Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Power of Patience: TTouch with Pumpkin

Pumpkin is a dear little cat, probably about 2 years old, who I have been working with through Tavi and Friends, Mayor's Alliance and the Picasso Veterinary Fund.  Apparently he had been kept in a basement for a long time, with very little contact.
When he first arrived (photo above is from early on), he was quite shy, and could suddenly get very insecure and hiss or meow very loudly.  I remember the first time I picked him up, he meowed so loudly, it sounded like I was touching him somewhere that hurt him, but it was just that he was terrified. 
I began to do TTouches just a little bit at a time with him.  Fortunately, in the space where he is, he can be let out of the cage so that I can do a few TTouches, let him walk around and come back to me as he likes.  As I do with the other cats in this space, I let him out without any of the other cats, so we can really have a private space, without intervention from any of the others.
Initially, I would literally do a few TTouches on his head or body, then he would walk away from me, then come back to me when he was ready for more. 
Over time, he was more and more responsive to the TTouches, and was right at the front of his cage when I got to the space, putting his paw through the holes in the cage door and meowing to me to let him out.  He would still come to me and go away from me, but would settle for longer and longer periods of time.  I kneeled, crouched or sat on the floor so I would be on his level.  I mostly sat or kneeled up until very recently, because I wanted to be able to stand up or move easily if I started to feel he was getting scared and/or needed more space.
At first it was a bit of a trick getting him to go back in his cage.  Sometimes I would lure him with toys to get him to go back in, because he seemed so frightened of being picked up.  As I continued to do the TTouches with him, I tried to gradually work towards his stomach area.  Just even doing a few TTouches on his side, approaching the stomach area, was good progress. 
Over time, he became more and more at ease in general.  And one day I found I was able to pick him up with no reaction from him at all!  I still would use gloves to pick him up in case he got suddenly frightened, but he has been quite comfortable with me picking him up for some time now. 
And the more he has gotten to know me, the more he has been seeking attention, purring and rubbing his head and body into my hands.  Initially, I would have to be especially mindful of his body language, as he could suddenly get frightened and it was as though a switch flipped back to a very fearful state, meowing loudly and maybe swatting or hissing.  These changes have happened less and less -- actually it is hard to remember when it happened last with me. 
He recognizes the energy of the TTouches and will settle down right next to me.  He especially responds to raccoon and chimp TTouches on his forehead area and to abalone, chimp and clouded leopard TTouches on his body.  I have been more and more able to do TTouches around his mouth area as well, which is a great area to work if you can do so safely, as the mouth area connects with the limbic system, which has to do with the emotions.

The past couple of sessions, we have broken through to another level.  As you can see above, Pumpkin is now starting to come and snuggle with me, aww! 
What has been beautiful to see is how the TTouches truly can help to change the way he reacts to contact and the way he reacts to situations that previously would be stressful for him (such as being picked up).  And it is as though a fearful exterior has given way to his true inner self, which is a sweet, affectionate cat who will be delighted to connect with a person once he gets to know them.
He will need a patient person to adopt him, someone who can give him the time and space to become comfortable.  Given time, space, love and understanding, he will be such a loving and sweet companion.
Love you Pumpkin! and thanks to all the other folks involved with him, Tavi, Mayor's Alliance and PVF, for giving so much him and other animals like him.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Connecting with Krishna: Moving Closer than Ever

