Skip the Stuffing. Let’s Get Reeeal.

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The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there … – “A Visit from St. Nicholas” by Clement Clarke Moore, 1779 – 1863

Happy Holidays, friends!

I hope this finds you and yours well.  Here on the wild, wild West Coast we are dodging wildfires, doing our best to stay safe and sane, helping a senior cat recover from a recent seizure, and remembering to laugh at life.  More on all of that in another post 😉 …

Today I wanna talk about some positive things that we can all relate to: eating delicious goodies, de-stressing, and family fun!

Ok, that sounds really cheesy, but hear me out.

The holidays can be hectic in most homes.  Families have freak-outs.  Pets get stressed.  We all need emotional and physical releases, right?  So why not eat goodies, have fun, and de-stress all at the same time … Together?!?

That’s what we do in our dojo.

This short post serves to show you how to do just that!  I know I can get wordy, but don’t worry; this will be a short post.  There are some fun videos in here, so grab your pup, parrot, pussycat, or piglet and get ready to try something new!


“Life always begins with one step outside of your comfort zone.”
― Shannon L. Alder


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Hocus at her toy box as an adolescent pup

We see them everywhere.  Those plush, adorable, colorful stocking stuffers.  They seem to be literally everywhere we look this time of year.

I have to admit; they are hard to pass up.  We used to give our canine companion all kinds of stuffed toys for Christmas.  Most of my clients and family offer them to their pups as well.  There’s nothing inherently wrong with it, but it can pose a danger.  No matter how adorable that stuffed dog toy is, chances are, some part of it will wind up inside your dog. Hopefully it will make it’s way out the other end.

But sometimes it doesn’t make it out.

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Skip the Usual Stuffing.

I have a suggestion.  This holiday season, instead of offering them the usual stuffed toy, consider offering your companion animals something REAL.  -Something they would choose over and over again, if given the choice.  Consider offering your animal companion something more natural, and more to their liking.

Stuff their stockings with a new treat this year!

The safest and healthiest option is to offer what your omnivore or carnivore really wants:  Stuffed Body Parts.

You read that correctly.  We offer body parts to our pets. 😉

Hear me out, before you get totally grossed out.  Body Parts are Natural Chews.  You can view some of the ones we use here: BODY PARTS (aka Natural Chews) .   As they state, it’s nothing but the good stuff!  No preservatives, salt, wheat, corn, or sugar!  Nothing that has ever been on the continent of Asia.  No rawhide. They are easily digestible and safe for all ages.  And the animals absolutely love them!

But we don’t just offer those natural chews, willy nilly.  We stuff and freeze them. It makes them last much longer, and it’s a tool that we use to modify behavior, prevent problem behaviors, and tap into their innate instinct to CHEW!

You can watch me quickly create one of these stuffed chew toys here:

  • Prep time:  2 minutes
  • Total time to make:  3 minutes
  • Freeze time:  2 hours
  • Time it takes most pups to eat it:  45 min – hour
  • Win-win for everyone in our home and neighborhood 😉

If that video was too fast for you to see how to create these stuffed chews, here is another video of me making one, but with a Kong.


If you still have to get gifts or stocking stuffers for the animal companions in your life, consider skipping the toys filled with cotton stuffing.  They are quickly and easily “disemboweled”. They often end up going in one end of the dog and end up (hopefully!) coming out the other.

In the pic below  is one example of me coming home to see that Hocus Pocus had disemboweled her stuffed toys, beds, and other items when she was a wee lass.  (a very common result from boredom and frustration).  And of course, King Albert was there on standby watching the storm.

Now we know better, so we do better. 😉

Hocus and Albert
We call this one “Hurricane Hocus”

 


“Many times what we perceive as an error or failure is actually a gift. Eventually we find that lessons learned from that discouraging experience prove to be of great worth.” ― Richelle E. Goodrich, Smile Anyway


 

Instead of offering toys filled with cotton or polyester stuffing, consider gifting them REAL, natural goodies such as organic raw bones, yummy natural high-protein treats, and stimulating puzzle toys and Kongs!  They last much longer than the usual stuffed toy, and they encourage natural canine chewing and foraging behaviors.


