Think you know what to do before making that big commitment to a new pet? Any family expansion needs to be a family affair, especially when it is an interspecies family we are talking about! Learn about the best kept secret in new pet preparation from Shannon of Animal Love Languages.
Getting a new pet is exciting. So exciting, in fact, it is super tempting to speed right past the prep work part to the getting the new pet part.
I would know. I’ve done it.
And I’m not proud to admit it, but I am willing. For the sake of the animals. There are too many of them sitting in rescues and shelters right now to think we’ve got all our bases covered in terms of preparing before we make that all-important interspecies family addition decision.
So here is what happened to me.
One evening I had a big fight with my then-partner. I hopped onto Craig’s List, intent on finding an apartment in a neighborhood all the way across the city (i.e. as far away from him as possible). Instead, irked and thus highly unpredictable, I typed in “reptiles.”
Up popped the cutest little red-dotted face I had ever seen. The headline read “redfoot tortoise hatchlings in need of rehoming.” Impulsively I typed back “I have a home. Do you still have any hatchlings who need one?”
Lucky me. He did.
We met the next day in the parking lot of a pet store. I handed over the cash and in return he handed me a tiny round plastic tub with a tiny round tortoise inside it. Oh, and a single typed sheet with care instructions.
And that was that. Off he went. And there we were…..my tiny tortoise and me.
The little round tub – about the size of a to-go container for your uneaten side dish of mashed potatoes – was filled with a few carrot shavings and some kind of straw mix. This was about the point I realized I had nothing else to put her in when we got back home. So I strapped the tiny tub and its occupant into the passenger seat of my car and raced off to find a pet store with late evening hours. I ended up at Walmart and purchased a larger plastic tub.
And so the story goes.
My girl, Malti, is now heading towards her eighth birthday. Along the way, we have navigated several severe health scares, one great escape that lasted six days (and resulted in yet another impulsive shelled decision named Bruce, which is a whole other story), and several whole-home moves as she outgrew one enclosure after another and eventually needed a much larger permanent outdoor enclosure to live in.
Do I regret it? No. And yes.
I don’t regret adding Malti to my family. Oh my goodness as if. But I do regret the casualness with which I agreed to take on the lifelong responsibility of caring for another conscious living being, regardless of their species.
I could have done much better by my girl. Today, I like to flatter myself that I would. And I’ll tell you exactly where I will start, should I ever find myself contemplating family planning once again.
I will start by hiring an animal communicator. (Did you know I was going to say that? Why do you think that is?)
I will hire an animal communicator because expanding our family needs to be a family decision.
I need to ask the prospective family member if s/he would like to join our flock. And I need to ask what s/he will need to feel safe, supported and happy as a member of our family and determine whether I can provide that in full.
I also need to ask my current interspecies family how they feel about having a new addition to our flock. I need to find out what their concerns and questions are and whether they feel like this new addition will be a good fit in our existing family dynamic. And I need to ask each one of my existing animals what, if anything, they need from me to adjust to having yet another potential source of competition for my time and attention.
These questions are SO important!
They are important for the sake of the newcomer, who is potentially facing a HUGE adjustment to make, adapting to a new caregiver, a new living space, a new daily routine AND a new set of interspecies siblings.
They are just as important for the sake of the existing animals, who are also facing an enormous shift in their daily routine, family dynamic and amount of access to the center of their collective world, me.
Most of all, they are important for me, to give myself a pause to ponder it all. To ask instead of tell. To invite the devil’s advocate side of the decision into the conversation. To take a look at what my own heart and gut have to say about any underlying motivations for why now, why a new animal, why this particular new animal, why me.
It is only fair to everyone affected. It is the right thing. It can change the future for all of us and each of us.
Are you considering adding a new animal to your family? I’d love to help you explore these questions and more with your existing family members and your new prospective addition!