Thanksgiving is almost here in the U.S. Some dread it; some can’t wait. We keep it low key, so I am grateful for that. Heck, we don’t even have a dining room table since the move, so this year should be interesting. Regardless of the set-up, some families have hectic holidays. That’s why it’s critical to plan and prepare … especially if you share a home with the furry, feathered, or scaly kind.
This short post is dedicated to those of you out there who could use a few tips for Thanksgiving to be less hectic and more harmonic.
In our household, 365 days a year, we do our best to help every animal to feel safe and secure. We continue to counter condition and desensitize animal to their individual perceived threats. We practice energy management. We strive to set them all up for success. We use toolsand techniques to ensure their perceived “threat level” is at zero. We respect boundaries, believe in consent, and factor in FUN!
But these are only pieces of the peaceful puzzle.
Creating safe boundaries is an essential key to creating peace and harmony in your home, especially during and after stressful holiday festivities. If you have children, guide them by showing them how to to respect the animal’s space or enclosure. Teach them to be mindful and respectful of each individual animal’s tolerance for noise and commotion. Ensure that our animal companions have their own safe bubble where they are free from being “loved on” (AKA being pestered). If you have family or friends visiting, remind them to give the animals space.
▪️How do you feel when a friend, family member or stranger touches you without your consent? ▪️How would you react if someone whom you’re sometimes uncomfortable with started stroking or rubbing on you without your permission? ▪️How would you feel if a stranger touched your face, or another area few go near?
🔸Many animal companions experience this daily. They tolerate the uninvited touches, the cuddling without consent, and the petting without permission. Imagine being an animal companion who experiences this multiple times a day every day, for years. Then consider how challenging that could be if you were an animal companion who has a underlying medical conditions, fears, and challenges with close-encounters.
Choice Matters, But There’s More to It.
If the animals choose to be around your guests, remember that the dog or cat may be excited to see newcomers, but in the next instant they very well could be more protective of things they consider “high value” such as bedding, treats, their people, and their food. Remember those stress hormones are in their system!
Also, if the animals in your home are not the best of buds, and they’re merely coexisting with one another, creating safe spaces for each animal and managing your home environment carefully is imperative. Give everyone ample safe space!
Being aware of each animal’s individual threshold, and their need for safe, quiet refuge after any kind of commotion is how we become conscious companions for the animals with which we share a home.
Despite what we often may think, animals are pretty complex creatures. They speak a different language than we do, they have quirks in their personalities that can make them quite unusual sometimes (like us humans) and they often display anxiety and discomfort in ways we don’t.
Over the years we have observed each animal in our home respond with a different type of reactivity to their individual perceived threats. The dog has been known to lunge and bark, freeze and growl, or retreat. Her response depended on what she felt threatened by, and by her individual stress/hormone levels at that moment.
Cortisol is an adrenal hormone with a great number of effects on the body. The level goes up or down quickly in response to stress.
Each of the cats has their own individual response, depending on the trigger at the time, and their individual stress hormone levels. You might recall one of your animals behaving this way when they are stressed. You might even recall doing this yourself!
That’s why we set everyone up for success!
Holiday Tips for Busy Families
Check out the video below (filled with bloopers). I made this a couple of years ago, but the points are timeless. This will give you some giggles, insight, and ideas on how you can prepare your entire family for a Thanksgiving Feast, and how to enjoy the Family Festivities in Harmony!
Remember to Laugh, But Focus on Prevention!
Although I included some silly bloopers in this video, the points I address are very important. Please consider the needs of everyone in your home. Please plan ahead and prepare. And remember that your energy and attitude is contagious!
P.S. Be sure to check out the articles and videos at the end of this post; all are related to what I discuss in this video!
“I am who I am today because of the mistakes I made yesterday.”
― The Prolific Penman
Becoming a Conscious Companion
If you are reading this, I can assume that you love the animals that you share your life with enough to be inspired or learn more to improve their lives. I encourage you to take that love and funnel it into educating yourself, and your family and friends about the basic behavior of the species that you work with, live with, and adore. Every day I challenge myself to learn something new about the animals I love and live with. I hope you do the same.
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.
I have to mention; the grammar nerd in me got a kick out of playing around with the comma placement in the title of this post. If you were confused, this post isn’t about disco frogs, disco cats, or disco dogs, but it does involve these species, with a touch of the genre of music I just adore: disco!
I appreciate that this genre of music isn’t everyone’s preferred choice. But since I am a child of the 70’s I have a super positive association with DISCO that stems way back to childhood and well into high school. From rocking out to The Bee Gees in the backseat, to breakin’ it down until the break of dawn with my girlfriends; Disco was my dope.
It was a natural high for me. Even to this day, if I am in a funk, I play F U N K! Disco can get me movin’ and groovin’ unlike no other music! Play me some Soundgarden or Bob Marley and I am ready to rock-n-roll or love everything around me. Put on “Super disco, disco breakin” by The Beastie boys, and I am amped! But when real old school Disco starts to play … watch out world … my sass emerges and I am ready to shake-that-aaaaaa … !!!
Ok, you get it. 😀 The right kind of music can totally shift me out of a funk. And as someone who has suffered from depression, anxiety, and chronic pain for more than half of my life, music is my medicine.
But I am not unique in this way.
