Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Cookie and Oreo: Dancing to the End of the Song

The last part of an animal's journey with us on earth can be a stressful time, but it can also be a beautiful time of connection, feeling and learning how to truly be in the moment with our animals.
I met my friend Cookie McCrory through the main TTouch office and subsequent to that, gave her private TTouch lessons, as well as doing a workshop which she coordinated with the Homeless Cat Network, where she volunteers.  Though we live on opposite coasts, we are always in touch, and share what is going on with us with our animal and human families.  And as I have family out west, I do try to come to the Bay Area several times a year, if possible.
I knew her dear kitty Oreo was very sick.  She had spoken of him often to me, as he loved TTouch so much.  And I was very touched when she sent me the following letter.  With the permission of Cookie and those addressed in the letter, I share this loving tribute:

Above:  Cookie with Oreo: "Do you want TTouch, Oreo?"
(The people referenced in Cookie's letter are Tom Wilson, who teaches Animal Hospice, Dancing to the end of the song. Kathleen Prasad and Leah D'Ambrosio taught Reiki to Cookie.  They are from SARA (Shelter Animal Reiki Association), Kathleen is the founder, Leah is co-founder. Cookie took Ttouch Mini Class with me several times.:) )
Hi Tom, Leah, Kathleen and Sarah, I wanted to share the beautiful passing of my beloved Oreo on to his next journey. I took your hospice class last year, Dancing till the end of the song........
My beloved Oreo was 14 years. We were told he had kidney failure, three months ago. At that time, I reread my class notes on your Hospice class I took. Your class enabled my Oreo and me to enjoy the past three months together and to help us get ready for his next journey. I told him stories each day of our life together, how I found him so scared, no mama and only 6 weeks, all the exciting events we shared...........up today. What wonderful life we had together......... It took almost 2 years for him to trust me. I found him in a fishing net dying at 6 weeks.
We enjoyed Ttouch and Animal Reiki daily. We danced each day to soft music or hula, as my hips swayed he would make happy feet on my shoulders. We sat on the big comfy computer chair in the sun, opened the window and welcomed the fresh air daily. I opt for no fluids, I  wasn't going to chase him daily and confine him in a wrapped towel. He has always been a free spirit ............
"My husband talking story with our Oreo, Hawaiian style"
He was my buddy, the  only one that saw the tears in my eyes and pain in my heart, as my husband battles bone cancer daily. I 'd pick up my Oreo and the pain would disappear, while doing Animal Reiki.. My heart was full of warmth and it came from my Oreo. He looked forward to TTouch throughout the day, I would  just put my hand over his head and his eyes said, "let's do it"!  TTouch brought comfort to him, he was ever so relaxed.........Animal Reiki was welcomed am & pm, especially the chanting, as I chant with my hula. My chants come from my soul. Oreo embraced Animal Reiki, it opened our communication so clearly, he shared that he was okay and that he would be leaving me soon. He was more concerned about me. He taught me it was okay to let go. He would see me when I cross over. When I start my Animal Reiki, his paw would reach out to me, instead of comforting him, he comforted me. He gave me such inner peace. My little warrior.
My vet tech Karen came to my house a couple times a week, to check on him. Sometimes she gave him laser treatment, it made him feel so much better.
He slept in my bed nightly when he became ill. How strange, he knew I needed him, he taught me so much.
"Pastor Elizabeth Blessed our Oreo"

He was blessed by an animal minister I know, that does the Blessing of the Animals. She blessed all my indoor cats and outdoor ferals.
My family and friends came to visit him and wish him well and it was beautiful, not sad.........We were supported with love from everyone. Sat. am he took a turn for the worse, I looked into his eyes and they told me it was time to let him go.......I didn't acknowledge him. Then at 2:00 am, he stood up on me and urinated  on me.  I smiled and told him, that's okay.  ( I'll never forget that moment and he made me smile ) It was like, I told you I was ready to go and you didn't listen to me. You got it now! : )  I cleaned up everything and we spent the night in the bathroom. That am he started to have trembles, I called my vet tech and she came over. She gave him something to relax him. I picked up my love and we danced to the soft chants, till the end of the last song forever. We went to say farewell to the house cats and our two outdoor ferals in the backyard. He had lost the shine in his eyes, didn't want to eat now. I cuddled him in my arms and hummed Hawaiian songs to him. I told him Sugar baby and other furry friends were waiting for him across the Rainbow Bridge. It was okay for him to go, that I will be okay. He  passed  peacefully in my gentle arms.............I was so happy for him he had peace and so did I.
Karen asked if I wanted to spend more time with him. I told her with a smile, we've had 14 wonderful years together and the last 3 months were the best. It was time for him to go on his next journey. His friends are waiting for him. Sugarbaby was at the gate to greet him. I saw him as clear as day. He's the greeter at the Rainbow Bridge.
Thank you for sharing Hospice with me . I'd like to learn more to share with others. Oreo had taught me so much about life, I deeply thank him. Animal Reiki gave us the strength to be as one in his last 3 three months of his journey. TTouch calmed him down and helped soothed any pain that came that way. TTouch has been a part of his daily life for many years. When my friends came over to visit. I would put my hand over his head and he would push it gently, as he loved Ttouch. My friends were amazed.
I was blessed to share Animal Reiki, Ttouch and Hospice with him.
My many friends could not believe how calm and happy I was to be on his journey with him. I shared, it is all about opening your heart and listening to the animal.  When one can learn to be one with their pet, there is an unbelievable communication bond that will take place and it will touch your warm heart.
All of you taught me how to celebrate life and death...................thank you. I must share all of this with my friends and help them, when needed.
                                                 Mahalo nui loa,  Cookie 

