Have you ever been somewhere – maybe a room in your house, a store, a public place, or at an event – and you became aware of something in your presence, but long after you arrived there? You thought you could sense (see, feel, know, touch, or taste) all that was in front of you. You were certain you were sensing everything that there was to sense, but then, either someone, something, or you brought your attention to something.
In an instant you saw, felt, or sensed something that you were unaware of.
You had no idea that person or object was there until it came into your awareness. You were so sure that it was not there before! It could not have been! You were so confident that you were aware of everything around you! But there it is. There it was. Right there beside you all along. It was there, but somehow out of your awareness.
This is where our beloveds are.
The ones that passed away. The ones who left without a trace. The ones who left suddenly, tragically, or peacefully. The ones who “left us behind.” The ones who we loved more than anything. The ones who we will always love. The ones who we miss. The ones to whom we said our last goodbye. The ones who love us unconditionally.
They are here with us, just out of our awareness.
Our beloveds have never really left us. And they certainly didn’t leave us behind. For who they are, and who we are can never really be separated from one another. Who they are is spirit eternal. They are Life in the truest sense of the word. Eternally connected to us in life, and after their body’s death. Eternal Light. Always and forever with us.
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. 😉
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 coolwith 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 InstagramTwitter, 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
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. 🙂
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
Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.
Hello. I hope this finds you and yours doing very well and at peace. I hope wherever you are in the world you are enjoying the holidays and the changing seasons of life.
You may have noticed that I have been absent in sharing with you for many weeks. Things on our end have been nonstop and challenging, to say the least. I haven’t had time to share here, continue writing my books, or working with clients. I have made a few videos, but in general, all professional work has been on hold.
Since I last shared with you we have had many successes and a few scares. We’ve had three birthdays in the house (woot!), four surgeries, one near-death experience (on a birthday), one reactive rover who trusts again (hallelujah!), funerals for fallen Marines, family and friends visiting, awards ceremonies, best friends battling cancer, and a multitude of other experiences.
But today I am allowing myself to take a break. Today I am choosing to channel my energy into this post in hopes that it will inspire and uplift you. Today I am focusing on something we often forget to focus on: gratitude.
Ever since we moved to California there has been one challenge after another. One struggle after the next. One illness after another. Pain. Heartache. Frustration. Exhaustion.
But that’s not the full story. That’s only part of the picture. There has been much more at play. There is another side to all the stress and strife. The other side of the struggles are at the heart of this post.
Between the physical and emotional struggles there have been miracles and wonder. There’s been growth, expansion, hope, strength, endurance, and bonding. There have been life lessons learned, friendships forged, soul contracts at play, inspiration gained, and new horizons seen. There have been unimaginable success, hard-fought healings, and life-changing growth on every level possible.
And through it all, somehow we have remained in gratitude. We come back to gratitude. And we remain there. Looking above it all, I am in awe.
Each one of the struggles and successes deserve a post in itself. In fact, there will be several chapters dedicated to each of them in the books I am writing. But for now, I will summarize a few of them because not only is there too much to cover in one post, but some stories are not ready to be shared with the world just yet. But they will be one day. I look forward to sharing that with you when the time is right.
Today I want to keep it simple. I want to uplift and inspire. My goal is to redirect our focus. And to see life from a new perspective. Even if it’s merely a glimpse.
Today I will be sharing something from the animal’s perspective.
I took the liberty to share not only what they have shared with me over the years, and what I have learned from them lately, but also what I perceive their truths to be. All of this is centered on their idea of “Gratitude.”
“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson
Here in the United States we just wrapped up Thanksgiving. It’s a lovely time of year if you create the time to slow down and enjoy it. I love seeing people smiling, sharing, and caring more this time of year. I love seeing and hearing the words, “grateful”, “gratitude” and “thankful” tossed around like autumn leaves on the breeze. An attitude of gratitude seems to permeate people. It’s really quite beautiful.
But then it leaves.
Just as the vibrantly colored leaves float to the ground, briefly rest on the Earth and quickly dance off into the horizon, so too goes our gratitude.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Gratitude can be an attitude that we embody during the most challenging times. Gratitude can be a cloak in which we cover a tired body. Gratitude can be the breeze we choose to ride. It can be the wind we set our sails to while riding the rocky seas. Gratitude can sooth the most exhausted mind. It can heal a broken heart. It can change your world. And it can radically change the world of our animal family members.
But we have to choose it.
Gratitude is not a gift. It is not reserved for the elite, the special, or the few. It is who we are. It is who you are without all of the other thoughts, beliefs and judgments. Gratitude, like Love is always only a thought away.
I am reminded of this during every struggle. In fact, I am reminded of Gratitude when I look at how the animals move through their lives. I am reminded of the power of gratitude when I see them shine; when their light is brightest even when there is a dark cloud above them. I am reminded of gratitude when they outshine me.
It’s as if all the world could be falling apart, but they somehow remain grateful in their heart. They rise above it. They see beyond temporary, fleeting circumstances. They know that this too, shall pass. They know more than we realize and gratitude is their guide.
“Just an observation: it is impossible to be both grateful and depressed. Those with a grateful mindset tend to see the message in the mess. And even though life may knock them down, the grateful find reasons, if even small ones, to get up.” ― Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free
Gratitude as a Gift
I started thinking about how gratitude has pulled me out of my darkest depressions and my most intense anxieties over the years. Gratitude has transformed boredom, frustration, fear, and anger into hope, trust, and joy. I thought about how much there is to be grateful for, even during the darkest hour. I thought about how gratitude has been a driving force pushing me through the past few months.
Then I thought about our animal family members. I wondered what they might be grateful for this year. I wondered how gratitude played into their perspective. I wanted to really look into what they were thankful for, without stepping into the quicksand of anthropomorphism. I wondered what they would say “Thank you” for every day.
What I discovered wasn’t a surprise; these aspects are all part of their journey and the story of their lives. If the animals were to say “thanks” for the circumstances and gifts in their lives, their lists might include these:
The ability to let go
Hide and seek games
Seeing the world through innocence
Seeing our people become stronger and fearless
Meals tailored to our individual needs
Foraging and hunting opportunities
Sharing our people’s bed
Knowing this world is temporary; a place away from our real Home.
Energy healing sessions
Living a force-free way of life
Being silly and goofy
Food used as a tool
Soul contracts being honored
Unexpected car rides in the Adventure Box
The ability to choose
Meeting nice people out and about
Seeing my people happy and healthy
Getting permission to roll in smelly goodness
Watching our person learning to let go
Communicating on a new level
Smelling the scents on the breeze
Our person learning how hidden emotions affect us
Teaching our people new life lessons
Knowing that our people are doing the best they can
Watching each other grow
Feeling the sun on our fur and face
Aging with dignity and grace
Unlikely friendships forged through trust
Force-free medical care at home
Bonds that never break
Being seen as an individual
Polite play dates
Being listened to and heard
A loving home
Being near the one you love
Being loved for who I Am
…Those were just a few of their “thanks” that came to mind. These are a merely a snippet of what I have been honored to learn from them. I am grateful. I am humbled. I am honored. And I am grateful for each of them.
Teachers. Gifts. Angels. Lights in the dark. That is what they are to me. This is some of what I am grateful for each day. This is what I will focus on as we move through this life together. This is what I will remember when things get hard. When life is rough. I will remember these things and I will share their gratitude.
