Saturday, January 28, 2012

Staying in the Moment with a Feral Kitten

I am so grateful for all that the animals teach me every day, and one of the most important ongoing lessons is to truly stay in the moment with them. Cats can often change their preferences too, so that a cat may be receptive to a particular approach for a while but one day may completely change their mind about it.

I have been working with a very terrified feral kitten at BARC shelter for a few weeks. Generally, she had been very receptive to little TTouches along her whiskers, under her chin, and then gradually I could stroke her along her body as well. A few times I have been able to TTouch her with my hand as well.

Yesterday when I approached her with the feather, she was really not in the mood to be touched with it as I had before, and she just swatted and hissed at it!

I pulled the feather back for a few minutes, not sure what I would do next.

Then, just following my intuition, I gently did just a few strokes and circles near where she was, very slowly. Then I stroked her front paws gently with the feather, first one paw, then the other. This is not normally something that I would try or that I would think a scared cat would necessarily respond to, but it was very sweet what happened next.

She gently betan to stroke the feather with her paw, and we began to make a bit of a game of it. I'd stroke her paw, then she stroked the feather.

As we did this, her body language became more and more at ease, and she rolled onto her side and onto her back, stretching out. You can see that her eyes still look on the wild side, but for her to be comfortable in a totally open position with me was a huge step for me. It was such a pleasure to see her start to be more at ease, and even seeming to enjoy interacting with a human. xo

Quiet Moments with Shy Hilda at BARC Shelter

Hilda is an extremely shy kitty at BARC Shelter. Initially she was in a cage and had started to really come out of her shell, but a volunteer mistakenly thought it was ok to let her out of the cage. Then, since it was so impossible to catch her (not to mention she took became extremely bonded for a while with one of our resident cats who is loose in the shelter, Sly), it was decided to let her remain with the cats which are loose in the cat loft. This has suited her fine but it makes it more difficult to socialize with her, as she tends to run away when approached.

Recently she has enjoyed hanging out in the cat bed pictured above, so I decided to quietly approach her with a TTouch tool (in this case, I used a paintbrush) to see what would happen.

The cat bed is sitting on top of a mattress, so I sat on the mattress at a diagonal line several feet away from her, and, with my back to her and not staring at her, I moved closer til I was close enough to touch her with the paintbrush. Initially she hissed at me, but as I began to do some circular TTouches on her head, she began to relax. I kept it fairly short, gave her a break, then tried again.

Over the next sessions, she eventially stopped doing the initial hiss, and at times I was able to do some TTouches using my hand directly as well as doing touches and strokes with the paintbrush. I also at times was able to approach her when she was not sitting in the cat bed. And one day a new volunteer just sat down near her and was able to pet her! So all of this was really great progress.

Initially I was using a paintbrush with a rather stiff bristle. But when I was shopping for art supplies a couple of days ago, I came upon a really soft paintbrush, like a makeup brush with a long handle. I had a feeling this would be a great texture to try with Hilda.

Sure enough, the soft texture was one she REALLY responded to, leaning into the brush and pushing against it, closing her eyes.

I did little circles and strokes with the brush, on the top of her head, the outside of her mouth, underneath her chin. Then I started to work in some strokes down the body. I did some TTouches directly with my hand as well, but since she was enjoying the soft brush so much, I mostly stayed with the brush. It was such a pleasure to see her truly relax, and for her to feel so comfortable connecting that way. I gave her several breaks, turning away from her for a few moments and then starting again. All the while I was doing this, I had my body position oriented sideways to her, which is a good position for working with cats, particularly very fearful ones. Facing them directly is usually way too intense for them and can be scary for them.

I still have to be very conscious of my energy and approach her very quietly, as if you approach her too fast, she will still run away, but I am sure over time she will become more and more comfortable connecting with people. Much love to you Hilda, and thank you for being so brave and open to trying something very different and new. See you soon......

Sweet Moments with Dr. Teeth and Ice Cream at BARC Shelter

Dr. Teeth is a very dear, shy kitty who arrived at BARC shelter a bit over a year ago, along with a bunch of other cats, after her owner passed away. She was terrified to be touched, and I showed some of the volunteers how to use a paintbrush to make contact with her, so that we could collectively help her to feel more comfortable being touched. She has come a long way! I have been able to TTouch her directly with my hand for some time now, and the BARC staff and volunteers are more able to have contact with her as well. She is still shy, though, so you still need to approach her with a very quiet energy, and let her show you what she is ready to do.
In general, she has been more comfortable being touched on her body than on her head, but little by little she has been getting more at ease with that. This past week, I discovered that she now is very comfortable being stroked under the chin, and will rub against my finger when I do this. I have also started doing slow zigzag TTouches going down her back (that TTouch was a bit too overwhelming for her before), and she really responds to these, often pushing up into my hand, which is quite a step for her.