We are all moved by the right kind of tune. Music shifts our mood. Chemical reactions occur. Endorphins are released. Music promotes positive movement, and dare I say, healing?
“One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.” ― Bob Marley
Movement Shifts Energy. When we physically move the body, it supports and facilitates the movement of Life Force Energy. When the physical body moves, the energy shifts within. This is not woo; it’s legit. Science has yet to prove this fact, but Eastern cultures have known this for centuries. Our western world is just catching onto this fact. But this fact is not limited to humans. Because physical movement shifts energy, physical movement supports the chakras of all living beings. Animals of all shapes, sizes and species benefit from positive movement and motivation.
But are we, as animal guardians, providing this opportunity enough?
The body and mind are not separate, and we cannot treat one without the other.” ~ Dr. Candice Pert
Back in another life, during my Audubon Zoo Dayz, I was an Enrichment Coordinator. Providing species-specific enrichment for everything from parrots to poison dart frogs was my passion! So now, providing this necessary, science-based enrichment for companion animals is second nature to me. My hope, is that once you learn how, this will come naturally to you, too! Knowing how to do this is vital if we want to provide a healthy environment for our animal companions to thrive in captivity.
So what do poison dart frogs have to do with disco, cats, and dogs? A lot, actually.
We now know that offering a coconut foraging feeder to captive Dendrobates (poison dart frogs) produces new behaviors. This particular kind of enrichment feeder produces the greatest increase in frog activity in both traditional and new exhibits. The increase in mobility is most likely due to a coconut feeder’s complicated nature, which randomizes the release of insects into the exhibit. The complexity of the enrichment increases both mental and physical aspects of the frogs.
Now think about how we can create something like this at home or in shelters, and why it’s so important. If something as simple as placing prey (fruit flies) in a coconut feeder for frogs to foraging and hunt from, creates more desirable behaviors and healthy mental stimulation, what can we offer to our companion animals??
The possibilities are endless!
They key is to make things simple and safe, but challenging for the animal. Create choice, offer control, and add complexity. The goal is to elicit species-specific behaviors and to stimulate their natural abilities, senses, and enhance cognition. This is what proper enrichment offers. Enrichment is as integral to animal care as veterinary and nutrition programs. The scientific principles in which structured enrichment programs are created are not reserved for lions, tigers, bears, and sea lions in zoos and aquariums.
Enrichment Is For Everyone.
And considering the high number of unhealthy pets in homes, increasing behavioral problems, and animals surrendered to shelters every week, I say we aren’t doing enough enrichment. But we can change this. And when we do it will shift everything. Not only will we shift the energy within the animal, which will result in healthier bodies and minds, but we will create a more empowered way of living for each animal within the home. We will also shift the energy between guardians and the animals.
We create a total shift for everyone on every level.
“Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.”
― Frank Zappa
There is enough craziness and fear unfolding around the globe. Why don’t we bring some joy and humor into our home? Why don’t we pull our focus from that insanity and consciously create really fun but safe ways to shift the energy with our animals? There are amazing souls right under our nose! Let’s engage with them more! Let’s focus on the joy and love that’s waiting for us!
That is where we can choose to focus our energy.
Creating fun games that are tailored for the individual animal/group are one way that we can pull away from the drama and fear in the world and create harmony at home. We can create our own music that moves us all! Music moves us and gets us groovin, but what can we offer our animal companions to get their bodies and minds movin’ and groovin??
I have talked about enrichment at great length before. But if you haven’t read those posts, here’s a quick run down on enrichment:
promotes naturalistic behaviors
stimulates the mind
increases physical activity
promotes overall health
increases an animal’s perception of control over their environment
empowers the animal with more choices
provides constructive ways to occupy their time
Enrichment is “the act or process of increasing the intellectual or spiritual resources”.
All of that is so important, but one of my favorite by-products of proper enrichment is the bonds it strengthens. – both between animals of the same species and between different species. This has been a powerful tool in our home. One of our favorite ways to shift the energy of our group while building bonds that last is by providing species-specific enrichment every day.
For the 3.0 cats (3 males) and 0.1 dog (female) in our family, this was not only a way to shift stagnant energy in their body, but it was a tool to build a bridge between them. We created conditions to create a fun, harmonious, and happy home. Hocus Pocus and King Albert once had a very combative relationship, but these kind of enrichment activities (and other tools) have dramatically changed their relationship to one based on trust. Physical challenges in older animals were addressed and healing occurred. Minds were stimulated and stagnation faded.
Behavioral enrichment is the environmental enhancement of the lives of animals in a managed setting by providing them with mental and physical stimulation to increase natural and healthy behavior.
Now to the disco.
In the short video below, “Wake-and-Hunt” (not to be confused with Wake-and-Bake) 😉 you will see one example of how we do this.
“Ah, music,” he said, wiping his eyes. “A magic beyond all we do here!” ― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
Of course the cats and dog aren’t dancing to disco while they do these foraging activities, but you can see how excited they are to participate! Seeing their energy shift from stagnation to determination, and boredom to curiosity, is similar to shifting our energy via the right kind of music! We just need to find the right tune and melody, so to speak, for each individual.
Seniors, in particular, really need to be encouraged to behave, explore, and be stimulated in constructive ways that mimic the experiences they had when they were younger. Nose work is one way that we can do that.