Our gratitude won’t end now that Thanksgiving has come and gone. Our gratitude will last. It will be within us 365 days a year. And as we grow gratitude, we will pass it on to others. If you’re interested I made a quick video about this. You can view it here.
What do you believe your animal companions are grateful for?
What are the gifts in their lives?
What supports their attitude of gratitude?
What would be on their “thankful for” list?
Before I go, I would also like to share that I am grateful for you. Thank you for being here. Thank you being a part of this community. Thank you for reading, staying inspired, and for being willing to stay in an attitude of gratitude every moment of the day.
From our family to yours,
Much love and light
“If the only prayer you said was thank you, that would be enough.” ― Meister Eckhart
“Ten years of shadows, but no longer. Light up the darkness, Majesty.”― Sarah J. Maas, Queen of Shadows
Thank you for being here. I am sincerely grateful to each of you who consciously chose to follow this blog. I realize that there are many other ways for you to spend your time other than reading my posts. I am touched and truly appreciate that you care enough to want to be gently challenged and inspired, and that you want to learn from my musings and mistakes.
But if we are going to stay together and grow together, and if I am going to keep sharing with you, I have to be honest. I have to be really honest with myself and with you.
I have been hiding and pretending for a long time. But I am not going to pretend anymore. I have been living a life out there “on the screen” but I have been living another life off screen. I am not going to hide anymore. So I will just say it and get it over with.
I am an Empath, an Intuitive, an Indigo, and also a BlueRay Starseed.
Holy Shizznit. I finally freaking said it. My heart is racing as I write this. A flood of emotions are welling up inside of me right now. I feel a bit scared. I am grateful. Relieved. Liberated. Free. But there’s still a lot of fear.
So What the Heck Are Those?!
Ha! For those of you who are not totally weirded out by what I admitted (and you’re still reading) I can try to explain what these three words mean. Maybe after reading this you will realize that your friend, a family member, or you, are an Empath, an Indigo, or an Intuitive, too! (The Starseed will be addressed at another time😸)
If you have been following this blog for some time, you already know that I am not a fan of labels – especially when it comes to our animal companions. This also goes for people; putting any specie’s behavior, choices, or preferences into a “box” is not helpful for a number of reasons. But for the purposes of today I will use words and loose categorizes that are widely accepted in the the energy and holistic healing community.
An Intuitive is someone who experiences the world in a way that is not easy to understand or explain in words. Our minds filter information in a way that cannot be explained in a logical-minded way. Our bodies are filters of the world. Intuition is our compass.
Intuitives also know things without knowing why. We can’t prove how or why, we just know it to be true. This is Claircognizance. Both my husband and I are claircogs. We receive information in a variety of ways. It can via the mind, thoughts, sounds, or through the body – utilizing the five senses (sight, sound, smell, taste and touch). We can receive information through all of the senses at once. – We call these senses “The Clairs.”
The clair senses are abilities that correspond with the five senses of seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling, and tasting. Clairalience means clear smelling. Clairgustance means clear tasting. Clairsentience means clear feeling. Clairvoyance means clear seeing. Claircognizance means clear knowing. Clairaudience means clear hearing. Intuitives vary in what Clair is their strongest, and which cliars they use most. My strongest ones are the latter four, with Claircognazance being the strongest and Clairaudience coming in at a close second.
After many years of doing a lot of deep inner healing and energetic clearing these heightened senses became my primary senses. And in the depths of one of my most challenging physical struggles, it was these senses that allowed me to connect deeply to animals and The Standing Ones. Life changed forever after that. I learned Soul Speak and now I teach this to others who are open to learning.
Empaths feel. In fact, they feel profoundly on many levels. Empaths are highly sensitive to their surroundings; everything from what they see and hear, smell and taste. Empaths can experience sensory overload very easily. Derived from the Greek “em” (in) and “pathos” (feeling), the term empathic means I am able to “feel into” others’ feelings.
Empaths are born an empath. You don’t become one. My empathic traits have been passed down through my family’s lineage; this is very common. My Cherokee/Irish mother is also an Empath, but she does not know this yet. She is starting to learn from what I share with her.
Empaths feel everyone else’s emotions. Our body functions like a vibrational instrument. Empaths can easily absorb other people’s thoughts and feelings. It’s common to feel emotionally or physically drained after being in public, or having a conversation with someone in person, or via phone or Skype. These common circumstances can be too much for an Empath if one does not have the tools to navigate the world safely and without sensory overload.
Being an Empath is way more than just being “sensitive.” We can feel physical sensitivities, spiritual urges, and can easily discern the motivations and intentions of others. Empaths often experience chronic fatigue or unexplained aches and pains that come and go. We “share” emotions of others. We have the ability to read another’s body language as if it was our own, and we can truly, deeply understand what someone else is going through.
We FEEL unlike no other.
Being an empath does have its advantages, but it also has some downsides, too. It can be physically and emotionally draining and exhausting. That is why self love and self care is of the utmost importance! We talk about how important this is on our Empath community group.
here are a number of types of Empaths. Only 10 are currently recognized:
1. Physically Receptive Empath
2. Emotionally Receptive Empath
3. Claircognizant Empath
4. Geomantic Empaths
5. Fauna Empath
6. Medium Empath
7. Flora Empath
8. Psychometric Empath
9. Telepathic Empath
10. Precognitive Empath
An Empath can be all of these or just one of these; it does not matter the number. They all serve an important purpose. I Am actually many of these types of empaths. Some of these categories are stronger than others for me, but it does not matter. They are merely part of who I am. What we do need to recognize is that they will ebb and flow as we grow spiritually. And we need to recognize and honor these sensitivities in others as well.
The Heyoka Empath
There is another type of empath, that few discuss. They are called “Heyokas”. The heyoka (heyókȟa, also spelled “haokah,” or “heyokha”) is a kind of “sacred clown” in the culture of the Lakota people of the Great Plains of North America. The heyoka is a contrarian, jester, and satirist, who speaks, moves and reacts in an opposite fashion to the people around them. The Lakota medicine man, Black Elk, described himself as a Heyoka, saying he had been visited as a child by the thunder beings (Thunderbirds).⚡
I find it interesting that as a Cherokee child, I am one of these. We are considered “mirrors” for others. Our Cherokee heritages that We Are One; one appearing as many. So the mirroring is actually a very helpful tool.
Principally, the Heyókȟa functions both as a mirror and a teacher, using extreme behaviors to mirror others, and forcing them to examine their own doubts, fears, hatreds, and weaknesses. Heyókȟa have the power to heal emotional pain; such power comes from the experience of shame. They provoke laughter in distressing situations of despair, and provoke fear and chaos when people feel complacent and overly secure, to keep them from taking themselves too seriously or believing they are more powerful than they are.
Heyokas’ advice and behavior is not always welcomed. But it should be known that our intentions are always for good. We only mean to help those around us. If you feel irritated or annoyed after leaving the presence of a Heyoka, it very well could be because we shined a light on that particular part of you; you were triggered. On the other hand, if you are filled with a sense of joy, peace, love, and acceptance after being with a Heyoka, we mirrored or reflected that part of you back to you, while also reminding you of the importance of loving and accepting yourself for who you are. The mirroring that Heyokas practice is intended to teach you to open your mind to aspects of yourself that you were not aware existed.
