Tips for Separating Partners Sharing Animals
By Charles Regal, MSW, M.Div
1. First of all take care of yourselves—physically and emotionally. Stress makes us vulnerable to illness, and break-ups can be just as stressful as a death in the family or losing a job. It is good to have someone to talk to in times like this. Friends are indeed good medicine.
If you are not eating enough, eating too much, not sleeping enough, sleeping too much, depressed, or experiencing anything else making your life unusually un-happy, you are having normal reactions to heavy stress. What's important is to find the tools to cope with that stress, and getting help that you are comfortable with is an effective way to obtain those tools. For your sake and the sake of your animal(s),
do your best to keep yourself healthy.
2. Keep your animals' best interests in mind. Make an effort to protect them from a toxic environment created by anger, resentment and sadness. Animals absorb our feelings like sponges and get stressed when we do. They often stop eating and become lethargic when caught in the middle of a custody battle,. Don't let them be pawns in an emotionally charged tug of war. Please don't fight in their presence or where they can hear you.
3. If communication is too difficult (and that's normal), find a mediator to help you find a resolution that will be best for both of you and your pet. Find a mediator you both trust. Make sure s/he respects animals and understands the bond between them and the people who love them. It’s not a good sign if a prospective mediator doesn't bother to ask what your pet’s name is.
4. Educate yourself. Knowledge about this situation will empower you by helping you both practically and emotionally. For this I recommend the following books:
We Can’t Stay Together for the DOGS, Doing What’s Best for Your Dog When Your Relationship Breaks Up, by Jennifer Keene should be required reading for anyone going through this situation. Keene wrote this book from her personal experience and packed it with a lot helpful information on practically every aspect of pet custody. Her section on mediation is excellent.
Understanding your animals will help you take good care of them through a transition. Two good books for this are: The Dog Bible: Everything Your Dog Wants You to Know, and The Cat Bible: Everything Your Cat Expects You To Know, by best selling author and radio host, Tracie Hotchner. Another excellent book is The Dog Who Loved Too Much, by Nicholas Dodman, DVM.
5. Most important, give your animals as much affection and tender loving care as possible. This will comfort you as well!
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Regal Pet Custody and Care Mediation