Write it down!
We are going on a vacation soon and we are not going to be able to take all of our pets with us. Lucky for us we have a good friend who will be house and dog sitting for us while we are away. For her ease of care and the dogs comfort level, I have taken the time to write up a couple of pages about the dogs and their lives.
After writing the information down it became clear to me that this is something we should all do for our pets. In this article I would like to speak to the importance of having information about your pets written down in an easy to read format for other people who may have to care for your pets. This does not just pertain to vacations but what if you were in an accident or had to be taken to a hospital or what if, heaven forbid, you died? Who would take care of your pets and who would know the intimate information that you and your pets share like words and phrases you use in your everyday life together? When and how much do they get fed or walked? There are many details that we take for granted that would make a major life transition for our pets much easier if they were recorded and available to the care-takers who will step into our place when we are unable to be there for our pets.
To get a good start on this task you take a few minutes to write down the major things about your pet and about your life together. In my case I put medium size images of each of our dogs on the page for ease of recognizing them. I then added a little blurb about each one of them so at a glance someone who isn’t familiar with the dogs could size up who is who and treat them appropriately right from the start.
Nessa: Oldest, Alpha, Frigga: Shyest, Sweet, Odin: Protective, Sweet,
Can be crabby/grumpy, Gets picked on by everyone, Vying for top spot,
Very confident, Not so confident, Confident but flighty,
White strip on forehead, White nose, Piebald Largest, no white strip,
Solid black on back of neck. Large black ‘dot’ on back of neck.
After the pictures and the short info blurb I wrote down common words and phrases that we use in our every day life together. Each person uses their own language with their pets and it is comforting to your dogs if a new caretaker knows what words they are used to. Yes, yes, dogs are smart enough to “catch on” to new words and ways but in most cases they are confused as to why you are gone already and they are more than likely missing you, so I say…why make it any more difficult for them? Make it possible for a new caretaker to use the language they are used to, avoiding any extra undue stress.
Words and phrases we use:
Sit Down Stand Off Wait Stay
Dance Sit pretty OK (release)
No Uh uh That’s all (Show empty hands)
Yes! Good! (girl, boy)
Out! Settle Down! Go out and find a spot Do it
Get up there Kennel! Bedtime
Go check it out! Way back! Hunt! (Use nose)
Next you will want to write down the information about feeding times and amounts. Again, for the comfort of your dog, you will want to let the caretaker know when you feed, how often, what you feed and how much. You can also include any information about feeding treats, chews, and toys in this section if you like. Any little clues that you can provide to your in-term caretaker about your dog’s food habits the better. The more info you provide the easier your time away will go for your dogs.
They get fed dry mixed with canned in the morning and sometimes I’ll mix something in the evening too but you don’t have to. (Canned food, cottage cheese, sardine juice, tuna juice, meat drippings, etc.)
Dry food (each feeding):
Odin gets 1 heaping scoop
Frigga gets 1 scant scoop
Nessa gets less than a scant scoop. ( between 3/4 and 1 scoop)
Monitor while they eat, Odin has issues with Nessa and Nessa will sometimes try to push Frigga out & eat her food. Nessa usually finishes first so I either have her sit by me (I’ll treat her once in awhile) or I tell her to “Give em space” and I make her go into the other part of the room on a chair, couch or rug until the others are finished. You can just point or sometimes use your body. When everyone is done eating they’ll usually come and sit by me and I will give them all one last treat(s).
There could be ‘issues’ if left alone, unmonitored, with chews, toys or food.
So, again, the more information you can provide for your caretaker the better she will be able to provide a stress free environment for your dogs while you are away. My next step was to write down a short “Day in the life” account to give my house/dog sitter an even better idea of what my dogs are used to. That way she can use any information I have provided to make the time that we are away less of a change for the dogs. In this section you can also write down any other information that you can think of that will help your dogs stay stress free while you are away.
A day in our life:
Wake up either before or to the alarm.
Let dogs out.
Start breakfast, coffee
Let dogs in, sometimes they stay out longer, sometimes not.
I feed dogs after we have eaten, usually around 7
Monitor while they eat.
They can go outside and play or patrol the fence. I will walk around the fence with them a few times a day off and on depending how my work goes. When I take them out for a walk on the road, I usually take all three but sometimes one at a time. Sometimes we will also take them up in the upper field/woods with two of them harnessed and one of them loose…then switch off.
They can go in or out…whatever. I make them ‘wait’ if I am busy. If they start to rough-house in the house too much I’ll boot them out & leave them out for awhile.
They can be on the couches & chair but not supposed to rough-house play on them.
“Not on the couch! OFF!”
Nessa will try to shake up and shred pillows & dog beds sometimes. (Naughty girl!)
If I am not paying attention the others will tattle on her by going to the door or slinking around and looking at me. (When I had a bell on the door they would ring the bell to tattle on Nessa, ha ha ha!)
I try to feed supper around 5 but sometimes it fits better to feed early or later.
If the weather is nice I’ll sometimes play outside with them later in the day or just walk them around and encourage them to hunt the wood shed, brush piles or fields for mice, voles, gophers and moles. I use; “Hunt!” and “Check it out!” (While pointing) They LOVE to hunt!
Later on in the evening, right before I go to bed, I will let the dogs out saying: “Go find a spot.” When I let them back in I say: “Bedtime.” They will each go in their crate and I’ll give them a Bil Jac liver treat in their crates. I usually give Odin his treat first, then Frigga and then Nessa. Now that they are old enough not to get into trouble I have been leaving the crate doors open at night.
During the day if I am going to leave and kennel them, I will give them a Kong with some canned food or peanut butter in it. We have been leaving them out free in the house while we are gone for quite a while now and they have been just fine.
So you can see that you can write down just a bit of information or you can get quite detailed on your pages…either way it is a good project to do for the comfort of you dogs or pets while you are away. Keep the information printed out and handy in a place where someone can find it if they are looking for info about your pets. I keep mine in the file folder where all my dogs’ records are kept such as vet records and registration papers.
Remember to write down the phone numbers for your vet and any back-up people you have lined up in case of an emergency situation.
If you take the time today to write down just a little bit of information about your life with your dogs you will be helping them to cope with a time in the future when you are not available for them and they are missing you.
You are EVERYTHING to your dogs!
Please help them to be more comfortable in the times when you can’t be there with them.
Sue Lee Ringwelski