just general good manners as regardless of all the activities you've had going on, all they've had going on is - your being gone, and what that meant for them.
Let them help you unpack and GO FOR those souvenirs. Forget the unopened mail and the spoiled milk you forgot to drink beforehand. Just go for unzipping at least one of the suitcases (the one with the souvenirs is good!) so they can sniff liberally. Dirty laundry's always good - it smells like You In Belgium. The souvenir toys smell like Belgium. It all ties together for them. And they get their special Toy From Belgium! Wow! Thank you for ______! (you get the idea)...and off they go.
All of the above work real well but have to be adapted for your household and circumstances.
Do these Tips work!?
Maybe not for everyone, but .....
UNITED WE STAND.
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