A Love Not of This World

 Lord I want
To be up
In my heart
Be
Ohh
Just in my heart, oh Lord
– Moby, In My Heart

Conscious COmpanion_Amy MArtin


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. 

true love

That is why I am sharing with you today.

If you have been flowing with this blog for a while, you know about how we can move from fear to gratitude and  how this shifts us from fearful living to a heart-based life.   You also now know about why it’s important to look at fear.   But did you know that we can also do this by looking to our animal companions and the wonder of nature?  We can look to them and truly listen from our heart, instead of our head … especially when we start to believe, feel, and think things that are not in accordance of what’s really True. We can learn to see how they really see us.  We can view ourselves and our lives through Lenses of Love.  What am I talking about here?

I am talking about Love.

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

California Mexico Humpback Whale
A humpback whale breaching off the coast of Baja California on my birthday last year

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.

The Standing Ones_Amy Martin_Ireland_Conscious Companion
Hangin’ in the arms of a Standing One in Ireland

“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.

Beaux (2)
Mr. Beaux, my Bodhisattva

“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.

So, after several life-changing losses and lessons around Valentine’s Day, I started to view February 14th very differently.  Now every day is the 14th.   If you are interested,  you can read why the meaning of Valentine’s Day dramatically changed for me many years ago and why I believe most of us have MANY “Great Loves”. 

unnamed (4)
My Beloved File’ (Feelay) passed into another world 10 years ago today.

Beyond Feb 14th

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.

USMC Conscious Companion_Martin Amy_Unconditional Love
Hocus Pocus giving some our Marines Love on Christmas

Self Love

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.

Clearing baths_empath tools_spiritual cleanse_how to detox_energy

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:

Conscious Companion_True Love Dives Deep

 Love doesn’t make the world go round.  Love is what makes the ride worthwhile.   -Franklin P. Jones


Recommended Reads:

Animal Emotions and That Icky Sticky Fear

animal emotions

 “Lacking a shared language, emotions are perhaps our most effective means of cross-species communication. We can share our emotions, we can understand the language of feelings, and that’s why we form deep and enduring social bonds with many other beings. Emotions are the glue that binds.” ― Bekoff

 

Ants teach.  Earthworms make decisions.  Rats are ticklish.  Chimps grieve.  Horses understand and react to human facial expression.  Some dogs have a thousand-word vocabulary.  Birds practice songs in their sleep.  Mice and rats show empathy.  Crows use tools.  Jays plan ahead.  Moths remember being caterpillars.  Cats are worlds wiser than your iPad.

What else will we learn about animals today?

 


In my last post I discussed how our personal and collective fears affect progress, success, and peace with our pets and within ourselves.  This follow up post is intended to help you to become aware of the range of emotions that animals can experience.  When we begin to see our pets as conscious beings who can experience deep and profound emotions we are better equipped with the knowledge and empathy to help them, when life challenges arise.  My hope is that you learn something here so you and your animal companions can live a more fulfilling and peaceful life together, no matter what comes your way.


Emotional Beings

Most people believe that animals have some emotions.  But there is a lot more happening within animals than most realize. Did you know that some animals, when faced with stressors, often respond in body and mind the way humans do? It’s really amazing.

Let’s take a look at what emotions are.

From the scientific perspective, emotions are the internal changes in the body (hormones, adrenal glands, etc.) that cause changes in expression (the animal’s external behavior), and the thoughts and feelings that accompany them.  From the layman’s perspective, they are feelings one experiences in the mind that affect one’s mood and body.

Emotions have evolved as animal adaptations in many species.  Emotions serve as a “social glue” to bond animals together.  Emotions also regulate a wide range of social encounters among both friends and competitors.  Emotions allow animals to protect themselves by using numerous behavior patterns in a wide variety of settings.

To assume that animals are incapable of experiencing the same kinds of fears and stresses that we as humans experience is a common pitfall and misconception of pet parents.  Animals are very capable of experiencing a wide range of emotions!  Like us, many companion animals can and do experience a range of basic emotions such as happiness, sadness, fear, disgust, anger, grief, and surprise.

“Common sense and intuition feed into and support science sense, and the obvious conclusion is that at least mammals experience rich and deep emotional lives, feeling passions ranging from pure and contagious joy shared so widely among others during play that it is almost epidemic, to deep grief and pain. There also are recent data that show that birds and fish also are sentient and experience pain and suffering.”


love hormone_animal emotions_conscious Companion


Sentient Beings

We are hearing more often these days that animals are “sentient beings”, but what is sentience? What does this mean?

