That’s my girl. My sunshine. My Smile. My whole heaping heart.
When I am down, she lifts me. When I am frustrated she waits for me to become clear. When I am sad she feels it. When my boundaries are out of bounds, she reflects this back to me. When I need space, she gives it. When I grieve, she is near. When I need a nudge to get out of my own way, she gently pushes. When I am stuck in the muck of my mind she pulls me out of it.
We walk. We run. We explore. We laugh. We play. We let go.
She is a light in the dark. She is a rock when I need rest. She is unconditional love when I am forgetting to love. She is an angel disguised as a dog.
But most of all, she is my Joy.
I share this with you because we all need someone or something in our life who gives us these gifts. We all need moments of levity, laughter, and love … 24/7.
We need to remember there are beloveds by our side who are always holding space for our well-being. These beloveds – if we let them – can help our mental, emotional, and physical health, especially during these trying times.
The little conversation, well is over very soon And I watch in admiration from my corner of the room And they shine on you with starry eyes and they rain a friendly storm
It’s time we pay closer attention. If health concerns can be ruled out, there could be other conversations at hand. That persistent nudge; the constant chuffing; the incessant meowing; that annoying winning; the gentle tugging; those pleading soulful eyes … are all an invitation.
We often dismiss these behaviors or label them as irritating, annoying or distracting, but what if these behaviors attempting to get your attention are more than what they appear to be? What if sometimes they are an invitation to get up, move about, rethink, readjust, reevaluate, shift our energy, or get out of our own way? What if these behaviors were reflecting back to you, what you need in that very moment?
Sure, it could just be a singular desire or need our animal family members are exhibiting: Maybe he has to pee. Maybe she’s bored. Maybe he’s frustrated. Maybe she’s hungry. Maybe he wants the cake you left on the kitchen counter. Of course, these are all perfectly logical explanations for various behaviors. And if you read this post, then you know that pain is a very common medical issue that can create or exacerbate behavior problems in our animal companions.
But what if sometimes, it’s also you, their guardian?
What if our furry, feathered, and scaly friends and family members are more in tune with us than we can possibly imagine? What if they can read us like an open book? What if our behavior, emotions, and energy are a beacon to them? What if our sh*tty mood is a shout-out? What if they instinctively and intuitively knew what we need in that moment? What if they truly wanted the best for us always?
If you knew this was true, how would you respond? What would you do? Would your choices be influenced? Would your behavior change? Would your emotions change?
It’s worth considering.
And it’s worth questioning everything. –Every thought. Every belief. Every emotion.
My Cherokee heritage teaches (much like some of the eastern philosophies) that nothing outside of us is separate from us. They believe that the world which appears to be outside is merely a mirror, reflecting back to us. It’s taken me years to even consider this as a possibility, but I am starting to see. I am questioning everything, and staying open with a curious mind. I invite you to stay open and stay curious too, especially when it comes to your critters. 😉
“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. Never lose a holy curiosity.” ― Albert Einstein
All philosophy set aside, we have incredible beings by our side who are ready, willing, and able to pull us out of the swamps of sadness. We have loved ones who may annoy the crap out of us sometimes, but there is a method in the madness. The only thing we need to do is open the invitation we’ve been given. Just being willing to look at something from a different perspective can change our worlds. Our furry family members (and Mother Nature) have helped me to better recognize when I need to shift my mood, my mind, my thoughts, and my behavior. Sometimes I have to get pulled hard by them, dragging and screaming, but eventually I see clearly.
Seasonal Affective Disorder
Other than the incredible colors of Autumn, like many people, I really dislike the time change. As the days get shorter and the long, dark nights of late fall and winter settle in, many folks find their mood getting darker, too. As someone who dealt with depression for two thirds of my life, I have incredible empathy for souls who get sad. And at this time of year we see more of it.
Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide
It’s a major contributor to the overall global burden of disease.
More women are affected by depression than men.
Over 16 million people in the U.S. (6.7 percent of the pop) experience more than one episode of major depression during a year.
A further 5 percent live with seasonal affective disorder (SAD), or seasonal depression.
The symptoms of SAD are so similar to those of depression that it can sometimes be hard to distinguish between the two. SAD, also known as winter blues, typically affects women. In fact, 4 in 5 people with the condition are women, and the reasons for this predisposition are likely to be genetic. However, while some people are genetically prone to the condition, they resist the environmental factors that might trigger it.
I laughed out loud when I read those symptoms, because who doesn’t feel like that in the winter?!? Hell, I feel like that when the temp drops below 60! 😀 I mean, come on. Who wants to eat a carrot stick or bowl of broccoli when it’s cold and rainy?! And who doesn’t love to hibernate in the winter?!
All creatures want comfort when we are cold. We all want to feel good when we feel bad. And everyone has various methods for curing their ailments. The point is, it’s important to recognize when we are feeling down, and then do something about it. We gotta address the “down”.
Don’t Stay Stuck!
Wildfires, geopolitical insanity, and the fear-mongering the media sells, are all testing our resilience. But so can seasonal changes. Whether or not you’re affected by the weather, many are. So if we become aware of these seasonal challenges we can help others. There are four medical types of treatment for SAD:
Empaths feel things first, then think, which is the opposite of how most people function in our over-intellectualized society. – Dr. Judith Orloff
Even if you, your family member, coworkers, neighbors, or friends are not a HSP or an Empath, we all have emotional, physical, spiritual, and mental challenges. But we also have fabulously effective tools to Get Up and Get Out of our funk! If each person began practicing just one of those tools I listed above we’d feel better.
Here’s a helpful fact … Seasonal depression is caused by insufficient daylight, making the condition more widespread in countries that are farther from the Equator. A new study in Copenhagen, Denmark,has discovered the power of daylight as a natural antidepressant. (You can read the details in the journal European Neuropsychopharmacology.)
Daylight is effectively a natural antidepressant. Like many drugs currently used against depression, more daylight prevents serotonin from being removed from the brain.
So what does that research quote tell you? To me, it says that one of the most powerful (free) tools/resources we have to feel better, stay healthy, and increase our mental and emotional health is something we have access to every day … the sun. We all need to be outside more. We all need to play more. We all need to soak up the sun’s healing rays.
I wish we all would. Everyone. Every day.
Thankfully, our beloved Hocus Pocus and Mr. Beaux don’t let a single day go by without going outside. -Even when it’s the last thing I want to do But after I do go outside and have an adventure with them (even when it’s cold-as-all-get-out), I am so damn happy that I did. I am so unbelievably grateful they pulled me away from work, or out of my comfort zone to get outside and play. My energy and mood shifts completely.
And because We Are One, so does theirs 😉
Below is a video I was inspired to create after I had been in a heavy funk. Hocus, as always, (and unlike no other) once again, pulled me out of the muck of my mind with her puppy-like persuasive ways and means …
All I needed was the love you gave All I needed for another day And all I ever knew Only you
We all have natural healing tools available around the world. It’s quite true that “Nature Heals”. Our animal friends know this. Our bodies and brains crave daylight; this energy not only allows the body to release the “feel-good hormone”, serotonin, but walking outside during the day (even when it’s cold) will give you vital sun exposure.
And on an energetic level, it’s important to recognize that nature exists in a constant state of nonresistance. Mother Nature feels like home to many of us because her vibration is pure. 🌊 Our energy is most aligned to its highest and pure essence when we are immersed in nature. We are most grounded in nature. So are our animal friends.
They know this. They feel it, too.
But have you noticed that we also feel this way when we are in the presence of our animal companions? They are the embodiment of Unconditional Love!
Joy is our true state of being; all else is an illusion we’ve bought into. There’s nothing inherently “wrong” with this illusion, but is it how we really want to feel? Do we want to live life feeling down every day or do we want to be free?
I choose freedom.
I choose to remember that my beloveds want this for me, too. The ones we often take for granted are doing their best to help us. We can wake up from our funk when we start to realize that feeling joy, gratitude, and love, and being playful is our inherent nature. We can choose a new way of being every moment of the day.