For 18 years I have been creating I.E.P.s (Individualized Enrichment Programs) for animals of all shapes, sizes, and species, so it’s now second nature to me. I often forget that this kind of program isn’t in everyone’s go-to-tool box. But it should be! I believe that proper, individualized, species-specific enrichment can be more powerful than basic training.
Choice, control and complexity are key.
Providing conditions in a captive animal’s environment (home, shelter, zoo) that parallels a life were they would normally have endless choices is empowering. It’s life changing! Science and experience have proven that by providing this for all species of animals living in captivity, we have the power to reduce and eliminate a myriad of medical and behavioral issues. When we create conditions that enhance cognition, encourage movement, and improve overall well-being through resources that tap into the individual species’ senses, we can change lives!
With the right kind of movement and music to match the soul, we shift out of pain and suffering into bliss and joy. – Conscious Companion
You don’t have to be a professional in this area. You can learn how to provide safe and species-appropriate enrichment to the animals with whom you care for, in your shelter or home! It does require some planning and creativity, but the effort pays off in the long run. I will be creating a free E-Book that discusses this in greater detail, but for now:
You too, can create and provide this kind of fun but carefully created mental and physical stimulation for your animal companions every day. Heck, even once or twice a week could completely shift so much energy in your home! But before you do, please remember to ask these questions:
We need to ask important questions BEFORE providing this kind of food enrichment.
A successful food enrichment program is goal-oriented and considers The Big Picture.
Do we have a goal in mind?
Is the enrichment for one cat? Multiple cats? A cat and another species?
What behaviors of each do we want to encourage?
How will these behaviors be encouraged?
Will the foraging enrichment be created (or purchased)?
“There are two means of refuge from the misery of life — music and cats.” ― Albert Schweitzer
You might have noticed that I am highlighting cats in this post. I am because the majority of people believe that cat’s don’t need as much mental and physical stimulation as dogs. But this is untrue and very harmful. Another misconception is that senior and geriatric cats don’t need to get moving daily. Friend, they DO!
Some Cat Stats at a Glance:
• Cats are currently the most commonly kept pet in the United States
• Cats far outnumber dogs in homes (96 million cats vs. 83 million dogs).
• Cats are mislabeled as low-maintenance pets.
• This leads to cats housed in suboptimal environments.
• Cats are the number one animal euthanized at shelters due to “behavioral issues”.
• Cats with medical or behavioral issues were the ones most likely to be re-homed to an animal shelter, (instead of being re-homed with friends or family members.)
When the environment of house cats don’t match the conditions they need in order to thrive, medical and behavioral issues arise. Medical issues lead to behavioral issues which leads to a stressful household. It can be a vicious cycle. All of this can lead to a weakening of the human-animal bond, which often results in the owners surrendering the cat to a shelter, tossing the cat onto the streets, or euthanizing the cat.
Sub-optimal conditions are associated with increases in dozens of health and behavioral issues. Aggression, attention-seeking behaviors, and stress-related behaviors can be results of suboptimal conditions of captivity. In fact, House-soiling is the most frequently cited behavior problem for cats, followed by aggression toward people. Below are just a few common conditions created by sub-optimal conditions for house cats:
Type 2 diabetes mellitus
Chronic lower urinary tract issues
Behavioral and mental health problems
The Reality is that house cats and their conditions don’t match.
The conditions house cats are kept in are often the least natural to their species. Our feline companions are very similar to their closest ancestor, the African wildcat, in terms of their behavioral needs and instincts. Therefore, the conditions of house cats should parallel those of their closest wild ancestor, the African wildcat.
Scent is another biggie that’s overlooked in companion cats. A cat’s sense of smell is 40x stronger than ours. Scent is crucial when it comes to social situations, locating prey, and maintaining safety. Scent is also crucial when it comes to evaluation of food. If more cat guardians gain a better understanding of the vital role that scent plays in a pussycat’s life, they can use this tool to enhance their feline friend’s life!
“Importantly, a better understanding of cat chemical signals has critical applied implications, as scent (and marking) plays an important role in many species-typical cat behaviors, problem behaviors, and can also serve as enrichment if properly understood and applied.” – Vitale Shreve and Udell
Providing various scents for cats to find is very enriching to cats. We can use everything from catnip to canned food. Some other great options are silver vine, honey suckle, local bird feathers, potting soil, beach sand, etc. Encouraging cats to harness these innate abilities and natural instincts is necessary.
Senior and geriatric cats, in particular, really need to be encouraged to behave, explore, and be stimulated in constructive ways that mimic the experiences they had when they were younger. Nose work (like you saw in the video above) is one way that we can do that every day. When we set the scene for a cat to use his/her exquisite senses we are helping our house cats to live a life worthy of their ancestors. We are allowing house cats to THRIVE.
That is why we provide these kind of fun enriching activities every day!
The goals of enrichment are to offer a sense of control by allowing animals to make choices and to stimulate species-appropriate behaviors
Animal guardians can learn about who their pet is as a species. We can learn their individual hunting styles, personal preferences, and dislikes /fears. Guardians can provide proper species-specific conditions inside their home that parallel the animal’s natural life in the wild. People can learn how to help their companions to thrive inside!
