Saturday, June 30, 2012

Garbanzo: R.I.P.

18 years ago, shortly after July 4th, I adopted Garbanzo. We started an amazing journey together. He was my companion and teacher, and helped lead me to learning about TTouch and Reiki and how to help other animals.  Garbanzo and I had a connection unlike any that I have had.  We went through so much together and, together with my partner Jeffrey, we had such a beautiful life together.
It was with such great difficulty that we finally came to the decision a few days ago that it was time to say goodbye, but he had been on a roller coaster with hyperthyroidism and pancreatitis, and last weekend took a sharp turn for the worse.  He gave us clear signs that he had had enough, that his body was shutting down and that he would have been suffering a great deal if we did not let him go.
It has been a terrible loss, but our beautiful connection lives on, and will forever.  Following is a letter I am sending to him with my heart.

Dear Garbanzo:
It feels strange to write a eulogy for you because I know that, though you are no longer with me on the physical plane, you will be with me in spirit forever. When I close my eyes I can feel you near me, as though I'm holding you close to me, and other times I feel you literally inside my heart.  I know you are with me as I work with the animals, guiding me.
I thank you so much for all that you have taught me, and all the love that you have given to me.  I am so blessed that we were able to find each other, so honored that you trusted me enough to connect to me. 

I know you had a rough start on the streets of Brooklyn and that it was tough to trust any person.
You taught me how quiet I need to be in order to connect with a fearful animal -- how quiet and how truly in the moment, so that we can both find that beautiful moment of pure connection, where everything else in the world disappears. 
You taught me how to respect where an animal is, rather than coming to them with a pre-conceived notion of what should or shouldn't happen. 
You taught me to open my heart and feel what can happen when you truly let go of expectations - that when you can do that, more is possible than you ever dreamed of.
You taught me to be sensitive of how much time was enough contact, and how precious even those small moments can be.
You taught me to be patient and forgiving with both you and with myself.
You confirmed to me that love and understanding and flexibility of mind, along with use of many tools within this mindset, can help an animal to be able to change even very challenging behavior.
You guided me to my path of working with animals, and taught me so much about how to help them.
You brought me so much laughter, too - you are so intelligent, you always were surprising me with something new you would do, or a sign you would give me that you felt and observed every little change that would happen in our environment. 
It was so beautiful to feel how our connection developed during our life together - as you began to trust and know my touch, and then to experience how completely connected we became over time.  Though you retained your wild spirit (which I wouldn't have had you give up for the world), you were able to let your guard down with me more and more.  As I began training in TTouch and Reiki, we felt an even deeper connection, eventually feeling our energies merge in a connection of such pure love.  You knew I was coming home before I got there, and I would often feel when something was happening with you. 

I am grateful that we were able to spend so many years together, and that we were able to spend most of your last two days on earth together, sharing Reiki energy, TTouch and love, giving me a real chance to tell you how much love I have for you, and how I treasure our connection.
I love you forever, dear Garbanzo.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Connecting with Krishna, Closer and Closer

When I am working with animals, I always try to be sensitive to what they are comfortable with, and work from there.  There are times when it is good to give a little nudge so that they can try something new, but it is good to first find what makes them feel safe and at ease, rather than having a pre-conceived notion of what you would like to have happen.  What happened today may seem rather subtle to the reader, but for this cat I believe it was a huge step.
Today I went to work with Krishna, a stunning black kitty who is generally fearful of those other than his human caretakers, particularly his human "mommy" Rebecca.  However, over the time I have worked with him, we have developed a lovely connection.  He is still very shy though, so I have to be very sensitive to what he is comfortable with at any given moment.
I hadn't seen him in a while, and, as I always try to do, I began sending him Reiki energy as I was on my way there, feeling the connection with him and picturing him responding in a positive way. 
When I arrived, he came right up to me.  I slowly went down on a knee to be closer to his level, and he put his nose right on my hand.  The least movement can startle him, so I stayed very still, speaking to him in a very calm, soft voice, telling him I had missed him so much and was so happy to see him. This was the boldest greeting that I have ever received from him.  I feel so especially honored when such a shy kitty feels comfortable enough to let down their guard to connect with me.
Since our last appointment, Rebecca and Krishna had a session with my friend and colleague, Eileen Garfinkel (, who is a fantastic animal communicator.  One of the things Eileen had picked up from Krishna was that he would like Rebecca to let go of what her expectations of him were.  And it had seemed that often I have been able to achieve a closer connection with Krishna when she is not present - possibly he felt some pressure from her or maybe just was more interested in connecting with her than with me.  So we decided it would be beneficial for her to leave the apartment for at least half the session.
After she left, I sat down a few feet away from Krishna, sending him Reiki all the while.  I brought out a very soft paintbrush that he had responded to in the past, and, as he had done previously, he immediately sniffed it and then began rolling around, rubbing himself against it.  I was not even holding on to the handle of the brush, just letting him experience the brush.  In doing this, he was practically touching me, and suddenly he got scared and and hissed and swatted me and ran way from me for a minute. 
But it was just a moment for him of being scared.  He didn't run in the bedroom to hide, which is where he will go if he is very afraid.  Instead he remained in the living room, and got in his cat bed, which feels like a safe place.  I went and sat on the couch near where he was, and continued to send him Reiki energy.  I could see him start to relax, his eyes getting a bit droopy.  After a while, I sat down on the floor near him and got a bit closer.  He relaxed more and more, came out of the bed and began getting closer.  When I put out the soft brush again, he rubbed against it and rolled on his back, very comfortable and looking right at me.  So sweet!  I resisted the temptation to try to hold the other end of the brush and touch him, I just wanted him to be cozy being near me.  After this, he laid down near me and, as I continued to send Reiki, he started to lay down and put his head down.
Just a few moments after this, Rebecca returned and sat on the floor near where we were.  Krishna wanted to interact with her, so they did for a little bit, then she stopped and he came over near where I was again.  I was continually sending Reiki during this time, so again, he began to get comfortable.  I did try touching him with a couple of different paintbrushes, but I could see by his reaction that the best thing to do for this session was to continue with the Reiki energy and see what could happen.  I tried to very much keep in mind what Eileen had said about allowing Krishna to be who he was and not push him too much.  He got more and more calm and ended up laying down just inches away from me, actually facing away from me.
This felt like wonderful progress - first of all, it was amazing how close he was to me and had his guard completely down.  Also, when he is nervous, he faces me direectly and stares with huge open eyes at me, so the fact that he was comfortable facing away from me was interesting as well.  We stayed this way for quite a while, and I continued to send Reiki to him, imagining the energy relaxing him, filling him with light, releasing any worries from the past or present.  I could feel him pulling the energy from my hands. 
Sometimes when we can really let go of our expectations are when these breakthrough moments are truly able to happen.
After I ended our Reiki session and slowly stood up, Krishna was looking at me, but not with a wide-eyed fearful look - much more of a centered, grounded, relaxed presence.  It was lovely to see him feeling so at ease.
Thank you so much Krishna - you teach me every time I work with you.  Look forward to seeing you soon...

