My parents were visiting this weekend, and that got me thinking about a question I am asked fairly often: How did you become interested in working with multi-pet households?
It’s a question that I am never sure how to answer because I have never felt that it was something I became interested in, but rather, that I was born into. When I was born, my parents’ household consisted of three dogs and a cat. One dog and a cat were my mother’s from before their marriage, while one dog was my father’s. They had rescued the third dog when they found her running loose in a grocery story parking lot.
While these animals were a story of integration themselves, throughout my childhood, the animal composition of our household changed several times. As exciting or painful as each change was in itself, every change also necessitated a process of integration help new and resident animals adjust to new routines.
During my childhood, I was lucky enough to witness the best of these relationships: animals that slept together cozily and groomed each other. Unfortunately, I also lived with the darker sides that can occur when one animal feels threatened by another and changes behavior accordingly. Despite the sometimes stressful nature of performing these introductions, I personally never feel my household is complete without at least one dog and one cat. Each provides for me a different, but equally vital, type of support.
My first professional animal-related job was as an Animal Care and Adoptions Counselor at the (now closed) MSPCA facility in Springfield, MA. Part of my job was to help adopters perform dog-dog introductions and also provide the tools they needed to perform dog-cat and cat-cat introductions at home. I learned a lot then about what I had done right or wrong myself in past introductions and found the opportunity to help others build successful multi-pet households extremely fulfilling.
When I moved into training and behavior modification, it then felt like a natural fit to put a special emphasis on building successful multi-pet households. While every outcome may not be equally smooth, I try to give people the tools to work towards success, so that they can experience the same satisfaction that I do.