The Heyókȟa symbolizes and portrays many aspects of the sacred beings, the Wakȟáŋ. His satire presents important questions by fooling around. They ask difficult questions, and say things others are too afraid to say. Their behavior poses questions as do Zen koans. By reading between the lines, the audience is able to think about things not usually thought about, or to look at things in a different way.
They are the only ones who can ask “Why?” about sensitive topics; they use satire to question the specialists and carriers of sacred knowledge or those in positions of power and authority.
In Native American ceremonies, the Heyoka would be the one to disrupt the ceremony. The purpose was to help his people to either see things differently or to shift the energy. Heyokas today, will say or do something off hand or “out of left field” to shift the energy. I do this ALL the time when things are tense. Some see this “interruption” as rude or insensitive, but my goal is always to shift the energy. This energy disruption comes from love; the goal is to act as a catalyst for growth and healing.
The Heyoka’s gift to others is bringing balance, by reflecting the opposite. Heyoka’s carry the medicine of chaos; what my ancestors used as spiritual medicine. It ha the power to change lives. This medicine reveals / reflects the shadow side that is unseen; we show the mirror of truth, that few are willing to look into. When you meet a Heyoka, challenge yourself to have the courage to let love reflect back to you, the unseen within.
Most Heyoka teach us that there is no such thing as an enlightened master. We’re all spiritually dumb. The closest we can ever get to being “enlightened” is simply to understand that we are naïve to it, and then to laugh about it together as a community. Sacred clowns have the ability to plant this seed of sacred humor. They are constantly in the throes of metanoia, disturbing the undisturbed, comforting the uncomfortable and freeing the unfree. They remind us, as Rumi did, that “the ego is merely a veil between humans and God.” – McGee
There are (currently) 5 Major aura colors that correspond to the spiritual types: blues, violets, Indigos Crystals, and Rainbows. Every single person (and being) is an extension of Creator/Source. Thus every single aura color in existence is a spiritual expression. When we have an Intention prior to incarnating, we are coming into a physical body, vibrating at a certain rate. Once here, the photons are now bouncing off of the energy frequency in a person’s energy field (aura). It will “bounce back” and be perceived as a particular color (blues, green, violet, indigo, etc.).
Both my brother and I were Indigo Children. Many Indigos are born in the mid to late 70’s or soon after. The term “Indigo” was given to this generation because it most accurately describes their aura colors and energy patterns; Indigo Children have a lot of indigo blue in our auras.
This dark blue is actually my favorite color! And it’s not a coincidence to later discover that this Indigo blue happens to be the color of my Higher Self (the ascended aspect of little ego me)! This color of blue is also in the color spectrum of the third eye chakra, which is an energy center located between the eyebrows. This chakra regulates clairvoyance (clear sight). There are some Indigos who now have Violet in their aura. I am one of these. You can see if you are too, by reading the article at the end of this post.
“When we talk about the spiritual aura colors, what that means is, the beings who came to earth with these particular frequencies, had the intention to put other people into connection with their own nonphysical essence.” – Teal
Each of the spiritual colors have their own attributes. Indigos are known as the warriors. We are pathfinders; paving the way for the other colors. We are also walking lie detectors.
Ah, but it’s not all as great as it sounds. For an Indigo, it’s very common for us to find resistance – whether within ourselves or within the system we want to see change within. Indigos would do well to learn how to align with what we want to see with our grander vision w/out resisting what we don’t want to see.
I will briefly list some Indigo traits:
Indigos tend to be trailblazers. Indigos abhor conformity.
We are incapable of idly watching any kind of injustice and staying silent.
Indigos can sense dishonesty the way a bee can sense subtle scents in flight.
Indigos know when they’re being lied to, patronized, or manipulated. We can hear it, feel it, and know it the second we are exposed to it. An Indigo’s inner lie detector is integral to us a people.
Indigos also have a warrior spirit. Indigos are unable to conform to any type of dysfunctional situations at home, work, or school; indigos often rebel or speak out. -Sometimes loudly and often unapologetically.
Indigos are, in general, old souls, or at least souls with great spiritual depth with a strong sense of life purpose. Indigos have wisdom and depth that most people have yet to understand (or want) to understand. They have great potential in their souls from birth, which, as time goes by, they tap into this wisdom and fully bring to fruition, during their current incarnation.
Indigos don’t have the ability to dissociate from our feelings and just pretend like everything’s okay; unless medicated or sedated. We are completely and utterly incapable of faking or pretending anything; we avoid people and situations all together at times. We become frustrated with systems that are ritually oriented, outdated and don’t require creative thought. We easily see more effective ways of doing things – at home, work, and in school. We are very nonconforming to old systems. We may appear antisocial at times, unless we are with those who are like us. If there are no others of similar-consciousness around us we turn inward. We are not shy in letting others know what we need. Many Indigos are often diagnosed with ADD, ADHD, Dyslexia and other learning challenges.
Here are some other (generalized) traits of Indigo children and adults:
intense at times
empathic, curious, creative
strong-willed with a sense of having an important “mission”
often perceived by friends and family as being strange or the black sheep
possess a clear sense of self-definition and purpose
show a strong innate subconscious spirituality from early childhood
have a strong feeling of entitlement, or deserving to be here
have a high intelligence quotient
have an inherent intuitive ability
resistant to rigid, control-based paradigms of authority
Indigos began entering Earth around 45 years ago. They are born into every race and social structure in existence. They hold an innate energy vibrational frequency of Love. Indigos come into our world through the Third Eye Chakra which is the center of intuition, spiritual will, connecting ideas and developing a ‘picture’ of the world. They tend to be very strong willed, ultra sensitive, and quite “rebellious.” They also have a tremendous desire to be of service. Therefore, one of their biggest challenges is to honor and love themselves, to have boundaries and to learn to say, “no.”
According to Tober and Carroll, indigo children may function poorly in conventional schools due to their rejection of rigid authority, their being more spiritually mature than their teachers, and their lack of response to guilt-, fear- or manipulation-based discipline. Indigos are rarely willing to settle being talked down to or being made part of a conforming “machine.” An Indigo’s most common question is “why?”. (My favorite question!) We are always questioning the status quo.
For as long as I can remember I have been super sensitive to my surroundings. This sensitivity could be anything from how my dogs were feeling, how a room feels, to how my friends or family members were feeling. I knew people’s intentions and motivations before they spoke. I also knew other things I shouldn’t just know. – I could just sense it. I just knew!
I could feel how others were feeling, whether they were near me or far away. I could always know if someone was speaking the truth, or if they were lying. I have always known the true essence of an animal and could see past their pain and fear. I knew who they really were, beyond the body. Animals and nature have always been who and where I felt safest. Animals and nature were my refuge from the world.
They still are.
That inner voice, our intuition is always there, always reading the situation, always trying to steer us the right way. But can we hear it? Are we paying attention? Are we living a life that keeps the pathway to our intuition unblocked? Feeding and nurturing our intuition, and living a life in which we can make use of its wisdom, is one key way to thrive, at work and in life.
