Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Keeping Things Interesting: Update on Sylvie at Downtown Veterinary Clinic

I have been working for a while with dear Sylvie at Downtown Veterinary Clinic.  Sylvie was taken in by the clinic after having been abandoned on the streets of New York City in a roller suitcase.

She was terrified at first, understandably, and was very distrustful of people and of other animals, hissing and swatting at anyone who came near her. 

I have been working with her very slowly and carefully using a combination of Reiki, TTouch, treats, play, and some other tools and tricks.  Reiki is wonderful because I do not have to touch her physically for her to feel the calming energy.  So on days when she is not in the mood to be touched, I will just sit near her and let the Reiki flow.  She has been comfortable with more and more contact over time, and is more at ease with me just sitting near her.   

However, a couple of weeks ago, I felt like she was starting to be a bit more withdrawn again, I think as there had temporarily been more traffic of people and animals in the office area where she is living.  I knew I had to throw something new into the mix to capture her interest and help her fear subside. 

When you are working with an animal and things are feeling as though they are stuck or moving backwards, I think it is helpful to follow your intuition and try something new.  As the TTouches do their magic by working with non-habitual movements, adding some variety into an animal's routine can often help you move forward with them.  In the case of cats, you need to use sense and sensitivity, as cats are generally resistant to change.  But changing something as simple as bringing in a new toy or treat can do the trick!

I brought some baby food and a long soda fountain-type spoon (all-meat baby food without onion such as turkey or chicken, Gerbers is generally a good brand) to see if she would like that as a treat.  I also brought a long piece of string, as some cats really enjoy playing with it.  [FYI please never leave string around, as your cat may chew and swallow it.  Always supervise your pet when playing with them with a piece of string, and put it away safely when done.]

Sylvie was sitting on a shelf when I arrived.  First I fed her a bit of the baby food, which she liked.  But when I pulled out the piece of string, her face truly lit up.  She jumped off the shelf to come down on the floor and play.  We did this for quite a while.  I moved the string closer and closer to me, and she ended up sitting right next to me comfortably. 

We did some TTouch there, first with a flat wooden craft stick that looks like a doctor's tongue depressor, and then directly with my hand.  I also gave her a few Temptation treats. 

After we played, she settled right by me, resting her foot right on my foot.  The sweetness of the trust of that was just so powerful and moving.

In the latest sessions with her, I have continued to present her with the string when I get there, and she usually jumps right down to play with me.  Her other new thing which is very sweet is that she likes to come down and sit right by my bag.  Part of that may well be that treats and toys come from that bag, but she also seems to feel safe sitting there, as she feels safe sitting next to me.

The other resident cat, Mama, often tries to join in, which is hard for Sylvie as she is not sure about Mama even though Mama is very gentle and sweet.  But when that happens I sit right in between them and that seems to work out well.  And it was interesting that the first time I brought the string, Mama sat off to the side and watched, as if she knew that Sylvie needed the time alone with me.

Just bringing this simple new toy started a whole new level of progress and comfort with Sylvie, which I am so pleased to see.  Her face and body posture are starting to be much more relaxed than they were.  She used to have a very pinched, pulled in expression on her face and that is starting to change.  Her eyes are more open and more relaxed.

Other people in the clinic are noticing the progress, and are able to have more positive interactions with her. 

It makes me smile to see her feeling better! And I know that the progress will continue.  And if things get static again, it is time to try something new:) 

Thank you to the Clinic for all your love and care, and thank you Sylvie for trusting me.  Much love as always  xxoo

Monday, November 2, 2015

The Power of Quiet Connection

 The Power of Quiet Connection

Hi folks, today I am referring you to Bideawee's site, where I have a blog post up.  I work with the kitties at Bideawee, and share about my experience there and about the work I do.  Thanks Bideawee! you are awesome and I am delighted to be there!


Tuesday, October 27, 2015

From Abandoned Kitten to Forever Home: My Journey with little Sarah Hauser (now known as Beatrix!) from BARC Shelter

I experience a meaningful connection with each and every shelter animal that I work with, but occasionally those connections run especially deep, particularly when I have the opportunity to work with an animal over a long period of time, combined with the joy of experiencing a real transformation with them.  And even better is when I have the opportunity to work with the animal after they have been adopted into a loving home.
Such has been my experience with little Beatrix, who originally was named after me at BARC Shelter.  I will use her shelter name for purposes of this piece, though of course I use her new name now when I see her.
You can see an earlier post about Sarah (and her cagemate Aladdin) here:

Little Sarah was dumped in front of BARC's vet's office a couple of years ago as a young kitten.  The vet tech who took her in noticed that she was quite fearful, and semi-feral.  The tech knew that I would most likely spend a lot of time with her, and so named her after me - Sarah Hauser.
Through a very slow, gradual process, little Sarah and I got to know each other, and she came to trust me with her heart.  Initially she was at the back of her cage, terrified.  One of our breakthrough moments was when I discovered that she enjoyed rubbing her face against my hand.  I kept moving my hand forward bit by bit, and before we knew it, she was at the front of the cage.  We continued doing this, and it became a routine.  Soon she began coming forward on her own.