“Sentient animals may be aware of a range of sensations and emotions, of feeling pain and suffering, and of experiencing a state of well being. Sentient animals may be aware of their surroundings and of what happens to them.”

-CIWF

Sentience is the ability to feel or perceive the world around you and as a result have subjective experiences (i.e. good, bad or neutral experiences). In its most basic sense, sentience is the ability to have sensations and as a result have experiences which then may be used to guide future actions and reactions.

Animal Emotions_fear


Similar Brain Structures

Thanks to research with imaging studies we now know that some animals have many of the same brain structures, hormones, and neurotransmitters that humans do. Just like humans, animals have temporal, occipital, frontal and parietal lobes of their cerebral cortex. Each region is connected in the same way. We’ve also learned that emotions are centered in the limbic system, (known as the mammalian brain). We also know that emotions such as fear, frustration, and anger drive a lot of unwanted behaviors in animals (just like in people!)

Neuroscientific research has even shown, using functional magnetic resonance imaging, that elephants have a huge hippocampus. This is a brain structure in the limbic system that’s important in processing emotions. We now know that elephants suffer from psychological flashbacks and likely experience the equivalent of post-traumatic stress disorder.


Animals’ Advanced Abilities 

Most people believe that a human’s ability to communicate is far more complex and evolved than that of other species, but cetaceans have us beat. Cetaceans have several sound producing organs. They are capable of conveying and receiving 20 times the amount of information as we can with our ability to process sounds!  This surpasses the amount of information we can perceive based on vision (a human’s primary sense).

Research with cetaceans has even discovered that the frontal and temporal lobes (which are connected by their function in speech production and language processing) are capable of astounding abilities.  Communication is so spectacular in cetaceans that scientists believe there is a strong possibility that this species is able to project an “auditory image.” via sonar messages they receive.  The researches at MSU claim, “A dolphin wishing to convey the image of a fish to another dolphin can literally send the image of a fish to the other animal. The equivalent of this in humans would be the ability to create instantaneous holographic pictures to convey images to other people.”

Yeah.  So that’s happening in the ocean and in captivity.  Just let that sink in for a moment.

animal brain_intelligece_play_emotions


Pets, People, and the Mind’s Landscape

Could our pet’s mental map be similar to ours? According to researchers at Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine, the physical structure of our brain and that of felines are very similar.  Cats have the same lobes as we do in the cerebral cortex (the “seat” of intelligence).  And our brains function the same way, by conveying data via identical neurotransmitters.

In the region of the brain which controls emotion, they are similar as well.  Cats have a temporal, occipital, frontal and parietal lobe in their brains, just as we do.  Additionally, cat brains also contain gray and white matter and the connections within their brains seem to mirror those of humans.

We also know that cats’ brains release neurotransmitters in a similar pattern to that of humans when confronted with information from their five senses.  Cats also have a short-term and long-term memory, and are able to easily recall information from up to 16 hours in the past.  Researchers are even studying cats’ Brain structures and neurotransmitters that regulate aggression to learn more about the implications for human aggression.

Recently through MRI research doctors have discovered that dogs and humans both house impulse control in the same area of the brain. Both human and dog brains by the prefrontal lobes, but in dogs this area is much smaller relative to brain size.  There is an actual link between the level of self-control a dog has and the behavior they display. Dogs who have more brain activity in their frontal lobes, tend to have more self-control and are better able to control their behaviors, reactions, and responses to stimuli in their environment.

dog brain impulse control_MRI
Brain region in dog prefrontal cortex for impulse control.

The Workings of the Inner Clockwork

All mammals (including humans) share neuroanatomical structures: The amygdala and hippocampus and neurochemical pathways in the limbic system that are important for feelings.  Let’s look at two areas of the brain to better understand the commonalities of the inner clockwork:

  • The Amygdala: The “Emotion Processing Center”:  There are two almond-shaped areas in the human brain that control emotional responses. The most common function of the amygdalae involves synthesizing fear responses from the environment. Animals also have amygdalae that initiate emotional responses such as fear.

 

  • The Hippocampus:  Where Memories Trigger Emotions: The hippocampus is the area in the brain where long-term memories are stored.  The hippocampus feeds directly to the amygdala.  Scientists believe that this is why a flood of strong emotions often follows after we recall a vivid memory.