The same goes for your feline family members.  Cats are predators.  Period.  Portions of their natural diet consists of hard bones.  Those lizards, birds, snakes, and frogs aren’t filled with air, folks.  Even if your cat lives indoors, he/she still craves these things.

And they are healthy tools!

Bones clean tartar and help to maintain healthy teeth and gums.  Since most indoor cats don’t have access to bones, veterinarians recommend them as a treat.  But, be careful not to give your cat pork, chicken or fish bones.  These could splinter and cause severe internal injures.  Raw bones are also better than cooked ones, since they are less likely to splinter.

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Clearly this is an exaggeration, but cats DO love bones!

Tooth decay and gum disease have been linked to heart, kidney, and other serious chronic illnesses in cats.  Many cats do not show obvious signs of discomfort until they’re in considerable pain.  Don’t wait until your cat shows signs of distress to have his teeth checked out.  Start now by offering them healthy, safe chew items.  Always consult your feline veterinarian.

You can view Knox Zydeco enjoying a natural chew “toy” here:


You can also view Knox enjoying a raw bone in this video (here)!

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Real Meat is Required. 

I get it; the idea seems gross to most.  Being a borderline vegan-vegetarian, I understand. But I used to be a zookeeper, so I am well desensitized to all of this. – Crocodiles, lions, tigers, komodos, and jaguars ate whole carcasses!  It’s natural.  Our feline family members may chill on our couches, but they are not far removed from their wild ancestors; they need these items in their diet.  If you don’t believe me, check out what the experts have to say.


Tap Into Natural Behaviors!

If you are completely incapable of even considering the idea of offering stuffed body parts to your pets, at least consider offering them toys that tap into their natural instincts!  I have written about this topic at great length before; cats need to have outlets to express their natural behaviors!  If there’s a cat on your Christmas gift list, go for toys that stimulate his hunting instincts! Or how about a new stimulating scratching surface?  You can also consider a toy that allows you to interact with him and gives him some exercise at the same time, like a laser beam toy (that always ends with a food reward) or a feather teaser like Da Bird.

Consider toys that stimulate their natural instincts!

Offer a toy that allows your kitty or ferret to chase and hunt!  Offer a new “approved” scratching surface, window seat, or cat tower!  Consider getting your cat a toy that allows you to interact with him or her, while giving your feline friend some exercise at the same time. If you need some ideas, HausPanther has a new 2017 Holiday Gift Guide for Cats and their people!

This holiday season is an opportunity for you to give them this gift!

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Feathered Friends!

Let’s not forget our feathered friends this holiday season!  But don’t let those flirtatious faces and colorful feathers fool you.  Parrots are not domesticated animals. Cats, dogs, and horses have been selectively bred for qualities that enable them to live more harmoniously among humans.  Parrots are exotic, and by definition, are not a species indigenous to the U.S.  Companion parrots have the same instinctual needs as their wild counterparts. Your parrot may live in a cage at home with you, but his mind and body are just as wild as the green-winged macaw that’s flying free in the tropical rainforests of Central and South America.   Parrots bred in captivity have the same instinctive physical and behavioral needs of parrots living in the wild.  Offering natural chews helps them to better adapt to life in captivity!

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The Crab nut and fruit toy

For the feathered family member, consider these “real” stocking suffers from our friends and colleagues at The Leather Elves:

 

 

 

 

 


Interactive Toys Are a Necessity!

For companion animals, and all exotic animals in captivity, toys are not a luxury, but a necessity.  Interactive Toys are vital to their well-being.  They prevent boredom and frustration when you have to leave your companion alone at home.  They provide comfort when they need it.  They are a great outlet for excessive energy!  Toys can even help prevent your pup, pussycat, parrot, pig, or poison dart from from developing unwanted/unhealthy “problem” behaviors.  If there’s a feline, canine, parrot or ferret on your holiday gift list, get real and go natural this year!

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Safety First!

Regardless of what natural item you offer as a gift this year, remember that we need to be particularly careful when monitoring playtime to prevent any “unauthorized” activities and to ensure safety.  Always monitor the animal when they are exploring, eating, or playing with these new items.


Let’s Get Real.