Over some time, combining this technique with gently picking her up and placing her on my lap transitioned into her coming out on my lap all on her own.  This evolved into another whole game.  Eventually she would hear my voice upon entering the shelter, and she would begin to meow.  I would say "Sawah! what happened, Sawah?".  She would get so excited.  I brought a stool over so I would be at the same level as the cage, and the minute I opened the door to the cage, she would jump out onto my lap.

I felt so much joy and love for her, and it was such a beautiful experience to see her personality coming forth more and more.  She was affectionate, loving, and even had a little sense of humor.  It felt like she was my kitty, although she lived at the shelter.  It was that close of a connection.  I told her I was sorry I couldn't be her forever person, but that I would always love her and that the right person or people would someday give her a loving home.

I worked with her a lot with both TTouch and Reiki, and she became a perfect demo kitty to show others TTouches, as she would stay on my lap comfortably for a long time.  She was still rather shy with others, but was getting more comfortable all the time.

Then, BARC built a play room, so we were able to interact inside the room.  The first time I took her in the room, I realized the space was too big and overwhelming for her.  She just wanted to stay on my lap.  I started to work with her inside a doggie x-pen so she could get used to the space a little at a time.  Over some time, I started to open the door of the x-pen and she got used to the rest of the space.

As she got used to being in the space, she began to really enjoy it, jumping and playing and running from one end of the space to the other.
Other people began to be able to play with her and pet her more and more, and it started to feel like her day was coming soon for her to find a forever home.  Her cage buddy Aladdin (a kitty who was also very shy, who I had worked with along with Sarah) had been adopted and now it was her turn.  A couple actually had adopted both Sarah and Aladdin briefly a ways before that, but they were not quite patient enough to continue their socialization process, so they had returned them.  Anyway, it felt like Sarah's time should be soon.

My BARC friend Mary, who does a wonderful job with adoptions at BARC, called me one day and told me that a lovely couple (named Whitney and Matt) was interested in adopting Sarah.  They had another kitty, actually with similar markings to Aladdin, who they wanted a kitty friend for.  I spoke to Whitney to give them some tips on making Sarah comfortable, and for introducing the two cats, and told them I would be delighted to come over and give some advice in person as well.

On my first visit to Sarah's new home, I knew that she had ended up in the right place.  I actually knew that beforehand, but was reassured meeting the people in person and seeing the whole situation.  They had a cage set up for her for a safe space, but Sarah was already so interested in exploring her new space that she was not spending too much time in there!

I knew that the people were going to give Sarah a great home and that she was starting to connect with them really well right away.  The whole place was set up beautifully for the kitties' comfort, and the layout would work out really well to be able to keep the kitties separate at first and let them get used to each other gradually.
Over the next weeks and months, I made a number of visits to see Sarah, and each time saw things evolving really well.  Sarah has formed a very strong bond with Whitney and Matt, and I felt her getting closer and closer to them, and responding to me less, which is just how it should be. 

Sarah is a real lap kitty with them, very affectionate and loving.  It is such a joy to see this bond.  And I feel myself letting go, though of course I know she and I will always be connected in our hearts.

The relationship with her new brother Nero has taken a little time, but has been getting better and better, thanks to a lot of love and sensitivity and work on the part of Whitney and Matt.

Everyone now actually sleeps on the bed together, and Sarah and Nero are hanging out peacefully near each other more and more often.  Which is just great!

Sarah with Nero
A week ago I went to see them, and I decided in the next appointment, it would be great to do a dedicated Reiki session with both cats.  Most of my sessions before that had been more just visiting and hanging out, doing a bit of TTouch and discussing things having to do with acclimating the cats to each other, etc.

Sarah with Nero

Today when I arrived at their apartment, I sat down on the floor and let the kitties figure out where they wanted to be for the session.  Nero settled on a chair near me, and began to settle into the energy right away.  Sarah took a bit of time, first going into the window, then into a sun patch near me.  She kept coming to me intermittently to nuzzle my hand just as she used to do.
Then she meowed in a way that made me wonder if I should go sit on the couch to see if she would join me.
Sure enough, she jumped right into my lap and stayed there for the rest of the session.  I felt her sink into the energy in layers, getting deeper and deeper and deeper.  The room was filled with Reiki energy and a feeling of harmony.  Nero was snoozing comfortably, totally sinking into it.  And I felt my heart and Sarah's heart completely connected. 