Our companion animals also have a hippocampus.  If your pet had a fearful experience before, and the sight of something reminds her of that situation, the information from her sensory cortex triggers the memory in her hippocampus, which communicates with her amygdala, which then floods her with fear.princess Amidala_fear_cats_dogs_pet brains

They have found that with dogs who are experiencing the emotion of anger, the amygdala and hippocampus play key roles. When these systems become overactive, they cause the amygdala pathway to bypass the cortex entirely.  This results in an animal who will literally react without thinking.  Ahem, Hocus Pocus and King Albert can both attest to this.  And I know of a cockatoo who lives in this state during the peak hormonal months!

But don’t we all have the ability to react this way at some point in our lives?  I find it fascinating that our animal companions have this hard-wiring as well. 

animal brain
Primary amygdalar nuclei and basic circuit connections across species.

 


Emotions and the Autonomic Nervous System At Work

When an animal looks at the world, he or she is confronted with an overwhelming amount of sensory information—sights, sounds, smells, and so on.  After being processed in the brain’s sensory areas, the information is relayed to the amygdala, which acts as a portal to the emotion-regulating limbic system.  Using input from the individual’s stored knowledge, the amygdala determines how they should respond emotionally—for example, with fear (at the sight of a predator or stranger), in affection or love (at the sight of their beloved person walking in the door) or indifference (when facing something trivial).

Messages cascade from the amygdala to the rest of the limbic system and eventually reach the autonomic nervous system, which prepares the body for action.  If the animal is confronting a threat, her heart rate will rise.  Her body might sweat in some areas to dissipate the heat from muscular exertion.  The autonomic arousal in turn, feeds back into the brain, amplifying the emotional response.  Over time, the amygdala creates a salience landscape, a map that details the emotional significance of everything in the individual’s environment.

This internal mind map is a reminder of how to stay safe and alive.

When a threat is perceived, the body’s brilliant sympathetic nervous system kicks into high gear. The body then releases hormones that are responsible for either Fight or Flight. The hormones are adrenaline, cortisol, and norepinephrine. These hormones serve a very important purpose: They increase chances of survival.

“Fight or flight is a body’s primal response to anything one perceives a threat, hazard or danger; it is an immediate release of hormones to pump up our body to fight or run from a threat, whether that threat is perceived or real.”

fofbraindiag


Fear Digs In Deep.

There are some fascinating facts when it comes to the subject of fear. We now know that negative experiences effect the brain more deeply than positive experiences.  Fear sinks in deep.  And it holds on tight.  Once a learner (us or an animal) learns that something is scary, should be avoided, or becomes a trigger, the negative effects can be long lasting and hard-wired in the brain.

Remember when that creep who wore a clown costume to your friend’s birthday party when you were a kid?  Or what about that roach that crawled on you once while you were sleeping as a child?  How do you feel about roaches and clowns today?  It just takes one negative experience and that fear sticks to our minds like super glue.

Animals are not unlike us when it comes to how fear can set in and grab a tight hold in their minds.


Fear from Watching

Did you know that both people and pets can learn to be fearful of something, someone, or somewhere just by watching another animal or person?  The amygdala plays a critical part in the physical expression of a fear response in humans as well as animals.  Scientists have shown that the amygdala responds when a person or animal exhibits fear through observing someone else experiencing a fearful experience. This means that the amygdala is involved in learning to fear something even without directly experiencing the aversive event. Animals can merely observe something fearful and learn to be afraid of that person, place, or event!

Knox In His Box


The Scent of Fear

You know that phrase, “I can smell fear a mile away!”, or “They can smell your fear.”?  Well, it turns out there is some truth to that.  Researches in 2014 discovered that young animals have the ability to learn fear in the first days of life. Just by smelling the odor of their distressed mother.  And this doesn’t pertain to just “natural” fears; If a mother experienced something before pregnancy that made her fear something specific, her offspring will quickly learn to fear it too. How? Through her odor when she feels fear.

When the odor of the frightened rat mother was piped in to a chamber where her offspring were located and the juvenile rats were exposed to peppermint smell, they developed a fear of the scent of peppermint. Their blood cortisol levels rose when they smelled it! I mean, come on! How incredible is that?!

“During the early days of an infant rat’s life, they are immune to learning information about environmental dangers. But if their mother is the source of threat information, we have shown they can learn from her and produce lasting memories,” says Jacek Debiec, M.D., Ph.D., the U-M psychiatrist and neuroscientist who led the research.

