Sunday, February 24, 2013

Quiet Moments Near the End of the Road: Pallino

Hi folks, this one doesn't have any photos, as I wanted to share what my impression of this cat was, who had such a beautiful spirit.  He arrived at the shelter with advanced kidney issues, and recently we had to say goodbye to him.  I will always remember his gentle, sweet nature, so filled with gratitude.

Please read more about him and my experience with him on the post I wrote on my art blog:

RIP, sweet kitty.  You were very loved.  And thank you to all the people at BARC who help the animals every day and make it a beautiful place for me to volunteer.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Update on Berry: Getting Closer!

Berry is a gorgeous young little cat, apparently feral, who was brought into BARC shelter right before Hurricane Sandy.  She actually was rescued from the same backyard as my two cats who I adopted from BARC, Natalia and Emmylou.  And interestingly enough, she does somewhat resemble Emmylou! 
Of course, the combination of where she came from and the fact that she is so fearful have both helped me to feel an especially endearing bond with her.
She was terrified and quite sick when she was first rescued, and it has been so heartening to see both her behavior and her health improving.  When she first arrived, she would swat and hiss when approached.  I have worked with her very gradually, doing TTouches on her with the back of the hand part of a plastic back scratcher.  Sometimes now I can transition to touching her directly with my hand, but I just do that for short amounts of time, as she still can get easily overstimulated.  I have shown a few other regulars at the shelter how to work with her, and she has been making very steady and noticeable progress. 

Now instead of staying in the back of her cage, most often she will rest in the front of her cage, watching everybody with interest instead of being afraid.  She will come to the front of her cage for a treat from other volunteers, and easily will come to the front of her cage to get to her food and water bowls, and will eat in front of other people, whereas before she would be hesitant to do this.

One of the huge changes that has happened recently is that when I approach her cage and say "Hi Berry!" to her, she comes to the front of the cage, kneading her paws and rubbing her face against the front of the cage.  She also does a little hello meow. 

Little by little she is beginning to trust me as well as some of the BARC staff and volunteers.

Now that she is feeling better, she also wants to play.  Like many ferals who are in the process of becoming less fearful, she can get confused between play mode and cuddle mode and sometimes swat. So I have started working with two back scratchers so that if she starts playing with one of them, then I can stroke her with the other.  I also give her frequent breaks to avoid her getting overstimulated.  Over some time, this way of working gently will influence a cat's behavior so that they will learn to play with a toy and not with your hand, while they are also getting more comfortable being touched.  When it feels safe to do so, I slide my hand down the back scratcher and do TTouches with my hand, keeping the second back scratcher ready to show her to use if she starts to want to paw at something.
Her whole expression and look on her face has changed as well - so beautiful to see!!
Love you Berry! and look forward to seeing continued progress with you.  And thanks to one and all at BARC shelter for showing her and all the animals such kindness. 

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Tuesday: Quieting the Atmosphere with an Extremely Sensitive Cat

Tuesday is a gorgeous and very intense cat.  She is completely bonded with her guardian, Leila, but is terrified of pretty much anyone else.  She often hisses, swats and sometimes lunges at them.  Leila has had her for about 8 years.  Years ago, she was accepting of attention from people with a very gentle energy but at one point Leila was in a noisier household and since then, Tuesday has had an increasingly difficult time with people other than Leila.
It is so important with ultra-sensitive cats such as Tuesday to think of energy in terms of proportional volume.  What I mean is, what to us might be a tiny sound or movement, could seem huge to a cat that is frightened and hyper-sensitive.  So when working with this type of cat, I have to quiet and slow my energy down even more than I generally do when working with any animal.  In this way, I can start to really feel where they are and to be in that place where the smallest movement or sound can be huge.
When I arrived for the first session, Tuesday seemed to know that I was coming for her.  She came out and stared at me with very huge eyes.  I spoke calmly and tried to reassure her that I was there to help her.  When I walked across the room (which was not directly towards her but generally in her direction, she lunged at me, hissing.  I had Leila hand me the long wands which I use for doing TTouch with cats who are very scared of being touched directly, and just very carefully and quietly began to try a few TTouches with the wands, a few on her, and a few on the floor.  I could tell she was still very amped up, so I decided to give her a break.  Leila and I sat at the kitchen table, and I showed Leila some TTouches on a stuffed cat which I had brought.  During this time, Tuesday had some time to settle a bit.  She remained in the room, watching what we were doing, but got a bit more relaxed.
After that, I decided to offer her Reiki from a short distance for the second half of the session.  I felt that working from a distance with the wands was too overwhelming for her at this time.
From where I was sitting in a chair, I gently began to offer Reiki energy to Tuesday, silently letting her know that she only need take as much or as little energy as she wanted. 
It took her a while to settle, but eventually she did.  Every once in a while, she would look at Leila, as though for confirmation that it was ok for her to receive the energy.  As we worked, I felt her pulling the energy in more and more. 
When we were done, she was calmer, but unfortunately she got jumpy again when Leila and I both stood up as I got ready to leave.
Leila got back to me after a few days had passed, and said that Tuesday was agitated right after the appointment, but then began to get much better.  She said she and her boyfriend sat on the floor while she did some of the TTouches and that Tuesday was very calmed by them - and that she had continued doing the TTouches with Tuesday at various intervals in between this initial session and my next session with them. Leila said that Tuesday was much calmer about her boyfriend.
As a further challenge, Leila had gone away for a few days. Upon returning, the cat sitter said that Tuesday was actually rather docile.  And when Leila and her boyfriend returned from the trip, they took a nap and when they awoke, Tuesday was actually asleep on top of her boyfriend!
When I came for the second session (a couple of weeks had passed), I first gave Leila a Bach Flower remedy which I made for Tuesday, which should help to calm her energy.  Then I showed Leila TTouches using back of hand, which are especially useful for animals that are really on edge and apt to get easily over-stimulated. 