We can get up and get outside. Right Now 😉
Be well. Be Kind. And be Good to each other. Stay open to miracles in the mind and remember to laugh and play, friends!
“She had not known the weight until she felt the freedom.” ― Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter
“The art of living… is neither careless drifting on the one hand nor fearful clinging to the past on the other. It consists in being sensitive to each moment, in regarding it as utterly new and unique, in having the mind open and wholly receptive.” ― Alan Wilson Watts
I hope this finds you well and at peace in all ways. Today I am inspired, so I Am guided to share something beautiful with you. My hope is that it will inspire you, too!
As I write this we are snuggled up with our fur fam while the wind and rain tap and dance wildly at the window panes. It’s quite a blustery day here in the new England area; something we never experienced on the west coast in southern California. But we always make the most of less than ideal circumstances. That’s been one of the most empowering lessons I’ve learned from my husband, Hocus Pocus, and the Kitty Boys. Rather than complaining, they accept. And may I dare say, embrace challenging circumstances at times?
“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.” ― Lao Tzu
I love that quote, even though I am not yet able to live my life that way every day. But I do know someone who does. You may have read about him before in this post, or this one. His name is Mr. Beaux. And he is my greatest teacher. He is the one, who consistently offers A Love Not of This World.
We recently celebrated his 19th birthday. (That’s roughly 92+ in human years). ✨🐾✨
💜🖤💛 Yeah, this cool cat is rockin’ the geriatric life. He is incredible. I often jokingly say that I drink espresso just to keep up with his high-energy-arse. If I have half of the sass and energy that he has when I am 50, I will be living the Good Life. Here’s my birthday tribute to him:
This beautiful benevolent being has been one of the most amazing teachers for me on so many levels. Not only does he challenge me to see things in a new way, but he has helped me to become a better human. Every moment I’m grateful for the gift of this powerful teacher and for the blessing of being on this journey with him. And since today is World Black Cat day, I thought this would be the purrfect time to share some thoughts about the benevolent beings who are here to teach us, and help us to “unlearn”.
“You must unlearn what you have been programmed to believe since birth. That software no longer serves you if you want to live in a world where all things are possible.” – Jacqueline E. Purcell
I adore black cats – all shapes, sizes, and species. Between our family we’ve been graced with 3 black cats. Black panther is one of my totem animals, and I find all melanistic creatures to be absolutely beautiful! But I get it. Not everyone loves the dark colors of life. And not everyone dorks out about animal days like I do.
If you are anything like my husband, you might be rolling your eyes at the “black cat day” thing. That’s cool. When you meet one you’ll change your mind 😉 And when you do, he/she will transform your life … if you are open and allow it.
This morning while gleefully telling him how excited I was that there are two black cats days of celebration in the year he said, “Did you know that it’s national safety pin day tomorrow?” Confused, I asked him why he’s telling me this. He quickly responded, “There’s a day for everything ridiculous. I bet there’s even a flying squirrel day or a world poptart day.”
Rolling my eyes at him and his lack of enthusiasm, I left the room and went back to celebrating Black Cats Everywhere. How did I do this? I made a super cheesy video of course! 😀 🐾You can view it here.
After creating that video I got all feely and decided to post on our Empowered Path page how I really feel about Mr. Beaux, black cats, and the benevolent beings who walk with us. This was the quote that sparked it all …
“It wasn’t exactly love at first sight, but it was deeper than that; a sense of belonging to a place I never knew I wanted but somehow always needed. It was a home that carried a heartbeat.” — Nikki Rowe
That quote spoke loudly to me. I mean, full-on-swoon-feels; immediately Mr. Beaux came to mind. And that’s when I was guided to share. If you read this post, you’ll remember that I did not want this Stranger In Black.
But here we are today. And I owe him my all.
It’s been nearly 20 years with this master teacher by my side and I’m still in awe of him.
Resistant to him at first, and certain I knew it all, I later became the humble student. He became my greatest teacher.
When I’m frustrated, fearful, triggered, or tired, he holds space for healing and overlooks error. With every heartbeat he exudes unconditional love. With every moment he provides endless life lessons. Mr. Beaux has become my memory of our True Home.
Since the day our paths crossed nearly two decades ago he’s been a master teacher and Guide. ♥️ Through this cool cat I’ve compassionately conquered some of my toughest life lessons, was introduced to his Lyran family, and discovered what unconditional love truly is. Through his infinite wisdom I am still learning to “unlearn” and see through the veils. But mostly Mr. Beaux reminds us to never fear, to live boldly, to take risks, to speak our truth, to stay young at heart, to be kind always, to question everything, that patience pays off, and to always explore beyond the boundaries of life.
Mr. Beaux is not unlike the enlightened ones who came before. Don’t let their fur suits fool you; many are wise beyond words. There are countless divine teachers who walk with us, reminding us of the Light within us all, and the love we are capable of being.
Here’s to the magical, mystical beings in our lives who hold space for us always, and who lead with Love. May the grace and gifts they offer be an endless source of inspiration and magic. ✨🐾💫
“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” ― R. Dahl
I would like to note that my husband’s cynical comments were later clarified. He was quick to point out the silliness of seemingly random days of the year, because, from his point of view, we could be honoring the ones we love and respect every day; we don’t need a day of the year to tell us to be loving, to appreciate, or to be kind. He’s right. Every day is a gift. And every day we have the opportunity to show our gratitude toward the ones we love. We don’t need a calendar to tell us that. 🙂
Do you have a benevolent being in your life who’s helping you to walk on an empowered path? We’d love to hear about him/her and see pics❣️
“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” — L. M. M.
… And in a world where magnificent, magical benevolent beings can become our greatest teachers. ✨🐾✨
I hope this finds you well in all ways. This will be a short post, as I have much to do today. This topic is important, which is why I am creating time to share the message with you now. Let’s get to it!
Most of us are acutely aware of our own struggles; we are preoccupied with our own problems. On our best days we sometimes sympathize with ourselves because we see our own difficulties so clearly. But Philo of Alexandria, a Hellenistic Jewish philosopher who lived in the Roman province of Egypt in the fist half of the first century BCE, compassionately reminded his community, “Let us be kind to one another, for most of us are fighting a hard battle.”
I find it interesting this statement is still true today.
“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” — Philo of Alexandria
When we feel into this sentiment and accept its truth we allow ourselves to open our heart, to see through the lens of compassion, empathy, and love. When we accept this statement we allow our self to set aside judgement of one’s behavior; we become the compassionate observer. We recognize we couldn’t possibly know the path one is on and how arduous it might be at the moment. We admit one could never know all of what’s happening behind the scenes.
Everyone is struggling on some level; physically, mentally or spiritually. This includes strangers, coworkers, Mother Earth, friends, family, plants, wildlife, lovers, and animal companions. Everyone.
Not only are we in a world that’s not our True Home, but we all have internal and external troubles; some evident, some hidden. Regardless of the form or lack of, we are all in need of kindness. Always. In this regard we are all the same; we are not separate. We all share the need for kindness. This is just one of our commonalities.
“Kindness Created me kind.” — A Course In Miracles
I love the photo of the Lighthouse in the image above. It reminds me that when all the world around us is in a fog, darkness, or mists of confusion, we can be the Light for others. We can extend love and light just by being kind.
But here’s the catch: To exclude one being from our inherent kindness is to exclude All.
Every Day It’s Helpful to Ask:
🔱 Am I being kind to myself?
🔱Can we be kind when others are being unkind?
🔱Can we extend kindness to ourselves?
🔱Can we be kind to ourselves when we notice we are being unkind?
🔱 Kindness IS contagious.🔱
We cannot fathom the unimaginable consequences of being kind to our self in every moment. Then extending that kindness out; the ripple effects could be life-changing for countless souls.
I have not shared with you on this blog in FOUR months! We’ve had a lot on our plate since my last post. But today I am very excited about something in the skies, so I am making time to share.
This will be a short post because we are still unpacking and getting settled after our PCS (Big Move) from the west coast to the east coast! Since we are still in the swing of Summertime, I thought this would be fun to share with you. I hope it inspires you!