We can change lackluster homes into thriving environments!
We can enhance the lives and longevity of our animal family members!
We can enhance the bond between animals and their guardians!
We can build bonds between every species in the home!
We can keep animals in homes.
We can Build Bonds That Last!
My challenge to you is to allow yourself to let go of the drama and stress of life by creating a peaceful kingdom at home. Let laughter and joy become the centerpiece of your home. Create memories that last, well after your beloved moves on. Create harmony by enriching their environment … and yours.
There doesn’t need to be any pressure. There is enough pressure in this crazy world; we need not add any to our life. The idea is to create therapeutic, enriching, and fun activity time together every day. We all need more fun! Funk it up! Help them get their groove back! And yours! Create the time to add in more playtime, more ways to bond, and to release the stress of life. Together.
You know you ought to slow down
You been working too hard and that’s a fact Sit back and relax a while Take some time to laugh and smile
Lay your heavy load down So we can stop and kick back It seems we never take the time to do All the things we want to do
I am curious. What kind of fun mental and physical games do you play with your animal companions? What has worked well? What kinds of exciting enrichment opportunities will you create this week together?
My hope is that you will choose to create moments of joy together and memories that last forever. My hope is that you will create your own musical masterpiece together and dance to your own tune. My hope is that you will turn to your beloveds when the world is too much with you. My hope is that you can find peace within your animal kingdom at home.
Be at peace.
Let your heart be light.
Let your animals be your greatest teachers.
Let go and remember to laugh with the ones you love!
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
I’m taking my freedom
Pulling it off the shelf
I’m taking my freedom
Wherever I choose to go
It will take me far
I’m livin’ my life like it’s golden
Livin’ my life like it’s golden, golden
I’m taking my own freedom
Putting it in my song
Singing loud and strong
Grooving all day long
I’m taking my freedom
Putting it in my stroll
I’ll be high-steppin’ y’all
Letting the joy unfold
Do you know that song from the goddess Jill Scott? It’s really good. I first saw Jill at Jazz Fest in New Orleans nearly a decade ago with a soul sister and she blew my mind; such powerful positive energy! I shared the lyrics to her song “Golden” because that is how someone I love very much lived his life, and it’s also how others have,too. But before we go there, I would like to ask you some questions.
Who came into your life unexpectedly?
Who holds a key to your heart?
Who has made an impact on your life in ways you never expected?
Who has given you gifts that you can never repay?
Who has taught you some of your greatest life lessons?
Who would you do anything for?
For me, one soul that fits all of these is the focus of this post’s discussion. His name is King Albert the Grey.
I wish you knew him. In fact, I wish the world knew him the way I do. He is a king. A badass. A warrior. He is a friend to few, a lover of fewer, and a Great Love of mine.
Please allow me to share why he is the King of our wee kingdom.
Note: Below is an excerpt (and a very abbreviated version) of a chapter from my book about caring for senior cats. This is one of my longer posts, so get comfy with your critters and settle in. Oh, and you might need a tissue, too.
During the spring of 2005 a rather intimidating stray cat the size of a bobcat began sneaking into our house, via the cat window that my zookeeper boyfriend had designed. Our cats Mr. Beaux (a melanistic Siamese, and Samantha, a semi-feral cat) were free-roaming cats at the time; oh how things have changed!
My roommate, the head Sea Lion trainer at work, would come home nearly every evening and find one of the neighborhood strays in our house. As soon as she opened the front door this huge cat would come hauling butt out of our house! We named this brute “Big Fat Grey Cat” (BFGC) because he was big, fat, and grey. Not a clever name, I know. But we didn’t care. We just wanted him gone. This shamelessly bold stray cat had a habit of creeping into our home, eating the cats’ food, playing with their toys, and pooping in their litter boxes! I was livid. And our cats were really starting to freak out. So, one day I decided to put an end to the shenanigans. I was going to catch this creepy cat in the act.
On my next day off I pretended to go take a nap on my bed, right next to the cat window where we assumed he was entering. My plan was to scare the crap out of this cat so he would never come back. As I laid there on my bed, I soon heard the chair below the cat window on the porch move (I knew he had hopped into the chair at this point). I laid as still as a could with one eye open. Within moments a huge grey head peaked through the rubber window flaps. His long grey whiskers and ears were pushed forward fearlessly. His bright yellow eyes were as wide as saucers, scanning the room. I quickly closed mine, pretending to be asleep. At this point, the only way this cat could enter the house was to literally walk over my legs. That’s when I would pounce like a panther, forcing him to retreat and never come back!
I waited for him to step over my legs. My heart was racing. His must have been too. I laid there for what seemed like forever, waiting for him to step between my legs. To my utter shock and surprise this ballsy stray cat carefully began to lay himself down on my bed just inches away from my feet.
“What in the world was happening here?!?!”, I thought to myself.
Both appalled and amazed, I opened my eyes and looked right at him, thinking my direct stare would surely scare him off. As he continued to gingerly settle into the bed, he slowly glanced at me, gave me a slow blink, then turned his head slightly away from me, still maintaining his posture of confidence, but keeping his full awareness on me.
“This cat had some nerve!”, I thought. “Who the hell does he think he is?!?”
He knew who he was. He was a King. And he had just claimed my bed.
And clearly this house.
