My name is Marley, a seven year old Cocker Spaniel that recently arrived here at the Second Chance Shelter. I was rescued from a puppy mill where I have lived my entire life in fear. So even though being rescued was the best thing that ever happened to me – it was very scary. But the “Fear Free” way I was handled at Second Chance really worked wonders and I want to share their approach with all pet parents.
“Fear Free” is a nationwide movement of veterinarians and animal welfare professionals, led by Dr. Marty Becker, focused upon enhancing a pet’s emotional and physical well-being. This broader focus is greatly reducing and preventing the anxiety response of pets during naturally stressful situations.
For example, upon arriving at Second Chance I wasn’t placed in a cage or enclosed room but instead immediately escorted outside into a nice yard to explore. I got to see other dogs playing happily outside which was also calming. Simply spending quiet time out in the sun made a big difference on my anxieties.
When I did go inside my room smelled really pleasant, totally different from the stinky place that used to be my “home”, due to the shelter staff use of calming pheromones on the bedding – it truly relaxed me. I also had a nice warm and soft place to crawl into and hide. When people did approach me it was to bring me food so I quickly learned to trust and welcome their approach.
Apparently the cats are receiving similar therapeutic treatment, according to a young cat named Oscar that arrived around the same time I did. He is under a year old and said he was flat out terrified initially.
Oscar was allowed to hide in a soft cubby while deciding if he was going to like people. His staff quickly convinced him the world was now a safe place – and yummy. Rather than force him unwillingly out of hiding they coaxed him out with tuna. Oscar learned he had to approach his staff to get the reward of tuna then while eating he was gently petted and softly spoken to. He quickly learned that human contact was awesome.
When it was time for Oscar and I to receive vaccinations, which normally would be a frightening and even traumatizing experience, we instead were spoiled with delicious food and surrounded by warm soft bedding that, once again, smelled lovely and calmed our nerves. We never even saw the needles as the staff moved very slowly and gently and even covered our eyes to calm us if we got nervous. It was a breeze!
Animal care has come a long way since the 1970s when it was widely accepted that animals did not feel physical pain. Humans have finally figured out that emotional fear can be just as debilitating and traumatizing as severe physical pain.
Creating a “Fear Free” environment is absolutely critical to pets like Oscar and I. It helps us successfully transition in new environments (and gets us ready for adoption much faster!). This approach can also help to reduce the stress of your pets at the veterinarian office, or if you have to move to a new home, etc. You can call the Second Chance Shelter to learn more about it, or more about me and Oscar. Thanks to “Fear Free” we are already prepared for the adventure of finding new families!