Did you know … ?
The expression “dog days of summer” was not originally referring to the oppressive heat and laying around like a tired dog in the summer. It actually refers to the period from July 3 through Aug. 15 when the “dog star”, Sirius, holds a most prominent position in the nightsky! Sirius is nicknamed the “Dog Star” because it is part of the constellation Canis Major, which is Latin for “the greater dog.” Eventually the phrase “dog days” was poorly translated from Latin to English about 500 years ago; taking on a new meaning.
The History of Sirius
For centuries, the effect of Sirius’ light with the combination of our Sun’s energy was understood to have an effect on all life on Earth. In Egypt, Sirius’ return to the night sky became a precursor to the annual flooding of the Nile, and was associated with the goddess Sopdet. In Greece, the sighting of Sirius was the precursor to their hot summer and thunderstorms.
Today, this star is still considered powerful to life on planet Earth. Sirius, located in the Canis Major constellation, can be considered directly ‘upstream’ from our solar system in a cosmic sense that refers to its relative position in the Milky Way galaxy. A highly-charged stellar field, it is said to be currently bringing in high-end electromagnetic currents into our solar system, affecting the solar activity and planetary vibrations of every celestial being on Earth. It’s also known to be directly involved in the 8/8 Gateway that we are all currently in now.
When stars reach the end of their evolution, smaller stars—those up to eight times as massive as our own sun— become “white dwarfs.” These ancient stars are incredibly dense; a mere teaspoonful of their matter would weigh as much as an elephant.
Even as a dwarf star, Sirius is the brightest star in the night sky, even though it’s 8.8 light-years away from Earth! The Sirius system is the fifth known closest stellar system. Sirius observes a period of almost exactly 365¼ days between risings. Although this incredible star continues to return to the night sky in late summer, its position continues to gradually shift relative to the Sun. Several millennia from now, this astrological event won’t even occur during the summer. Roughly 13,000 years from now, Sirius will be rising with the sun in mid-winter. Scientists say that in 26,000 years, the dog days will completely move all around the sky.
Stars like our sun fuse hydrogen in their cores into helium. White dwarfs are stars that have burned up all of the hydrogen they once used as nuclear fuel. Fusion in a star’s core produces heat and outward pressure, but this pressure is kept in balance by the inward push of gravity generated by a star’s mass. When the hydrogen used as fuel vanishes, and fusion slows, gravity causes the star to collapse in on itself.
How to Locate Sirius in the Night sky:
Have you noticed a very bright, twinkling star in the predawn/dawn sky? That star is Sirius. It’s so bright that, when it’s low in the sky, it shines with glints of red and flashes of blue! Sirius is highly visible in the Northern Hemisphere night sky because it has a high relative luminosity to other stars, and it’s relatively close to Earth. If the star were placed next to Earth’s sun, Sirius would outshine our sun more than 20 times. To find Sirius, use the belt of Orion as a pointer. The three stars point downward toward Sirius to the left.
The very noticeable constellation Orion the Hunter rises before dawn at this time of year, recognizable for the short straight line of three stars that make up Orion’s Belt. And the sky’s brightest star Sirius – sometimes called the Dog Star because it’s part of the constellation Canis Major the Greater Dog – follows Orion into the sky as the predawn darkness gives way to dawn.
Orion and the nearby star Sirius will become visible in the evening by northern winter (or southern summer). But presently the Hunter and the Dog Star lord over the southeastern sky at dawn’s first light.
If you are into the stars and the night sky, I highly recommend getting the Sky Guide App. I wish I had this as a kid. I used to lug my huge telescope around the neighborhood at night. This is much easier! 😀 It is So Cool to see constellations so clearly on your phone! And the Sky Guide automatically adjusts to your viewing direction so you can easily identify stars, planets, constellations and so much more! You can see a demo here.
Must-See Meteor Shower!
Also, if you were not aware, the 2018 Perseid meteor showerpeaks this weekend. The upcoming new moon on August 11 guarantees darker nights, so it’ll be easier to see. The Perseid meteorstend to be bright enough to be seen in suburban skies. Sky Guides are saying the mornings of August 12 and 13 are best for viewing, but August 10 and 11 will be good, too. Check out these tips for watching 2018’s Perseid meteors!
I know this a switch-up from my usual posts about animal behavior, training, and enrichment, but this is no less important. I have discovered that when we allow wonder to permeate our being, this sense of wonder and awe flows into all other areas of our life. When we choose to see life through the eyes of a child, filled with wonder and awe, transformations occur. When we set out to see new sights, our perceptions change. If we are willing to see things differently, we change, as does the world around us.
I hope that you will create space to view the beauty of space with your beloved animal companions. May the nightsky and the bright lights within it remind you of the Light within you and your animal companions.
Blessings to you and your beloveds! And Happy Summertime!
“The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of starstuff.” ― Carl Sagan, Cosmos
I leave these powerful words of wisdom with you today:
Touch the earth, love the earth, her plains, her valleys, her hills, and her seas; rest your spirit in her solitary places. For the gifts of life are the earth’s and they are given to all, and they are the songs of birds at daybreak, Orion and the Bear, and the dawn seen over the ocean from the beach.
When the Pleiades and the wind in the grass are no longer a part of the human spirit, a part of very flesh and bone, man becomes, as it were a kind of cosmic outlaw, having neither the completeness and integrity of the animal nor the birthright of a true humanity.
We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals. Remote from universal nature, and living by complicated artifice, man in civilization surveys the creature through the glass of his knowledge and sees thereby a feather magnified and the whole image in distortion.
We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate of having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein we err, and greatly err. For the animal shall not be measured by man.
In a world older and more complete than ours they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear.
They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth.
The other day I was taking a break from writing ourbook trilogy by tweetering around on twitter (another one of my bestdisplacement behaviors). 😉 While I was out there I came across a very cool post from Panthera, so I was inspired to learn more. I’ve been following their great work ever since a dear friend became their C.O.O., but this particular project really got my attention. It was not only about who cougars are choosing to cuddle with, but where and why.
If you are not yet aware, Panthera is not only the name of the genus within the Felidae family; Panthera is also the only organization in the world that is devoted exclusively to the conservation of the world’s 40 wild cat species and their landscapes! Seriously. How amazing is that!? You will be stunned at the incredible conservation work they are doing around the globe, so be sure to check them out! Below is their mission statement.
Panthera’s mission is to ensure the future of wild cats through scientific leadership and global conservation action. We have brought together the world’s leading wild cat experts to direct and implement effective conservation strategies for the world’s largest and most endangered cats: tigers, lions, jaguars and snow leopards. Our approach to wild cat conservation is rooted in science and based upon decades of first hand field experience. We seek a future in which the world’s 37 wild cat species have the necessary and ongoing protection from human and environmental threats to persist and thrive in the wild. Our vision sees endangered wild cat populations rebounded, critical habitats and core populations connected by genetic and biological corridors, and a global commitment to protect these iconic species through near and distant futures.
Ever since I began working around and managing captive groups of exotic cats back in the day, I have been head over heels in love with every species of wild feline. They never cease to teach me something new and incredible. And since I happen to adore house cats and appreciate the powerful genetic link, I thought this would be a fun post to share!
Now, if you are not familiar with the word Felidae, I can explain. Think of your family. You may not be close, but you are of the same lineage. Felidae is a lineage of carnivorans colloquially referred to as “cats.” Members of this family are called “felids.” So the term “cat” refers both to felids in general and domestic cats. Your house cat belongs to the Felidae family, just like Garth, the African lion, pictured above! Pretty cool, huh?
Felids are separated into two distinct subgroups: large cats and small cats. Some of these small cats, due to a hardening of the hyoid bone, have an inability to roar. But many of them purr (as you might have read about before). Felidae consists of 2 subfamilies: Pantherinae and Felinae. We humans don’t have subfamilies, (although I am sure some people view their younger, annoying siblings this way 😉 There are a number of genus within the Felidae family. Some feline biologists only acknowledge a few genera of felids, but most agree there are 18 genera (genus) and 36 species of Felidae.