Something came over me. The plan of executing an angry attack on this creepy cat had changed. I had gone from a human hunter waiting for her prey, to a curious cat lover wanting to understand what was happening in my home. I took the bait.
I looked at him. He looked right at me, but with a gentle energy. His eyes were softer. He truly felt as if he was politely asking permission to just be there, on my bed with me, in our loving home. I could feel and sense that he had no malice or ill intent. He was asking for my permission to stay. So, I took a deep breath, opened my heart to him, and said, “Well hello there.”
For nearly six months after that, Big Fat Grey Cat stayed near our home. It was all still very odd and a bit unsettling to me. He was, as everyone knew, the neighborhood bully. He was a brutal fighter and killer. He literally captured and killed every prey animal he came across and consumed it in plain sight. He fought every dog he saw, and every cat that was careless enough to come close to him.
I vividly remember one examples of his fearless ferocity. One afternoon while cleaning dishes, I looked out the kitchen window to discover BFGC standing in our driveway with a huge snake in his mouth! I hollered at him, pounding on the window, hoping he would drop it (I am a HUGE lover of snakes!). BFGC barely glanced over at me, intent on keeping his prey secure in his mouth. I raced outside to rescue the snake from the jaws of death. Big Fat Grey Cat stood his ground with the snake wrapped around his neck and head …
The rest of that story will be shared at a later date. The point is, being a fearless hunter, an endless explorer, and an unapologetic badass was in Big Fat Grey Cat’s DNA. Do you remember the infamous scene in Pulp Fiction at the end, with “the wallet”? (you only need to watch it until 1:05 to get the point.) If this cat carried a wallet, that’s the kind that King Albert the Grey would have had. It’s who he was. He had no fear. None. Not for the 17 years of life that I knew him. He lived for a thrill. He took risks. He never stopped exploring. He was a badass.
But here’s what really captured my heart: He followed sensitive, scaredy pants Mr. Beaux everywhere (which really freaked Beaux out), but he was always kind to Beaux; he never raised a paw and he let him lead. He gave Samantha the extra space she required, and he knew when to keep his distance from our guests. And he never came back inside through the cat window; he always asked to come in through the front door. He even welcomed me home when my truck pulled into the driveway.
He adopted us as his family.
But I still wanted to know where he came from, and why he chose us, so I did some investigating. It turned out, his owner was an elderly man that had become too weak to care for him and his brother, so BFGC and his sibling were left homeless. He was truly looking for a new home, and he chose us. I also know now that my grandmother In Spirit sent him our way (more on that later). Eventually we embraced him fully into our family but that came much later, during and after Hurricane Katrina, and our evacuation adventures together. I talk all about this much more in the book. All you need to know now is that he was discarded onto the streets and became king of the streets. He was once unwelcome, but we welcomed him. He once intimidated us but we learned to see his softer side.
He ruled the streets with a grey iron paw, but wanted a loving home with us. He was a ruthless hunter, but had a heart of gold for his companions. He ruled his world with confidence, bravery, determination, focus, and strength. He was unapologetic in every decision he made. He understood the importance of healthy boundaries. He was respected by all who encountered him. He was both feared and admired, yet he could care less of what others thought of him. He was loved by those who knew him, yet he loved only a few. He was choosy with affection, in charge of his kingdom, and capable of attaining anything we wanted. He truly was a great king.
This beloved King left our home for a new kingdom on the night of March 31, 2017.
There are souls who come into this world to be the catalyst for change, healing, and growth. And even fewer who can be fully understood for what they offer, what they embody, and who they truly Are. King Albert the Grey was all of this and more to me. He was my friend, my muse, my feline companion, my teacher, and my guide.
And he still is.
The death of his body has not caused any of that to change. He is still all of this and more. Those subjects will be shared in much greater detail at a later date. For now, I want to focus on the manner in which he lived his life, instead of how his physical life ended.
My intent today is to focus on how he chose to live before he became the king of our household; back in the distant days when he had the freedom to choose absolutely anything. King Albert’s former feline life played a key role in what occurred in the days, weeks, and months before he left our world for a new one. After 17 years, King Albert The Grey’s feline life came full circle.
My intent is to share why it’s important to recognize the life he once lived. How he lived his life as King of New Orleans’ streets (prior to becoming an indoor house cat) affected how King Albert was invited to live his life before he left this world.
This is what I offered him in his last life chapter.
He didn’t want, or ask for our pity, our worry, or our sadness for his health challenges and complications. He never did in his youth, and he certainly didn’t as he aged. He saw and felt beyond all of that. He wanted to FEEL ALIVE, no matter the age. He wanted to experience all that he could, despite his age. He wanted the kind of life challenges he had in his youth.
Albert lived with vigor and fearlessness in his younger years. Challenging himself and trying new things set his feline soul on fire. King Albert was most alive when he could choose to go, be, and do, anything! But even as his body began to fail him, he never let go of his love for life. Albert embraced this vigor, well into his geriatric years. I was in awe of him every day. Truly in awe. No matter what was going on in his body, he was at peace in his mind and his heart. He didn’t let discomfort bring him down. He was always ready for more. Even on days when he could barely get up, he got up.
He never gave up.
