Kindred Spirit Kindred Care, LLC.

Shannon Fujimoto Nakaya, DVM


Complementary and adjunct care for dogs and cats with special needs.

Honoring the Human-Animal Bond

Kindred Spirit Kindred Care: Making Health Decisions on Behalf of Our Human Companions

Listen,

Observe,

Feel,

and an animal will enhance your life.

Why do we care about animals? Because animals have been our family members, partners, protectors, teachers, companions, and soul mates. Because they are for the most part honest and loyal. Because they trust us, and what would we be if we did not respond to our animal companions in their time of need? Respect and thoughtful treatment towards animals and animal environments should be a gesture of our own human goodness.

Since our animal companions don't usually express themselves through spoken words and language (with the exception of some birds), we must learn to understand their body language, facial expressions, and behavior. Non-verbal communication is really not a far-fetched concept. In fact, it is so natural that we tend to forget that we have the aptitude to communicate non-verbally. Infant children cannot speak, but most people recognize when they are happy, sad, frustrated, tired, and/or in need of attention. We often know someone's mood even before s/he says anything, especially if the person is someone with whom we are familiar.

Of course, misinterpretation is possible with non-verbal communication. Suppose your roommate returns home in a rotten mood. With words, you just ask what is up. But if you are dependent on non-verbal communication, you might require ongoing observation to see if the bad mood persists, what it might lead to, or if there are other "symptoms." You may have to troubleshoot by offering food, a blanket, a walk, a game, or a hug, and assessing the response. Observing and troubleshooting are not so different whether your companion is human or non-human. The more familiar you are with your roommate or companion, the less likely you are to misinterpret what s/he is communicating without words.

The good thing about animals is that they rarely lie. Humans are capable of acting sweet and supportive to your face, and then stabbing you in the back, as the metaphor goes. Even when their intent is not so malicious, humans tell white lies. Maybe they are embarrassed by the truth, maybe they don't want to hurt your feelings, or maybe they are telling you what they think you want to hear in order to avoid conflict. The point is that humans do not always say what is really on their mind. Actions speak louder than words, and it is not the nature of our animal companions to act independent of their feelings.

Written by Shannon Fujimoto Nakaya, DVM
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