Note: A “genus” is a rank in the biological classification/taxonomy. It stands above species, and below families. A genus can include more than one species. When biologists talk about a genus, they mean one or more species of animals or plants that are closely related to each other. Below is an easy rundown of the classification of the cougar which includes genus and family.
Beyond Cool Cats
But as cool as these wild cats are, it’s important to note that if we want to understand how to provide proper conditions for house cats, we need to look at the species as a whole. And if we want to support conservation efforts, it helps to understand and appreciate the species as a whole. This post serves to do just that. So grab your coffee, tea, water, or wine, and get comfy with your cuddle-bug! We are going to take a peek at one of the house cat’s kin: The Cougar!
The puma (Puma concolor) is also commonly known as the mountain lion, cougar, panther, or catamount. This species is the most widely distributed free-ranging land mammal in the Americas. They are currently found from Northern Canada to the Southern Andes. At the time of European contact, this species occurred through most of North, Central, and South America. Today, the cougar has the greatest natural distribution of any mammal in the Western Hemisphere except for man.
The cougar is the largest cat in the genus Felis. The cougar is comparable in size to the leopard. Length varies from 59 – 108 inches with a tail length of 21 – 36 inches (I am squealing as I am thinking of such a delightful tail!). Their height ranges from 23 – 28 inches at the shoulder. Weight can vary greatly: between 75 and 250 pounds.
Felis Concolor at a Glance:
Habitat: The cougar thrives in montane, coniferous forests, lowland tropical forests, swamps, grassland, dry brush country, or any other area with adequate cover and prey.
Distribution: Western North America from British Columbia and south Alberta south through west Wyoming to California and west Texas. Also south Texas, Louisiana, south Alabama, Tennessee, and peninsular Florida.
Eastern Texas to Florida – P.c.coryi –IUCN: Endangered, CITES:Appendix I
Northeastern US and southeastern Canada Cougar – P.c. couguar – IUCN: Endangered, CITES: Appendix I
Central American Cougar – P.c. costaricensis – CITES: Appendix I
Misc: The International Species Information Service lists the current estimated number at 334 in zoos worldwide, with 119 located in the U.S.
Common Ancestry of Cats
One of the major lessons I learned from working with wild cats during the day and then coming home at night to my house cats was life changing for us all: I realized was living alongside tiny tigers, wee wildcats, and house panthers. My feral cat was amazingly similar to the African wildcat. My playful black cat was not that different from the Black Panther. My sweet orange tabby was much like a tiny tiger. My grey cat was incredibly similar to the fearless cougar.
Everything from how they hunted, where they preferred to sleep, how they groomed, how they interacted with their species, other species, their prey, and even people were eerily similar. My house cats’ bodies, needs, behavior, choices, and personalities were not worlds away from these wild cats; they were living parallel lives in many ways.
It turns out, feline science shows they are more alike that most people realize. In fact, results of mitochondrial analysis indicates that all Felidae descended from a common ancestor. And genetic evidence indicates that our modern day house cats are descendants from at least five feline founders of a group of Wildcats from 9,000 – 10,000 years ago! Cats are considered only a semi-domesticated species, because many populations are not isolated from wildcats.
“We don’t think house cats are truly domesticated. We refer to them as “semi-domesticated. They only recently split off from wild cats, and some even still breed with their wild relatives. We believe we have created the first preliminary evidence that depicts domestic cats as not that far removed from wildcat populations.” – Wes Warren, professor of genomics at the Genome Institute at Washington University in St. Louis
What You Don’t Know
Now before you get all judgey about exotic cats being kept in captivity, there are facts that most folks don’t know about these felines. Many are captive born. Many are rescued. Some are confiscations from the illegal animal trade, (just like this tiger recently confiscated here in California) and they are now living in zoos. Some are clones! Some are on loan from other zoos for very specific breeding purposes to preserve their species.
Some were pets, like Chloe pictured below. She was horribly mutilated through a declawing procedure. She was unable to walk, stand upright, or put any pressure on her paw pads after the horrible procedure of declawing. Thankfully, she gained a new life at Audubon after my dear friend and talented veterinarian went to great lengths to reattach her tendons. Now she is thriving.
Animal care facilities, such as zoos are not out there capturing wild cats and bringing them into captivity. Most are assisting, breeding, and caring for these cats. They are being cared for in the best way possible in captive conditions. There is more going on behind the scenes at zoos than most people realize. 100% of these efforts (at AZA accredited zoos) are dedication towards education and conservation.
Then and Now
Back in the day, we were managing big cat species with the most recent data and research available. Today, nearly twenty years later, we have learned so much more! Thanks to advances in technology we are dispelling myths, finding new facts, and using field data to better understand these covert creatures (including what happens when a Male Puma Visits a Female & Her Kitten at their recent Kill)! 😮
These tremendous advances in conservation efforts, both in and out of zoos, are contributing to the success of these species in the wild. Much of these advances are due to the technology that’s now available to capture these elusive cats on camera.
When I look back to when I was a kid in the 70’s and remember that my go-to handheld device was the Etch A Sketch , I have to laugh. Now look at what we have available in 2018! It’s amazing. As technology has improved, not only have we enabled our society to stay more connected virtually, but our ability to study mysterious and obscure animal behavior has increased.
So this brings us to our focus today: Covert Cougars & Puma’s Preferred Beds!
Strange Feline Bed Fellows
Would it surprise you to learn that house cats choose to sleep in strange places for similar reasons that big cats in the wild choose to sleep in strange places? If you think about how closely related house cats are to their wild kin, it makes purrrfect sense!
Ever wonder why your cat wants to hide in a box, or why she chooses to snooze with a cuddle buddy? Thanks to folks who are studying wild felines in the field, we know why. It turns out, there is safety in numbers even with more solitary species, and bed selection sites are not random. Where wild cats and house cats choose to snooze is based on very particular preferences and the need to stay safe and survive! And pumas, like our house cats, are more social than previously thought!
An Extinct Subspecies
As much as I am excited about this post, I am deeply saddened. Before we go on, there is some sad news to report. Effective January, 22, 2018, the eastern puma (Felis concolor couguar) is extinct. My heart sank when I learned this. Eight decades after the last confirmed sighting, wildlife biologists have concluded that the eastern puma is no more.
To help you better understand how this came to be, it’s helpful to know this subspecies’ (known) history. This now extinct cat is a subspecies of puma. The eastern puma (cougar) was originally listed as an endangered species on June 4, 1973. Historical literature indicates puma populations were mostly in Eastern North America (except for Florida and perhaps the Smoky Mountains) by the 1870s, and in the Midwest by 1900. Puma records from New Brunswick in 1932 and Maine in 1938 suggest that a population may have persisted in northernmost New England and eastern Canada. By 1900 they had all but vanished due to systematic hunting and trapping. The last one on record was killed by a hunter in Maine in 1938.
Although habitat conditions now appear to be suitable for puma presence in various portions of the historical range described for the eastern puma, the many decades of both habitat and prey losses belie the sustained survival and reproduction of this subspecies over that time.
Their disappearance was attributed primarily to persecution stemming from fear of large predators, competition with game species, and occasional depredation of livestock. Other causes of eastern puma losses during the late 1800s included declining habitat. The most recent confirmed eastern puma sightings date from the mid-1800s to around 1930. Confirmed reports of pumas in Eastern North America (outside Florida) since then have been shown to be either western puma dispersers, as in Missouri, or released or escaped animals, as in Newfoundland.
The agency opened an extensive review in 2011 into the status of the eastern cougar, a genetic cousin of the mountain lions that still inhabit much of the Western United States and of a small, imperiled population of Florida panthers found only in the Everglades. In 2015, federal wildlife biologists concluded that pumas elsewhere in the Eastern United States were beyond recovery. States now have juridiction to determine the best way to reintroduce the other subspecies of cougars into society.
