Pet World: Visiting nurse makes simple request of dog owners
Sunday, January 24, 2021

By Cathy M. Rosenthal, Tribune Content Agency

Dear Cathy,

I am a pet lover. I have two kitties and enjoy my sister's two dogs.

I work as a visiting nurse. Our policy is that when a nurse, social worker, home health aide, or physical or occupational therapist comes to your home, you must put your dog in another room, or have the dog firmly under control with a leash.

We have had a number of nurses bitten on the job. I am one of them. It's an added stressor that is so readily preventable. Many people ask, "Are you afraid of dogs?" It's not about being afraid of dogs, it's about keeping everyone safe. Some dogs feel threatened when a stranger comes in the door and starts touching their owner or draws their blood.

Some people are offended when we ask them to secure their dog. "Why Fifi wouldn't hurt a fly!!" Fifi might feel exceedingly stressed and threatened at my presence though.

Could you talk about dog policies for those who visit homes, and why it's important for people to simply follow the rules?

-Grace, Allentown, Pennsylvania

Dear Grace,

Whether it's a visiting nurse or a plumber, a dog, even the best dog in the world, can feel threatened when a new person, who is neither family or friend, enters their territory. If it's a requirement of the Visiting Nurses Association for dogs to be confined when you enter the home, you are within your rights Grace to not enter the home until the dog is confined. It's such a simple request, and it's so easy to secure a dog in a kennel or bedroom during visits.

Dog owners, if you are reading this, please don't be offended by the request. The Visiting Nurses Association is just trying to ensure the safety of your caretakers. Please return the favor and honor their request.

Dear Cathy,

A month ago, I lost my husband. We have two dogs. One of them, the Havanese, although attached to both of us, was really his girl. He loved her so much, and she, him.

She is definitely depressed since he passed. She also has "made" in the house a few times. Something she never did before. What can I do for her?

-Stone, Bellmore, New York

Dear Stone,

I am sorry for your loss. Animals can grieve when they lose a beloved family member. She may pick up on your grief as well. The accidents in the house will eventually pass, but you can help her by maintaining her routine and giving her as much attention as possible, especially during times she usually shared with your husband. For example, if he always brushed her at 7 p.m., then brush her at the same time. If that's not possible, then brush her often to provide the same tactile time he used to give to her.

You also can introduce her to some new experiences to distract her from the grief. This will help her adjust to her new normal. You both can be a comfort to each other as you go through this difficult time. Please know it's normal for some dogs (and cats) to grieve for weeks or months, so be patient and give her a lot of love.

Dear Cathy,

We have a ten-year-old tiger stripe cat who for the past several years has gone on what we call a "walkabout." It always occurs in October. The first year, he was gone for a week. Last year, he was gone for 32 days. He returned on Thanksgiving evening, meowing at the front door, three pounds lighter but not looking like he had been out in the elements for a month. This year, he was gone for two weeks and came back hungry and covered in ticks. The vet has no idea what is causing this behavior. Any thoughts on how we can prevent this next year?

-Nancy and Gary, Quakertown, Pennsylvania

Dear Nancy and Gary,

Short of putting a GPS tracker on him (which you definitely should), it's hard to say why he leaves and where he's going. Cats instinctively like to roam, but I have no clue why he does it at the same time every year. The only way to prevent this is to keep him inside the house. Outside cats are more likely to be injured or killed and live shorter lives than cats kept in the house. If that can't be done, for whatever reason, then please put a GPS tracker on him so you can find him if he wanders off again.

Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, author, columnist and pet expert who has more than 25 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to  Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal.



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