Krishna is a beautiful, soulful cat who I have worked with and cat-sat for over the past couple of years or so. He is generally very fearful of everyone other than his human caretakers, Rebecca and Tim, but Krishna has come to trust me more and more every time I see him.   
I had not seen Krishna for some months, and went to work with him yesterday.  Krishna is extremely sensitive, so I need to enter with an extremely quiet energy, even more so than I usually do with most cats.  On the way to the appointment on the subway, I began to center and calm myself, and to send him Reiki energy.
He always seems to recognize me, and that was the case yesterday as well.  When I entered, he was resting in his bed, which was about halfway across the living room.  I lowered my body posture into a less-threatening kneeling position, and quietly said hello to him.  He responded by walking right up to me, sniffing me, and then sitting a couple of feet away from me.  When he came to sniff me, I stayed perfectly still - not rigid, but breathing and still.  If he tried to stare right at my eyes, I looked down a bit or away a bit, so as not to scare him.
In the last few appointments with him, a soft paintbrush like a makeup brush, tied to a thin dowel with string, has been a great tool to work with him.  This time, I used a longer dowel than I had in the past, since I felt that sometimes I wanted to give him more space, as he can get suddenly startled sometimes when he gets close.
Generally, I have found that TTouch circles and strokes are what work with him best, but because of where his body was positioned yesterday, which was sideways to me, just a couple of feet away, with his head further away, I tried doing some TTouch circles with the tool going down the side of his body.  I did the circles very slow, with a "snail's tail" at the end, which means doing the usual circle and a quarter, followed by a pause, and then reversing the circular path for a quarter circle.  This can provide an extra release. 
It is very important, especially with a fearful cat, to come towards them in a sort of diagonal path, rather than directly towards their face or head.  Even when I am going to do TTouches on the head with the tool, I come from a diagonal direction and first touch him on top of his head, but coming from the side, not straight on.
He started to look more and more relaxed, with his eyes getting more sleepy, but still his tail was twitching back and forth, so I was careful to pause every so often, to give him a break. 
It was very interesting that yesterday, in the pauses, he would generally shift his body posture in a manner and direction that was coming closer to me, rather than further away. 
Below you can see the tool I was using.  At one point, I did have to tuck the string in!

The TTouch circular touches and strokes were helping him to increasingly relax, and intermittently he would do a somersault, stretch and get a bit closer to me.  A couple of times during the session, he did go to his "mom" Rebecca for a few pets, but then he came back to me.  So he really was making a choice about where he wanted to be.
At the same time as this was going on, and for the whole session, I was also sending him Reiki energy.  I felt quite a lot of energy coming out of my hands.  And, as I have recently been learning about color therapy, I decided to visualize a turquoise blue color surrounding him.  Turquoise, as it is a mixture of green and blue, which are both very calming, healing colors, can be a very calming and healing color, and just felt right for Krishna at this moment.
After the TTouches on the body, I decided to go back to what has usually been more his comfort zone, which is the forehead, in between the ears, and at the base of the ears.  Sometimes I would work in a few TTouches on the body, then go back to the head.  Below you can see that he was quite relaxed, with his hind leg sticking out.  And at this point the tail was quieting down too.
And, I had started quietly working my hand down the tool.  As you can see, my hand is much closer to his body than the photo above.  As I did this, I made sure to check in on my breathing, as I could feel myself start to get a little bit nervous as I got closer to him.
What was interesting, too, that had happened during this process was that Krishna had pivoted his body around so that he was not only closer to me but had his head facing directly towards me.
I kept doing the circular TTouches and strokes, pausing every so often to give him space.
And..... when it seemed the right moment, I carefully took hold of the dowel with my fingers, and did a few TTouches and strokes on his forehead with my thumb.  And then after a few TTouches like that, I went back to touching him with the brush.  At a couple of points, he seemed a little surprised, but not terribly, and then he would go back to being relaxed.  This was certainly a far cry from the sudden panic that can happen, usually followed by a yell or a swat.  And each time I went from my thumb (or sometimes I used a finger) back to the brush, he seemed to get more comfortable, getting his body in a more and more comfortable position.


He is extremely attached to Rebecca, and at various points during the session, he looked over at her, as if to ask if it was ok that he was getting so close.  Rebecca said, and I agree, that it felt as though he wanted to really get even closer to me, but was still a bit hesitant to do that.
Each time he got closer to me, it was as though I could feel our hearts more closely connected, like a band of love and energy was traveling back and forth between my heart and his. 
The session had flowed very natural, and seemed to have its own natural ending place.  I quietly thanked him, and he walked to a cozy spot to rest.
Thank you Krishna!  It is such an honor to work with you, connect with you and learn from you.  I look forward to seeing you soon!!