Energy and Others
When it comes to empaths and intuition, our bodies and minds work in conjunction to “read” the information we receive. We are a perfect compass. For example, my hands know where to go when I am working on an animal or person. Someone could be coming from 50 feet away and I know if I should get out of their way. I can feel subtle changes in the energy of animals, people, and places. I know when an animal has disease often before a veterinarian gives an official diagnosis – not always, but I can feel an imbalance in their energy field. I hear messages. I see clearly in situations. I just know. Many Empaths are like this!
Kids and Critters
Most children are like this. Animals are like this. Every one of your animal companions is just like an Empath and an Intuitive. – That is one of the reasons I do this work! They are like sponges! And almost every child that is being born now is like this, too. They are highly sensitive and finely tuned beings. Many children that I work with in a client’s home, or meet at my workshops are obvious Empaths and full-blown cognitive Intuitives. Most of the children we work with through Make A Wish are Intuitive Empaths.
More than Sensitive
Being an empath is much more than being highly sensitive and it’s not just limited to emotions. Empaths perceive physical and spiritual shifts in their body as they are observing or thinking about a person, place, idea, memory, or future event. Children and young kids who are empaths feel things way more deeply and on a much more intense level than their parents do. Their senses are heightened. They are very sensitive emotionally and physically.
Empaths process other people’s feelings and energy, and in many cases take on the emotions of others. They are very sensitive to their surroundings and changes within their environments. They are literally energetic sponges. Can you imagine the kinds of effects that has on a child? Yeah. It’s intense to say the least. More on that later.
A Virtual Sponge
Empaths feel like you would not believe. That has been the hardest part for me – a gift and a curse you might say. For years I used alcohol and drugs to shield myself from feeling so much. Depression and anxiety were the many cloaks I was enveloped in, and I used substances to numb myself from feeling so much (although I had no idea that’s what I was doing.)
But all that has changed.
Thankfully Energy Medicine, True Forgiveness, Mindfulness, and Self Awareness has become incredibly empowering. I have learned other methods that are safe and natural to lovingly shield and manage my energy. Overall, life is much easier as an empath, and far more healthier with these holistic and alternative healing tools and techniques to manage life as an Empath.
Why This Is Hard to Admit
If you are an empath, and an intuitive healer, or a transformational coach, you may think, This is great! How wonderful that you are embracing your true self! But I don’t see it that way. – At least, not yet. It may come to a surprise to most folks, but the animal behavior and scientific community are not the most accepting group of people when it comes to embracing beliefs or practices that are outside their circle of traditional science or “normal” practices. In fact, concrete, proven science is the only medium with which most of the animal behavior community operates.
There are many behavior consultants in my field that are also intuitive empaths. A few are very close friends, and highly respected members of the science-based community. But none of these colleagues want to admit it yet publicly. Proof, facts, and hard core science are still the safe zones they choose to work in for now. Only one of my colleagues in the dog training community has formally “come out” as an Empath and an Animal Intuitive. She has been an inspiration to me. I hope that others will follow our lead.
I believe in intuitions and inspirations…I sometimes FEEL that I am right. I do not KNOW that I am. ― Albert Einstein
Safer To Be Silent?
I could list a countless examples of why it’s safer to not embrace your true self in the animal behavior and scientific community. But that would take too much of your time. To help you understand why it’s “safer” to be silent, I’ll briefly share just a few of my experiences:
When you’re at an animal behavior conference and you mention the word sacral chakra, when referring to a dog or cat and people respond to you as if you were coughing up phlegm.
Telling a client that their parrot, iguana, cat, or dog would greatly benefit from Smudging their home, and balancing their own energy can be your one-way ticket straight to Crazy Town.
Explaining to your veterinarian that you can feel / see / know where the pain or discomfort is in your cat’s body and they look at you as if you are high.
Knowing that the negative prognosis that the vet just gave you about your animal was not accurate, because you felt and heard a solid “No” in your body and mind.
Any discussion about ‘animal communication’ will immediately send one to the time out box, where you are soon to be dismissed and discarded.
So I stayed silent for many years. And I was safe. Really Safe. But being safe is not the way I want to live my life anymore.
The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are. ― C.G. Jung
Willing to Be Vulnerable
This post is not easy to share. I am fully aware of the possible negative results of “coming out” in my scientific community, and with my religious family and must-have-proof-friends. But I trust enough to share my truth. If being open, honest, and vulnerable can help one person and their animal companion to grow closer, to heal, to love more deeply, to laugh more, and to see life from a new and more enlightened perspective, it will all be worth it. If I can inspire one person, any ridicule or rejection will be worth it.
Saying it out loud to you here, and to my friends and family (who will eventually see this) doesn’t make it any more “real” and easy. In fact, it’s still just as scary. And I feel just as vulnerable and exposed. I have witnessed many friends and colleagues come out in other ways, and it was not easy for them. But they are living an authentic life now. I am so proud of all of them. They were no longer willing to hide who they really are. Now I am free of what I was hiding. I am all out there, baby! 😀
No more hiding or pretending.
But there is still some fear. So I will take this fear and breathe into it and remember that fear is an illusion. There is really nothing to be afraid of. F. E. A. R. is really only False Evidence Appearing Real.
Fear is a passing emotion that has no real substance, arising when the ego-self is threatened, which makes you cling to the known and familiar. Such fear creates untold worry, apprehension, nervousness, and anxiety. The immediate effect of fear is to shut us down, and—in particular—to shut off the heart.
I do believe that the world will come to accept intuition and senses beyond our limited human perception as reality. We are already starting to see this happening in the world of science. Psychologists say that people use psychological preferences for Sensing and Intuition. Questions they will ask are, “Do you pay more attention to information that comes in through your five senses?” or “Do you pay more attention to the patterns and possibilities that you see in the information you receive? Everyone utilizes Sensing and using Intuition. The levels of each of these spectrum are wide and vast within each person. Science is now starting to recognize these levels.
There is now a field of study known as “Cognitive Science.” It is beginning to demystify the inexplicable presence of unconscious reasoning in our lives. Often dismissed as unscientific because of its connections to the psychic and paranormal, intuition isn’t just a bunch of woo-woo. The U.S. military is even investigating the power of intuition, which has helped our men and women of the military to make quick judgments during combat that ended up saving lives.
There is a growing body of anecdotal evidence, combined with solid research efforts, that suggests intuition is a critical aspect of how we humans interact with our environment and how, ultimately, we make many of our decisions. – Ivy Estabrooke, Office of Naval Research
Beyond Science and “Proof”
Science is amazing. Science is what I have used for nearly 20 years to produce ground breaking results with multiple species of threatened and endangered species. Science is what I use with my clients’ aggressive dog, fearful feline, and traumatized iguana. Science is what I use with our animal companions at home, with everything from anxiety to obesity.
But there IS more to life with our animal companions than scientific facts and “evidence”. There is more we can learn from just the proven stats. There is so much more that science has yet to discover. There is an infinite amount that has not been studied, or even remotely explored in the scientific community. There is more to learn and experience than most people could possibly imagine. I have lived this and learned this fact. And the beauty that I have learned in all of this is simple but profound: Animals and nature can be two of the greatest teachers to facilitate this learning. If we allow them to be.
No civilization, including Plato’s, has ever been destroyed because its citizens learned too much.
What About Science and Animal training?
