When I became a professional pet sitter almost 7 years ago, one of the first things I did was join the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters or NAPPS. At the time I knew how valuable that membership would be personally and professionally. But l had no idea how it would help me develop an intuitive ability by interacting daily with different animals. I couldn’t imagine at the time that I would unwittingly learn to understand my furry, feathered, and other 4 legged friends on a whole other level, and they me.
NAPPS sponsors monthly conference calls to help your build your business and avoid the typical pitfalls you might encounter. On one of those calls I met a woman that became my mentor. She had a very successful business in Sacramento California.
During one of our many conversations she said, “in about a year you are going to notice that you can understand the language of dog, cat, parrot and whatever critters you are spending time with.” She paused, I assume for effect and then said “in two years you will BE FLUENT.” She didn’t explain further, and I didn’t ask, but left the call scratching my head wondering what she was talking about.
Fast-forward two years. I’m visiting a client’s Blue and Gold Macaw named Oscar. Oscar can be a bit surly and you really can’t completely trust him. He will nip or bite with little notice or provocation. I had lots of experience working with parrots so no big deal.
I was working to get the water dish off the perch so I could clean it. Oscar was a little too close and acting protective of his perch. I lured him to the other side of the perch with some treats in his food bowl but as soon as I started working the water bowl again he came right back. I asked him to “step up”. He refused, growling and nipping at my arm. The client had a stick that they used to move him from place to place. I got the stick and Oscar growled at the stick and refused to step up onto the stick when I asked him to. I thought now what do I do?
And then a moment of Zen. We stood there looking at each other for a few seconds. Connecting. Suddenly, Oscar slowly raised one of his feet and something in his demeanor told me that if I asked him to “step up” again he would do it. So I put my arm in front of him within nipping range and said “step up”. He non-aggressively used his beak to move my arm closer so that he could step up onto my it. With him on my arm I walked a few steps and let him step onto the kitchen counter. I gave him some peanuts to munch on while I dealt with the water bowl.
With the water bowl cleaned, filled and screwed back on the perch I asked Oscar to step up again and moved him from the counter back to his perch.
Whoa, suddenly I felt a little like Dr. Doolittle. I just had a conversation with a parrot and I would say that we completely understood each other’s intent.
In fact, I’d been having “conversations” with my client’s pets for some time without even thinking about it. The words of my mentor floated gently into my mind and I understood what she had meant…I was FLUENT. I can talk with the animals.
As a trusted caretaker, I love that my relationship with animals has evolved to the level that I have a true understanding of each individual animal, how to best interact with them and allow them to trust me. It is important to consider when hiring a pet-sitter to care for your beloved pets.
I would love to hear your stories about an interesting moment of communication with pets. Please post in the comments below.