The puma was documented historically in a variety of eastern habitats from the Everglades in the Southeast to temperate forests in the Northeast. Aside from presence reports, few historical records exist regarding the natural history of the eastern puma subspecies. Thankfully, in North America, breeding populations of the Puma species still occupy approximately one-third of their historical range but are now absent from eastern regions outside of Florida.
Below are quotes from the Fish and Wildlife Service explaining their ruling.
We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), determine the eastern puma (=cougar) (Puma (=Felis) concolor couguar) to be extinct, based on the best available scientific and commercial information. This information shows no evidence of the existence of either an extant reproducing population or any individuals of the eastern puma subspecies; it also is highly unlikely that an eastern puma population could remain undetected since the last confirmed sighting in 1938. Therefore, under the authority of the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (Act), as amended, we remove this subspecies from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife.
Our decision to remove the eastern puma from the List due to extinction is based on information and analysis showing that the eastern puma likely has been extinct for many decades, long before its listing under the Act. Eastern puma sightings have not been confirmed since the 1930s, and genetic and forensic testing has confirmed that recent validated puma sightings in the East, outside Florida, were animals released or escaped from captivity, or wild pumas dispersing eastward from western North America.
Monitoring Covert Cougars
Like other cryptic, covert carnivores with large territories, puma populations are notoriously difficult to study. These large Felids are typically solitary, elusive, and nocturnal, making spotting them very challenging. But it’s a necessity. Being able to gather reliable data on large Felid populations is crucial for effective conservation and management of this species. Tagging and following cougars with GPS technology is the standard approach, but these methods are expensive and can compromise the animal’s welfare. So scientists are also using indirect signs for monitoring this covert creature.
Indirect signs are footprints, scat, nests. Often these can be the most effective and least expensive way to detect many animals. Animal footprints are much more frequently encountered in the field than the animals themselves, and have served as the basis for population indices and estimators. Footprint surveys are also non-invasive; the animal need not be seen, captured, or handled.
Researchers are using at least three non-invasive methods to study puma populations:
camera traps (used to identify individual animals by analysis of spots and stripes
genetic analysis of hair and scat (puma poop!)
But they have learned that camera traps may underestimate accurate numbers because pumas lack distinguishing marks. The genetic analysis is accurate, but apparently finding puma poop isn’t that easy. But, thanks to scat detection dogs, biologists are now locating more scat!
Another non-invasive method being used to track these covert cougars is identifying puma prints! This can be done through tracking three signs a puma has left behind after being in an area: a Trail, Footprint, or Track
Trail = an unbroken series of footprints made by one animal
Footprint = a single impression made by a foot
Track = commonly used to describe both an individual footprint and a trail
Below is a perfect photo of a puma footprint and a puma footprint showing the placement of 25 landmark points (red circles) and 15 points derived from them and generated by the FIT script (yellow circles). These provide 40 points to enable the scientists to measure each puma’s footprint precisely.
Photos from S.Alibhai, Z.Jewell, J.Evans
A puma footprint showing the placement of 25 landmark points (red circles) and 15 points derived from them and generated by the FIT script (yellow circles). The landmark points and derived points are numbered in one sequence, providing 40 total points from which measurements (variables) of the footprint are made.
Recent Science Reveals Secrets
A relatively recent study that was part of Panthera’s Teton Cougar Project (TCP), which had already shed invaluable light on other puzzling puma behaviors, enabled conservationists to learn more about this secretive species – everything from their ecological effects to their secret social lives. The study published on Nov 14, 2017 showed the results of research conducted on cougars in Yellowstone. Their goal was to determine whether a subordinate carnivore (cougar) chose bedding areas with similar characteristics in an ecosystem that supports a multi-species guild of competing predators. Basically, they wanted to learn about bed site selection among Pumas!
The video below shows curious cougars (a mother and her kittens) investigating a camera trap in the Teton mountains. In this region, Panthera’s Teton Cougar Project has discovered a great deal about the behavior and ecology of this misunderstood and charismatic cat.
I should note: In the world of Ecology, a guild is a group of species that have similar requirements and play a similar role within a community. They exploit the same kinds of resources in comparable ways. Members of a guild within a given ecosystem could be competing for resources (space, shade, or light), while also cooperating in resisting wind stresses, attracting pollinators, or detecting predators. One example of this kind of guild is the Savannah-dwelling antelope and zebra.
The name “guild” emphasizes the fact that these groups are like associations of craftsmen who employ similar techniques in plying their trade. They often are composed of groups of closely related species that all arose from a common ancestor, and they exploit resources in similar ways as a result of their shared ancestry. Several species within a single genus may constitute a guild within a community.
Other examples of guilds in nature are different insect species that collect nectar in similar ways, various bird species that employ corresponding insect-foraging techniques, or diverse plant species that have evolved comparable floral shapes with which they attract the same group of pollinators.
Guilds in Nature:
Browsers and terrestrial folivores
Forest canopy folivores
Forest floor scavengers
Forbs ( or “phorb” – an herbaceous flowering plant that is not a graminoid)
Graminoids (grasses, rushes and sedges)
Saprophytes (plant, fungus, or microorganism that lives on decaying organic matter)
Piscivores (carnivorous animal that eats primarily fish)
Because members of a guild engage in similar activities, they are often competitors for the resources they share, especially when those resources are scarce. So, when it comes to safe bedding sites, and sharing resources in a guild, researches wanted to know more about cougars! Between 2012-2016 the researchers investigated nearly 600 cougar bed sites in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. They carefully examined both the landscape and the microsite. These TCP researchers used GPS collars to identify the puma bedding sites, then carefully studied each one.
If we are going to learn why and what they are studying exactly, we need to cover the terms. A “microsite” is a term used in ecology to describe a pocket within an environment with unique features or conditions. Ecologists and scientists classifying different microsites based on temperature, humidity, sunlight, nutrient availability, soil characteristics, substrate, vegetation cover, etc. A microsite is basically a sub environment within an environment.
It’s important to also note that many microsites exist in an environment. This leads to organisms (plants, insects, animals) basing their selection of habit on the features of the microsite itself. Being able to choose the best microsite will positively influence the species’ survival, growth and reproduction. Basically, a good choice of a microsite has a direct relationship to the future generation of that particular species.
Their research discovered that among prey species, bed site selection provides:
mitigates predation risk
may directly influence survival
They discovered that pumas gravitate to hidden bed sites where it would be hard for a competitor to see them. Warmth is also an important factor in bed-site selection, especially during winter. Their studies also shed light on the fact that these felines face more danger in their natural habitats than most of us realize.
1. Landscape Choices
Research concerning the landscape, discovered that in the winter, cougars selected bed sites that were in alignment with the hypotheses of both thermoregulatory AND predator avoidance.
In the winter, cougar “beds” / communal sleeping areas were located:
on steeper slopes, but at lower elevations
closer to the forest edge
on southern, eastern, and western-facing slopes
Research concerning the landscape in the summer, showed that bedding areas were a bit different. They found that cougars chose predator avoidance over thermoregulation.
Summer Bedding was found to be:
closer to forest edges
away from sagebrush and meadow habitat classes
on steeper slopes.
2. Microsite Choices
At the micrositescale, cougar bed characteristic in BOTH the winter and summer supported BOTH of their hypotheses of predator avoidance and thermoregulatory.
Cougars chose bed sites that included:
high canopy cover
high vegetative concealment
in a rugged habitat class (characterized by cliff bands and talus fields)
Note: Talus is steep, loose piles of rock, formed by the constant process of erosion, and ubiquitous to the mountains. Talus deposits typically have a concave upwards form. To mountain climbers, Talus areas are not technical challenging areas to hike, but climbing Talus can be exhausting—and dangerous as well, due to the possibility of landslides consider this an area. Cliff bands consist of steep, narrow passages.
Hikers trekking through a talus field on the Fern Lake Trail in the Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
A kid climbing a cliff band
Puuurfectly Suited for the Terrain
Looking at the two terrains pictured above, most people wonder how and why a mountain lion would choose to navigate those kinds of steep terrains, but these wild cats are designed for this habitat. Pumas have incredible paws! Their feet have a unique bone structure that enables them to grip rocks, logs, and slippery substrates. They are even better at this kind of “hiking” than bears or wolves!
