I have been working in the field of massage therapy and Reiki and other related energy work systems for the past fourteen years. During this time, I have learned just how important healthy touch is for people, plants and animals. Sometimes in the beginning of our lives, we may not receive the healthy touch we need, and it takes someone who comes into our lives to teach us it is possible.
Eighteen months ago I met a tortoise-shell female kitty who showed up in our community. She didn’t have a collar. She looked as if she had had at least one litter of kittens with her belly swinging low. She seemed to be well fed. When I tried to touch her, she would slouch away from the touch. She, however, never left our community. She would climb the mesquite trees and look for water. Several of us decided to leave food out for her to make sure she received some healthy nutrition while she decided where she wanted to live.
At the time I had been working with cats, dogs and horses doing Reiki and bodywork. I started to study the technique of Tellington Touch. This light therapeutic touch developed by Linda Tellington assists animals in receiving healthy touch to assist with situations where they may have had trauma or are going through illness. Linda Tellington has used this variation of techniques on both domestic and wild animals from cats, dogs, horses, coyote, boa constrictors and leopard cubs. There are varying degrees of pressure and the touch is circular in nature. The main idea is to slow the nervous system down and provide animals with safe touch to re-wire their nervous system.
My neighbor, Steffi, decided to adopt our new neighborhood cat and promptly named her Sadie. Being a good mom, Steffi took Sadie to the Humane Society to have her shots and see if she needed to be spayed. As it turned out, Sadie had already been spayed, and we discovered that she also had a chip implant. Steffi braved the phone call to Sadie’s listed owner. She had already bonded with Sadie and feared having to let her go. By this time we had been caring for Sadie for six weeks. When Steffi spoke to the listed owner, he at first stated that he wanted Sadie back. Steffi explained to him that Sadie had been living with our community for six weeks and felt at home with us.
The owner was quite surprised and said that he had only had Sadie for a week when he adopted her and every day she would make her escape and he rarely saw her. He decided that if Sadie was happy with her new living arrangements then he wouldn’t pull her away. We were all grateful, especially Steffi.
For the next few months, Sadie roamed frequently from Steffi’s apartment to the trees to my place to the trees and bushes. Wandering, wandering, tail twitching, never relaxing. Each time I saw her I would pick her up gently, tell her that I just wanted to say hello and then set her back down. Her back would twitch as if electrocuted by hundreds of pin pricks. She was on guard and ready to bolt. She would look at me as if to say, “What do you think you’re doing touching me?” I would just smile at her and thank her for being with us. As much as she protested, she never did run away.
One day she entered my apartment and decided to have a look around. Within a minute she had wandered through the kitchen, the office, the bed, the bathroom and into the closet, which I suppose is not hard to do seeing I live in a 500 square foot studio. I let her investigate and left her alone to decide if she wanted to stay or not. She promptly left. She just wanted to smell who else had been visiting, which would be the two other neighbor kitties, Andre and Sebastian.
When I would head out of doors to run errands or to the office for some clients, she would bound after me, stopping at some invisible line before the parking lot and then head back to the safety of the mesquite trees. Upon my return home, she would sometimes greet me unless she was already at home with Steffi. I would bend down to touch her and her back would sway, undulating away from the touch of my hand as if I had cooties that I didn’t know about. I would tease her playfully, sweeping her off her feet and hugging her and setting her back down. She seemed indignant but her upsetness didn’t seem to last too long as she followed me home.
I thought real progress had been made when she decided that Steffi’s home was truly her new home within six months. She would spend nights at Steffi’s and sleep safely through the evening unmolested by other neighboring kitties. Steffi and Sadie began to really bond.
Over the following weeks, Sadie began to come into my place to pay visits and would make a nest in one of my drawers, sleeping there for up to thirty minutes. I left her undisturbed until she popped her head out to say hello. Then I would move over and do some Tellington Touch work with her. I would gently hold her chest and do circles lightly down her spine, her neck and hind legs. I would then gently touch the top of her head. When she had enough, she would wiggle her way out.