As I have stated before:

… considering the high number of unhealthy pets in homes, increasing behavioral problems, and animals surrendered to shelters every week, I say we aren’t doing enough enrichment.  But we can change this.  And when we do it will shift everything.  Not only will we shift the energy within the animal, which will result in healthier bodies and minds, but we will create a more empowered way of living for each animal within the home.  We will also shift the energy between guardians and the animals.

So as you are out and about this holiday season, consider how you can offer a unique experience for you and your animal family members.  Think outside the box!  Create fun and long-lasting memories that will enrich everyone’s lives!


“Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before! What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas… perhaps… means a little bit more!” ― Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas!


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Recommended Related Reading!

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  2. Recommended toys
  3. Making toys last

A Fear-Free 4th?

“Fear is a stranger to the ways of love.

 – A Course In Miracles

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A Peaceful Sunset Near Our Home

Happy July!

Wow.  How are we already past the midway point of 2017!?

Hello Summer! And hello to you!

It’s been 3 months since I shared here.  So much has happened since the last post .  After our beloved King Albert transitioned into Spirit, life has been a roller coaster of sorts.  Saying goodbye to him was a heartbreaking and familiar path, but this time the path was paved with life-changing insights and experiences.  So much love, learning, healing, and growth has happened in the process.

But that’s not what I am sharing with you today.

As I discussed in an earlier post, my life and work is now a blend of science, metaphysics, and spirituality.  My last post was a bit of both, and rather lengthy.  Today’s post is science-based and short-n-sweet to save us all time. 😉

Let’s get to it!

The fourth of July (and Canada Day) are almost here.  If you have been following this blog since the get-go ,  you know that I write about this dreaded day at great length.  The 4th of July is a favorite day of celebration for many people, but let’s be honest:  It’s a day of terror for many animals.  The Fourth of July might as well be renamed “4th of July Fright Night”.

If your cat is cool with the cacophony of clangs, I commend him.  If your dog digs having strangers over with a symphony of explosions, and scary sights and scents, I bow down to her.  If your parrot, ferret, pig, or horse is unphased by the big bad booms around their dojo, they are the minority.

Most animal companions are not cool with the Fourth of July.

If you have worked with or lived with an animal, you know that most are frightened of loud or startling noises.  Even the ones who enjoy being around new people can be pushed to their limit.  Strangers in your home during the holiday can stress out even the most subdued souls.

Even if your animal companion has not displayed fear around these family events before, the sights, scents, and sounds on The Fourth of July could easily bring out their most intense fears.  And these fears don’t pass after the festivities are over; they can manifest as physical issues well after the event.

It can be a living nightmare for many.

💥 So, what’s a devoted animal guardian to do?!?
–> BE AWARE.
–> PLAN.
–> PREPARE.
💥


Here’s the Good News: Family festivities on the 4th of July don’t have to become Fright Night to our animal companions!  There are many things that you can do to help your animal family members successfully cope with the Big Bad Booms and Bangs!💥

Let’s Get to Sharing!

Below are resources that I have been sharing like wildfire for weeks on our Instagram Twitter, and Facebook pages. Check em out!  And if you have friends, family, or colleagues that would benefit from this information, by all means, share it!

“For it is in giving that we receive.” ― Francis of Assisi

Last weekend,  a gifted colleague and I gathered forces to create a live call-in event for families.  The intent was to empower people and their pets by sharing tools, tips, and techniques, and also to dispel myths.  This event was created to help animal guardians across the country to prepare for the Night of Assault on the Senses.

It was a huge success.

Countless people had NO CLUE that it’s really OK to comfort the animal when they are afraid; how and why food can and should be used as a tool to modify fear;  why medication is often very helpful;  holistic tools that actually work; how to identify and create safe hide outs; why play is powerful.

All of these topics were new to many.

People were so relieved to learn that they do have the power to help their pets!  People learned how and why these tools are vital to having a night that’s fear-free on the 4th of July.  During the live event we discussed:

  • Sight, Scent, Sound, and Tactile senses 101
  • How & Why we should desensitize them to loud noises NOW
  • Signs of Stress in parrots, cats, and dogs
  • How to properly use FOOD to modify fear 🥓
  • Why cats behave certain ways when they feel threatened
  • What you can provide to help them feel safe and secure
  • Why “bolt holes” are critical for dogs and cats
  • Holistic Tools to use
  • Why you might want to consider contacting your vet now
  • How your energy affects your animal companions
  • Why Acepromazine should NOT be used
  • Why we SHOULD comfort the animal when they are afraid
  • How enrichment activities calm the mind
  • Why we want to Dial UP the Dopamine
  • How to prepare your home for safety & security
  • Why we need to create an “Energy Hangover” environment  after the 4th to prevent trigger stacking

 

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Identifying AND providing “safe places” and “bolt holes” is essential!