….So a precarious bed site can offer an escape advantage if a competitor tries to sneak up mid-nap. You’ll probably never see a puma sleep in an open field, as they typically bed down where trees or other landscape features provide a quick escape. –-TCP member Anna Kusler
Researchers found that a subordinate predator (pumas) selected bed sites that allowed for both thermoregulatory and anti-predator functions. Brilliant, eh?? These choices are very similar to what we see occurring in many prey species! Remember: Cats of all shapes, sizes, and species can be both predator and prey.
It’s also important to recognize that across their range, pumas overlap with six apex predators, including the gray wolf, grizzly bear, American black bear, jaguar, coyote, and maned wolf. How’s that for competition for resources and the possibility of become prey?!
“Even though most of us probably think of pumas as top predators with little to fear, that’s not always the case. In North America, much larger grizzly and black bears steal their hard-earned kills. Wolves, as pack animals, steal their kills AND kill them and their kittens.” -TCP A.Kusler
The biologists now believe that studying bed site characteristics of subordinate predators could provide a new way to measure the use of refugia (an area where a population of organisms can survive through a period of unfavorable conditions). This would ultimately provide new insights into the habitat requirements and energetics of subordinate carnivores. Their research highlights some nuances of habitat loss that are easy to overlook. When trying to protect large predators like pumas, many people — including researchers — focus on the availability of prey. But this is only part of the puma picture.
“Because the best hunting habitats are not necessarily the safest places to sleep, a puma must find a home range that can provide both types of environment.”
Below is one of the videos they shared with the public, and used in their studies that shed light on where and why pumas chose to bed with other pumas:
We often found puma beds tucked underneath the low-lying boughs of a tree, or against the rugged face of an inaccessible cliff. They seem to prefer steep, rugged terrain, like cliff bands and boulder fields. – A. Kusler
Cats can snooze like no other. A pussycat can pass out while purring, and some even doze off when bird watching out a window! Cats never seem to venture far from a nap. The house cat’s pendulum swings between sleeping and stalking so well, we’ve named a version of napping after them! A cat could be fully aroused one moment, engaging in passionate play or serious stalking, then fall effortlessly back into a catnap. These cat nappers know what they are doing. Feline veterinarians agree that if a cat is awake most of 24 hour period of the day, there could be something wrong. Like their wild ancestors, house cats are programmed for proper sleep; it’s in their DNA. This instinctual need lets the cat that know that when he/she is not chasing, hunting, eating, or grooming, h/she should be sleeping — or at least searching for a place to sleep.
The family of Felidae is made up of solitary predators. Lions are the exception; they cooperatively hunt. But new research has shown that female cougars may benefit from tolerating males during feeding, through the maintenance of social niches that support breeding opportunities. – Who says females don’t have ulterior motives when it comes to survival of their species? 😉 And when it comes to sleeping, not only could all cats in the Felida family compete in sleeping as an Olympic trial, but where they snooze, and with whom they choose to catnap, is quite particular for these felines.
Cat guardians have seen the amusing and strange ways cats sleep. We have noticed how often they sleep, and where they sleep. But why they are choosing these places, spaces, and bedfellows is linked to their ancestors. So is the fact that house cats are crepuscular: They are biologically programmed to be most active/ awake in the twilight hours of dusk and dawn.
Pumas may not have the option of passing out on an enclosed patio, but they do have comparable choices about where they sleep in their native, wild habitats. Pumas, like our house cats, need to find safe sleeping spots. These places must be located where it’s unlikely other predators / potential threats can harm them or disturb them.
“So, like your housecat loves to sleep in the sunny warmth of a windowsill, pumas like to maximize their exposure to the sun’s rays That meant many bed sites were on south-facing slopes, where the warmth from the sun is strongest.” – Anna Kusler
Considering Cats and Cougars
As we wrap this cougar chat up, I’d like for you to consider something about your cat at home. The next time you spot your house cat snoozing in a sack, inside an empty box, on a shelf, or any other safe cozy place, consider how this behavior is inextricably linked to their wild ancestors. Your feline family member has the same innate desire and need to remain silent and hidden, just like the puma napping under the boughs of a tree or the crags of a cliff, perched high above the world. Once we know this, and recognize the importance of this, we can properly provide our house cats with the safe spaces, and cozy places they need … just like their wild feline ancestors.
“We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.”― Anaïs Nin
This blog post is available as an audio. You can listen here:
Hello Bright Light 💛
I hope this finds you and yours well and at peace in all ways. Today will be a relatively short post because I have a beach date with my fur babe. We are going to get down and dirty in the sand, salt, and sun! Thanks to Hocus calling me out on my “stuff” a few months ago, I made a promise to spend my energy more wisely and to be fully present with my beloveds. (Btw, if you are driving, or prefer to listen instead of reading, you can listen to this blog post by clicking on the link below.)
Let’s get to it.
Do you know that song from Moby? It’s one of my faves. Click on the link in the above quote; take a listen and see what you feel. That is how I am feeling today. But I haven’t been feeling like that lately. In fact, I have been going through a helluva a challenge for the past few weeks. It’s kind of sucked honestly. Thankfully, regardless of where I am walking, stumbling, or running on this life path, our furry family always has a way of pulling me out of my over-thinking, fear-based brain and back into my heart.
Real Love. The kind that creeps up on you. The kind of love you didn’t see coming. The kind that hits ya upside the head and eventually rattles you to your core. I am talking about the kind of love that is not of this world. The kind of love that allows you to open your closed, hurt crumbled heart. The kind of love that heals. I am talking about the kind of love that literally heals parts of ourselves that we thought could never heal. The love that I am talking about is a love that flows through nature, and through our feathered, furry, and scaly earth angels every moment; 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
A Constant Love.
It is a love that never leaves. This love is constant, even when the body is ready to be laid aside. It is a love that is seamless, ceaseless, and everlasting. It is a love that walks with us, even when we cannot see our companion. It is a love that is never-ending. A love that grows. A love that only knows expansion. A love that is eternal. This love never ends.
An Unconditional love.
It is a love that breaks us into pieces when it appears to leave us. It is a love that only a true angel can offer us. It is a love that an ascended master has mastered. It is a love that we humans wish for, long for, and pray for ever since we are born. It’s a love that cracks our hearts open and allows us to really FEEL. It’s a love that teaches us how to accept; a love that allows us to receive. It is a love that shows us we are supported. It is a love that that moves us into new chapters of life, even when we think we are not ready.
A True Love.
This is a love that dives deep. A love that reflects back to us; reflections at times, we would rather not see. It’s a love that challenges us, triggers us, and reveals to us. It’s a love that swims through our soul and stirs up what we would rather keep hidden in the depths.
A Love without limits.
This is a love that not even a parent is capable of giving to their child at every moment. This is a love that we, as animal guardians, are often incapable of showing to our loved ones at all times. It is a love without judgement. It’s a love that lacks expectations or rules. This love is incapable of asking for anything. This is a love without limits; a love without conditions.
A Love not of this world.
This fire that we call loving is too strong for human minds, but just right for souls. ― Aberjhani, Elemental: The Power of Illuminated Love
The love that I am talking about seems rare, but it really isn’t. Every one of the Great Lovesin my life has shown me this kind of love. They lived/live their lives with this kind of love. They taught me this love. They gave me this kind of love. They ARE this kind of love.
Nature has also given me this love. Whether it was a Humpback whale who came close enough for me to truly feel him and learn his wisdom, or a tree who gave me shelter and insights, this love was real. It was fully present. It was without judgement. It was freely given.
This love is here, around you now.
“Your task is not to seek for love but merely to seek and find all of the barriers within yourself which you have built against it.” – A Course In Miracles
Recently I was forgetting what’s Real and I momentarily slipped into ego-fear-based thinking. I had moved out of my heart and into my head. I was feeling guilty about not doing this, or having said this and that. I was wishing I had been a better guardian years ago. I was regretting. I was wanting to have done things differently over the 18+ years that Mr. Beaux and I have been together.