And I never gave up on him. Not for one moment. Albert overlooked the body. He taught me how to do this. I learned to see beyond his aging, struggling body to the young, vibrant soul who was within. I learned to trust him. I let go of trying to control everything. I learned to let him lead me.
Look at your animal companions right now. How would you describe their Love for Life? What makes their heart sing? What makes their soul soar? Who were they in their younger years? Who, what, when, and where did they enjoy most? Do you have images of them from back then? Find them. Look at them with your animal companion and your family. Find and SEE that young spirit that is alive within them now. Ask your beloved what they want. How would they want to spend their last days, weeks, months, or years? What would their Golden Years become if they could choose? What would they want to have, be, see, or do if you would allow it? Who are they at heart?? Can you see their vibrant soul within their aging body??
It’s still there.
This is some of what Albert taught me when his body began to fail. Recognizing his vibrant youth within a geriatric body and constantly seeing beyond his body was one of the greatest gifts I could give him every moment of our days together. Recognizing his innate feline needs, acknowledging his heart’s desires, and how much he LOVED life was what I needed to see, feel, and know. Once I finally recognized these, I was able to give him what he needed.
I gave him a life that was golden.
I knew who King Albert was and what he wanted in his golden years. I knew because I knew him back in his youth. All of those adventures and escapades he had never left him; he still wanted to have those even as he aged. He still wanted to try new things. He wanted to live bravely and fiercely, even at 17+ years of age. Albert wanted to be able to relish everything that life had to offer him. The scents on the breeze; The grass, soil, and sand between his paw pads; The Earth’s healing energy under his body; The warm sun on his face; The wind in his whiskers. These were some of his favorite things. These are what Albert wanted every day of his life.
This is what I gave to him during his last days on Earth.
Below is a short film that I created as a tribute to our King Albert The Grey. I hope it inspires you to give your aging animal companion a life that’s Golden.
My husband and I are both Make A Wish Granters; we have been serving in this role since 2009. This role has been life changing for me. The incredible and unique wishes that are granted to children and their families during their most challenging times change all of their lives forever. What we gave to our King Albert during his life threatening illness is very similar to what families of children with life threatening illnesses are able to experience through The Make A Wish Foundation. When these amazing children are faced with constant medical procedures, daily/hourly medical care, and the stress of illness, they need a release from the emotional and physical discomfort! So Make A Wish gives them their One True Wish. Not only is the child able to participate in their deepest heart’s desire, and receive a reprieve from the medical monotony, but so does their family. The child, parents, and siblings are One throughout the entire process; everyone needs a break, and a chance to celebrate life together!
This is very similar to what people go through with their pets when they are going through a life-threatening illness, or when they are living their last days on Earth. Round the clock medical care at home can be mentally and physically exhausting for everyone in the home. Both people and all the animals need a break from the constant focus of sickness; we need a time of celebration. We need to let them Live Their Life, even in the midst of sickness.
We have the power to grant our beloved their One True Wish.
“ I’ve learned to heed the call of the heart. I’ve learned that the safest path is not always the best path. I’ve learned that the voice of fear is not always to be trusted.” ― Steve Goodier
Think about this. When your dearest friend or family member is leaving for a better opportunity, or the time has come for them to move on because of life circumstances, do you beg, cry, and plead for them to stay? Or do you celebrate the time you had together and the time you still have left, by relishing every moment, every smile, every laugh? Do you celebrate where they are headed?
Celebration and support is what our aging animal companions need from us.
Consider what you could create together when it’s time for your beloved to move on. Rather than putting your energy and emotions into defeat, consider putting your energy into creating a celebration of the last days you have together! What adventures and memories you will have! What a gift you will give them!
Please know that I am not being flippant about death by any means. For goodness sake, I am an Empath; animals are my life and the emotions that come with them are not for the faint of heart. Animals are my best friends and my family. They are my heart. But I have been in the depths of depression too many times to count when I had to suddenly say goodbye to my beloved in the past.
I finally know better.
Now I put all of my energy into loving and celebrating every moment with them. Now I am focused on creating love and joy with them, instead of drowning in sorrow. And I can promise you this: If you saw, felt, and knew where they were headed, you would throw one helluva party every damn day with them. Wherever you are in this process, there is no time to waste while they are still with us.
Celebrate their life while they are still here!
Not only did I give Albert every adventure he asked for near the end, I also gave him my unconditional love, endless support, and patience. This love came in many forms. From Hospice care at home, including force-free medical care multiple times a day (voluntary injections, fluids, and oral medicine). And not once was he forced to participate; we were a team from the get-go. This love also came in the form of finding the best holistic vet, to working in collaboration with the best feline medical hospital and their amazing team who let Albert set the pace. This love came in the form of alternative, holistic medicines and energy healing. This love came in the form of me consciously managing my energy, removing my fears, and learning to let go of control and trust him. This love came in the form of creating a deeper connection and soulful communication with him every day. This love and patience came in the form of allowing him to choose in every circumstance.
This love led us together into our best last days together. This love allowed him to live his golden years with grace and ease. We gave it our all with love. We never gave up on each other. Love led us to each other, and Love helped us all to lead him Home.
This love lead him Home to The Light.