“Our research demonstrates that infants can learn from maternal expression of fear, very early in life,” he adds. “Before they can even make their own experiences, they basically acquire their mothers’ experiences. Most importantly, these maternally-transmitted memories are long-lived, whereas other types of infant learning, if not repeated, rapidly perish.”

fear learned

Credit: Image courtesy of University of Michigan Health System

But wait. There’s more.  The scientists exposed the rat pups of both groups of mothers to the peppermint smell, under many different conditions with and without their mothers present.  Fear still occurred.

Using special brain imaging, studies of genetic activity in individual brain cells, and cortisol in the rat’s blood, they focused on the lateral amygdala as the key location for learning fears. Note: Later in life this area is responsible for detecting and planning a response to threats; that’s why it would also be the “hub” for learning new fears.

“But the fact that these fears could be learned in a way that lasted during a time when the baby rat’s ability to learn any fears directly was naturally suppressed, is what makes the new findings so interesting”, says the lead scientist, Debiec.

Their research even showed that the newborns could learn their mothers’ fears even when the mothers weren’t present.  Merely the scent of their mother reacting to the peppermint odor she feared was enough to make them fear the same thing.


Fear In Pheromones

Fear can be passed through scent glands.  Not only can pheromones be used to scent mark, attract mates, claim territory, find prey, and identify other animals, but they can be used as alarms.  Our dogs and cats can smell when fear is present in these glands.  I refer to these as FEAR-amones When they smell fear, they instinctively know to Get The Heck Out of Dodge.

sniffing-butt
Butt Sniffing : Think of this behavior as “speaking with chemicals”. It’s how dogs learn about another dog’s diet, gender, and even their emotional state!

 

Our Similar Structures

In An Odyssey with Animals: A Veterinarian’s Reflections on the Animal Rights & Welfare Debate Adrian Morrison provides a great description of just how mammalian and animal-like we humans are. As Morrison explains, we share common brain structures with other mammals:

My cat, Buster, and I both flinch and yowl or curse at a sudden painful stimulus, and our legs both jerk in response to a tap on the patellar tendon of the knee. The spinal organization of the neurons responsible for these activities is the same in cats as it is in humans.

Moving forward into the lowest part of the brain, in both Buster and me the same neurons control basic bodily functions, such as regulation of breathing, heart rate, and vomiting. Farther forward reside the nerve cells that regulate the behaviors of sleep and wakefulness, which are identical in humans and other mammals, and where dysfunction results in similar problems, such as narcolepsy … and REM sleep behavior disorder. In this brain region in all mammals are found the neurons containing the neurotransmitter dopamine, which degenerate in Parkinson’s disease.

At the base of the cerebral hemispheres is the almond-shaped amygdala, where mechanisms leading to fear and anxiety in people and animals operate. Monkeys and rats have contributed much to our understanding of the amygdala. The overlying cerebral cortex is where all of us mammals analyze the sensations coming from the skin, muscles and joints via the spinal cord, or eyes and ears in the cases of vision and hearing.

Where we depart from our animal brethren is in the great development of the front part of our cerebral cortex, the frontal lobes, and the greater proportion of cerebral tissue, called association areas, which integrate the information obtained from the regions that directly receive sensory information. These latter regions are called the primary sensory and motor areas because they receive simple, pure sensations and direct the movement of the body. It is within the frontal lobes that we humans mull over the past, prepare for the future, and reflect on its implications. Animals do not have this last capability in particular, as far as we can discern. Animals prepare for the future in a limited, instinct-driven way: Think of squirrels gathering and burying nuts for the winter. …

His last three sentences get right to the point of why I am sharing with you:  If we have the ability to plan, predict, and prepare, and our pets are instinctively coping, adjusting, and surviving this rollercoaster (we put them on), then we have a lot of work to do as their guardians.

If fear is sticky and hard to remove, then as animal guardians we need to know how fear sets in, how we can minimize or prevent it, and how to effectively remove it.  We have serious business at hand if we want them to live in our human world with minimal stress and fear, and with a maximum sense of security and safety.  If we want them to thrive, rather than merely survive, then we need to get to work.


Emotions Matter. 

The willingness to recognize that animals have emotions is key.  Their feelings matter, their fear is real to them.  Animals are sentient beings who experience the lows and highs of their live with us. We must respect this.

To continue with the status quo, because that’s what as always been done isn’t enough anymore. Now that we know more, we do more. Now that we know better, we must do better. For them. For us. For all species.