I wanted to go back and be a better human to him.
I began to cry so hard as I held him.💙 When I found a moment to catch my breath, I looked into his gold eyes and Mr. Beaux very calmly shared, “There is nothing to forgive. I see past it all. I know who you really are.”
This is a love not of this world.
That is who he is.
That is what he freely gives.
“Those who love you are not fooled by mistakes you have made or dark images you hold about yourself. They remember your beauty when you feel ugly; your wholeness when you are broken; your innocence when you feel guilty; and your purpose when you are confused.”― Alan Cohen
My beloved, Mr. Beaux, is not unlike your animal companions. The ones who walk with you while they live their new life in spirit, and the ones who walk with you here on the earth plane. Their love is truly unconditional. It is without limits; without borders and expectations. They see beyond the illusion. They see who we really are without our fears, stories, guilt, judgement, and mistakes. They view through the lenses of Love.
The ARE Love.
So they are able to see us who we really are. We don’t see things as they are; we see them as we are.
As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he. As a man sees in his heart, so he sees. Through unclean windows, lenses, senses, we see things not as they are but as we are. — H. M. Tomlinson.
Every Day Can Be The 14th!
As heartwarming and humbling as that story about Mr. Beaux is, I have to switch gears a bit. Most of you know that I am not a fan of Valentine’s Day. Starting 20 years ago, this fateful date took on a whole new horrible meaning for me when I had to suddenly say goodbye to three of my beloveds on Valentine’s weekend (on three separate occasions!). You can’t make this stuff up, folks. I was single each time, so each of their transitions broke my heart in unimaginable ways.
At the risk of sounding negative, I’ve noticed that Valentine’s Day has become a day for people to celebrate their “special love” and thereby exclude love from others, whether they mean to or not; it’s almost inevitable. Valentine’s Day, to many, is a contrived Hallmark holiday, whose Dark Origins are unknown to many folks.
But does it have to be?
Maybe we can create something new out of it. Maybe we can live every day as if it’s the 14th. I truly believe that every day should be centered around extending love; strangers, family, foes, friends. Love should be the epicenter of our lives. Not just one day out of the year, but every moment. Love is the Light that leads our path, and that lights the path of others.
Our animal companions walk this path. They are such incredibly beautiful and powerful examples of love! They are always reflecting a love not of this world. They are the bridge to the kind of love we have always been looking for. We just have to recognize it and accept it. Let that love in. And then spread it around.
Love is intended to be a circle. Love is intended to be endless. Infinite. Unconditional. Love is not a one way flow. Love gives, and love receives. Love allows us to be raw and open. Love allows us to be exactly who we are, flaws and all. Love heals the broken. Love heals the heart. Love allows us to grow and heal each other. Love Gives Unconditionally.
Our animal family members teach us what it really means to love others (and ourselves) unconditionally. They teach us how to love and appreciate ourselves (and others) every day. Love is right there, waiting for us to see it. But are we loving ourselves the way they love us? Many of us are so willing to give love, but we have not allowed ourselves to receive.
Here’s the secret: Self love is loving!
I used to be the last person on the planet who practiced self love. I felt selfish if I wasn’t giving all of my time and energy to the species I was caring for at both work and at home. For over a decade during my zoologist days, I was just plowing through the pain and stress, never creating time for myself, and for self care. But when I moved out of New Orleans and left Audubon, I began to study Energy Medicine and learned a new way of living in the world.
“Choosing self-love challenges the collective paradigm of guilt and shame that has controlled us for thousands of years. If we go the route of the ego, we’ll never feel worthy of self-love. If we choose to live our Spirit, we’ll be instantly liberated.” — Sonia Choquette, The Answer is Simple…Love Yourself, Live Your Spirit!
Clearing and managing my energy was an integral part of this program. Not only did meditation become a replacement for medicating myself with Advil, alcohol, food, and sugar, but I learned that self care must be a priority if I wanted to help anyone.
I learned that self care IS self love, and that self love is quite easy to do every day. I then started to notice that the animals I cared for at home were practicing self love 24 hours a day! They were teaching me! One easy way to start a practice of self love is to give yourself the gift of a clearing bath. You can view this simple recipe here.
Our lovability and worth doesn’t come from others. It comes from within!”
I will admit that I have spent most of my life caring for others, yet I never gave this same level of care to myself. But now I do. Rather than forgetting to do something loving for myself or justifying why I don’t have time, I now create the time and space to receive. I allow this kind of love.
When we cultivate a daily practice self-care, we are being loving. We are becoming the embodiment of our animal companions and how they live their lives! When we love and care for ourselves deeply, we can see the divine within ourselves and all other forms of life. We see that we are all connected; that we are one.
When our body and mind are at peace and relaxed we create a ripple effect to every living being in our lives. We are better prepared for what life has around the corner. We can better care for others. We can come from a more loving space; a place where our animal companions are always.
We seek the comfort of another. Someone to share the life we choose. Someone to help us through the never-ending attempt to understand ourselves. And in the end, someone to comfort us along the way. ~ Marlin Finch Lupus
What About You?
I am really curious about you, so I want to know: Have you felt this kind of love? Do you recognize this kind of love when you see, hear, or feel it? Are you in your head all the time, or are you up in your heart? Where are you living? What are you allowing? Do your animal companions help you to totally accept this kind of love? Have you experienced this kind of love in nature? What was it like for you?
As we continue to move through the month of February, and we experiences these really uncomfortable energies, know that you are always surrounded by love. We just have to be willing to see, feel, and notice it in all of the many forms … that are not of this world.
But as you start to notice this love, don’t be fooled into the ego-trap that you are not willing or deserving of a love not of this world. You are. I am. We all are. Nature and our animal companions are always here to offer this love to us, to see us beyond our faults, and to love us always in all ways.
Allow this love.
In my last post I shared how and why The Wheels of Light Keep Turning. If this topic peaked your interest and you desire to dive deeper into the relationship with your canine companion, check out my dear friend and colleague’s online class that starts February 22nd! It will be an eye and mind opener to how we can grow, heal, and thrive together as One! But most importantly, you will learn why True Love Dives Deep.
Be well friend, and go in love. Remember that Love walks with you always.
P.S This blog post is available as an audio. You can listen here:
I hope this finds you well at at peace in all ways. Wow, we are nearly midway through the first month of the New Year! Incredible. So far, 2018 has not disappointed! The energy has been incredibly expansive and focused, and our animal companions continue to teach me, and challenge me with love and humor 😉 More on that later.
Today I would like to share something really fun and enlightening with you! Please get comfy. Grab your coffee or tea. Open your mind and heart. And try a little willingness to learn something new for the New Year.
If you were not yet aware, I would like to share a bit about the energy of this New Year, and how you can bring this energy into your home, your shelter, and to those with whom you live, work, and care for. Then this topic will quickly flow into a bit about animals’ energy centers, how you can learn from them, and grow together!
2018 is a Year of Mastery!
In numerology (which I am a total novice at), 2018 translates into 11, which is what they refer to as a Master Number. Master numbers possess great potential for learning and growth and can bring major transformations in our lives. This is a powerful year for everyone and all beings on Earth.
The Universal Energy for 2018: 2 + 0 + 1 + 8 = 11
Master Number 11 symbolizes high energy, inspiration, intuition, self-expression and personal power. Master Number 11 is called ‘the Illuminator’, ‘the Messenger’ or ‘the Teacher’. Master Number 11 also tells us that by connecting with our higher selves is to know and live our soul’s mission and life purpose. 2018 is also about partnership, connections, balance, equality, and flexibility!
You might be wondering, What the heck does that mean for me on a practical level?
Great question. It basically means that we’re here to “master” the elements presented to us within the frequency, vibration, and “theme” of 2018. Our strengths will be supported, but we will also be faced with more significant challenges. However, if we are coming from an empowered place, these changes and challenges can be greeted not with fear, but with grace and ease. This includes challenges with our animal companions. Peace, joy, and expansion can be the epicenter of our lives.