                      Reiki is with me all the time. It has brought me inner peace. It helps me daily as my husband battles cancer, accepting what is and enjoying the moment...................... I am Blessed.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Teaching TTouch to Cat Rescuers: Relaxation for the Rescued (and the Rescuers!)

Above:  Sugar
Rafael and his girlfriend Loren rescue and TNR cats in both Brooklyn and Manhattan, so they are constantly in contact with frightened and abused cats, as well as older cats and cats with health issues.  They do a beautiful job of taking care of these cats (often with the help of Kitty Kind, find them homes), as well as taking great care of their own cats.  Rafael had contacted me after noticing a flier about my TTouch class at BARC Shelter, which had already passed.  I offered to come to them for a private lesson, which was even better, as it would give us a chance to work on their cats. 
When I arrived, I entered into their lovely space which was very clean and completely set up for the cats' enjoyment, including a safe outdoor space where they can go to play and get fresh air.  I was greeted by some of the cats right away - Charlie, an older gentleman cat who has diabetes, Henry, a sweet blind cat, and a couple of lively teenage kitties.  A small kitten named Bella, who looked as if she had a wise-beyond-her-years quality to her, also trotted by - they told me she had been extremely sick and starving initially, and they had lovingly nursed her back to health.
Above:  Charlie

I began by showing Rafael and Loren some of the basic TTouches on Charlie.  I explained how TTouch can be of benefit to animals with health issues, as well as behavior issues, that it can bring a sense of balance and well-being to both the body and mind.
Charlie is a very sweet cat, but I could tell he is a very sensitive cat, so I went slowly, beginning at the front of his body, as he seemed more sensitive towards his back end.  It is important to give the cats little breaks as you work with them, so you can let them process and to help you determine if they are ready for more or need to have more of a break. 
Rafael and Loren picked up the TTouches extremely well, both are naturals at it.  They both also have a quiet energy, which cats really respond to.  So, fairly soon into the session, they started trying some of the TTouches with the cats.  And here is when some magic really began...
Above:  Sugar
Loren began working with Sugar, who I also did some TTouch and a little Reiki with as well. Sugar is generally a very nervous cat, always on edge, even when resting never quite seems at ease, and she also has IBD.  When I was sending Reiki to her, I felt a great deal of heat around the middle of her body (I had my hands on her side), which makes a lot of sense with her digestive issues.
Sugar's response to the TTouches was extraordinary.  It was as though TTouch was the perfect key to her relaxation.  As Loren continued to work with her, Sugar's eyes got relaxed and sleepy, and you could see her muscles and her whole presence soften and relax.  Rafael and Loren said that Sugar's usual mode is constant alert, and so to see her really let go like this was such a change! 
I believe that the process of doing TTouch creates a calm energy in the environment, as well as directly affecting the individual animal who is being worked on, which helps them to feel a greater degree of safety.
Another wonderful surprise, one of the much more fearful cats, Seven, came to where we were working, which was dramatic enough in itself.  Then Rafael began working with him, and Seven visibly began to calm.  His eyes were still a bit in wide-open mode but he was comfortable staying there.  I was sitting right next to them.  At one point I moved a little closer and Seven became a bit concerned and moved away a bit, but then Rafael began working with Seven again, and he calmed again. The fact that he came where we were and remained there was a huge step for him, as he generally will hide when a new person comes in.
A bit later on I was working with Charlie again (Rafael had worked with him as well), and I could feel how much more relaxed he was.  His coat and skin even felt different, smooth, relaxed, and so when I tried some abalone TTouches (circular TTouches using the whole hand) down on his lower back, instead of feeling resistance or flinching, he relaxed right into them.
Above: Henry