Connected in the way we used to be when we were together at the shelter, though of course it was different now.  I felt some images go through my mind of some of the times there.  And then we were present together there in the room.  I told her silently how happy I was for her.  That this was her home, that this was her place.  That she was so loved here, that she was safe here.  And that I would always love her.  That her dear soul would always be in my heart.  And I thanked her for her love, all the love that she has given me. And all that she has taught me. And I felt so much gratitude from her.

When Whitney came back in the room, Sarah went back into her lap, which again was just as it should be.  But I will feel that experience of togetherness with her, that unity with her in her new environment, and the bond that I have with her that is beyond time and space.
 Sarah with Whitney
Thank you so much, Whitney and Matt, for giving little Sarah (Bea) such a loving home.  I am so grateful for you, and look forward to continuing updates.  And thanks also to BARC Shelter and those who work with BARC, for taking her and so many other animals in, and giving them so much love and care.
Sarah and Nero

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Update on Alison at BARC Shelter

Alison is a lovely cat who I worked with at BARC (read post to end for update!).  She had been rescued from outside and brought in by a kind volunteer.  Alison was really scared being in the shelter, and not happy being around other cats.  I worked with her very slowly with Reiki and TTouch.  The Reiki I was doing mostly from a short distance away, and TTouches I began using tools such as a back scratcher, and eventually had been able to have more contact directly with my hands.

When I last wrote, Alison was really coming out of her shell with me.  She was really comfortable with me while I worked with her within the cage.  However, I knew that the next step was helping her to be more comfortable in a playroom.  BARC had a larger-size playroom, which was really scary to Alison.  I took her in a number of times, and she would eventually settle to some degree with Reiki, but it was overwhelming and hard for her to be at ease there.

Recently BARC built a second, smaller playroom and I had a feeling that would work really well for her.  Alison could see it being built from her cage and I kept telling her how wonderful and cozy it would be.

The moment I took her in the new playroom, she seemed right at home.  I let her settle in a bit, and it wasn't too long before I was getting the same ease that she had in her cage, purring and coming to me for TTouch and Reiki, and eventually getting in my lap as well. 

The day when I took these pictures, I was so happy to feel her being so at ease.  I felt such a connection of love and joy with her.  And to have her get in my lap for a cuddle was just so sweet.  It made me smile later on just to think of it, and just thinking of it made me feel that experience all over again.
Being able to work with her in the small playroom really helped her get to another level in her ease with people and ease in being in a room, which of course is more akin to a home environment.

And Alison to become comfortable with contact with other people when she was in there.  She began initiating contact more and more, and asking for cuddles, etc. when in there.

When a positive momentum like this gets going, I usually start feeling that it is going to be her time to go home soon.  Of course, there is plenty of wishful thinking in there as well.  But you can imagine my delight when Mary, who does a wonderful job with adoptions at BARC, called me with news that Alison would be going home with two lovely people.
I thought it might take a while for Alison to get acclimated in a new environment with new people, so I made a list of tips for her new people to help her feel nice and cozy.
I was filled with joy to see photos posted on Instagram within a day that showed Alison making herself right at home!!
Many thanks to her adopters for taking this beautiful girl in, I know her inner and outer beauty will flourish in your home.  And thank you to BARC for taking Alison in and giving her this chance to have the loving home she deserves (and for making the great playrooms for the cats!). xxoo

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Soothing a Traumatized Cat: TTouch, Reiki, Play and Treats with Sylvie at Downtown Veterinary Clinic

Sylvie is a beautiful black cat with tabby markings and a silvery-white undercoat, hence her name Sylvie.  She was abandoned in the Chelsea area of Manhattan in a roller suitcase.  A security guard found her and brought her to Downtown Veterinary Clinic, where they kindly took her in.  She is living in their office roaming free in a quiet room downstairs from the treatment rooms. 

Sylvie was OK with the people when she first arrived, but after initially not minding being handled (probably frozen and in shock), she became defensive and would swat and hiss at people and other animals.  There is another cat who is living in the room with her at present, Mama Cat, who is very friendly, but Sylvie is afraid of her.  The clinic asked if I would come to work with her.  Above is a photo of her early on, not such a happy camper!  but, things got better . . .