More Insights Into the Energy of 2018:
The Master number brings with it an intensity that’s undeniable. It’s generally observed that the Master numbers bring a higher spiritual purpose, no matter how you might define that. The Master numbers carry a higher frequency and vibratory influence. Energetically speaking, they’re always pushing you. So in practical terms, the year 2018 is a year where the energy supporting and guiding all of us is rather intense. Everyone will be getting the internal call to step it up this year.
What better time than now to embrace these energies?!? That is part of why I am finally shedding my current (and past) fears of sharing the more spiritual side of things with the world. This is part of why I am stepping it up NOW. So, needless to say, not only is the Master Number Energy in the mix, but today is a very auspicious day indeed: 1/11/2018, which is probably why I am so inspired to share with you today! So let’s get to it!
The Year of the Earth Dog
The Chinese new year begins in February. This will be the The Year of the Earth Dog. Its keyword is ACTION. Of the five Taoist elements Fire, Earth, Metal, Water, and Wood, this is the year of the Earth. Stable, honest, practical, industrious, prudent, reliable, kind, and loyal are Earth qualities. The element Earth enriches Dog’s character and adds needed stability. The Earth Dog is endowed with some of the finest qualities of all the 12 astrology animals. Since 2018’s element is Earth, this year is also about security and feeling grounded and safe.
Which leads me to the main point of this post: Energy
Beyond The Borders of Animal Training
As someone who has been an animal professional for nearly 20 years, I understand the need for, and the importance of humane, science-based animal training, species-specific enrichment, and species-appropriate husbandry. I understand and the importance of animal care givers and companion animal guardians being fluent in specie-specific behaviors. Knowing how to accurately read and correctly interpret an animal’s body language, and vocalizations is essential. Knowing how animals learn and retain information is essential. Understanding how and why force-free methods work is vital; applying these humane methods should be priority. These science-based tools assist us in bridging the gap between species.
After decades of professional and personal experience, I am an expert in these areas. I have seen the far-reaching effects of these compassionate, science-based methods, which is why I am very passionate about these tools! I not only teach others how to use these tools, but I use them on a daily basis. These are all necessary for any species of animal who is living in a captive environment, whether the animal is in our home or a facility.
But there is much more that we can work with and carefully manage that extends far beyond the borders ofanimal training,enrichment, and husbandry. There are other elements at play that affect our animal family members, and the animals under our care at a shelter or facility. This can be summed up in one word: Energy.
How we manage energy is an integral part of being a Conscious Companion. Practicing personal energy management is important to the management and success of managing our animal companions. It is also connected to the health and well being of them as well. Assisting our animal companions with their energetic challenges is also an important part of being an empowering animal guardian! Recognizing our energetic challenges is also incredible important and empowering!
Science-based, force-free training is only one part of the “pet puzzle.” Knowing this and acting on it in an empowered way is vital. Although it is2018, we are light years away of where we could all be with regards to how we live with and care for animal companions. The world of animal behavior consulting and animal guardianship will eventually shift to a world that combines both science and spirituality; we will finally learn how to work with the metaphysical and the physical. These worlds are not separate. They are One. And if we want to have true success, true lasting bonds and true health and harmony in our homes, we will learn to utilize (and live in) both of these worlds.
One of the many ways that every animal guardian can come from a more empowered place and recognize potential pitfalls is by checking chakras! No, that word is not the sound of a cat hacking up a hairball. It’s totally legit. 😉 Hear me out …
All living beings have these. Dogs, cats, people, dolphins, parrots, horses, rats, frogs, you name it! If you’re alive, you have chakras!
Chakras are energy centers/vortexes. Chakras are conceived as an energy focal point, bodily functions, or psychic node in the subtle body. Although this concept is found particularly in the tantric traditions of Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism, countless holistic veterinarians work with pets’ chakras every day. In yoga, meditation, and Ayurveda, chakras are often referred to for balance throughout.
The ancient Sanskrit word Chakra literally translates to wheel or disk. It is literally a wheel of LIGHT. And each chakra has its own color of light! In humans, there are seven main chakras (currently recognized –but there are many more!). These 7 chakras align the spine, starting from the base of the spine through to the crown of the head.
Most animals have 8 Major chakras, up to 21 Minor chakras, and 6 smaller energy points known as Bud chakras (paw pads & the bud of skin at the opening of the ears). Companion animals have an 8th chakra that we humans don’t have: a brachial chakra. The main Chakras govern responses to surrounding energy. The 3 chakras found in the lower part of the body (root, sacral & solar plexus) govern basic survival needs. The four chakras in the upper body (heart, throat, third eye & crown) govern mental processes and connection to higher realms.
Chakras expand or contract depending on a variety of circumstances (emotional AND physical health, environment, etc.). Animals receive and distribute energy through each chakra individually, which makes them sensitive to subtle vibrations & changes within the atmosphere & their environment. This invisible energy, called Prana, is vital life force, which keeps us vibrant, healthy, and alive.
It’s not Woo-Woo; it’s just new to you! – Conscious Companion
Windows to Wellness
Chakras are a window to wellness. In both people and pets, the energy body (which involves the chakras) are connected to emotions. So the energy body is like a blueprint or software which gives instructions to the physical organs. These swirling wheels of energy correspond to massive nerve centers in the body. Each of the main chakras contain bundles of nerves and major organs as well as our psychological, emotional, and spiritual states of being.
Being aware of both your and your animal companion’s mental and physical health is vital, which is why we perform routine Chakra Checks! In another post I will teach you how we use a tool called a pendulum to check the status of each one, every day. For today, what I want to get across is this: When chakras are open and balanced all is well within body and mind. BUT… when even one chakra is out of balance, it affects the entire system.
Here’s one example/insight into the Heart Chakra of a feline:
An open, balanced, and aligned Heart Chakra allows for loving, harmonious relationships, tolerance, and being deeply connected to their guardian on a heart level.
-A closed or imbalanced heart chakra can adversely affect behavior.
-It could also indicate there is a physical issue in the body.
-Heart chakra governs the heart, lungs, immune system & thymus gland.
“Going from Ugh to Om”
So what does this mean for devoted animal guardians?? It brings us all to a very empowered place. It’s an invitation to be more open, more curious, and willing to grow and heal … together.
Today a very dear friend and colleague who is a dog adorer-er 😉 gifted intuitive, Empath, and certified dog trainer is kicking off an incredible online class. And it perfectly ties into today’s post. Her class is all about the Wheels of Light, and how we can keep them turning! In her 7 week class you will:
Learn an integrative approach to pet guardianship through the lens of mind, body, and energetic connection
Hear how true partnerships, heart-centered connections, and translating beyond your pets’ behaviors can help you and your animal companion heal, expand, and grow spiritually together
Discover how working with chakras, numerology, sacred geometry, animal symbolism and crystals can actually help shift your animal companion’s behavior like on-leash reactivity, separation anxiety, guest reactivity, barking, and accidents
Explore how your pet’s behaviors can provide clues to bigger energetic patterns in your life
Hear about a road map to how pet behaviors can give you specific insight into the healing that is ready to take place, including which limiting beliefs to process and which chakras they affect
Learn 3 questions that can help you call in more harmony, balance, and growth for you and your animal companion
In Denise’s groundbreaking class her focus will be mainly on canine companions and how our energy can affect them, but our feathered and feline friends will also be addressed as these topics arise. It is going to be such a joy and honor to be a part of this important, ground-breaking, and incredibly empowering program!
I truly believe that you can make an unimaginable difference in the life of your animal companion by becoming an EMPOWERED animal guardian; you can BEcome a Conscious Companion, just as they already are. You can move out of your comfort zone and be willing to learn new concepts, new ideas, and new insights. You can empower them by healing and empowering yourself! You can create an True New Year together!
“We are more alike than different. We Are One.” ― Efrat Cybulkiewicz