Of course I will continue to share tips and techniques about training, behavior, and enrichment for pets at home and in shelters because those are part of our reality that enhance lives. Training and enrichment are needed in our homes. Period. (Ahem … like conditioning our canine to wear goofy snow boots, modifying a dog’s aggression toward foxes, teaching our tabby to “go to your place” to keep the peace, changing a fearful feline into a confident cat, conditioning a dog to a new baby, teaching a parrot to give voluntary injections, and preventing fights between species by eliminating anger, fear, and frustration.) That’s where science is needed and where it works. That’s where Force Free techniques reign supreme. Those are tools and techniques that I still love to teach and practice! In fact, I just did a 1.5 hour webinar yesterday on a specialized topic that has never been presented before in the feline community; how exotic cat species in captivity can teach us how to manage and rehabilitate companion cats. It was attended by veterinarians and animal behaviorist from all over the world. And it’s going to be a game changer for the cat community.
So yeah, science is necessary. I use it and I love it. Science, data, and measurable results are crucial when it comes to behavior modification and healing an animal companion’s emotional and behavioral issues. Science, facts, and results continue to be much of what I share here.
But there are many other tools that I use as well. Those techniques are not the only path to healing and modifying behavior. There is much more out there. There are other tools and techniques that are not mainstream. But they are profound. And they work.
There is so much more to explore together: Energy medicine, animal communication, removing negative emotions that contribute to health and behavioral issues, releasing stagnant blocked energy in our pets, how to connect on a deeper, more meaningful level with your animal companions and how they can be mirrors for our issues. We will talk about what it really means to live “Life with Your Animal Companion Improved.”
Come from the heart, the true heart, not the head. When in doubt, choose the heart. This does not mean to deny your own experiences and that which you have empirically learned through the years. It means to trust your self to integrate intuition and experience. There is a balance, a harmony to be nurtured, between the head and the heart. When the intuition rings clear and true, loving impulses are favored.
― Brian L. Weiss, Messages from the Masters: Tapping Into the Power of Love
Why I Am Sharing This Now
I wrote this over 6 months ago, but was too afraid to share it. Alanis Morrissette’s song “Excuses” perfectly parallels this kind of fear. She is also and Empath and “came out” a few years ago. She. Is. Amazing.
Now I am coming out in my own way and being completely authentic because I have moved into a space where I am now a hundred percent authentically honest with everyone – clients, friends, family, and even strangers. But the person I am most honest with now is myself; I have to be for my health and sanity. I also have to be for the health and peace of mind of my animal companions.
This blog was created to discuss all-things-animal-and-nature. Since 2012, I have stayed within the “safe” spaces by discussing safe topics such as animal behavior, animal training, animal enrichment, and the latest science in all-things-pets. Every so often I would venture out of my safe space and talk about death and dying, spiritual experiences, and bits about energy, but there is so much more that I want to share and discuss with you here! I have decided to shift this blog to better reflect how I have shifted, and how nature and the animals in my life have facilitated this shift.
Now this blog will parallel how I live my life. This blog will begin to better reflect what it means to be an intuitive and empath, living and working with animals, and how we can all learn from nature and our animal companions. This blog will be a more honest reflection of what the animals and trees have taught me, and how you and your animal companions can benefit, heal, and grow as well. I have even created an entirely new section on my website that celebrates and honors these gifts, to help others to grow and heal together.
We so often think of ourselves, as the “dog owner” the “cat guardian”, the “parrot trainer”, or the “horse leader”. We see ourselves as the teacher, and we are! But what if our animal companions have things to teach us? What if we were willing to be the student? What if we are willing to look at them and say, “Teach me. I am willing to learn from you.” …. What might happen?
October is a month of balance. I discussed this before, yet I didn’t realize how much I was out of balance. This week it hit me; it’s time to balance everything, including what I share with you. I hope you will be willing to grow with me.
Hope and Love for Others
My hope is that if I can openly share my truth and experiences, others may realize that they can share theirs as well. I hope that those who are also an Intuitive, or an Empath or Starseed can learn to feel safe and supported. I hope this will help others to understand their abilities and how they can dramatically improve their life with animals.
And on the other hand, if one is not an Empath, they will be open to learning what we can see, feel, know. Maybe people will be willing to learn how to tap into their senses so we can learn about each other, energy, animals, nature. Maybe others will be willing to learn the endless lessons that animals and nature have to teach all of us.
My hope is that you have the courage to be open to seeing things from another perspective. My hope is to learn, grow, and share together here. My hope is that you will see your sensitivity as a super power!
The planet does not need more ‘successful people’. The planet desperately needs more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers and lovers of all kinds. It needs people to live well in their places. It needs people with moral courage willing to join the struggle to make the world habitable and humane and these qualities have little to do with success as our culture is the set. ~H.H.The Dalai Lama
Thank you for listening. Thank you for being here. And thank you to every soul who has ever braved the safety and comfort of what they were living, to finally be who they truly are. Thank you for daring to live fearlessly. Thank you to every brave soul who dared to speak out. Thank you to those who would not be silent. Thank you to everyone who came out despite the results. Thank you to every man, woman, and child who came out by sharing their truth with the world; no matter what that truth was. Thank you for holding space to allow everyone on this planet to be authentically who they are. Thank you to the animal companions who held a mirror up for me to see who I am. Thank you to the animals and trees who have been my greatest teachers. Thank you for inspiring me to “come out” today. Thank you to all of the brave souls who have come out in other ways, and who are sharing their stories today. I love you all.
And thanks for remembering to laugh and to not take ourselves too seriously.
Life is supposed to be fun and free.
Be you. Be fun. Be Free.
And if my words haven’t inspired you to be brave, free, and become your authentic self, check out a snippet of what my soul sister shared with me today when I told her that I didn’t think I could publicly share this post:
“People need us. And we need them.
We don’t have to deny who we are.”
So If you need some motivation to come out with whatever you’ve been hiding, Diana can help. 😉
I can’t let them down They’ll not understand me They’ll hate me …
These excuses how they served me so well They’ve kept me safe They’ve kept me small They’ve kept me locked inside my cell
Bringing this into the light Shakes their foundation And it clears my side
Now my imagination Is the only thing that limits The bar that is raised to the heights
Few of us ever live in the present. We are forever anticipating what is to come or remembering what has gone. ― Louis L’Amour
I Faked It.
When I was working at Audubon Nature Institute my coworkers and I used to lovingly joke about a “rambling” coworker. One of our colleagues had a tendency to ramble on and on for what seemed like an eternity. And those of us on the receiving end of the ramble would totally zone out. I mean, we would completely check out. Gone. We would mentally leave the situation. But we were clever enough to appear as if we were listening; we would chime in with a word or nod every few minutes and say something along the lines of “Oh”, “wow” , “huh”, “really”, or “yeah”. We faked as if we were there, but we were mentally checked out.
Do You Fake It?
As rude as what we did may sound, it’s all too common for most people when they are bored, distracted, or worried about either something that just happened, or what might happen later. We fake that we are listening, or we fake that we care. We fake interest in the person, the topic of discussion, or the situation. We fake that we are actually there with the person as they are sharing. It’s a rare event for people to be truly present with others. Let’s be honest: We are faking it all the time with people.
But we also fake it when we are with our pets.
My Mind is Either Full or Mindful.
I am the first to admit that I can completely zone out like it’s going out of style. My mind goes a million miles a minute. I am easily distracted. I get bored very easily. I don’t enjoy doing tedious chores. (Ahem, I was in the middle of a very boring and tedious attempt to clean and organize our house for upcoming guests right as I was suddenly compelled to write this post. ha!)