I also did some work during the session off and on with Henry, who is blind.  He is a dear, and I could feel him sensing the energy around him, which was so interesting.  Even when I was sitting a couple of feet away from him, he sensed exactly where I was, and knew exactly where he was going to make contact with me for a nice head butt :)  He was in a walking mood, so a little bit of TTouch at a time was good for him.  TTouch work helps with proprioception, which has to do with sensing where a body is in space, so can be of very real benefit to Henry, even though obviously he is doing a great job of this already.
I explained some of the more practical aspects of TTouch, such as how a slow progression incorporating circular TTouches and belly lifts can eventually lead to being able to pick a cat up (just a tiny bit off the ground at first), and how to combine the TTouches with very small lifts to help make this into an experience that is pleasant, instead of always associating being picked up with being put into a carrier to go to the vet!  The same concept can be applied when doing TTouches on the paws (eventually for toenail clipping) or mouth area (giving medication). TTouch can also help to bring more harmony, and if there are two cats who are not getting along, it can be helpful for two people to simultaneously do TTouches on the two cats in the same room (a distance apart, which can get closer over time), so that they can become accustomed to having something that feels good happen when they are in proximity to each other.
Above:  Clara
I did not meet Clara, as they had her in another room.  They didn't want to overwhelm her with meeting a new person.  She was abused, and so even though she comes to them for petting, she will flinch when they first touch her.  I told them that in time, TTouch should help her to be more relaxed in general, and eventually will help her react differently to touch and to stress. So I look forward to hearing from them about Clara's progress.
Meanwhile, back in the big room where we were working, by the end of the session, the cats seemed very relaxed, especially little Sugar.  It was beautiful to see her so at ease. 
I was so energized after this session, especially knowing that Rafael and Loren will be able to help so many animals with the TTouches. 
Rafael contacted me after the session, and said that later on, he had another session with Sugar, and they both had fallen asleep.  One of the many lovely things about TTouch is that it can bring relaxation to the person doing the TTouch as well as the animal :) 
Thank you Rafael and Loren for all you do for the animals, and thank you to all the cats for being such wonderful creatures and teachers always.
(Thank you Rafael for the photographs for this blog post)

Thursday, October 17, 2013

My Journey with Max: Comfort for Physical and Emotional Stress

Above:  Max

Max is a handsome, elegant 14 year old cat with a very big presence.  When I first went to see him, though, his big spirit was quite diminished, due to prolonged physical troubles - probable asthma and then a very serious chronic sinus condition which required a lot of testing and subsequent hospitalization, etc.

Max also has a lovely sister, Chloe, who has a separate tale to tell, so I will speak about her in a separate blog post.

Max's people, Debbie and Jonathan, are doing everything they can to help him.  After all that he had been through with the medical treatments and hospitalization, they wanted to help provide comfort for him in whatever way possible.  Both Reiki and TTouch are wonderful modalities for providing gentle comfort, both physically and emotionally.  They also can help the body to be more optimal balance, and can help stimulate the appetite.  Keeping a cat eating can often be a challenge in this type of situation, and is, of course, crucial to a cat's survival.

In the first appointment, he had just come home from the hospital with medication and a feeding tube.  I showed Debbie and Jonathan some of the basic TTouches, but I was very gentle and careful with Max, because his condition was very fragile, and I did not want to disturb the feeding tube.  I spent more of the appointment offering Reiki to Max, keeping my hands several feet away at first, then moving in a bit closer. 

The first thing I felt upon offering Reiki to Max was a huge flood of gratitude which I felt from him.  The gratitude was to his people, for all of their love and care which they have given him.  It felt like beautiful ocean waves flowing from his heart to mine, filling up my heart with this powerful feeling.

I felt a very strong flow of Reiki from my hands, and kept picturing his nasal passages clear, and clear light and energy flowing from his nasal passages and all the way down his body, healing.  I still had my hands off his body, as the energy was so strong, and I didn't want to overwhelm him.  A few times I wasn't sure if I should stop and give him a break but then I felt a signal from him that he was ready to continue.  I felt him really pulling the energy into his body.

After we finished the session, he got up and went to his food dish and ate, which was a wonderful sight to see, and then went and laid down in his bed by the window, where he looked very comfortable.

Over the next sessions I saw steady progress with Max, both on a physical and emotional level.  The feeding tube was removed, his energy and appetite improved greatly, and Debbie and Jonathan said he was acting more like himself all the time.  I saw the light come back into his eyes and began to see and feel the strong being who he really is.  Prior to the hospitalization, he had been getting steroids on a regular basis for asthma-like symptoms, and after this recovery he was able to stay off the steroids for a good while. 