There seemed to be days and weeks in-between where I didn’t see Sadie at my place but knew she was okay. Steffi would update me with photos. I was glad that she was adapting. Whenever I did see Sadie, I continued to give her loving touch and kind words. I know I feel better when others say kind things to me on a daily basis.
Eighteen months after Sadie first arrived to our community, there was suddenly a huge break through. One day Sadie came to my screen door and called in, “Meow,” she said, “I know your home. Can I come in?” I opened the door. Instead of slinking around she came directly over to me. She brushed against my leg. I looked down at her and smiled. She looked up with big eyes saying hello. I bent down and went to gently touch her back and spine. This time, however, she didn’t sway away from my touch. She actually moved into it. Her back arched up into my palm as I began to work on her gently.
I didn’t want to push my luck so I stopped and stepped away from her. I went into the living room/bedroom area of my studio where she followed me. I had learned this technique from Judy where I volunteered at a horse rescue shelter. She taught me to engage with the horses gently making a connection. When there was a bond, she told me to let go, turn away and move a few steps from the horses. This allowed the horses distance and energetically allowed them to choose if they wanted to continue to engage in the experience. With traumatized animals, you want to show them they are cared for but that they also have a choice. It seemed this worked with Sadie. She jumped up onto the futon and made her way over to me, no shyness or awkwardness. I put my hand out and she moved into it and for the first time I saw she enjoyed the touch. She layed down on her back exposing her belly. I touched her head and tummy and she just purred. She then hopped up and sat in my lap looking up at me. I told her I was so happy that she learned to receive touch. I told her that she brought everyone in our community so much happiness, and I was glad that she could finally enjoy it herself.
She decided to make a nest in the blanket that was folded on the futon and curled up into it knowing she was safe and didn’t need to go anywhere else for the moment until her mom returned home from work. Living on my own can sometimes get lonely and having a four-legged, loving friend to visit with me feels like a blessing. So just as our community saved Sadie’s life, she saved ours too.
One evening I was reading Kim Meeder’s book, “Bridge Called Hope.” Kim runs a horse rescue in Oregon and works closely in the community assisting children in their own healing process as well. This book speaks of different true stories of volunteers, children and horses that Kim has had the blessing to come in contact with in her work.
I had taken a little break from reading, grabed a glass of water and listened to some music. The book was on the corner of my bed. As I walked back into the room, where I had left the book, I found my adopted kitty, Andre, contentedly snuggling right smack dab on top of the book. Of course, I just couldn’t resist capturing this with a photographic portrait. Andre looked so sweet curled up on the book. It was almost as if he sensed how happy the book made me too.
Looking at Andre, I realized that he is my bridge called Hope. Although he is not my own kitty, he lives with the neighbor next door … he is here for me when I need a friend. He listens to me and usually the only recommendations he makes about coming up with solutions is to either sleep on it or go get a snack and figure it out later. He is quite sage-like. He likes to cuddle sometimes, and we even have slumber parties on occassion.
More than that, Andre is a bridge of hope for many people here in the neighborhood. He visits almost every neighbor throughout the day to wish a warm hello and a sweet kitty meow. And when he doesn’t feel like being an ambassador of hope, he runs off to do important kitty activities like chasing lizards, climbing trees and picking a fight or two (but not too often).
I hope you enjoyed meeting Andre as much as I love sharing his story of Hope with you.
Shannon & Andre
I bet you thought I might talk about Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz! Nope … atleast not this time. I want to introduce you to sweet Lucy and her owner, Jen. Lucy is 16 years old and is such a blessing. I first met Lucy and Jen at “Dogtoberfest”, a dog event hosted by Handi-dogs. Lucy and Jen have been best friends for the past 15 years, and Lucy was the lucky winner of the free pet massage drawing.
