Sunday, June 30, 2013

If At First You Don't Succeed... Tiger Lily Teaches Me What She Needs to Feel Safe

Tiger Lily is a gorgeous grey tabby with a very distinctive face.  She is one of the cats from the Picasso Veterinary Fund who I have been working with through Tavi and Friends and the Mayor's Alliance.

She arrived at the holding space extremely stressed, growling and swatting at anyone who tried to approach her.  She proved to be a challenge for me, as well, as I tried tool after tool to try to calm her.  Above is a picture of her fairly soon after she arrived, looking very wary indeed.

I tried a feather, various types of paintbrushes, a back scratcher, etc, and mostly she seemed irritated if I tried to touch her with the tools, even if I went slowly and quietly.  After a while, I tried a variation on a technique which I used successfully with my own cat Emmylou when she arrived as a feral cat at BARC.  I stroked slightly in front of her whiskers with a paintbrush, very slowly, talking to her in a very quiet voice.  I could do this just a very little bit at a time with her.

I would always send her Reiki from where I was standing outside the cage, and speak to her calmly.

Sometimes when she seemed to start to get comfortable, she would start rolling on her back and rubbing against the floor of the cage, looking like she wanted to play.  Which is what finally led me to what I did next with her.

As Tiger Lily is a young cat, and seemed to want to play, I tried playing with her with a string toy, and then every once in a while I would stroke her with the stick part of the string toy.  This was the most successful contact I had with her so far, and it was after these sessions which you see in the videos above and below that she started to appear much more comfortable.

She would be at the front of the cage instead of at the back or up on a shelf in the cage, and when I approached the cage, she looked as though she wanted to play with me.  Her whole facial expression and body posture changed, as you can see in the photos below.

After a number of sessions with the TTouch and play concept, she would still sometimes get overstimulated.  I felt like I needed to change up what we were doing, and decided I needed to spend some very quiet time with her.  I began to just sit with her with the cage door open, sending her Reiki energy from where I was sitting.
She grew more and more comfortable with me, and one day she came up to me and licked my arm! I stayed perfectly still, as I didn't want to startle her.
Last week when I was at the space, when I opened the door of the cage, she started peering outside the cage into the room.  And finally, out she came!  I think this may be the first time she has ventured out of her cage in her time at the space. 
I got off the chair where I had been sitting, and crouched on the floor. At times I would dangle a string toy to see if she wanted to play, but she was more interested in sniffing around.
She ended up settling on the chair I had been sitting on, as you see below.  She started rolling on her back and on her side, stretching and ended up settling there for a while.  I just stayed pretty still, speaking to her in a quiet voice, telling her what a good girl she was and telling her I loved her very much. 
When she had enough, she went back into the cage.  This had been a really big step for her!
She kept looking at me, maybe wondering if I would let her out again, but I wanted to stop on a positive note, so just told her she was such a good girl, and that I would be back soon and we would do this again :)
It is a lesson the animals tell me so clearly each time:  we really need to listen to what they are comfortable with, and keep our minds and hearts open so that we can hear them and so that we can keep our creative side of our brain working so we can keep trying new approaches that we may never have thought of before.  Sometimes it is just a matter of sitting and being truly quiet with an animal, to give them that time and space they need in order to start to trust us.
Love you Tiger Lily! Can't wait to see you again! xo

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Update on Nadia, Slow and Steady Work Facilitates a Heart Connection

Nadia is a gorgeous, very shy cat at BARC Shelter, who I have been working with for some time now.  She was dumped in front of the shelter with another cat, who was adopted fairly quickly because she was friendly.  Nadia is very cautious of most people, though she has been slowly starting to trust people more and more.  If someone approaches her too quickly, she may hiss or snap at them, but that behavior has been increasingly subsiding.
I have worked with her very slowly, often using a paintbrush to touch her, as that gives her the space she needs to feel comfortable.  More recently, I have also been luring her to the front of the cage to lick baby food off my finger, which has been really helpful as well.  If you want to try this with a frightened cat, I would suggest first putting the food on a spoon or if the cat is very afraid and may bite, something else with a longer handle so that you can try it with some space in between you and the cat, to assure that you don't get bitten!  Also, use only all-meat baby food with no onions.  Gerber's Turkey in Turkey gravy seems to be a pretty universally popular flavor.
Though I most likely could touch her right away with my hand without reaction, I am still starting out with her by doing TTouch circles and strokes with the paintbrush, and then transitioning to using my fingers, so it gives her a chance to get comfortable with me.  It feels very important to give her space.  Touching her with the paintbrush also gets her accustomed to the sensation of being touched without having a feeling of being threatened.  So, once she gets very used to that, then eventually she will feel the same way about being touched with hands.  I have found that it helps so much with a very fearful cat to take everything in very small steps.
I have shared how I work with Nadia with the regular volunteers and staff, and it has been helpful for some of them to be working with Nadia with the paintbrush too.

