Lunchtime sessions can enrich your relationship with pets

Dawn Barer discusses dogs’ body language at a recent Lunchtime Learning session.

Dawn Barer discusses dogs’ body language at a recent Lunchtime Learning session. Photo by Donna Lasater.


Take a class during your lunch break. You can learn ways to help your animal friends and deepen the bond you share.

Lunchtime Learning is held the second Tuesday each month, noon-12:30 p.m., at Animal Clinic of Walla Walla, 2089 Taumarson Road. Taught by Dawn Barer, a registered veterinary technician, the series is now in its second year.

Pets and grieving

Dawn Barer shared some insights about grieving the death of a pet. “It’s a loss in the family,” she said. There’s no reason to minimize the depth of the grief you feel. “He was just a dog” just doesn’t cut it.

Part of managing grief is preparation. Pets have relatively short life spans, but as the saying goes, it’s better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all. “I wouldn’t have missed any life I shared,” Barer said. “There are no wrong answers for pet parents torn about decisions they have to make.”

It takes some people a long time to get a new pet after the departure of their cherished companion. “But our hearts are big,” she said. “I’m so happy for them to get a new pet.”

The Lunchtime Learning classes are all about love, Barer said. “It’s to increase that bond between a pet and human,” she said.

The classes are presented for the human half of that relationship, so pets are expected to stay at home.

The topics, which Barer selects as “interesting and relevant to pet ownership,” often come from issues staff members see at the clinic. Many of them center around behavior, fear, dental concerns and training. Being overweight is also an issue for pets, as well as their humans.

“All of this just helps humans and pets. I don’t call them ‘owners,’” she said.

The topic of next month’s Lunchtime Learning is CPR. “Hopefully, you’ll never have to use it,” Barer said.

The technique is generally similar to CPR on humans. “It’s mouth-to-snout and chest compressions,” she said. Specific details, such as the dog’s size and weight need to be taken into account.

The class is taught using a mannequin dog. With the mannequin you can see the chest rise as they breathe.

The more skills you have as a pet owner, the more confidence you have in your ability to care for them in an emergency, Barer said.

New topics are always possible, and Animal Clinic staff get requests for specific issues. Biting by puppies is one upcoming topic.

“We have cat topics, too, such as not keeping you up all night. They have their own gamut of problems,” Barer said.

Since many cat owners feel their animal is safer indoors, they have to consider not letting them get bored. So cat enrichment is another topic.

Attendance at the classes varies depending on the subject. There are typically between four and 14 participants. The fear of fireworks and phobias class is very popular. There is also good attendance for the topic of recall, since “many people don’t have a dog that comes back when it’s called,” Barer explained.

Calm dog walking is another common concern. “So many dogs pull. Walking is important; it’s a cathartic time to clear their minds,” she said.

Barer, who is in charge of client education at the clinic, is working on an advanced professional position — VTS, a vet tech with a specialty in behavior.

There are currently only 12 behavior specialists in the United States. The training is rigorous and intensive, with accreditation through a peer review by a panel of behavior specialists.

“It’s about 4,000 hours, I’ve been working on it for a few years,” Barer said.

She volunteers at the Blue Mountain Humane Society as a behavior consultant. There she deals with animals that commonly have a lot of fear issues. Barer also teaches workshops for meter readers and others who need to be safe around animals in their workday.

Barer noted that because they have a special bond with their animals, people put up with many bad behaviors that would not otherwise be tolerated. But they can suffer through the bad times and work toward making it better.

She has scientifically based topics, research, and practiced techniques to help with concerns about your pet.

“We want to make sure they are well founded in science and fact, to back up what we’re talking about,” Barer said.

For more information call Animal Clinic Walla Walla at 525-6111 or click here.

Karlene Ponti can be reached at or 526-8324.


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