Although it has been just over a week since he left his kingdom here for his new Kingdom in the heavens, the grieving process is still occurring. I am remembering to be gentle with myself, to be conscious of managing my energy, who I interact with, what I allow into my awareness, and the manner in which I continue to fully accept this hand of fate. Although I have not written here in a few months, I felt it was important to share this with you now, especially while I am still processing his passing and honoring his incredible, full life and the lessons he taught me.
These lessons are now being shared with you.
If you, or someone you know is struggling with an aging animal companion, take heart. Do not forget for one moment that you and your beloved are connected in heart and mind. When we are faced with the certain (or uncertain) fate of our beloved animal companion we have two choices. Listen well, and remember this. We can choose to fall into fear, or we can choose to lift ourselves and our beloveds in Love.
In every moment, we have a choice.
No one else can make this choice for us. It is ours and ours alone. We can cry over the circumstances or we can embrace them fearlessly. We can choose to stay angry and resentful about what’s in front of us or we can choose to celebrate their last days on Earth with them. We can find creative solutions, or we can give up. We can choose to accept defeat, or we can choose to proceed ahead together with an open heart of acceptance. We can sink into the swamps of sadness that steal our joy, or we can stand tall, walk with our beloved joyfully, and celebrate every breath together. We can choose to stare into the face of their declining mental and physical health and become burdened with despair, or we can keep searching for solutions. We can choose to see sickness and death, or we can choose to see beyond their body; we can see, feel, sense, and know their vibrant soul within. We can give up or we can give them a life that’s Golden.
We get to choose.
When we choose to let go of fear (anger, sadness, control, etc.) we let them (and fearless Love) lead. When we find peace, we give them permission to live their last days in peace. When we see beyond their body we are giving them the greatest gift; we are recognizing and remembering who they really are. When we learn to listen to their needs, their requests, and their wishes, we are honoring them and respecting them. When we honor and love ourselves through these challenges we are also honoring them, for We Are One.
Ea Nigada Qusdi Idadadvhn (Cherokee for “All my relations in creation”)
One of the promises I made to King Albert the Grey before and during his transition was to live my life the way he did: To be brave and fearless, to set clear and firm boundaries, to love unconditionally, to embrace each day, to never waste a moment in sadness, to remember our True Home, to love and appreciate family, to never put things off for later; to seize the day, and to relish every moment, to be focused and determined, to collect memories not things, and to celebrate the gift of life. One of his clearest messages is to never put off what I can give to myself and others today and to have amazing adventures every damn day!!! This is what I have been doing every day since he left this world.
It has already begun to change my life.
The all-too-familiar soul crushing sadness has not been my constant companion, like it has been countless times in the past. Depression, stagnation, and sadness have been replaced with gratitude, celebration, and joy! I feel unconditional love when I see him in The Light. I feel gratitude when I celebrate his new Home in his new Kingdom. I find joy when I remember where he is and what he gave to our family. I feel overwhelmed with humble appreciation when I recognize that he is now myconstant guardian. And I feel alive, as Albert did, when I get up every morning and seize the day.
“We must be able to look forward in old age to the next day and to look forward to the great adventure that is ahead.” -Dr. Carl Jung
I love you, King Albert. You ruled our kingdom with strength, grace, and dignity through your very last breath here on Earth. I know you are doing this now, in your new world. When your fierce and brave Spirit was released from your body you were in my arms at home. It was an honor, but it broke my heart. The grief was almost to much to bear again. But then my heart began to heal when I remembered: Who you are cannot die.
You are now in a state of grace forever. You are now a warrior of Light. And every moment that I honor you and the Truth of who you Are, all of our hearts and minds are healed.
Be well, brother. May you never stop expanding, and may your adventures never end!
There is no end to the adventures that we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open. -J. Nehru
This post is only one aspect of our journey together before he transitioned. I will share more about these pieces in the future. These topics include:
• Cat Harness Training – safe walks without fear and frustration for everyone
• Getting Real Consent (force-free medicine, medical procedures, and end of life choices)
• Hospice for Animal Companions
• Natural Death – Assisting with Their Transition at Home
• Utilizing Soul Speak for Life’s Challenges
• Death – The Great Divide or Daring Adventure?
All of these topics will be included in detail in the book, but I will do my best to share them here as time allows.
The picture gallery below is a beautiful reminder that we have the power to create miracles and magic during trying times. We CAN give our animal companions a Golden Life, no matter where they are on their journey. An aging body and life-threatening illness doesn’t have to be the end of their days. These circumstances can be the beginning!
We can grant their One True Wish (and a hundred more)!
The animals pictured in this gallery have passed on (some very recently), but but the grief of their passing is surpassed by the love and adventures their people gave them during their last days on Earth. The gifts these souls were given will remain in their hearts and minds for all time. Their people knew what they needed, wanted, and wished for; they gave it to their beloved animal companion. During their last days on Earth they all lived a Golden Life.
Marley loved the beach as a young pup, so her people invited her to experience nature near the waterfront just before she passed. She was so at peace. Marley spent her last days abroad in France with her beloved family; what she valued most. As she took her last breath she was at home surrounded by their love.
Bailey loved being with family. He spent his last earthly days invited on short walks, beach strolls, and being with the people he loved.
Guinness loved being with his people and going for adventurous swims in his pond. He was able to do this one last time just before he passed.
April loved being with her people and enjoying the scents on the breeze on her lake in her backyard. April spent her last day just sitting in the yard with me enjoying the outdoors.
