Friday, September 26, 2014

My Journey with Luther and Mr. Maps: Relaxation, Recovery and Focus with TTouch, Reiki and Clicker Training

Above left: Luther, above right, Mr. Maps

Some months ago, I began doing Reiki sessions with a dear black Persian cat named Bunny, who had kidney disease. You can read more about him in a past post,  His people, Suzanne and Mike, did everything they could to help him but sadly, this quiet, sweet and powerfully spiritual creature passed away the end of June.

Mr. Maps
Bunny had two adopted brothers, Luther and Mr. Maps.  Luther is a handsome young tabby and Mr. Maps is a delightful white Persian cat with two different colored eyes. Mr. Maps seemed to take Bunny's death especially hard, so I made both cats Bach Flower remedies following Bunny's passing.  It was a loss, an adjustment and a shift in dynamics in the household, but both cats are now doing quite well, and most likely have become closer to each other.

Luther had been adopted when he was still recuperating from a broken leg, so he was on cage rest for a while.  When he was able to emerge from the cage, the people soon were able to see more of his behavior.  He is very energetic, being a young cat, but is so sensitive that he can become overstimulated extremely easily.  And when he becomes overstimulated, he sometimes will exhibit that with scratching, pouncing on you, etc.   It was often difficult to handle or pet Luther without him becoming overstimulated and reactive.

I began working with Luther after I had been working with Bunny for a bit, as Suzanne and Mike wanted me to do what I could to help Luther calm down.

Initially, I worked with Luther using long TTouch wands, so I could give Luther plenty of space.  I felt he needed the space as he was so sensitive to any kind of direct contact with people, even though I sensed he really was a very loving being, and that he longed for contact.  This worked very well at first, and doing the TTouches with him this way got him accustomed to being touched in a gentle way, yet not having someone too close to him.

After a while, he wanted to use the wands as toys, so I decided to shift to a different approach.  I did some TTouches on him using paintbrushes, but also began doing Reiki with him.  Reiki energy helps to calm on a very deep level, and my hope was to release some of the trauma that he may have been holding from having the broken leg and whatever else he may have gone through before he was rescued.

Luther, relaxing into Reiki

Luther, being so sensitive, is very receptive to Reiki, and usually settles into it right away, stretching out and closing his eyes, taking it in.  After he settles for a while, he often will come up to me and sniff me and start brushing his body against me.  I stay very still when this happens, as I do not want to risk him becoming startled or possibly reactive if I move.  What he generally does after this is to go a few feet away from me and settle down again.  It is really beautiful to see him become so truly peaceful, to sense a very tangible shift in his whole energy.
Luther, relaxing into Reiki
Over the past couple of months, I have started to feel a very tangible shift in Luther's presence.  He is still a lively and playful cat, but he seems to have more openness and ability to shift into a more mellow space, which is great.  And if he does get overexcited and jumps at you or hits you with his paw, it is much more gentle and the claws are usually in. 

And as he has gotten more used to me and to the energy, I think we both have become more comfortable around each other, and I know that over time he will start to receive the energy on an even deeper level.

Mr Maps, relaxing into Reiki
I began doing Reiki with Mr. Maps after Bunny passed away, as Mr. Maps seemed particularly distraught.  Mr. Maps is super-affectionate, so I started out by doing some TTouches with him, and then began sending the Reiki energy to him.  He has been more and more receptive to it each time I have worked with him, and now he completely stretches out on his back or on his stomach with his back legs stretched out behind, with his eyes closed and a blissful look on his face.
Mr Maps, relaxing into Reiki

I have recently added some clicker training into the sessions, particularly for Luther's benefit, as I think it helps him to feel a more focused energy.  Mr. Maps seems to enjoy it as well, but he is not really interested in the treats, so for him, I click and then reward him by a little stroking around his chin and chest area.  I have wooden dowels which I set up in various configurations, sometimes in a path, sometimes in more of a labyrinth.  But even just going through the dowels set up in the path seems very effective, so I often just stick with that.  Cats can have a pretty short attention span for  clicker training, so I observe them closely to see when they are done with it.

