M. Michelle Nadon lives north of Toronto, with her beautiful German Shepherd Stella, and spends all of her spare time, goodwill and company profits on animal advocacy. Since 2005, she has published the weekly C4P Animal Rescue Newsletter – recognized as a trusted information source providing Canadians with updates on advocacy efforts for Canada’s too often neglected, abandoned and abused domestic pets and livestock. Leading and empowering a national membership through regular first-in-class communication, the C4P Animal Rescue Newsletter provides relevant, meaningful and qualitative resources and support for Canadian animals and their guardians.
M. Michelle Nadon recently discussed her background and approach with DogTO.ca:
I have been a caretaker to rescue animals for some 20+ years now, there’s no end to with what pets will show you — if you’re willing to learn. I have the luxury of observing pets all day, every day, in my line of business. I work specifically boarding “special needs dogs” – dogs that have physical, medical and/or emotional issues. Each one is an individual… just like you and me.
Each pet presents with their own needs, heartaches, fears, blustery or avoidant behaviours; sometimes calm and well balanced, sometimes highly reactive.
The one certainty is: they all want love and acceptance, on their terms.
Most humans expect an automatic connection with animals — we humans are kind of arrogant that way. But connection is not automatic …Respect and trust must be earned.
Dogs for boarding are always brought to my facility for 1-2 “induction visits” before their official stays. I give them unfettered time to explore the property and house, and let them just hang out — and I observe them very closely.
I encourage pet guardians to let them explore autonomously, tire, and get into a “down stay” on their own terms. And I “time” that process. Sometimes it takes 10-15 minutes for them to settle; other times it can take up to 45-60 minutes. I just note how they do. Then the next time they come for a visit prior to boarding, I note if there are any changes in their adaptability levels and the timing thereof.
I like to leave it up to the pet to make their own decisions about where they want to hang out in the house and if they want to engage with me. If they are in any way avoidant, I never push it. Even a slight turn of the head away from me tells me they are unsure. Not for one minute do I assume that they want to be automatic friends. All relationships take time –trust is imperative.
When they come to board, the first 24 hours is the hardest. Remember – safety first! I keep them to the backyard for Day 1. We take the time needed to get comfortable and loosen up – keeping the outside experience as positive as can be. On Day 2, I widen the exposure through short walks in the ‘hood. Gradually, I expand the circle, and extend the time on walks. I make sure that no negative experiences occur, like confrontations with other animals, and/or exposure to human strangers with lousy dog boundaries. By Day 3 of their boarding experience, they’ve usually relaxed enough to enjoy themselves. By then, they know what to expect of the daily routine, and of me.
I don’t force them to interact with me, nor do I force attention on them. Each time they take a chance on engaging with me, I reward them gently and playfully. I watch closely to see if they are being hyper-vigilant in their new surroundings, and watch their bodies for tension…like high tails, showing “the whites of their eyes”, hyper-reactivity to noises, movement, avoidance of any sort, or nervous panting/breathing.
Pets will always communicate their comfort level. The trick is, you need to be in it to learn. With time, care, and diligence, you can win their trust. I try never to assume how, or indeed, who, they are…I let them tell me, and then I adjust accordingly. Not the other way around.
For questions or more information contact:
M. Michelle Nadon