Friday, June 1, 2012

Yankee, RIP

I am constantly reminded of how special BARC shelter in Brooklyn really is.  The people who run it have huge hearts and open their hearts and doors to so many animals who would not have a chance otherwise.
Yankee was a sweet dog who arrived at BARC Shelter around last July. He stayed up in the Cat Loft (the place where I volunteer at BARC) at BARC along with the cats, a few other smaller dogs, two pigeons and Marsha the chicken.  So I had the honor and pleasure of getting to know him.
He was unable to use his front legs, apparently because he had been left for a long time with the legs tied together.  He also had a problem with his heart. 
Yet, though he had been through so much, he had such an amazing and sweet spirit that he touched all who knew him.  The staff and volunteers at the shelter spent a lot of time with him and gave him so much love.  Donations made it possible to get him a special wheelchair so it was easier for him to get around.  He could really speed around on the wheelchair, and it took pressure off the rest of his body which was trying to compensate for the front legs not working.  He generally seemed very chipper when he was in the wheelchair.
Below: Yankee in his wheelchair

Several months after he arrived, a little white poodle named Rain arrived at the shelter.  Rain is unable to use her back legs, as she was bred too many times.  Yet Rain has a sweet and spunky spirit and manages to get around very well despite her condition. 
It didn't take too long before these two animals became inextricably connected with each other, and they were near each other all the time. 

Below: Rain with Yankee

Recently, Yankee's health began to decline.  He seemed to start having more stomach upsets, and not long after that, he got kennel cough, which was very hard for him on top of his other issues.
Rain was right at his side the whole time. And Marsha the chicken, who often hung out near Yankee and Rain, often also would sat next to them at this point too, as if she knew that Yankee was not well.

Below, Yankee in the middle, Rain upper right and Marsha lower left.

And of course, the BARC staff and volunteers, who always gave much love and care to Yankee, spent time with him. During most of Yankee's time there, Colin was the Cat Loft person and did so much to help Yankee feel comfortable and happy, as well as loved.  And when Jayne took over his position recently, she did all she could as well.  And of course BARC gave him the medical care he needed, but finally there was not much more that they could do. 
During Yankee's time at the shelter, I had done quite a few TTouch or Reiki sessions with Yankee, during which time I would usually have Rain on my lap.  And when his health began to take a nose dive, I did a couple of extra-long Reiki sessions with him at that time.  I could feel he was having a very rough time of it.  His breathing was getting labored and I could feel his life force was diminishing.  But I did feel that in the moment the Reiki energy relaxed his body so that I could feel him breathing more deeply than he had before, and I could feel him really absorbing the energy.  Last Friday, when I left, though I knew he was in rough condition, he did seem more peaceful to me.  Of course, my wishful thinking was hoping somehow he could get through this.....
Saturday when I arrived at the shelter, I heard that Tony and Vinny, the shelter owners, had taken Yankee and Rain to their apartment.  And at about 2:30, sadly we were informed that Yankee had passed on. 
Everyone was so so sad, this was a huge loss.This small dog was such a huge presence in the shelter and in everyone's hearts.  And of course for Rain and some of the other animals who were close to him, it will be a huge adjustment and certainly a grieving period. 
However, of course, there was relief as well, knowing that he was no longer in pain and discomfort.  I picture him running effortlessly, with all four legs going and his ears flying in the wind. 
Thank you Yankee, for teaching us all so much about love, forgiveness and strength of spirit.  You gave us all so much.  And thank you to all who did so much for this sweet creature.