Oakley LOVED to check the yard perimeter! Up until his last days he was able to be his people’s First Line of Defense at the fence 😉 He also enjoyed caramel popcorn as his reward for being so brave.
Maggie spent her last days adventuring with friends at Mardi Gras and being the quiet, faithful shadow to her most favorite person. She enjoyed a beautiful sunset on the levee on her last night with her person.
Bailey came to his family as a severely neglected dog who was found on their property. He spent his last days enjoying ample cuddles and eating delicious soft foods with the people he loved most.
Since Henri went blind in his last days AND he never lost his appetite, he was constantly either in my arms or sitting right next to me with all his favorites: bully sticks, peanut butter, and porterhouse steak dinners!
Chicory was blind at the time of her passing, but that didn’t stop her from running, chasing, and exploring nature! She spent her last days in such JOY!
Annie’s Oakley was named after his canine mother, Annie. And his human mom loved her Annie Oakley BB gun as a child, so it made sense that Oakley was always up for a wild adventure! Car rides weren’t a horse, but they sure made him happy in his last days!
File` (Feelay) enjoyed the last of her days getting to see parades and get biscuits from people.
Big April loved swimming in the lake and being outside-also barking a lot 😉 Always the protector. She was Penny’s big sister! Even though she was younger. Pretty Penny always liked being in charge and making sure no one messed with her mama! Penny had mini strokes but just kept on going and being fiesty! Go Penny!
Click on the images to read how these super souls spent their last days on Earth.
If you would like to share how you gave your beloved a Golden Life before they passed on, you are welcome to contact me. I will be adding more pictures as the stories of love and celebration come in, so feel free to share their story.
Be well, friends. Love each other. Appreciate and celebrate every moment with your beloveds. Don’t waste a moment. Create adventures and memories now. These will be part of the love they bring with them into their next life! The time for celebration is NOW!
“We often forget that WE ARE NATURE. Nature is not something separate from us. So when we say that we have lost our connection to nature, we’ve lost our connection to ourselves.”
― Andy Goldsworthy
I hope this finds you and yours well and at peace. It’s been over 2 months since I last shared with you. Life here has been, well, eye opening. So much has happened in just two months! I have so much that I want to share with you concerning aging animals, behavior, healing, animal companions, energy, and conscious communication!
But not today.
Considering the current state of affairs around the world I was inspired to share something that I believe we all need right now: Nature
How’s your nature-intake-level? Are you practicing the self care habit of unplugging from nightmarish news, and enjoying a hiatus of sensational social media? I am. And it feels frigging GREAT.
Today we are less connected to Nature than ever before in human history. Our busy lifestyles and hectic schedules don’t allow us the freedom to find rest, relaxation, and rejuvenation in nature.
Yet that is exactly what we need.
My Cherokee ancestors knew that being in tune with our Mother Earth is one of the most powerful tools we have. Being in nature allows us to develop a more fulfilling, peaceful, and enlightened life. Being In Tune with Nature allows for a deeper connection with all Life – including our animal companions and our fellow earth travelers.
If there is any wisdom running through my life now, in my walking on this earth, it came from listening in the Great Silence to the stones, trees, space, the wild animals, to the pulse of all life as my heartbeat.
So why aren’t we out there on a daily basis? Are we making excuses for why we can’t be outside? Are we disconnected from the purest source of nourishment? What takes our focus and time? Have we forgotten what nature has to offer us all?
We have never truly “lost” our connection to nature; we have forgotten how to engage it. When we fail to have reverence for nature and connect with the energies of all that nature encompasses we lose something valuable – our intimate connection with each other, with wildlife, with the Earth, and with All That Is.
Nature is a refuge. She is solace. A teacher. A healer. When we connect with nature we are connected to All Life. We are open to receiving. We are able to giving. We find balance. We are open to discovery, learning, healing, and enlightenment.
The reason is quite simple: We are part of nature; we are not separate from it.
But we often feel so disconnected.
When I appear to lose my connection, I appear to be separate from All that Is.
But when I am in nature I Am tuned in, tapped in, and turned on!
I become consciously awake.
Then I remember.
I laugh at my forgetfulness.
I give thanks.
Thanks for remembering the Truth.
I Am not *Part* of Nature.
I Am nature.
She is me.
The roaring winds
The turbulent seas
The peaceful sunset
The strong trees
They are me.
What I do to nature,
I am doing to me.
You are nature.
Nature is you.
All that you see is you.
How we treat nature
How we view nature
How we give to nature
How we take from nature
It’s all a reflection of ourselves.
We do not exist independently
We are not separate from everything else.
There is no “else”.
We are not separate from anyONE.
That belief, my fellow earth travelers, is the illusion.
A trick of the ego.
Harmful in every way.
We have forgotten the Truth.
But we can remember.
GO into nature.
Listen. Feel. Know.
Sit in silence.
Let Nature heal you.
Let Nature inspire you.
Let Nature show you.
Be open to the miracles and magic.
Do not accept this little, fenced-off aspect as yourself. The sun and ocean are as nothing beside what you are. The sun beam sparkles only in the sunlight, and the ripple dances as it rests upon the ocean. Yet in neither sun nor ocean is the power that rests in you.