We have in her cage a cave-like little bed so that she can go in there to feel safe when things get noisy or hectic in the shelter.  A while back, I started taking the bed out of her cage for part of the day so people could socialize with her more easily, and so she could gradually start to realize that it is ok to be out of the cave-bed.  I would gently turn the bed so the entrance was facing sideways to me, and then tip it a bit til she came out.  Most often, she would loudly hiss at first, but little by little she has become accustomed to that as well. Lately, I don't take the bed out any more, but speak to her and put the paintbrush so she can sniff it, and she will come out of the bed on her own and walk towards me, as you see in the clip below (she was already out of the bed). 
What has been especially sweet is that now after she walks to the front of the cage, she will nuzzle against my hand or lick it a bit.   It is beautiful to see her seeking out attention on her own, and really responding to attention and touch as well.   I'm happy, too, that others are also starting to see the sweet, loving cat that Nadia truly is, underneath her fear.  She even looks more beautiful, as her face has gotten so much more open, and her body language more comfortable.

It is easy to be impatient or to have out ego want to make contact with a cat right away, but it is so much more beneficial for the animal to really slow down and go at the pace that they need.  In the end, you will be able to facilitate a connection with the animal that is more powerful and deep than you could imagine!

Love you Nadia, thank you for teaching me so much, as do all the animals who I work with every day.  And thanks to all the BARC Shelter people for all they do for the animals.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Peaceful Moments with Deuce: Easing Arthritis through TTouch and Reiki

Deuce is a stunning senior cat who I have been working with for a couple of months.  His person, Alice, volunteers at BARC Shelter (where I volunteer) and she had told me he has arthritis. 

I have been working with him primarily with Reiki, but with TTouches mixed into our session.  Alice has told me that before we started working together, Deuce had stopped a lot of the activities that he generally enjoyed, but that now he is much more interested in being up and about, which is great!

Deuce is a friendly, affectionate cat, and was certainly game for giving TTouch and Reiki a try pretty much right off the bat.

Most often, we will start out by doing some TTouches, and as we do this, he gets comfortable and will decide where he wants to settle.  Then I transition into a Reiki session with him.  After the Reiki session, sometimes I will do some TTouches with him as well.  That is not to say that I would treat every animal with arthritis in this way, but this is the way of working that feels right for him at this time.  Each animal is different, and I feel that what will most benefit an animal as far as treatment can shift and change over time. 

Something so beautiful that can happen in the course of repeated Reiki sessions, that I am feeling with Deuce, is a deepening connection with him.  I nearly always feel this type of progression with repeated sessions of Reiki.  I feel that he absorbs the Reiki energy at a deeper level each time that I work with him.  It feels that the deepening level of trust allows the energy to permeate him at a deeper level each time. 

The other thing that I have been incorporating into our sessions at times is the concept of color therapy.  I have been studying this lately, and so sometimes I will send the energy of a color to an animal while I am working with them.

The first time I did this with Deuce was an especially interesting experience.  While on the subway on the way to an appointment, I always start sending Reiki to the animal I will be working with.  This time I also began to send the essence of the color turquoise.  This color is a mixture of green and blue, which are both very cool, healing colors, and turquoise has to do with restoration and dissipating pain, so it felt like a very appropriate color to ease his arthritis.

When I got to the appointment and began to work with Deuce, he began to get himself settled as usual, but the interesting thing was that he settled right on top of a turquoise blue bag!  For the rest of the session, I kept picturing that he was surrounded with turquoise light.  And for the rest of the session, he remained settled on the bag.  I also began to see turquoise highlights on his fur as I worked.

I always feel an intention to offer Reiki to an animal for the highest good, but sometimes on top of that I will have a more specific intention.  In Deuce's case, it is to help ease his arthritis.  Sometimes I will feel my hands guided to certain parts of his body, but most often with him, as with many animals, he will shift himself until my hands are where he wants them to be.  Sometimes the hand positions will shift several times during an appointment, other times I may stay just about all the time in one position.  Reiki energy will go where it is needed, regardless of hand position :)

A little side note, there is another kitty in the house, a shy, sweet boy named Gruff.  Quite often, he will come to me for a few TTouches, or settle somewhere near where I am working with Deuce to pick up some of the energy.  Below is Gruff, on one of his favorite chairs, in an inquisitive mood.

Below is Deuce in one of his favorite spots, where he settled for our most recent session.  I was feeling the pinkish-red of the chair enveloping him with such a warm, loving feeling during the session.  Like he was sinking into that very soft feeling.  He went completely into what we call a Reiki nap, which feels like a rather daydreamy type of state.  He is giving a rather funny expression here, though, as it was right after the session.  I had felt him really go down into a very deep place of relaxation, and I think he wanted to get back to napping!

Thank you Deuce! I look forward to seeing you soon! xo