All that we once believed about animals has changed, and so should our relationships with the animals we live with, care, for and are stewards for.  When it comes to what we can and cannot do for animals, it is their capacity to feel, experience complex emotions that can be a catalyst for how we change the way we view them, and how we act on their behalf.


“Emotions are the gifts of our ancestors. We have them, and so do other
animals. We must never forget that”. ― Marc Bekoff, The Emotional Lives of Animals: A Leading Scientist Explores Animal Joy, Sorrow, and Empathy – and Why They Matter




My next post in this “Fear Series” will address both the causes and effects of of emotional and environmental stress on our pets, so stay tuned!

And the last post in this Fear Series will be chocked full of fun tips and techniques that you can implement to help your pets reduce their fears and live a fearless life!

Until then, I am going to plan, prepare, and be proactive about our upcoming Big Move with our animal companions!

All my love to you and yours.

-Amy & The Critter Krewe

 

Stranger in Black 

There are no ordinary cats. – Colette beaux_Conscious Companion

August 2, 2015

Have you ever met someone when you least expected it? And not only did you meet them when you least expected it, but they ended up being one of the greatest influences in your life?

I have. Many of them, actually, but the one who surprised me the most was an animal.

A black cat.

16 years ago after graduating college at Louisiana State University, I was working at LSU’s veterinary teaching school. One fateful day I happened to walk up to the front desk to receive a drop off.  We often received a lot of injured wildlife, but this animal was an injured and exhausted young black kitten.

We had “no room at the inn”, but the staff agreed to hydrate and treat him if one of us could take him home temporarily.  I immediately declined; I really was not a huge fan of cats.  Plus, I was currently searching for our M.I.A. pit bull, Daisy. – She would have certainly thought this wee kitten was an offering to her!  I couldn’t take the chance.

Taking this kitten home was not an option. Period. No way. No how. Never. Not me.

I took the kitten from the woman’s hands, and held him on my left arm. Looking back now, I realize that I was uncomfortable holding him near me.  But before I knew it, this injured and dehydrated kitten was curled up in the crook of my bent arm, fast asleep.  My arm ached terribly, but for some reason I didn’t want to wake him. (Note: This was the start of him training me!)

My colleagues and the woman who found the kitten continued to pressure me into taking him “for just one night!”  The woman who brought him in offered to pick him up promptly the next day after work, “I promise! I’ll get him tomorrow. I just have to get to work. I’m so late!”  I very reluctantly agreed. I told her, “One night. That’s it. If I find my dog the cat cannot be at my apartment.”

I never heard from this woman again.

The next day began the beginning of the rest of my life with Mr. Beaux.


 

 

Beaux Fall carlsbad 2017


Fast Forward to 2017:

18 incredible years have gone by and he’s still with me.  During this time together he never ceases to amaze me. We have been through more together than any animal or person I know.  We have survived countless moves, missing-in-action-adventures, misunderstandings and musings.  We’ve endured countless Hurrications, heartbreaks, ghost sightings and hauntings.  We have experienced the passing of loved ones, weddings, deployments and homecomings, health and sickness, and everything between.  Beaux snuggling as usual

He’s seen me at my absolute worst, on my darkest days.  He has watched me bloom in my brightest hours.  He has taught countless children and adults what cats are capable of.  He’s watched me learn how to let down my barriers to love, thanks to his persistent ability to love unconditionally.  He’s taught me how to truly listen to animals through the heart, how to listen more than speak, how to hear my inner guidance, and how to be the teacher and always the humble student.  He’s taught me how truly magnificent and magical cats truly are.

Beaux has taught me more in our 18 years together than any species I’ve ever known.  I have learned more from Beaux about life, love, and cats than I ever thought possible.  Who knew that a melanistic Siamese could teach a person so much??  I sure didn’t.  After all, he was “just a cat”.

I am still learning from him, including how to be a better guardian to him every day.

Conscious Companion_black cats
“What greater gift than the love of a cat.” ― Charles Dickens

 


There must have been an angel by my side
Something heavenly led me to you
Look at the sky
It’s the color of love
There must have been an angel by my side
Something heavenly came down from above
He led me to you
He built a bridge to your heart
All the way
How many tons of love inside
I can’t say

-Kiss of Life, SADE


Thank you, Beaux, for being one of my greatest teachers in life.  Thank you for being my  Bodhisattva.  Thank you for helping me to write our book about you.

