A best practice of high quality pet care that I always follow is fully engaging the minds and bodies of my pet clients. In addition to the dog walking and in-home pet sitting services requested by my human clients, I also focus on the physical and emotional needs of my animal clients. This doesn’t mean that I’m looking to be the next Dog Whisperer or Cat Psychic. What it means is being attuned and sensitized to what the pet needs for its own comfort, pleasure and safety.
When I pet sit for a dog, and especially if it is for an extended period, one of the ways I connect with the animal is through reading. (You’re probably thinking that this blogger is in need of expert psychiatric care. However, please read on and indulge me a bit further.) It is not unusual for me to sit next to the dog or rest the pooch on my lap, then open up a book and read to the pet. It is through my calm and soothing voice that I seek to engage the dog. I probably could read almost anything to the pet but I generally choose a series of children’s books about a dog named Walter.
The character of Walter the Farting Dog is the subject of five books by William Kotzwinkle, a respected novelist, children’s author and screenwriter. (Mr. Kotzwinkle wrote the novel based upon the screenplay for E.T. the Extraterrestrial). As you can imagine, the Walter books tackle a rather sensitive subject, but Kotzwinkle handles it in a humorous fashion. The series begins with Walter’s rescue from a local shelter. Soon after his arrival into the home of his new family, Walter’s propensity for flatulence reveals itself. While Walter’s parents vow to return him to the shelter, their children protest. Through a turn of events and some sidesplitting storytelling, Walter saves the day by committing some acts that literally thwart catastrophe and danger. In short, as a result of his flatulence, Walter rises to the position of family hero and much-loved pet.
Now I can only imagine how entertaining these stories must be for young boys and girls who rely upon their Moms and Dads for bedtime stories. But wait! Here’s an Ah ha! moment. When I read these stories to my doggie clients and change my voice to get into the different characters, my clients move in closer to me, wanting to be held and embraced. The rise and fall in the cadence of my voice soothes them. They look up at me with wonder and interest in their eyes. And typically as we reach the end of a story, they want to drift off to naptime. If it’s evening and I’m on an overnight, it’s a perfect way to settle down a dog for bedtime.
So before you dismiss this as sheer nonsense…try reading to your dog. You’ll discover that reading out loud engages your pet. Perhaps you’ll also discover that Reading is Fundamental* in your relationship to your dog.
*Reading is Fundamental (RIF) is the oldest and largest nonprofit literacy organization in the U.S. Its purpose is to promote children’s literacy. As of the date of this blog, it is my understanding that RIF does not take a position on pet-owners reading to their dogs.