If you missed the live event, you can listen to the replay:

✳  via Dropbox
✳ via Free Conference call

 

 

After the call,  I complied a list of Positive Resources for Animal Guardians.  The intent was to provide free resources to help families across the country to have a Fear-Free 4th. If you are interested, you are welcome to  download the PDF and share it with others.

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So that’s some of what’s been on my mind the past couple of weeks, which is why I was motivated to share with you today.   I hope this is helpful.   And I hope you know that it is possible to have a Fear-Free Fourth of July.

You can do this!

If you have questions or concerns, shoot me an email, or comment below. 🙂

Good Vibes Only_Conscious Companion


For those of you who are new to this blog, welcome! I am so grateful you are here! For those of you who have been here since the beginning, and for those who are interested, here are some other exciting projects in the works:

  • I am closer to completing my first children’s book (gah!)
  • A video series on how to positively leash train cats of all ages & stages via force-free techniques (with an emphasis on senior and geriatric cats!)
  • Kids-In-Cali Animal Communication workshops
  • Dog and Kid Safety workshops for our Marines at Camp Pendelton
  • A video series on assisting aging cats with force-free medical care at home
  • Connecting with Animals on the Other Side – a complimentary program for pet parents who are struggling with death, loss, and grief
  • Empaths with Pets: how highly sensitive people can learn from their animal companions

As I am guided I will be sharing more about each of these with you here in the future.  In the meantime, check out these free resources so you and your beloveds can have a Fear-Free 4th of July together! 🎉

With infinite Love and Gratitude,

Amy and the animal menagerie🐾


Knowledge is power.  Information is liberating.  Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family. -Kofi Annan

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Carlsbad Beach

The Never Ending (Moving) Story

“When efforts that are wisely executed, the situation and condition don’t affect the performance.” ― A.Patel

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The long road less traveled on our Big Move with the Animal Menagerie

We have arrived in California!  Finally.  1.1 humans, 3.0 felines, 0.1 canine, 0.0.8 plants, and 0.0.2 vehicles  made it safely from the east coast to the west coast!  It only took us a MONTH to move out of our home in VA, drive across the country, and move into our home here in Cali, but we are here. And everyone is doing very well.

We must have had Falkor with us in spirit on our move out here because we had a lot of luck, magic, and miracles along the road less traveled.  We also had a lot of patience, gratitude, and very successful animal menagerie management tools and techniques at play.

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This is going to be a quick post, because we have been going nonstop since we got here, and we still have much more to do.  But I wanted to at least update my readers because you are dear to me.  Plus with all that is going down in the world, I wanted to share some Love Light.


I Proved Myself Wrong – In the Best Way Possible

I don’t like to prove others (or myself) wrong, but here goes.  Do you remember how scared I was about the move?  Did you read the post about how I was allowing ALL my fears to take over all of my perceptions of what would happen?  Well, that was a huge waste of energy. None of that happened.

But some other major mishaps did happen.

Here’s the abbreviated Bad News from our laborious move out West:

  • The moving company packed up our household goods (everything) out of our home, then moved it all into storage (unbeknownst to us for several weeks).
  • I lost my voice on Day One of The Drive. Then that evening I had full blown flu-like symptoms.
  • Knox Zydeco decided that riding in a car was no longer an option for him anymore. In fact, it was one of the most terrifying experiences of his life (We discovered this within minutes of leaving our temporary hotel in VA and setting out on the road.)
  • Albert managed to escape from a 4 inch gap in my car window and walk around my family’s cemetery while I was paying respects.
  • One of our cars broke down at 10:30 at night while driving through the Texas desert.
  • We lived out of 8 different hotels across the country for 24 days.
  • Once we arrived in Cali the movers took another 8 days to get here so we stayed in another hotel for a week.

Good times.