Initially, Sylvie hissed at me when I walked towards her and said a gentle hello, but I just sat quietly near her and began to let Reiki flow.  After a bit, I started to see her relax her body and her face.  I felt her taking the energy in, and saw her do a few sighs as she relaxed and got herself into a more comfortable position.

In the second session with her, perhaps a week later, I started out by connecting with Sylvie with Reiki again, and then decided to try some TTouch with her.  She was facing away from me at that time, which can either be comfortable for them, or can be a position which is too surprising for them to be touched.  So I started by doing some “air TTouches” (doing the circular motion of the TTouches, but off the body), and then began to do some TTouches on the top of her head.  Initially she hissed, but after a couple of the circular motions, she settled into it.  As she got more relaxed, I was slowly able to transition to using my hand to do the TTouches.  I would pause every now and then to let her process and to assess whether I should continue or stop.  She continued to relax into the TTouches.  I was surprised to actually be working hands-on with her so soon. 
At one point during a pause, she turned herself around to face me.  I decided to see if she would be comfortable with me approaching her.  I started again with the paintbrush.  I think this time I was using the handle of the brush.  I often try different surfaces of a tool to see what the animal is most comfortable with.  And after a while, again I was able to transition to TTouching with my hand.  I was working on the head, forehead and back of the neck, and eventually tried some TTouches around the outside of the mouth, cheeks and under the chin, and she began leaning into my hands.  Wow! In those moments I felt her let her guard down and really connect with me.
Below is a clip of some of what happened during that session.

In the next couple of sessions, I realized that I would need to take a step back from what had happened in that session.  I needed to take each session as a new event and really just be in the moment with her to see what she was comfortable with.  That is really what I do anyway, but what I mean is that sometimes one has to take some steps back before moving forward again.  Sometimes she was comfortable with TTouch, other times she just wanted me to sit close by and connect with Reiki.  I also would give her treats each time, which she loves.  Sometimes I would just put them on the ground and other times she would take them from my hand.  

Above: Sylvie with Cat Dancer (I later discovered she liked this in addition to the cat catcher)
I felt I wanted to throw something else into the mix to see what would happen.  It was time to see if Sylvie would play.  I brought with me a toy that most cats seem to really enjoy, called the Go Cat Cat Catcher.  It is a short wand with a wire and a mouse on the end of the wire.  The mouse looks pretty realistic, and I think the wire and the way it connects with the mouse does something special as well.  Anyway, I showed Sylvie the toy, and immediately she came down from her perch on top of a box and began to play with it.  The other cat, Mama Cat, came over too, so that was a bit of a challenge.  I would alternate between one cat and another, and would try to maneuver myself so I was staying in between the two cats to avoid trouble.  Mama didn’t have any problem with Sylvie getting close, but Sylvie would hiss and swat at Mama if she got too close.  I kept it short and sweet, and was delighted to see Sylvie actually playing, running and leaping in the air to get the mouse.  I think she surprised herself!
Later on, Sylvie jumped inside of a box that she likes, and I was able to continue playing with her there, without Mama getting into the mix.  So that worked very well. 
In sessions after that, I would often start by giving Sylvie a few treats.  I would generally put them on the ground, and then use a wooden craft stick (looks rather like the wooden sticks doctors use to look in your mouth, with rounded ends) to do Ttouches on her head, and then eventually her body.  More recently, I have been able to directly TTouch her head and her body while she is doing this. 

After that, if she seems interested in play, we will do that.  Or if she seems more in relaxed mode, we will do some Reiki and then some TTouch.  Generally with the TTouch these days, I have been using the wooden stick instead of the paintbrush, as that seems to be what she is comfortable with.  I start out by stroking her around the side of her face, and she leans into it.  Then I am slowly able to start TTouching around her head and eventually on her body with the stick.  Once she is comfortable with that, then I slowly transition to using my hand.  This usually means using one or two fingers initially to do the TTouches, and I am usually using the back surface of my fingers, which is a less invasive feeling than using front surfaces of my hand.  Or if she is not quite comfortable with my hand that day, I stay with the stick. Sometimes she is able to get really relaxed and completely lay into my hand.

 It makes me smile to look at these pictures and know that she can be this at ease.
And I know that in time, it will be easier for her to be able to get to this place, but it takes time, and patience.

The idea is to work very gradually, doing pauses, watching her body language and feeling what she is comfortable with.  Ideally it is great to stop before she feels uncomfortable, but in any event, if I see something that tells me she is uncomfortable, I pause and give her a break.  Sometimes I can start again, other times it is better to either give her a longer break, or stop for the day, or back off of direct contact and either do some gentle energy work, or if it seems that she is in a playing mode, we will do that.  I use a lot of positive visualization with her as well, seeing her as confident and relaxed.