Mike and Suzanne were away recently, so I came by to do Reiki with the cats while they were away.  I had been doing sessions with them separately, but it felt right to have both boys in the room with me and just start to let the energy flow to both of them.  Then at different parts of the session, I would focus on one cat, and then the other.  Both kitties completely stretched out as if they were sunbathing, really letting go.  So beautiful to feel this connection, to feel such peacefulness and joy with both of these cats, with the sun coming in through the windows and a slight breeze - that late summer, balmy temperature.
Luther and Mr Maps, relaxing into Reiki

After a recent appointment, Mike picked Luther up and gave him a good hug and kiss, which was so sweet to see.  Mike said that a few months ago, that would not have been possible at all, and he remarked at how he also had noticed Luther's behavior shifting.  Not only that, but he mentioned that the house call vet who they use had been there recently and she immediately remarked on the change.  This is the kind of feedback that truly makes my day :)

I look forward to a continuing and interesting journey with both of these dear beings.xxoo

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

TTouch and Reiki at BARC Shelter: Little JB: The Power of Quiet Patience and Persistence

Little JB is a gorgeous little calico cat who has been at BARC Shelter for some months now.  The JB stands for Josephine Baker -- she looks like a smaller version of one of the cats who the shelter people own who is named Josephine Baker.

Sometimes I come across a cat who is not so responsive to either the tools with contact with the hand, and that can be a bit of a challenge, but the lesson I learn over and over is to continue to try different approaches, different tools, using the TTouches or tools in a different way, etc. until something starts to click.  It can take patience and persistence, but it is so worth it.  There is always some way to connect with an animal, whether it is in a huge dramatic way or a very subtle way that grows over time.

She has been a challenging kitty to get to know.  The shelter environment is particularly stressful for her and she gets overstimulated easily and will let you know when she is not in the mood for contact with a swat.  She can get engaged in playing with a toy but when it comes to being touched, that is hard for her.

First I tried working with her with a paintbrush, or with a feather, as hands seem to scare her, and usually her response was to swat at them.  Sometimes, if she was in a more sleepy mood, I would be able to do TTouches on her head area with a paintbrush, but that was not so often.  Sometimes I would make the TTouch circles in front of her with the paintbrush, and sometimes she found that to be relaxing. Below is a demo of that.

I started just opening her cage and staying quiet and still, and sometimes she would come to the front and rub a little bit against my hand.  I would just let her do the rubbing instead of trying to reach to her.  Sometimes I would talk quietly to her.  The BARC staff and volunteers also do whatever they can to help her be at ease.

Recently, she was moved to a lower cage and that seemed to make her much more comfortable than she was previously.  She was in a cage next to a very gentle, quiet kitty named Katie Bell, and the two became good friends.  I think both these things were really helpful to her.

At that time I also began to do a bit of clicker training with the cats, having them simply touch their nose to the end of a stick and then I would click and treat.  This simple activity energized some of the cats who tended to stay at the back of the cage, and Little JB was one of them.  When she saw me get the clicker out, she started coming to the front of the cage, and now when she just sees me, she starts to come to the front of the cage, which is terrific.

There was something about the clicker training that helped to energize her, and it was something more than the treats, as she was not always that interested in the treats.  She seemed to be coming forward for a connection of some kind.  I felt like I was getting closer to her, even though I was not touching her.  I would often just sit outside her cage, sending her Reiki, or even just sitting there quietly.

Recently, a new volunteer opened her cage and she actually came out on their lap for a bit.  She didn't want to be touched, just wanted to sit there.  A couple of days later, she came out on my lap briefly - didn't settle there but I had a feeling that she was thinking about it:)

She also started feeling very comfortable with me doing TTouch circles on her head with the stick part of a stick toy.  This was a new level of comfort for her as well.

Last week a larger cage on the upper level came available so Little JB was moved there.  Even though she is back on the top level where she previously was not so comfortable, the location is different and the space is twice as big as before, so she seems even more comfortable than in the cage on the lower level.

Yesterday was a real breakthrough for little JB.  Diana, one of the wonderful keepers of the cats (Colin is the full time cat guy and Diana is two days a week) said that she had noticed that JB was comfortable being touched through the bars of the cage, though not if you opened the cage and tried to touch her.

Little JB was resting in her bed which was close to the bars of the cage, so I began to do some very gentle strokes and TTouches on her head.  She pushed into my hand and made the cozy smile that cats can make when they really are enjoying something.  I continued for quite a while, as she kept gently pushing into my hand and rubbing into it.  This was the first time I had seen her truly enjoy contact for an extended period of time.  And I felt like I was getting a glimpse into the real personality which I had always felt that was there beneath her sometimes bristly exterior.  That sweetness, that longing for connection.

This lovely moment is the type of moment I really live for - when you feel you connect with the heart of another creature, when they trust you enough to make this connection.

I look forward to seeing you again, little JB, and of course look forward to the day when you will go to a beautiful forever home.