As a highly creative person, it can be an enormous challenge to be fully present. I will get these amazing insights or inspirational ideas while someone is talking to me, or when I am doing the dishes or feeding the animals.As great as that inspiration may sound, it’s not the best use of my mind. It’s not mindfulness. And it’s not helpful or respectful to the ones who are choosing to share their time, presence, or insight with me.
But I can train my mind to be mindful. I can practice being fully present, even if what I am doing or listening to is boring or tedious. Or I can practice being bored and distracted. I can choose to focus on what’s right in front of me. Or I can choose to zone out. I can choose to be consciously aware of where my mind is, or I can choose to not care.
I have that choice, and you do too.
Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment.
The Most Mindful Ones
Animals are mindful. Their minds are not full. Take a look a the image at the top of this post. Look at what is in the man’s mind. Then look at what is in the dog’s mind. The man’s is cluttered and full of his worries, wants, and concerns. The dog’s mind is focused on exactly what is in front of him/her. The dog is no where else. The dog is fully present. The dog is taking in the sight, scents, and experience of being right there, in that field with his/her person. Animals have the conscious ability to be fully focused, and fully present. And they practice this at every opportunity. It’s truly extraordinary. And we can learn from their practice and habit of being mindful. In fact, recently, Hocus Pocus had some insights to share with me on this very subject. You can read her wisdom here!
We Are Missing Out When We Are Not Mindful.
If you are asking, So what’s the big deal about being fully present? then you are right were I was many years ago. You are starting to at least question your behavior and thoughts. Asking that question and learning the answer is how we start to become more aware of our presence (or lack of) with our animal companions.
Over a decade ago when I first started consciously practicing mindfulness in my day-to-day activities, I was appalled at myself. When I slowed down and noticed my behavior and thoughts, I started to observe how frantic, chaotic, busy, and random my thoughts were. My mind was more like a mindless monkey machine. I wasn’t focused on anything that was in front of me. I was anywhere in my mind, but right there! I was missing out on life. I was not even present and absorbing all that was happening right in front of me!
Mindful or Mind Full Walks?
One area that I noticed I was really mentally checked out was when while walking my dog. I was dismayed to discover that I was in my head the entire time on our walk. I found myself wandering off in my mind, thinking about so-and-so at work, planning my next day’s events, how I wish I had said blah-blah blah in that meeting, and so on. I was pursuing my own agenda. I was stuck in the past. I was fixated future.
I was not fully in the present with my dog.
Eventually I noticed that while I was mentally absent, I wasn’t paying attention to my dog at all! I wasn’t focused on what she was doing, what she was sniffing, what she was looking at, what she was reacting to, or where she was choosing to walk. As she walked down the sidewalk sniffing and popping her head up every so often I noticed that the walk wasn’t about her at all. The walk was about the distractions in my head. It was about me and all the things I wanted, fretted, and worried about. I was there with my dog physically, but my mind had left her.
She was essentially walking alone.
“Be here now.” ― Ram Dass
Where Are You?
One aspect I love to address with clients is helping them to notice where their mind wanders. An easy way to determine their ability (or inability) to be fully present is when they are relaxing at home. Relaxation time is an important tool. This tool can help an animal guardian recognize “where they are” because this is the window to where their mind goes, when they can allow themselves to relax.
If they are in the habit of allowing themselves to sit down and relax for at least 20 minutes a day, then we start there. People soon learn if they are able (or unable) to maintain focus on their animal while doing something as simple as petting them, or just sitting with them. They can start to ask themselves questions such as, While I am petting my dog or cat, am I really focused on what’s happening right here now? Am I distracted about what happened today or what will happen tomorrow? Is my dog (or cat) even enjoying this? Am I? Is what’s happening “out there” more important than my friend at my side, or in my lap? As silly as those questions may seem, they are a window to where your mind is.
That’s the answer to where you are mentally.
If we are making time for “down time” every night, we can start to look at where our mind goes when relaxing with our pets. If you can’t even focus on your pets while you are relaxing at home, with no distractions, how are you going to be able to focus when it gets hectic or when things go awry? How will you be able to be fully present when they are nervous, afraid, reactive, sick or injured?
Being able to be fully present with your pet when you are relaxing is a precursor to being fully present during more challenging times. If you can’t mentally connect with your pet on the couch, then you certainly aren’t going to be fully present and connect with her during a walk, when she is becoming anxious, fearful, or reactive, at the veterinarian, or even during a simple training session. Your mind will wander. Your dog (and cat) will know and feel it. And the negative effects of this can be enormous.
Practice Being Present.
It takes time and practice to become fluent at anything. It takes a concerted effort to change our habits and our reactions. But you can practice being present! There are a number of ways that you can learn how to do this, from mediation to body awareness, but for the sake of brevity we won’t go into all of those in this post. Instead, I’ll mention a couple of common situations that people encounter often. In each scenario, you get to choose how to respond.
The next time your cat/dog/kid interrupts you while you are working:
You can stress out and become reactive to them (because you clearly have other things to worry about, and now your kid/cat/dog is adding to your worries).
You can take a deep breath, slow down, look at them calmly, be open, be present, and be there with them.
When we choose the latter, we are shifting from our fearful and reactive mind to our conscious and loving mind. If you can do this you will find that in that moment there is only you and them. There is nothing else. They get your full focus. Then you can go back to what you were doing, but you are doing it out of love.
The next time you take your dog for a walk you have two choices:
You can fiddle with your phone the entire time.
You can be full present with your dog. You can enjoy and appreciate your time together. You can notice subtle behaviors. You can learn where your dog enjoys sniffing, and where your dog tends to avoid. You can discover new sights, sounds, and scents with your dog. You can walk together.
Being there now, in that moment is a choice. We get to choose this a thousand times a day. We get to choose where we are. We get to decide if we want to appreciate who is in front of you. It’s in that moment where you can be grateful for that moment with him/her. Or you can let that moment pass you by. A thousand times a day. It’s a choice we all get to make.
When we are fully present we are allowing their presence to be enough for us.
Their Presence is Enough.
When we are fully present we are fully engaged. We are saying to our loved ones, “I care enough about you to be here fully with you now.” We are saying to them, “Nothing else is more valuable than you and me right now.” When we are fully present we are releasing our worries, regrets, frets, and concerns. When we are fully present with our pets, we are saying that we value their presence. And we are saying that their presence is enough for us right then and there.
Being Fully Present IS a Gift.
As Conscious Companions, one of the most powerful and respectful things we can do is to be fully present with our animal companions. When we make a conscious decision to be mindful we are giving ourselves and the ones we love a gift. Mindfulness takes conscious and deliberate focus but the more you practice, the easier it gets, and the more joyful your life becomes. And I promise you: Your pets will feel it, too.
Being mindful makes it easier to savor the pleasures in life as they occur. It helps you to become fully engaged in activities and be more aware of everything. It creates a greater capacity to deal with adverse events when they arise. It allows you to recognize and prevent stressful encounters, and conflicts.
I sometimes briefly look back and think about how often I was not fully present with the people and animals who I loved. Many of them are gone now, but the ones who are still by my side will have the gift of my presence. When I am walking with Hocus, petting Albert, brushing Knox, or listening to my husband, mother, or brother, they will have all of my focus. My mind may wander sometimes, but I will consciously choose to come back to them. I will remember that their presence is a gift, and my presence is my gift to them.