I am so looking forward to more adventures with you, more magic and wonder,  more love and learning, and to continue celebrating the amazing soul that you are.
Happy birthday, Mr. Beaux!!! ❤

Conscious Companion_Copyright 2015_black cats_Mister Beaux

P.S. Although you are now 18 years of age, I wrote this when you were 16  … and I know you think it ain’t no thang to you (even if it was equivalent to 80 human years!)  But as you so perfectly proclaimed, “I am young and vibrant!”

Damn right you are.

And may that always be so.  Cheers to another decade together.

Namaste, my feline friend.

 

Black Cats_ Mr. Beaux_Conscious Companion

This latter was a remarkably large and beautiful animal, entirely black, and sagacious to an astonishing degree.  ― Edgar Allan Poe, The Black Cat


 

Beaux
Mr. Beaux, my beloved Bodhisattva at 18 years young

“Cats are good; half in, half out anyway.”

– John Constantine

Finding Hope Through Writing About Loss

henriandbill

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, mhenriandliamy 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.

bullystick

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 puzzlesget 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.

–Excerpted from The Tramp.

henriWhen 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.

–Excerpted from The Tramp

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, guest author


Headshot_1_smallTo learn more, follow Sarah’s blog at www.sarahwathen.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.

Contact

Email: layercakeproductionsllc@gmail.com

Twitter: @SWathen_Author

Facebook: SarahLWathen

Tumblr: swathen.tumblr.com

Instagram: sarah.wathen

Wattpad: SarahWathen

Medium: @sarahwathen

Promises Fulfilled

Happy New Year_Inspiration 3

I feel keeping a promise to yourself is a direct reflection of the love you have for yourself. I used to make promises to myself and find them easy to break. Today, I love myself enough to not only make a promise to myself, but I love myself enough to keep that promise ― Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free

So often around the New Year we make promises and resolutions for ourselves that we never seem to keep. Did you know that less than 8% of New Year’s resolutions are kept?  I’ll admit that I usually set pretty high stakes for myself and then I fall into that 8 percent. This year I thought that maybe I could keep my new year’s intentions if I made them about something greater than myself. I started to ask myself these questions:

What if I set the intention to be a little kinder and more patient with myself? Would this carry over to my family members and our animal companions?

What if I focused more on what I saw was possible in myself, instead of only what I see now? Would this help me to do the same with my animal companions and the people in my life?

What if I listened more, and observed more, and reacted less? What would happen?

The answers were clear to me; What I give to (or withhold from) myself will parallel how I treat others. What I practice in life will parallel life with others, including my animal companions.  As I reflected on this before and after New Year’s, I was inspired to share some of the things that I have learned over the years, and what I have set the intention to focus on, and improve upon in 2015:

 

Daily Does It.

“If you had started doing anything two weeks ago, by today you would have been two weeks better at it.” ― John Mayer

Setting your mind up to start a new habit, a new way of thinking, or anything that you want to do with your animal companion takes daily determination. You have to choose to do it over and over.  However, it doesn’t have to take an hour. Set aside 5 minutes each day.  Make a point to repeat your new behavior, or the behavior you are working on with your companion animal every day.  Aim high! Shoot for 40-days straight!  Science has shown us that doing a quick but daily repetition changes the neural pathways in our brains and helps to create long-lasting change. I have tried this and it really works!  Be dedicated to it.  Daily repetition creates permanent change.

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Have Fun or Let It Go.

When he worked, he really worked. But when he played, he really PLAYED. ― Dr. Seuss

I love to laugh, and I live to have fun.  Ever since I was a kid I felt that if it wasn’t fun, it wasn’t worth it doing.  Don’t you think our animals want this too?  Ask yourself: Are you having fun with them?  Are they having fun when you are training or working with them?   The best way to make any resolution stick is to have fun with it.  Do you dread doing something?  Find a way to make it exciting and something you look forward to doing!  Get creative!  Be playful!  Add music into it!  Make it a game or a challenge with an awesome reward!  Use some of that positive reinforcement on yourself!  Animals and people learn so much faster when they are having FUN!

happy pets, happy animals

Question Everything.

Whenever we hear an opinion and believe it, we make an agreement, and it becomes part of our belief system. ― Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom

I cannot even begin to tell you all of the myths and nonsense that I have been taught since childhood, even up to today!  Teachers, friends, family, doctors, nutritionists, veterinarians, and even other animal trainers and educators have shared some real whoppers with me.  None of them were trying to deceive me.  They had been taught a particular belief so they were just passing it onto me.  It was up to me to either digest the fact or barf it up, so to speak.