Lucy accompanies Jen to work quite often. I had the opportunity to head over to Wildcat CrossFit where Jen trains. www.wildcatcrossfit.com Lucy keeps watch over the gym members making sure they don’t cheat on their workouts. This is pretty challenging work, and I knew this meant a good massage was in order for Lucy.
I spent a great deal of time working along Lucy’s spine, hips and joints due to some arthritic condtions that affect her walking. Lucy enjoyed her session and we wrapped it up with some yummy doggie treats (Lucy may have even liked the treats better than the massage …)
Education for pet owners is an important part of helping people and their companions create a better dialogue with one another. Have you ever wondered why dogs who first meet a new person might snap or bite if the person reaches towards them to say hello? Patricia Mcconnell, PhD in her book “The Other End of the Leash” explains the difference between people meeting people and how dogs greet one another. Learning our companions language can help us have safer, more loving interactions.
When people first meet one another for the first time, we walk directly towards each other with hand extended looking one another directly in the eyes.
Now when dogs meet each other for the first time, they avoid direct eye contact, usually approach from the side and smell one another to get to know each other better. Scent is a big indicator of what is happening in each dog’s world.
A misunderstanding may occur when a person meets a new dog for the first time and reaches out his or her hand and looks the dog in the eyes. Coming directly at a dog, with hand extended with eye contact is actually a sign of aggression to a dog. You can see how a miscommunication might occur. For the person, it is a harmless handshake, but for the dog, it is an act of dominance.
The best way for people to meet new dogs is to stand on the side of the dog and allow the dog to choose whether he or she wants to say hello. If the dog approaches, allow him/her to smell your foot or leg. If the dog feels comfortable you can then open your hand and give the back of your hand to the dog to smell.
Now we can make better meeters and greeters for our canine companions! That is 5 Paws Up! 😉
Jesse came into the clinic yesterday for her weekly session. Her owner and friend, Linda, indicated that Jesse’s hearing keeps getting better and better each day. I have continued to work on the jaw muscles inside of Jesse’s mouth along with her teeth and gums, massaging gently along with using gentle pressure to release trigger points that I find. I wasn’t sure if her hearing was better until we were standing outside while I worked on her and a Raven cawed off in the distance as he flew by and Jesse perked up her ears, turned her head toward the sound and looked. Linda and I giggled. Of course, hearing loss in animals is not always due to tight jaw muscles; however, in this instance it is greatly benefiting Jesse to regain some of what she has lost.
I had the privilege of working with Canine Diva, Shakti Om. She is a wonderful Chihuahua, who can be found many days at Liferoot Acupuncture & Healing Arts clinic in Tucson, Arizona (www.liferootacupuncture.com) She regularly sits with clients and patients throughout the day to bringing calming energy to those around her. I asked if she would be in my first canine massage video demo, and she readily agreed. In this demonstration I show the benefits our doggie companions receive from massage and energy work. It is important to gift back to our animal friends as they often gift of themselves unconditionally.
Please click on the link below to view the video demo:
Thank you for joining us today! Woof! Woof!
Please meet Ms. Shiva the Diva, a distinguished English Springer Spaniel. She asked me not to share her age with the readers as she is a lady of mystery. I had a wonderful time working with Shiva this morning as we became acquainted.
With aching heart and teary eyes,
we want this chance to say Good-bye
to our beloved friend and companion too
and are grateful for her walking us through.
Our friend, Jesse, made her way to doggie heaven … I had the chance to work with her one last time last week where she sat in my lap and allowed me to work on her directly instead of just using Reiki touch. She allowed me to connect with herself directly overcoming the pain that she felt around her joints. We talked for a bit and she listened as I shared with her how much she was loved by her family. I know her brother, Riley, will miss her deeply. Jesse was a loving companion for her owner, Linda.
Loved. Happy wags. Lolling tongue. Deep brown eyes.
Good bye Jess!