Over time, I had to adjust the way that I worked with him.  He had gotten so much of his personality and energy back that it sometimes took some strategy to nudge him into a more relaxed mode.  But this was not a bad problem to have really!  Sometimes he would settle in several different places during the course of the session, but that was fine. 

At that point, I also began working with his sister Chloe, who has her own health issues.  Often I will work with her first, to give him time to settle into a more relaxed state.  Usually by the time I finished working with Chloe, he would have settled into one of his cozy spaces.

One thing that Max's people had told me was that he was still spending a good deal of time sleeping in a quiet closet space in the back of the apartment, rather than hanging out with them, which he used to do before his hospitalization.  Jonathan had mentioned he wanted to try to get Max engaged in play again.  This was a great idea, as engaging Max in play would encourage him to become more engaged with them again altogether. 

On my way to the next appointment, I stopped at Petco on the way and purchased a Cat Dancer toy.  Something told me this would be something he liked.  Indeed, it turned out that he used to LOVE to play with this toy when he was younger, and he got right into it when they started playing with him with it.  They also said that he had started coming up on their bed and sleeping with them again. 

A couple of weeks ago, while I was working with Chloe in her usual place in the living room, Max came in and started lurking around.  I wasn't sure whether he wanted to take in some of the energy, or was a bit jealous I was working with his sister, or both.  There was a cat bed a few feet away from where we were working, and he started circling around there, looking like he may even settle there. 

I was finishing up with Chloe, and so I quietly began walking towards Max when I had finished the session with her.  At first I thought he was going to lead me into the back part of the apartment, where he usually settles.  But instead, he came back into the living room, settling on a little cat track toy near the bed he had been near before.  A while after I had begun offering him Reiki, he then got up and gently settled into the cat bed, where he remained for the rest of the session.  I felt such peace from him!!

After I finished the session, Debbie and Jonathan told me that he had not been in that bed since he had gotten back from the hospital, which was 3-4 months ago now.  So this was great progress!  The living room is a place where Max used to spend much more time before the hospital, so this was great that he was gravitating back to this room.  He has been sleeping in that bed again since then, and hanging out other places in the living room that he used to enjoy.  This also means that he is spending more time comfortably hanging out with his people, instead of isolating himself. 

Unfortunately, Max recently had another bout of sinus trouble, which resulted in a couple of more trips to the vet hospital (fortunately not having to stay overnight though).  He is now still on some medication, some of which will be long-term, but is feeling better again, and that has been within a pretty short time period, so that is good.  He seems strong, is eating pretty well, is getting back to playing again, and he is continuing to hang out in his places in the living room. 

Max and Chloe have never gotten along with each other, and still growl at each other even after being together their whole 14 year old life.  I am hoping that over time, there might be a bit more harmony between them.  Reiki can often help that to happen.  It is encouraging that they are able to peacefully hang out in the living room together now - which is something that they have done in the past, but maybe there is a bit more of a shift that can happen. 

In this week's session, I worked with Max first, back in his cozy space in the closet.  I felt a lot of energy especially coming from his heart chakra, which is interesting, as I feel like his heart has been progressively opening during our time working together, after having gone through so much with his hospitalization earlier in the year. 

Above: Chloe
Then I went to work with Chloe.  She was on the couch, one of her favorite places.  We did part of the session there, and she seemed almost mesmerized by the energy.  Then she took a brief break to eat, then came up on the coffee table, another favorite place.  She stretched out on her side as I offered Reiki to her, really absorbing the energy. 

Above: Max

At this point, Max came slowly into the living room, looking like he was sneaking in, and then settled in one of his favorite places on a chair by the window.  I opened up my visualization of where I was offering the Reiki, picturing it as an expanding area of light, encompassing more and more of the room.  I felt the Reiki like a rain of light, gently falling and soothing.  Max stretched out on the chair, looking very cozy, and Chloe continued to be very relaxed on the coffee table.

It will be interesting to see if this is a continuing pattern, Max joining Chloe in the living room for Reiki.  It will be wonderful if the energy can help them to feel better being around each other, as well as to feel better individually.

Many thanks to Max and Chloe for again reminding me to really be in the moment with what is happening, and to keep an open mind because one never knows what can happen in those special moments!!  And thanks to Debbie and Jonathan for all the love and care they have for these lovely animals.  Look forward to seeing you soon, and sending positive thoughts for continued health and well-being of both these cats :) xo