Everyone has an opinion on something they are passionate about, but it doesn’t make it a fact.  I used to teach my interns and volunteers at the zoo to question everything they heard, even if it came from me, or another highly respected staff member.  You may be wondering why. Well, think about the “facts” that you were once taught, only to find out later on that a fact turned out to be a myth or a popular misconception that merely spread like wildfire from passionate, well meaning friends or colleagues.  When you hear a fact, a suggestion, opinion, or something about an animal, especially yours at home, question what you’re told.  Do your own research about it.  Read as much as you can on that subject. Become an expert on it, or find an expert with credentials.  And remember that just because it’s on the internet or T.V., that doesn’t make it true. You get to decide what’s true for you and your animal family members. Go with what resonates with you.

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Easy Now. Be Like The Duck.

The best way is not to fight it, just go. Don’t be trying all the time to fix things. What you run from only stays with you longer. When you fight something, you only make it stronger. ― Chuck Palahniuk, Invisible Monsters

Be easy with yourself, your partner, your kids, and your animal companions.  Let mistakes happen and forgive them.  Don’t hold onto the mistakes and mishaps of anyone, including yourself.  Let yourself, your partner, family member, coworker, boss, and your animal off the hook!  Release the judgments, guilt and blame – especially the ones about yourself!  We are all doing the best we can with where we are.  Animals don’t waste a single ounce of energy on any of those and that’s a powerful life lesson that we can all learn from them. Let it roll off your back like water on a duck!

duck water be the duck

Embrace the “Inner Ding”. 

Trust instinct to the end, even though you can give no reason. ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

One of my biggest deterrents is doubt.  I used to always look outside myself for answers.  I never believed that I had the knowledge or experience to do something out of my comfort zone, or share something personal with others without the fear of criticism.  But over the years I have learned how to better rely on my (as Louise Hay says) “inner ding” to validate my thoughts and feelings instead of doubting them.  Spoiler Alert: The Answers Are Inside YOU. They are not “out there”!   If we can learn to slow down, step away from the situation, remove the emotion, and tune into our own built-in, inner guidance system, we will live life as mother nature and animals know how to do naturally; they flourish without doubt or worry, and they don’t look for answers outside of themselves.  Sure we can read books to learn more, we can go to educational conferences, and we can ask others we respect for their opinions and get their advice, but remember to ask yourself those same questions first and last.  When we strengthen our inner awareness, our outer experience becomes miraculous.

Oh, and about the criticism issue: the only one really criticizing and judging you is yourself.  One way that I started to overcome this fear was by asking myself this question: “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”.  You’ll find that when you ask yourself this question, the answer you receive is pretty cool every time. Try it the next time you are afraid or intimidated to do something. Your “Inner Ding” won’t fail you. And you never know how much of a difference you might be making in other’s lives!

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Trust the Process

Miracles are like pimples, because once you start looking for them you find more than you ever dreamed you’d see. ― Lemony Snicket, The Lump of Coal

Patience has never been my strongest quality but working with animals has certainly helped that. Giant tortoises were the first to teach me how to just chill out, slow down, keep it simple, and celebrate the heck out of every little success, no matter how small it seems. Change within ourselves, and our animals doesn’t happen overnight.  So be patient with yourself and with them.  We are all trying to better ourselves, but let’s face it; it’s a lifelong process for us stubborn, thick-headed humans.  Animals don’t measure things as successes or failures, so why should we?  It’s ok when things don’t happen right away.  Remember that every little success adds up!  “Each subtle shift creates a new experience of positive change.”   Then, before we realize it, new behaviors are created!  You’ll look back and those small successes will turn out to be huge leaps.  Keep it simple.  Miracles are in the subtle details of life.  All good things will grow with time.

Magma The Aldabra Tortoise

Observe More. React Less

To acquire knowledge, one must study; but to acquire wisdom, one must observe. ― Marilyn Vos Savant

I admit it; I can be sassy as heck when I am tired or stressed, and in general I tend to talk more than I listen.  Just ask my family; I have been mouthy ever since my mother can remember, and my husband must have the patience of an oak tree to deal with me some days.  Sometimes I find myself reacting to comments or behavior instead of observing quietly, without judging or taking things personally.  Interestingly, our dog is reactive sometimes when she is stressed or tired.  I now know that her canine peace of mind can only come when she learns how to observe things (from a safe distance) instead of overreacting to them.  We work on this daily with her. When she is calm and feeling safe and secure, the world and all of its normal chaos does not affect her negatively.  She watches instead of reacts.  I see this in myself as well.  We are both a work in progress in many ways, but with a lot of patience and a lot of daily practice, I know that I can become a conscious observer every minute of the day, and she can too. “Be Passersby”.  You don’t have to react to everything you see and hear. Communicate clearly, but listen and watch more.