The most precious gift we can offer others is our presence. When mindfulness embraces those we love, they will bloom like flowers. – Thích Nhất Hạnh
Have you ever lost an animal companion so suddenly and unexpectedly that you struggled to come to terms with it for weeks, months, or even years? If you follow this blog, chances are you view your pets as part of the family, just like I do. I’d like to tell you about my experience of healing by writing about the loss of Henri.
Early in 2013, my beloved Bichon, Henri, started showing signs of illness. He was gaining weight rapidly and he had strange skin issues, like a rash that wouldn’t go away and cyst-like sores. I was no stranger to a Bichon’s allergies and the vet didn’t think it was too big a deal. He was more concerned that Henri was getting fat and we both figured he was just eating too much and not getting enough exercise.
More problems kept popping up—the skin rash was a staph infection and he had fungus growing between his little toes. The vet ran tests and amped up the meds. Then, Henri went blind. It was horrible, but I was prepared to do anything for that little dog. I researched how to care for a blind dog, started a blind dog blog, and of course gave him plenty of bully sticks and games to play with. Henri is wicked smart and could solve puzzles in a snap, blind or not.
Then, his hearing started to go. Trips to specialists were almost daily, because his sores wouldn’t heal and he kept getting more. He hated the constant poking and probing as much as anyone would! He was on so much medication I didn’t know how his little body could handle it. I had to wear gloves to give him one of the pills. I had to put eye drops in his poor blind eyes twice a day and it was obvious this scared him. One consolation was that, since he was blind, I had to carry him everywhere, so at least he was getting lots of snuggling and so was I.
Gradually, we were starting to realize that Henri was not going to get better; he was only going to get worse. Before long, he didn’t want to be petted and comforted any longer. He didn’t want to sleep. He barked all the time, confused.
We made the hardest decision a pet owner could make, and on his last night with us we gave him a steak dinner. He couldn’t even smell the steak in front of his face. But once he had a lick, he devoured every bite.
I was so grief stricken after he died that I was inconsolable for days. Understand, I didn’t want to admit that Henri’s condition was fatal until about a week before he died. Maybe that’s what the vet was telling me, but since they couldn’t even name the disease—it seemed like some kind of multi-system, cascading thing of mysterious origin—I denied that he couldn’t be fixed until the very end. His breed should have a life expectancy of at least fifteen years. Henri was only seven-years-old when he passed.
My friend Amy Martin encouraged me to celebrate his life (and that’s something I tried so hard to embrace), but I wasn’t ready to stop mourning. I wanted to hold onto him somehow.
That’s when I decided to make Henri a character in the book I was writing at the time. We come into the story as a new character is introduced, driving into the small town of Shirley…
Driving into Shirley from the east always shocked Aaron Walsh after he had been away for a while. He’d be driving through the gentle rise and fall of the highway, traversing mostly highlands between the taller peaks, for miles. Then, he’d round the last summit, Widow-maker Point, and then bang!—the valley plunged, a deep crevice in the countryside below the granite cliffs. The transition was breath-taking. He usually felt contented by the vision, flooded with memories of a happy childhood spent rampaging through the forests with friends, siblings and cousins. But not that day.
That day, the scene made him feel homesick and sorry for himself. He wanted nothing more than to curl up in a cozy lounger and watch a Mystery Science Theater marathon under blankets. He turned up the volume on a melancholy country song and let his mood settle in. Aaron reached up to squeeze Henri’s collar. He hung it from his rearview mirror after the vet had returned the collar, empty, along with other personal items. The grain of the fabric was worn and soft, slightly oily from years of use.
Henri had started out as his wife Chloë’s, dog years before, but the dog had taken to Aaron. Aaron loved to give Henri bacon treats and dinner handouts under the table. Chloë bought him for a show dog. He was a Bichon Frisee with Champion lineage—his sire was actually named Champion, no kidding—but Aaron had spoiled her chances in a matter of months. He smiled, thinking about how mad his wife was when Henri got too fat. He remembered that glorious, flowing-white tail that Henri would wrap around his wrist while he petted him. Aaron had grown up with hounds and mutts, and he never would’ve imagined a fluffy white dog would or could steal his heart, but he had.
Then, Henri started showing signs of mysterious health problems. A pure bred dog after all, Aaron had tried to reason that inbreeding often caused strange issues. He took him to dozens of specialists and spent thousands of dollars on testing and treatments. Finally, he had to accept it. Henri was dying. Once Aaron decided to have him put to sleep, he made the commitment to be there with him when he passed away. He cried like a baby for days leading up to it and for days after it was done, but he was able to stroke his fur and whisper thanks in his ear, for being such a good dog. As difficult as it was, he was grateful to have been able to tell him good-bye.
Chloë was sympathetic and patient at first. But after several days of Aaron’s prolonged mourning, his moping around the house uselessly, she started to lose patience. He lashed out at her for not seeing Henri’s worth as a show dog (which was ridiculous; Henri would have hated that prissy crap), and Chloë suggested a week in the mountains might help.
She was right, of course. Camping always helped heal the soul. Aaron couldn’t wait to get out there, among the elements. He’d spent too much time indoors the last few years. City life did that to you. He figured he’d stop in and say hello to Dad before he headed south, into the most secluded wilderness along Red Ridge.
When I read that now, two years later, I know that what I was doing was witnessing Henri’s life and death. I felt so guilty about his illness, because I didn’t realize for so long how ill he was. I wondered if I had treated him kindly enough when he was probably feeling worse than I understood. Henri never complained.
Any pet owner who has had to make the decision to euthanize a beloved friend knows how hard it is; even when all professional opinion tells you you’re doing the right thing, the “right thing” is excruciating.
But also, I was sharing Henri with the world, making him eternal in literature. That helped the healing process begin. As Aaron Walsh finds peace in the book, so was I in writing about it. The sunrise that he watches, and the peace he feels afterward, was my way to describe what I hoped was in store for myself.
I’m not the camper he is, but I can imagine it…
Right on time, an American Robin broke into her, “Cheer up, cheer up, cheerily,” whistle not a hundred yards away, and Aaron decided to quit his tent for an early start.
He unzipped the door flaps and ducked out into the fresh morning air, then reached back inside for his coat, shocked at the drop in temperature. Feeling the yawn in his abdomen, he considered breakfast, but since the sun wasn’t completely up, it would be a hassle in the dark. Instead, he sat down on the blanket of fallen pine leaves outside his front door, tugged on his boots, and decided to sit out the sunrise with a better vantage point closer to the river. He inspected his jeep as he passed for any signs of ransacking, but seeing nothing amiss, he ambled toward the rim of the bluff.
The stroll was easy through towering pine trees, their high plumes of needles overhead floating over the forest floor like thunderheads. He could barely see the stars, much less the blossoming horizon to the east, but he knew the giant trees would stand aside for maples, dogwoods and holly bushes along the edge of the pinewoods. The heavens would open up for a gorgeous sunrise over the southern canyon. He heard the rapid, stuttering trill and then low, buzzing tones of a warbler in the distance, announcing the dawn. Aaron picked up his pace. Near the edge of the forest, he slowed down to navigate a thicket of mountain laurel and rhododendron. He heard more birdsongs announcing survival of the night and warning enemies of nests still protected, and Aaron worried he might miss the sunrise.