Something else that happened recently was that she was put in a larger cage, which was right next to one of our sweetest, gentlest cats, named Ice Cream. He is a super-friendly, super-mellow kitty. The two of them are very drawn to each other, and sometimes Dr. Teeth stares at him as though she adores him. They often will hang out next to each other (so they are next to each other on either side of the bars of the cages). Last week, while I was TTouching Dr. Teeth, Ice Cream put his paw through the bars of the cage to give her a pat.

And when he put his paw on her, it truly looked and felt that he was giving her such loving, reasurring energy. I know that his presence has been helping her so much as well.
A big thanks to the wonderful staff and volunteers at BARC for giving these creatures and all the animals at BARC so much love too. It really makes a difference!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

TTouch and Reiki at BARC: Tuco's New Adventure

Tuco is a beautiful kitten who I have been working with for some weeks now. She was brought to BARC shelter by the police, and had apparently been abused by people - her face had been smashed, her jaw dislocated, teeth knocked out and the skin scraped off the front of her jaw. Her condition was very dire, so it was really touch and go at first, but thanks to all the medical help, care and love by the BARC vets and vet staff, BARC staff and volunteers, she was nursed back to health. But she had been severely traumatized and so it has taken some time to gain her trust. Every time I work with her, she is more and more brave, has gotten more and more comfortable with contact and now seeks contact and is very playful as well. I always use an extremely quiet energy with her, as she still can get a bit startled by sudden movements or sounds if you are working with her.
Yesterday she gave me such a huge surprise. First of all, when I opened her cage, she came right to the front to say hello, and tapped my leg with her paw. We did some TTouches, then she ran to the back of the cage, then came right back to the front, tapping my leg again. I wondered if she was considering coming out onto my lap. She was a bit unsure still though, and so after some TTouches ran to the back of her cage again, looking at me as you see here.
In the pic below, you can see she's a bit tentative, but I just kept talking to her gently, sending her gentle Reiki energy, and before I knew it...

out she came onto my lap! I held her there and she settled as I did gentle TTouches and strokes and hair slides, PURRRRING very loudly!

I wish I had some pix of her on my lap but I didn't want to scare her by getting my camera at that point :)

After a while, some movement in the space startled her so she went back in her cage, but then came out onto my lap again. We did this several times yesterday, and I could tell she was a bit frightened to come out but once she was there, she realized it was very comfortable. It was incredible to hear and feel this sweet creature purring, especially having in my mind the trauma she must have gone through before she arrived at BARC.

She also started to look around the room at her surroundings, and did jump off my lap at one point to explore. When Colin, our wonderful keeper of the cat loft, went to catch her, we were a bit afraid that she might be difficult to catch, but he has a very calm energy and was able to retrieve her very gracefully.
When she was back in her cage, she had a quizzical look like "What just happened?" I think she surprised herself with her courage. Much love to you Tuco, and thanks for trusting me. It is beautiful to see you coming out of a shell, and I feel it won't be long before you will be going to a furrever home. Thanks so much to all the wonderful BARC people for all you have done for her and all the animals at BARC.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Connecting with Krishna: Helping Him to Feel Safe

Today I went to cat sit for Krishna, a beautiful cat who I have worked with and cat-sat for before a number of times. He is generally very fearful of people other than his human mom and dad, Rebecca and Tim, and I have been working with Rebecca and Krishna to help him to become more at ease in general, and more at ease around someone other than Rebecca and Tim. When I went to do a session with him on Friday, I think he was a bit miffed as he assumed that my presence meant that his people would be going away soon, so he went under the bed. I did have a good Reiki session with him there though, as I just calmly sat right near the bed, sending energy to him, and he visibly calmed little by little as I did this - I think we even heard a few snores from him as the session progressed!

Today when I went to cat sit for him, he greeted me with a hiss and meow, but once I began to speak calmly to him and sent Reiki to him, telling him that I was here to give him food and that everything was going to be all right, that his "dad" was coming back tonight, etc, he began to calm. When I first put down the food for him, he hesitated to eat, but once I put a couple of greenies leading to the food bowl and continued to send energy, he began to munch away.

After he was done eating for the moment, I took out a flashlight that I have used to play with him before (he loves to chase the light), and he perked up and began to chase the light around the living room. After a bit, I put the flashlight down and started to send him Reiki again. He wanted me to continue playing with him so, as he has sometimes done before, he walked up to the flashlight (which was a few inches away from me) and began to sniff it.

Then he looked at me as if to say, "OK, I'm ready for more!"

So we continued the chasing the light game for a while......
When he was finished, he got very brave and came up to me and began to sniff me, first my boots....

Then my sweatshirt...
I sat very very still as I did this, continuing to send Reiki, and in my mind telling him he was very loved and very safe. Even though I was talking to him with my mind, my voice was very soft and speaking slooowly.

Then he seemed like he wanted to hang out near me, but in a more protected spot, so he went underneath a high stool, which is one place he feels safe. I was just a foot or so away, continuing sending Reiki all the while. He grew more comfortable , and his eyes began to relax. He has very big eyes, which look about twice as big vertically as they do in the photo below when he is frightened or over-stimulated.

A bit later, I went to get him his dry food, and I was delighted to see him sitting nearby, quite comfortable, and then he stretched out completely, extending a front paw in my direction. It touches my heart so much when an animal who is generally very fearful becomes brave enough to start to trust.

As I gathered my things to go, he went under the bed, where he felt safe, and I told him his "dad" would be home tonight, and that everything was ok. Thank you so much Krishna, much love to you and look forward to seeing you soon.....

Sunday, January 15, 2012

TTouch with a Feral Kitten at BARC Shelter

Recently, two "older" kittens (maybe 6 months old?) were brought into BARC shelter. They are really quite feral, and appeared terrified, hanging at the back of the cage. I started out by working with the more fearful of the two, who generally will loudly hiss and swat if you approach her (you can see her friend behind her in the above photo). As she was much more frightened than the other cat, I will focus on her in this blog post.

I used a very long feather, and began by not even touching her, but by stroking about an inch or so away from her whiskers, parallel to where the whiskers are, from where the whiskers meet the face to the tips of the whiskers, on one side, then the other.

She began to calm as soon as I began to do this, settling down into her body and her eyes started to close a bit. Little by little, I progressed to lightly stroking the whiskers, then doing little circular TTouches on her cheeks, head, under her chin, and then on her body.

I went a little at a time, stopping along the way to give her breaks. After a few sessions, she still moved away at first but then settled into the feather TTouches. It is always important to really be 100% present and in the moment when working with animals, but even more so with very frightened animals. You need to watch their body language and sense what they are ready to do, and really let go of any agenda or preconceived notion of what you think should happen. This is for their well-being, but also is important for your own safety.

After a few sessions working with her this way, I decided to take the plunge and gradually worked my hand down the feather and began to do TTouch circles on her head with the back of the end of my finger. Initially she was at the back of the cage, and then what she did next was so interesting.

She figured out a way she felt more comfortable receiving the TTouch. She has a little pillow/bed in her cage, so she went under the bed along the edge of it, so I could still touch her but most of her body was under the bed. She stayed there and settled as I did TTouches on her head and a few strokes down the body, just using the back of my fingers.

The next day I tried this with her, she did the same thing, going under the edge of the bed. But this time, she actually started to move forward, still was under the bed, but her head got closer and closer to where I was.

Thank you, little one, for being brave enough to trust me, and for reminding me once again of how important it is to just stay in the moment and do this work, what can happen surprises me all the time. xo

Friday, January 13, 2012

Dusty: R.I.P.

Dusty was brought into BARC Shelter some months back. He was returned after being in a home for ten years, apparently because he was urinating outside of the litter box (to my knowledge, that didn't happen in the shelter). He was given medical attention, great food and treats and an incredible amount of love and care from the BARC staff, vets and volunteers.

From the first day he was brought into the shelter, he was one of the most loving beings I have known, with a heart constantly emanating love and reaching out to share it. He was always ready to come out on a lap for cuddles, and in my case, for Reiki and TTouch as well. I felt him to be a very deep soul, and there was something that felt otherworldly as well, as though he was a sweet angel that had come to earth for a short while. As much as people gave to him, he gave back three times as much in pure love and light.

As time went on, it was clear that his health was waning, and so I began to spend even more time with him than before, feeling him absorbing the Reiki energy from my hands into his body, stretching out and letting go, feeling my being merging with his as the energy flowed.
The shelter people and vets did what they could to help him with medication, fluids, diet, etc. Though he rallied for a while, the past week or so he began to take a nose dive. Yesterday when I was at the shelter I spent a couple of hours with him on my lap, the warmth from my hands being absorbed into his body. I shared Reiki energy with him and did gentle TTouches going down his body, feeling him r-eI spoke to him softly and told him that it would be all right, that I knew he was trying to stay for the benefit of all the people who loved him, but that it was ok for him to let go. At one point he completely stretched out on my lap, laying his head down, some of his energy starting to let go. I knew he was tired, and his time was soon.

Later on that day the decision was made to let him go. Everyone was so sad, but knew it was his time, and was the right thing to do. We all said goodbye to him, and let him know he would be able to be at peace now. I pictured him with light and angels all around him, a bright, warm light.

Thank you Dusty, for being the selfless, generous, beautiful being you were and are, you will live forever in my heart. And thank you to all the BARC staff, vet staff, and volunteers for giving so much love and care to him. xoxoxo