Like most veterinarians, Cindy Houlihan talks to the animals that visit her hospital, The Cat Practice, in suburban Detroit. But Dr. Houlihan goes one step further. To make her patients less fearful, she explains each procedure to them. “I’m going to draw blood and as soon as we’re done, you’ll be able to go home,” she tells a patient. “I know you won’t like it, but if you lay still, I won’t have to start over and we’ll get you home faster.”
Do You Know What Your Dog is Thinking?
According to research conducted by Del Monte Foods, 49% of dog owners believe they know exactly what their dog is thinking. More than a third (34%) say they’ve had an entire conversation with their dogs without saying a word.
Dr. Houlihan also focuses on the positive—picturing in her mind what she wants her patient to do, not on the things that could possibly go wrong. Her unusual “bedside manner” is paying off. “Most of the cats take a big sigh, lie on the table and let us do our work,” she explains. “It’s less stressful for the patient and for our staff.”
Houlihan learned these techniques from Lisa Turek, who is an animal communicator. For more than a decade, Turek has “talked” to thousands of animals—cats, dogs, ferrets, gerbils, fish, snakes—you name it—helping their human companions understand what their pets may be thinking or feeling. “You don’t have to be psychic or have a special gift,” she says. “It’s something you can learn, just like I did.” The secret, she says, is staying positive and visualizing your desired result.
“Your dog or cat may not understand your words, but they understand the intentions behind the words,” she explains. “So, the more positive energy you send out—either through your words or your thoughts—the more positively your pet will respond. “Animals communicate in pictures,” she adds. “So you should picture them doing the things you want them to do.” For example, a trip to the veterinarian can be stressful for many animals, especially cats.
Turek says to visualize taking out your carrier, putting your cat inside and going to the veterinary hospital.
“Picture everything going smoothly with no problems,” she says. “Then picture yourself coming home and giving your cat a treat, a belly rub or a special toy.
“Visualize this over and over a few days before your appointment. You can say it in words or just think it. Either way, you’re sending a message to your cat.”
Linda Wasche uses this approach while caring for Hootie, her aging cat who is a patient of Dr. Houlihan. Hootie suffers from renal failure and must receive multiple medications daily.
Wasche says Hootie used to stubbornly clench his teeth and occasionally nip her.
But not any more.
Wasche talks to Hootie, letting him know how many medications he is going to get by counting on her fingers. She also forms a mental picture of Hootie opening his mouth.
“I hold Hootie on his back and he opens his mouth for me. All I do is squirt the syringe or pop in the pills.
“He’s relaxed because I’m relaxed. We are both focused on the same thing: a positive outcome. It works every time.”
“The more you let your pet know what’s happening, the better,” Turek says. “Don’t feel silly about talking to your animals. And if someone teases you, then do it in your head. Your pet will still hear you.”
Dr. Houlihan admits she was skeptical about working with an animal communicator. But she believes she’s a better veterinarian as a result.
Not only is she talking to her patients, she’s become a better listener, too.
“Since animals can’t talk for themselves in ways we understand, we have to rely on other ways to communicate with them. Call it intuition or whatever, but I’ve learned to trust that.
“It’s really not a mystery,” Dr. Houlihan says. “You have to train yourself to listen. We all have that capability. We just sometimes aren’t open to it.”
This article originally appeared in PetsMatter September / October 2011, published by the American Animal Hospital Association. Copyright © 2011 AAHA. Find out more.