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Life Lessons

Coping with a Pet Emergency

by Christina Pettinato, MS, NCC, LPC, DCC

You walk through your front door and notice your furry friend isn’t there to greet you. You think, “That’s odd,” but continue with a routine of dropping your purse, locking the door, and kicking your shoes off. Again, you think “Where is she? No greeting? No sassy glare? This isn’t right.” And so, the search begins. You notice she isn’t in her favorite kitty box, on the windowsill, or in her chosen chair. Initial concern morphs into concerned and frantic thinking. You finally find her lying in the corner of a room that she normally avoids like the plague. You scratch a favorite spot behind her ear and she barely lifts her head to look at you. An internal alarm rings and it’s scary, as you realize something is terribly wrong. A member of your family is ill, and you feel helpless and frightened.

When you sign up for a lifetime of love you hardly think of the day your beloved pet will become ill. Thoughts like that seem almost unimaginable. Cohabitating with a furry friend is about the joy, the happiness, and all that other good stuff, right? Of course, but life is unavoidable, and our friends do get sick and do eventually leave us. It is never easy to see someone you love not feeling well. It is even harder to know if you are making the right decision to help your pet feel better.

So when I found myself facing this scary situation about a week ago, here is some helpful advice I followed that helped me to cope with such an emergency:

  1. Be prepared
    It really pays off to have a plan.  This allows for direct intervention and lessens the in-action choices we must make in moments like this.  Some ways to prepare are knowing the address and phone number of an emergency veterinarian in your area.  The last thing you want is mad search through the internet for to locate a reputable pet ER while you and your friend are in distress.  More importantly, if you are proactive and take this step you will have time to ask your veterinarian what animal hospitals they partner with and trust.  This will ease your anxiety regarding the quality of care for your friend.
  1. Breathe, try to breathe
    Your deep breathing practices will come in handy during this stressful time.  When you are suddenly confronted with your friend not feeling so well, begin taking some deep breaths.  Try to focus on your breathing by slowly breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth.  Remember, the slower your breathing becomes the calmer your body will be.  Deep breathing will help support your ability to think clearly and be an effective decision maker, which your pet needs you to be.  If deep breathing is a novel idea for you, try practicing it as a part of your daily routine. This will add to your repertoire of calming strategies during times of increased stress and worry.
  1. Try to avoid the internet
    Internet searches are not always helpful! We all do it, as much as we consciously know this will cause more worry we attempt the inevitable internet search to find out what is wrong. Being overloaded with symptoms and a faux diagnosis isn’t helpful. Not only will this give you more things to stress about, but it will create pressure you and your furry friend don’t need right now. Instead, put trust in your Veterinarian. Leave it to the experts who have a working knowledge of your pet. They are trained professionals and have more experience thank any internet search.
  1. Reach out to someone
    This can be a stressful and anxious time. There is so much uncertainty and you can’t help but question the choices you are making. “Am I making the right decision. Did I choose the right vet? Am I keeping my pet safe?”  This is a tough place to be in.  Try finding an empathetic ear, someone who will listen to your story, thoughts, and feelings.  This can be a friend, family member, or even your therapist.  Don’t be afraid to ask someone for help.  Whether this is scheduling shifts to help take care of your pet, sitting in the ER waiting with you, or just being a person’s hand, you need hold on to.

Experiencing fear and anxiety during this time is a normal reaction.  Acknowledge your thoughts and feelings but know that they don’t have to take control.  If you are experiencing stress or anxiety about your pet’s health or grief over the loss of your beloved friend, contact us. We’re hear to listen.

Avanti,
Christina

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Peace, Love & Anxiety

The Shape of Fear

by Christy Gualtieri

On a recent episode of NPR’s “TED Radio Hour,” I listened to a man, named Isaac Lidsky – a very successful child actor, Harvard graduate, and law clerk to two Supreme Court justices – give a talk about how he shaped his reality. It’s something we all do; how do we see ourselves, how do we see our lives? The interesting challenge for him is that he suffers from a rare genetic disease that rendered him completely blind in his mid-twenties. Up until the time he lost his eyesight, he had shaped his reality based on what he could see, like most of us do. He did that until he couldn’t…and then he figured out that he had to shape his own reality in other ways. I was drawn to his story by the truth of this one section of his talk:

“Sight is just one way we shape our realities. We create our own realities in many other ways. Let’s take fear as just one example. Your fears distort your reality. Under the warped logic of fear, anything is better than the uncertain. Fear fills the void at all costs, passing off what you dread for what you know, offering up the worst, substituting assumption for reason…fear replaces the unknown with the awful.”

As a chronic worrier and someone who has suffered from anxiety for much of my life, I totally understood what he was saying. I could affirm it all, because I’ve felt it all. Even when things in my life are going well, I sometimes walk on eggshells, looking up, waiting for the other shoe to drop.  If things are going badly, it just affirms my worry, and so it’s conditioned me to keep worrying, since I was “right,” anyway. And when things have been going well for a while, I will create things to worry about, because it’s hard for me to adjust to things going well. (And not that I’ve had this horrible life, at all — I have had, in fact, a wonderful life filled to the brim with countless blessings — but I have so trained my brain to only search for the bad for so long that it honestly can’t always deal with the good. It feels downright uncomfortable!) And if I did have a situation where the outcome was unknown, you can bet that I’d be imagining the worst case scenario.

It’s not the healthiest way to live, but I’m working on it; and with years of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy techniques to practice, it gets a lot easier with time and with work.

Lidsky provides his solution for dealing with fear, and I found that pretty spot on, too:

“See beyond your fears.  Recognize your assumptions. Harness your internal strength. Silence your internal critic…open your hearts to your bountiful blessings.”

Mr. Lidsky’s talk in its entirety can be watched here, and I highly recommend it.  It’s a brief guide to help you navigate through the fear that might dictate your life – and proof that it’s something that can be overcome with time and hard work. (I also highly recommend working through this process with a licensed therapist, who is specially trained to help you through this experience and can provide a solid sounding board to help you work through fears and anxieties.)

Until next time, be well!
Christy