One day after a play session, Sylvie ended up settling right near where I was sitting.  It seemed that she felt safe there. 
I just sat quietly and offered her Reiki for a while.

Mama had been playing with us as well (I was sitting in between them and playing with one, and then the other), and later on there was a point where they were laying very near each other, and both seemed pretty comfortable.  This was great to see!

Sometimes Sylvie looks straight at me as if to check in with me, and I tell her that everything is all right.

Below is a clip which shows some of what we have been doing over the past few weeks.

With every session, she is getting more comfortable with me, and during most of the sessions, she is comfortable with me doing quite a lot of direct TTouch.  What usually happens these days is that I will begin the TTouch with the stick for a few minutes, then quite quickly transition to touching her with my hands. 
Sometimes she is inside a cardboard box, which is one of her safe hidey places, so I might just do Reiki with her if she is in there, or stroke her with a stick while giving treats, as she is not so sure about being touched when she is in there.
It is all about being sensitive to the moment, and to what she is ready to do at that time.  Sometimes I will nudge a bit at the edges, but I will err on the side of caution so there is less possibility of her being frightened.  Even on the days when she feels more like being in the box than coming out and interacting, now she will look at me with a more open and trusting expression.

Her whole facial expression and demeanor has started to change.  Her face is much more open and relaxed, and I feel more trust from her all the time.  It is wonderful to feel her becoming more and more comfortable.
The staff have started to be able to interact with her a bit, and my friend Carol, who is a wonderful trainer who works at the office, has been doing play sessions with her, so that is great.
I am so grateful to the clinic for rescuing her and for their kindness and care, and look forward to continued sessions with her!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Buddy and Jayne at Bideawee: The Importance of Play

Buddy and Jayne

Generally the work I do is focused on helping the animals relax, but sometimes taking a different tack and connecting through play can provide another way to connect with an animal, and at times can prompt a breakthrough.  Buddy and Jayne reminded me of this the other day...

Buddy and Jayne are two very shy cats at Bideawee who I have been working with for a while.  Jayne is semi-feral, and Buddy is not feral but quite shy.  Buddy and Jayne have been in the same room at Bideawee for a while, and there have been a few other cats who have come and gone from that room as they have been adopted.  At the moment they share the room with a sweet senior kitty, Calliope.  All three cats coexist peacefully, though Buddy does try to steal Calliope's food!

Both Buddy and Jayne initially would hide inside the litter bench a good deal of the time.  Now Jayne spends most of the time out in the open, and Buddy is out most of the time, but Buddy will still usually head for the litter bench when someone enters the room.

Buddy knows me well and is really friendly with me now.  He comes running up to me when I come in the room.  If he is in the litter bench and hears my voice, he comes running or rolling out of the litter bench to see me.  Jayne is still quite reserved, but progressing slowly and steadily.  She seems to really enjoy being nearby, and often I will sit in the room and share Reiki with all three cats, and she is quite comfortable with that.  At times I can do TTouch directly with my hand with her, at other times I need to use a tool such as a feather or paintbrush or the like.
Reiki with Calliope (calico), Jayne and Buddy

The other day I had been working with all three cats in there, and I picked up a toy that Calliope usually likes - a toy with a long stick and shiny strands coming off of the end.  Calliope was not in the mood, as she was more in sleepy mode, but Buddy and Jayne were both looking at me to see what would happen next.

I have never seen Buddy play, and I don't think I have seen Jayne really play, though once in a while she will hit a little ball around, just a bit, so she may do that when people are not around.

Buddy and Jayne were both underneath a cat tree,  so I started to move the toy near one cat, and then the other.  And they both started to play with the toy.  Both of them started to roll and scamper around in such a relaxed and joyful way that I had never seen before with either of them. 
After a while, Buddy came out from under the cat tree and stood up on his hind legs to catch the toy.  I am so used to seeing Buddy very low to the ground, this was really different!
Buddy looking up, about to leap up at the stick toy

This was such a delight to see, I felt my heart opening as I felt a huge energetic feeling of opening happening in the room.  I felt such joy as I saw Buddy leaping for the toy, and Jayne rolling onto her back and stretching and reaching for the toy.  The free feeling of seeing them playful, unafraid, happily engaged in play.  It was such a beautiful, spontaneous thing that unfortunately I didn't get video of it, just a few quick still shots which you see above, but hopefully I will next time! 
That night, as I went to sleep, I still could picture the two of them rolling and scampering around, and it made me feel such joy in my heart.  I felt again that beautiful sense of opening.  I can't wait to see them again - maybe next time we will get Calliope to join in a bit!