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Flaws and All

Because one believes in oneself, one doesn’t try to convince others. Because one is content with oneself, one doesn’t need others’ approval. Because one accepts oneself, the whole world accepts him or her. ― Laozi

Here are the Cliff notes: You’re good enough, for whatever it is.  In fact, you are perfect, and so is every one of your animal companions -just the way they are.  Sure, they may have a few (or a lot of) behavioral issues that can be modified so they can function better in our human world, but so do we.  It’s a constant challenge for me to embrace all of my many flaws.  Loving and accepting ourselves exactly as we are is the first step in accepting others – including our animals – for exactly as they are.  If we are hard on ourselves, or judge and criticize the flaws, we are bound to view others this way too, including our animal companions.  I don’t believe that animals have “flaws”.  They are products of their genetics and their environment. So are we.  But we are not our past, and neither are they. We are who we decide we are going to become.  When we are able to look past the “flaws” and “imperfections”, and instead, consciously choose to focus on what’s possible, and what he or she can become, miracles occur.  Fear, judgement, and criticism are limitations. They only hold you and your animal companions back.  Instead of constantly reliving or talking about your animal companion’s hard or tough past, focus on where they are headed and what they are capable of becoming.  Believe in the impossible.  Embrace the flaws and all.

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Your Presence Is Needed. 

The greatest gift you can give yourself or anyone else is just being present. ― Rasheed Ogunlaru

My mind is always racing, and I am easily distracted. (Anyone that knows me well is probably laughing out loud at that statement.)  Thankfully I’ve found many ways to quiet my mind over the years, but I still find myself not being fully present when I’m with a friend, a family member, or my animal companions.  I catch myself thinking of what I need to do next, or a conversation that happened earlier.  A year ago I decided to remove all of my social media apps off of my phone because I found myself mindlessly checking them instead of just being aware of what was going on around me!  It has made a huge difference in helping me to be fully present.

One of the things that I admire about animals is that they are always fully present in the moment; they aren’t thinking about what happened yesterday, or what is going to happen tomorrow. They are always here, now.  I’d like to suggest that you try this: when you come home from your busy or stressful day, make a conscious effort to spend a few minutes of your “decompressing” time with your animal family members. Pet them. Throw the ball. Play tug.  Brush them.  Look at them in the eye.  Be fully present with them.  I promise that doing this will turn your day around and uplift you. Their presence is a gift to us. Your presence is also a gift to them.

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Be In 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

Even in the crappiest moments in life I can find something to be grateful for.  I am not a Saint by any means, but I have learned to do this.  This technique has changed my life in more ways than I can explain. I now know that my moods directly affect everyone around me, especially my animal companions.  Whether you know it or not, our animal companions are sponges for our emotions and moods.  They are soaking up all that we are sending out.  Now I can catch myself when I start to send out negative energy.  This is how I do it: If I am feeling angry, frustrated, overwhelmed, sad, (insert any emotion), I choose one thing that I am grateful for.  I say it out loud or to myself.  When I do this my mood will start to shift. I can feel myself lighten up and feel better. I start to focus on more things that I am grateful for, and whatever I was so upset about starts to fade. Try it. The next time you are upset, reach for a thought that helps you to feel better; find one thing to be thankful for. More will follow.

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Last year before New Year’s Eve I asked a few friends, colleagues, and close acquaintances what their resolutions and intentions were for their animal companions and themselves.  This is what they graciously shared with me.  (If you don’t have Adobe PDF reader, click here to read Promises from around the world.)

I haven’t had a chance to ask anyone what intentions they have set for this New Year, but I would LOVE to hear yours! Did you make any promises to yourself or your animal companions for 2015?  Please share them with us in the comment section below!

Happy New Year_pets_Inspiration

Go for it, while you can. I know you have it in you. And I can’t promise you’ll get everything you want, but I can promise nothing will change if you don’t try.  ― J.M. Darhower, Sempre