But the canopy above cleared abruptly, and he was kissed by the fresh air of the open ravine, with an earthy smell of fast moving water churning up the riverbed below. He could just discern a delicate lavender wash seeping across the sky into the western blackness, the stars beginning to wink out with the advance of light. Aaron collapsed to the ground, leaned back in relief and dangled his boots over the side of the bluff, his palms damp on the cool, crusty granite. He thought about the healing power of a new day—of every new day—and admitted that he was starting to accept his friend Henry’s death.
“Bye, little buddy.”
The burst of sunfire was spectacular, perfect for Henry’s requiem. Bright pinks and oranges flared and rippled amongst feathers of clouds. Aaron’s face warmed as the sun rose and the pageant faded and the sky gradually fused back together in a cool, peaceful blue. It was morning, fair and full of promise.
I am happy to report that I’m now able to truly celebrate Henri’s life. When I shed tears for him, they are tears of joy and gratitude. Recently, Amy Martin introduced me to Denise Mange, a certified animal communicator who helped me contact Henri. It was an amazing experience and one that I will share in my next post. Stay tuned! If you’d like to learn more about animal communicators, ask Amy or visit Denise’s site: www.denisenyctraining.com.
Sarah Wathen is an artist, an author, and the founder of the independent publishing house, LayerCake Productions, specializing in the fun part of creative writing—original artwork, video trailers, and musical soundtracks. She was trained in Classical Painting at the University of Central Florida, and received her Master’s in Fine Art from Parsons School of Design in New York City. If Florida was where she discovered her passion, New York was the place she found her voice. “Writing a book was my obvious next step, once I realized I’d been trying to tell stories with pictures for years,” Sarah says about transitioning from visual artist to novelist. “Painting with words is even more fun than painting with oil.”
Sarah lives in Florida with her husband, son, and at least a dozen imaginary friends from her two novels, a paranormal mystery called The Tramp, and a young adult coming of age story, Catchpenny. A painter at heart, her novels incorporate art judicially, both in narrative content and supporting materials. Her characters are derived from the people and places that have influenced her own life—at least one beloved pet makes it into every book—but the stories they live will take you places you have never imagined and won’t want to leave.
Do you think only humans can tell a lie? Think again.
Koko, like most gorillas, is very intelligent. She is world-renown for her ability to communicate through sign language with a vocabulary of over 1000 words. Once Koko learned to communicate, she asked her trainers for a kitten as a present.
One day at the Gorilla Foundation, when no humans were present, Koko ripped a sink out of the wall of her habitat. When her people returned, Koko explained what happened by signing the phrase “cat did it” and pointing at her tiny kitten.
The year is 1979. The town is Wichita, Kansas. I am three years old. Playing outside is one of my favorite things, but playing with friends outside is even better.
Samson and Sheba are my favorite friends. They are beautiful. Samson’s hair is light blonde like mine. It’s wavy, but gets really curly when wet. Sheba’s hair is short, sleek, shiny, and black.
They are my very best friends in the whole wide world. We do everything together. We play. We laugh. We explore. We run. We nap. Sammy even lets me have piggybacks on him and Sheba offers me an endless supply of kisses. I love them. And I love my life.
Life seemed so simple at that age. Playing outside for hours on end and getting dirty with friends was it for me. I loved my best friends more than anything. And they loved me. They were mine. They were loyal.
They were dogs.
Sammy (that’s Samson’s nickname) was a golden retriever and shepherd mix. Sheba was a black lab. Sheba was calm, reserved, and regal. Sammy was goofy, happy, and always smiling. They both exuded love, and of course, slobber and kisses.
My mother rescued them when they were only a few weeks old. You could fit each one in the palm of your hand. They were part of our family, but strictly “outside” dogs – a concept that seems so strange and foreign to me now.
Sammy and Sheba ruled the back yard. I remember the path along the fence line of our yard that Sammy had created from casing the perimeter of the yard multiple times a day, wearing down the grass to what eventually looked like trails. Sammy was our protector. Sheba was our soulful girl.
Playing with my best friends in our backyard was heaven. We would play for hours. They were always one step in front of or behind me, always watching out for me. I would crawl into their simple but sturdy wooden dog houses that my father had built. Once I had squeezed my way into their house they would come in after me, excitedly licking my face then squishing me with their massive, warm, furry bodies. We would sit there until I was too hot or had enough and was ready to get out. Then we would run and chase, play and hug, and get dirty some more.
They were my family.
We communicated with each other as if they were my real brothers and sisters. I knew how they felt. I understood what they wanted, and they did the same for me. There was true peace and happiness being in the presence of those two animals.
That was bliss to me. Still today, when I am running, playing, or find myself covered in soil, hair, feathers, scales, or slobber I am happy and at peace. Being with animals is one of the greatest enjoyments on Earth for me. And yet, somehow, even at three years of age, I knew that I wanted to experience that happiness and connection with animals for the rest of my life.
Nearly 37 years later this is still true. Even looking at the picture of my two best furry friends from childhood brings me to tears. That was joy. That was bliss.
Animals of all shapes and sizes have been one of the greatest joys in my life from the moment I came into this world. As early as I can remember when I was asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” My answer was emphatically, “A veterinarian!” To me, a veterinarian was someone who helps and heals animals. I just knew that I wanted to be like that.
Well, three decades later I am still someone who helps and heals animals. Whether it’s an insect, a dog, or frog, animals have always been on the receiving end of my assistance. All species of life are near and dear to me; I have never seen them as lesser than me; they have always been my equal. But I have noticed that the roles have changed a bit nearly forty years later.
They are all helping and healing me.
The passion I had at three years of age has taken many forms throughout my life, from exploring vet school, completing a degree in Wildlife Management, working in nature centers, a highly accredited zoo, and beyond. I accomplished that little girl’s dream, but I still have many more dreams to fulfill with animals and nature.
I think back to being a little girl. I had no fears. I was filled with a sense of adventure, exploration, and complete adoration of the animals of the land, sea and sky. That fire was ignited as a child and it will always be in me.
I am still on that mission.
I have created this blog to explore the many adventures, mishaps, and lessons that I have learned from my animal companions (and nature) and to share them with others. By doing so, I hope to help others better understand their animal companions and improve their relationships with them. I also hope to help other Empaths better understand the delicate balance that we need, and how animals and nature can in fact, help us heal and grow in ways we never expected. There is always more to learn and explore and many adventures to be had.
But for now, I think I’ll go outside and get dirty with my dog.
Dogs are our link to paradise. To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring — it was peace. ― Milan Kundera
Safety Note: Riding on dogs and smothering them with hugs is not in a child’s (or dog’s) best interest. Fortunately, Sammy and Sheba were very patient, accommodating, and inviting with the way I showed them affection. As you can see, Sheba’s moth is open – a behavior indicating she is at ease with me leaning on her.
But most dogs are not this tolerant.
Today I teachworkshops on how to safely and respectfully show our canine companions affection without compromising their stress levels or a child’s safety. If you are interested in learning more about canine body language, please visit these links: here and here and here . And I invite you to learn about dog and child safety here.
“Dogs are not our whole lives, but they make our lives whole”– Roger Caras