But that’s not where the seemingly never-ending moving story ends. There’s more. If you have been following this blog, then you know that I always focus on the positive in life and especially with our animal companions.  

So… Here’s the abbreviated GOOD News from our Big Move:

  • Our feline veterinarian was absolutely incredible at immediately responding to and diagnosing Knox’s Full-On-Freak-Out while we were in transit.
  • We now know how incredibly helpful (and safe) the right medications can be for fearful cats. And we learned that these are the same meds that people are prescribed for panic attacks and anxiety! (more to come on this important topic ).
  • I learned why one should never have a deep healing acupuncture session prior to moving across country (hence the flu-like symptoms).
  • Hocus Pocus had zero aggression, frustration or fear reactivity issues. I am so proud of her!
  • Our senior kitty boys were total rock stars; Beaux and Albert both did exceptionally well on the long 11 hour drives each day. And King Albert’s health challenges did not cause him any noticeable duress.
  • I was able to  visit my Cherokee ancestors’ royalty resting grounds (while Albert was busy escaping and roaming around the cemetery).
  • The animals were incredibly tolerant, patient, and calm in the many hotels, long road days, and with me being unwell the entire time.
  • There were no spats or fights (between the people or pets)! Not even a single swat or hiss.
  • There was only one (appropriate) growl from Hocus the ENTIRE time. (I will talk about close-quarter management techniques in another post.)
  • None of the animals became injured, lost, sick, or any other horrible scenario I had imagined. (Although, Albert was a close call).
  • My animal communication skills were put to the test and I passed with flying colors.
  • We all grew closer together during this trial.
  • Everyone did exceptionally well, considering how hard it was on all of us for such a long time.
  • They have all settled into our new home and are far exceeding what I thought they were capable of.
  • Everyone is thriving!

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It’s All Been Worth the Time and Effort!

All of the techniques, tools, and behavior modification methods I have learned over the years of being an animal trainer, pet parent, and animal behavior consultant came into play during this long transition.  The methods I share with you and use with my clients were all put to the test.  Including some I had never tried before!  They were such a huge success.

All of my efforts have paid off.  What I thought was impossible was possible.  I didn’t believe the cats or canine were capable of coping.  I had anticipated the worst, but each of them found their way to SHINE during a very difficult and long process.  Each of them adjusted, adapted, and   They proved all of us wrong.  They were total champs.  At times they even seemed to understand that we were all in this together.

I am still in awe of them.  Conscious Companion 2016 Road trip

But that’s all I am going to write about for now.  In the near future I will be sharing with you how I was able to create and maintain safety, peace, and harmony during the Long Haul with each of the animals. I will also share how we have been able to help each of them to settle into our new dojo with flying colors (and with no flying fur!).  I can’t wait to tell you all about everything that’s working, and the new tools I have discovered. These tips and techniques will make such a huge difference for you and your companion animals.


Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.-Robert Collier


In Other News

I hope those of you in the U.S. and Canada enjoyed (and survived) the recent independence holidays. We are still experiencing bomb-like-fireworks nightly here, so we are continuing to help the animals cope with that.  If you need some suggestions to help your pets with post-Independence day celebrations, check out this post and this one as well.

If you were affected by the tragic events in Orlando (my hometown), my heart goes out to you.  Our friends and family still live there, so this really hit home for us. My mother was able to send her team of therapy dogs to help the first responders from that event. You can read about that here.   Now they are visiting with the Orlando community as their team is able, helping so many to heal.

Also, if you or anyone you know are either a HSP or an Empath, this Instagram page might be helpful.  As we move forward in the world, and as I continue to share here, I will spread as much love and light as I can.  With all of the drama, anger, and sadness we are witnessing unfolding in the world right now, we need more love.  We must uplift and love one another. When the world appears dark, we need to be The Light.  Remember that our animal companions are such perfect teachers for this.  They are pure unconditional love.

“There are darknesses in life and there are lights, and you are one of the lights, the light of all lights.” ― Bram Stoker, Dracula


OH! Before I go, I wanted to share one more inspiring thing with you.  Here’s the view from our new backyard.  Gah! Can you smell the salt air and feel the sand between your toes??

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Well, I am off the watch tonight’s sunset. So Much love to you and yours!


“May it be a light to you in dark places, when all other lights go out.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring