Monday, April 23, 2012

From the Litter Box to My Lap: TTouch with Angela at BARC Shelter

Angela is a beautiful cat who was dumped at BARC Shelter about a week ago, left outside the shelter in a carrier.  Who knows what she went through before she arrived at the shelter? At any rate, she was terrified and hissing when she first arrived there, huddled in her box.  When I opened her cage, you can see the skeptical look she gave me.  I decided to very gradually and gently try to work with her.  I calmed myself, taking some deep breaths before I began working with her.  Standing sideways to her cage, I gently stroked her head with a paintbrush one time and then pulled it away, to see what her reaction was.  Then I tried again.  Within a short time, she had rolled onto her side in a playful way, stretching out and looking cozy.  But she still was a bit unsure, and sometimes would want to bite the brush or didn't seem completely comfortable with it.  I kept the session short - after a few times of trying this she gave a little hiss to let me know that was enough.  So I closed the cage and let her have a break.  I worked with her a couple of more short times that day, and she gradually grew more comfortable.

The next time I worked with her, though she was still in her litter box, she started out looking more comfortable to begin with than she had previously, and she quickly settled into some circular TTouches on her head, then some strokes down the body as well, but not too much so as not to frighten her.

Then, on Saturday when I went to see her, her litter box was placed closer to the front of the cage and when I opened the cage, she actually got up and came to the front of the cage to see me.  I began by doing TTouch circles with the paintbrush on the top of her head, under the chin, and then some down the body.  She was very affectionate and was rubbing her head into the paintbrush.  So I moved my hand down the paintbrush and began to do TTouches on her directly with my hand.  I was mostly doing TTouches using the back surfaces of my hand, as the back of your hand is less threatening to a fearful animal than the front of your hand.
Then she really surprised me by calmly walking out onto my lap!
I sat very quietly, mostly sending her gentle Reiki with my hands loosely on her, doing a few TTouches here and there, and she seemed quite at ease there, continuing to rub her head into my hands.  When I had first contact with her last week, I had a feeling that she wasn't feral, just frightened, but I didn't know the transition would be this fast!!
So she didn't get overstimulated and unsure, I very gently started to make the first tiny movement in the direction of standing up, and she went back into the cage. 
This was so wonderful to see this cat who had been so frightened come such a long way in the space of a week.  Looking forward to seeing you soon, Angela!  And thank you for trusting me....

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Power of Positive Words and a Soft Voice with Quinn at BARC Shelter

Quinn is a beautiful cat at BARC Shelter who is extremely fearful (and possibly was at least somwhat feral). I have been working with him for some months, constantly adjusting and varying the way in which I work with him in order to be able to meet him at a place where he can feel comfortable connecting.
Little by little he has been getting more comfortable, and I know that even though most people cannot make physical contact with him, the staff and volunteers at BARC do their best to help him feel at ease, even if it is simply sitting next to his cage and speaking with him.
Most recently, I found that I was able to relax myself and him by doing deep, relaxing breaths and positive visualzation, then just one gentle stroke with a wand on his back.
Yesterday I wanted to try a variation on this. The shelter was very quiet to begin with, so that was helpful to start off with. I began as I had before, doing several deep breaths, imagining stroking him with the wand and him relaxing, then doing one stroke down his back, then the deep breaths and visualization again.
I could see that he was tolerating the strokes, but his tail began to twitch, so he was not quite at ease. So I began to very slowly say to him a mantra which was taught to me as a way to center and ground myself, but I replaced the "I" with a "you". "You are very loved, and you are very safe..." I could see that the tone of my voice and the feeling of what I was saying was helping him to feel at ease.
I repeated it over and over, very slowly, and saw the tail twitching slow down, and then stop. I continued, my voice becoming softer til I was barely making a sound, mostly thinking the words. After a while I felt very in synch with his energy, and felt tears well up, feeling that something was opening up in him. I kept working through the impulse to cry, just reminding myself to continue connecting with him, continuing to feel something was releasing. I do think this cat has trauma in his past, something that causes him to be so afraid of people.
A number of times while I was doing this, I very slowly and gently stroked him with the plastic wand (just a plastic flexible stick from a string toy). Sometimes I would do a little circle and stroke. With this approach, I felt him continue to relax. I didn't push it with the contact, and after a while was just very softly saying the words, very slowly. He eventually got into sleepy mode and curled up to take a nap. I thanked him and closed the session.
Thank you Quinn, you are teaching me so much every time I work with you. Look forward to seeing you soon.... xo

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Quinn Reminds me to B-R-E-A-T-H-E......

Quinn is a very handsome big cat at BARC Shelter. He is very frightened of human contact, but little by little he is becoming less afraid and learning that people can approach him in a gentle and non-threatening way.
I have been working with him for some months, using both TTouch and Reiki. I find that it is important with him to keep varying the tools that I use. Sometimes he will decide that he is not fond of whatever surface I am using to touch him, so I need to try something else.
Most recently he has been coming right up to the door of the cage to greet me, even looking as though he's contemplating stepping onto my lap (which I have been visualizing him doing).
But then he seems to get scared, perhaps swatting at me and then moving back in his cage again. I stopped trying to touch him for a while, just sitting next to his cage and sending him Reiki from outside his cage, which he really responds to, closing his eyes and becoming very relaxed.
I wanted to try using a tool I had not used before with him, so I got one of those string toys that have a long plastic wand for a handle, and just used the wand part. But before touching him with it, I began to do some very deep breathing. Sometimes I can get a bit nervous when I touch him, even with a tool, as he can suddenly swat, which can be a bit unnerving, even if he does not use his claws (which he often doesn't).
So I began doing deep, relaxing breaths, feeling Reiki energy coming out of my hands. And I began to visualize stroking him with the wand and him relaxing with it. Then I took three deep breaths, and on the third one, I stroked his back very gently one time, but without hesitation. And sure enough, instead of getting spooked and swatting at me, he remained lying down and relaxed.
I got into a pattern of three deep breaths, then on the third one just, again just doing one stroke down his back.
I think we were both a bit surprised! I didn't want to push the issue, so I stopped when I started to see his body language going in the direction of overstimulation.
Once again, he has reminded me of how important it is to stay truly in the moment with animals, and to always keep my mind open to trying something new.
Thank you Quinn! I will be so interested to try this again with you and to see what can happen next. xox