The rest of the session, I offered Reiki to Tuesday from a short distance.  However, this time I did not remain in the chair, but kneeled on the floor in order to lower my position, which can be calming for frightened animals.  I knew I was taking a risk, as Tuesday could get suddenly scared and then lunge at me, but I had to follow my intuition that this felt like the right move. 
As I began to offer the energy to Tuesday, I felt that the area that felt it needed the most healing at that moment was the heart chakra.  As the session progressed, I also felt the energy pulled to the base chakra and to the solar plexus chakra.  These chakras can relate to quite a few things, so are a bit too complex to detail here, but balancing these three chakras felt they would help Tuesday with emotional issues and the nervous system as well as issues of security and grounding,
As I continued, I felt an increasingly strong flow of energy coming out of my hands and out of my body, and felt the energy filling her body.  I remained in the same position throughout the session, instead of trying to move closer, as I didn't want to take the chance of startling her.
While all of this was going on, little by little her body language changed - first she shifted her sitting position a few times.  Then she little by little shifted herself until she was lying down.  Next she stretched one paw out, then finally she rolled completely on her side, exposing her belly, and she stretched out in that position.  Her eyes, which initially were in that huge, extremely wide-open ultra-alert position, softened.  During this session, again she would sometimes look at Leila as if for guidance or approval or confirmation that this energy was ok to receive.  Tuesday is so completely connected with Leila. 
As Tuesday stretched out on her side, exposing her belly to me, I felt tears come to my eyes, as I do so often when I feel the animal is really letting go of something held in very deeply.  It felt profound, almost as if she had been holding her breath for a long time, and now finally, in stages, was letting it go.  I felt a huge shift had occurred.
As Leila and I spoke after the session, Tuesday remained relaxed, with a much softer gaze.  And when I stood up to leave, she was still relaxed and didn't get startled.  Later that day, Leila emailed me that Tuesday had continued to be very relaxed and mellow for the rest of the day.
Thank you Tuesday, for trusting me enough to let go....I keep picturing you so stretched out and relaxed .. .. and look forward to seeing you soon.... xo

Monday, February 4, 2013

Tavin: Moment by Moment with a Fearful Dog

Tavin is a dear, lovely dog.  At the moment, though, whatever combination of nature and nurture (or lack thereof) which occurred before her present guardian adopted her presently has much of her inner beauty hidden behind a lot of fear.  She is a very hypersensitive, fearful Chihuahua who can bite when she gets especially scared.  She has guarding issues, and can be unpredictable as far as being approached by people to be petted.  She seems to be nearly constantly on alert, and really has a hard time relaxing.  It is also hard for Tavin to have anything put on her body, so to put a harness on is very difficult for both her and for her guardian, Carol.  Carol can touch Tavin just about anywhere on her body, but when it comes to putting something on her, that is a different story.
Carol (, who kindly took her in recently, has been doing all she can to help Tavin to feel comfortable and safe.  There are also four cats in the household, who are often wary of Tavin, and who Tavin sometimes chases.  The first couple of appointments, I only saw Kitty, the most social of the four cats.  The rest of them remained under the bed.
I sense, as I do with fearful animals, that the more Tavin can feel at ease, the more her true personality will be able to come forth, and that in time, with gentle and patient work, that will be able to happen.
In working with her, I wanted to feel safe as well as having Tavin feel safe, so I have had Carol put a muzzle on Tavin while I am working with her.  During the first session, I showed Carol many of the TTouches so that she can do them on Tavin, also how to do a couple of simple TTouch wraps.  TTouch can help to balance the nervous system and, over time, can cause animals to react differently to stress.  It will also help an animal to react differently when it is touched, as it begins to associate touch with a very positive feeling.  But more than that, there is a very deep and profound way that the gentle TTouches influence the nervous system - which helps to explain how it is more effective in changing behavior than simply petting the animal.
After this initial session, I made a Bach Flower Remedy for Tavin, in both drop and spray form, so that it can be given to Tavin internally and can be sprayed into the environment.  Also, in the course of the first two sessions, I showed Carol how set up a simple labyrinth in her apartment so that she could practice that with Tavin in between sessions.
During the next session, I also began to do some Reiki work with Tavin, and that appeared to affect her on an even deeper level than the TTouches.  That is not to say that one modality is "better" than the other.  Each animal is individual as to what approach or sequence of approaches will be optimal for them.  With animals that are as sensitive as Tavin, it is often beneficial to start out with Reiki, and then begin to work in TTouches.  Your intuition will help to guide you.
With Tavin, I first send the energy to her with my hands off, and eventually she moved towards me and helped guide my hands to where she wanted them to be, which was near the base of her spine, or over the Base or Root Chakra (chakras are energy centers in the body).  This Chakra has to do with feeling safe, at home, and grounded.  It made complete sense that she guided my hands there.  I saw some huge sighs, and felt her letting go in a very deep way.  It looked like she had a smile on her face.
During the third session last week, I once again decided to focus on Reiki with her, with a few TTouches blended in.  It took Tavin a while to settle.  Initially Tavin was a bit distracted as Carol was not sitting on the bed with us.  She did start to relax bit by bit, though, at times partially sitting on my lap to move her body into my hands as I offered her Reiki. 
Once Carol sat on the bed with us, Tavin became more focused and relaxed, and after a short while Tavin settled in very nicely on Carol's lap, which Carol said she rarely does.  At this point, I had my hands a bit away from her.  With very sensitive animals, one has to be particularly sensitive as to how close they want your hands to be, because the Reiki energy can sometimes be too overwhelming to do hands-on.  However, many times it will become more comfortable for them as they begin to relax.  Carol also had some relaxing music on, which can be of tremendous help.
As I continued to let the energy flow, I felt the atmosphere of the whole apartment become more quiet and calm and light.  Kitty came up on the bed, rubbed her head into one of my hands, and settled on one side of Carol. I gradually moved closer to Tavin and eventually had one of my hands directly on her.  As in the previous appointment, my hand was drawn to her base chakra, and for some reason it felt very right for just my fingertips (rather than my whole hand) to be in contact with this part of her body.  My fingers were so strongly connected, it felt as though they were plugged into her body - that the energy didn't stop at where her body and my fingers met, that it was being pulled into and absorbed inside her body.  Tavin was becoming more and more relaxed, in a sleeping position with her head down.  And she did a couple of those wonderful big sighs of letting go.

At this moment, the most surprising thing happened.  Seemingly from out of nowhere, Layla, a gorgeous long-haired grey cat, gracefully leaped up on the bed and began rubbing herself against my hand that was not in contact with Tavin.  Carol said that Layla was by far the shyest of her cats, and the most traumatized by Tavin's presence.  She said that the other cats recover fairly quickly if Tavin chases them, but not Layla.  And yet here was Layla up on the bed, rubbing into my hand, wanting attention, and settling very near where Tavin was.  I think that Tavin was so relaxed that she was giving off a completely different vibe, so that Layla felt comfortable being there.  I did some TTouch with her, all the while keeping my other hand connected to Tavin, and then began to send Reiki to both of them, one hand on Tavin and the other on Layla (they were on either side of me).  Layla relaxed and stayed next to me for the rest of the session.  Both animals were taking in the energy and were completely at ease.  Reiki can help to create such a peaceful atmosphere, and can be so helpful in bringing more harmony in a household.
Thank you to Carol and to all your wonderful animals.  This was a very magical day, and I look forward to seeing you again soon. :)