“Dog Days” of Summer!

sirius-a-and-b

“Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them.”

― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Hello, Bright Light!

I hope this finds you well in every way.  And I hope you are finding ways to stay cool and beat the summer heat while helping our animal friends to do the same! 

I have not shared with you on this blog in FOUR months! We’ve had a lot on our plate since my last post.  But today I am very excited about something in the skies, so I am making time to share.

This will be a short post because we are still unpacking and getting settled after our PCS (Big Move) from the west coast to the east coast!  Since we are still in the swing of Summertime, I thought this would be fun to share with you. I hope it inspires you!


Did you know … ?

The expression “dog days of summer” was not originally referring to the oppressive heat and laying around like a tired dog in the summer.  It actually refers to the period from July 3 through Aug. 15 when the “dog star”, Sirius, holds a most prominent position in the nightsky!  Sirius is nicknamed the “Dog Star” because it is part of the constellation Canis Major, which is Latin for “the greater dog.” Eventually the phrase “dog days” was poorly translated from Latin to English about 500 years ago; taking on a new meaning.

 

dog days of summer _Canis Major_Constellations

 


The History of Sirius 

For centuries, the effect of Sirius’ light with the combination of our Sun’s energy was understood to have an effect on all life on Earth.  In Egypt, Sirius’ return to the night sky became a precursor to the annual flooding of the Nile, and was associated with the goddess Sopdet.  In Greece, the sighting of Sirius was the precursor to their hot summer and thunderstorms.

 

dog days of summer_dog and rabbit_ancient greeks_sirius Star
The ancient Greeks saw the constellation Canis Major as a dog chasing Lepus, the hare. The star Sirius is the dog’s nose; the Greeks called it the “dog star.”

 

Today, this star is still considered powerful to life on planet Earth.  Sirius, located in the Canis Major constellation, can be considered directly ‘upstream’ from our solar system in a cosmic sense that refers to its relative position in the Milky Way galaxy.  A highly-charged stellar field, it is said to be currently bringing in high-end electromagnetic currents into our solar system, affecting the solar activity and planetary vibrations of every celestial being on Earth. It’s also known to be directly involved in the 8/8 Gateway that we are all  currently in now.

sirius (1)
Photo By: H.E. Bond, E. Nelan, M. Burleigh, J.B. Holberg, STScI, NASA


Bright Lights

When stars reach the end of their evolution, smaller stars—those up to eight times as massive as our own sun— become “white dwarfs.”  These ancient stars are incredibly dense; a mere teaspoonful of their matter would weigh as much as an elephant.

Sirius A Sirius B
This picture is an artist’s impression showing how the binary star system of Sirius A and its diminutive blue companion, Sirius B, might appear to an interstellar visitor.

 

Even as a dwarf star, Sirius is the brightest star in the night sky,  even though it’s 8.8 light-years away from Earth!  The Sirius system is the fifth known closest stellar system.  Sirius observes a period of almost exactly 365¼ days between risings.  Although this incredible star continues to return to the night sky in late summer, its position continues to gradually shift relative to the Sun.  Several millennia from now, this astrological event won’t even occur during the summer.  Roughly 13,000 years from now, Sirius will be rising with the sun in mid-winter. Scientists say that in 26,000 years, the dog days will completely move all around the sky.

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Stars like our sun fuse hydrogen in their cores into helium. White dwarfs are stars that have burned up all of the hydrogen they once used as nuclear fuel.  Fusion in a star’s core produces heat and outward pressure, but this pressure is kept in balance by the inward push of gravity generated by a star’s mass. When the hydrogen used as fuel vanishes, and fusion slows, gravity causes the star to collapse in on itself.

Sirius
Sirius B is the nearest known white dwarf star to Earth.

 


How to Locate Sirius in the Night sky:

Have you noticed a very bright, twinkling star in the predawn/dawn sky?  That star is Sirius.  It’s so bright that, when it’s low in the sky, it shines with glints of red and flashes of blue!  Sirius is highly visible in the Northern Hemisphere night sky because it has a high relative luminosity to other stars, and it’s relatively close to Earth.   If the star were placed next to Earth’s sun, Sirius would outshine our sun more than 20 times.  To find Sirius, use the belt of Orion as a pointer.  The three stars point downward toward Sirius to the left.

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Orion the Hunter and Sirius the Dog Star.

 

The very noticeable constellation Orion the Hunter rises before dawn at this time of year, recognizable for the short straight line of three stars that make up Orion’s Belt. And the sky’s brightest star Sirius – sometimes called the Dog Star because it’s part of the constellation Canis Major the Greater Dog – follows Orion into the sky as the predawn darkness gives way to dawn.

Orion and the nearby star Sirius will become visible in the evening by northern winter (or southern summer). But presently the Hunter and the Dog Star lord over the southeastern sky at dawn’s first light.

VY-CMa-wide1-358x400

 


Simple Stargazing

If you are into the stars and the night sky, I highly recommend getting the Sky Guide App.   I wish I had this as a kid.  I used to lug my huge telescope around the neighborhood at night. This is much easier! 😀  It is So Cool to see constellations so clearly on your phone!  And the Sky Guide automatically adjusts to your viewing direction so you can easily identify stars, planets, constellations and so much more! You can see a demo here.

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a screenshot of Sirius in the constellation of Canis Major from my iphone

 


Must-See Meteor Shower!

Also, if you were not aware, the 2018 Perseid meteor shower peaks this weekend.  The upcoming new moon on August 11 guarantees darker nights, so it’ll be easier to see.  The Perseid meteors tend to be bright enough to be seen in suburban skies. Sky Guides are saying the mornings of August 12 and 13 are best for viewing,  but August 10 and 11 will be good, too.  Check out these tips for watching 2018’s Perseid meteors!

 

perseids-en-2018


Stellar Sights!

I know this a switch-up from my usual posts about animal behavior, training, and enrichment, but this is no less important.  I have discovered that when we allow wonder to permeate our being, this sense of wonder and awe flows into all other areas of our life.  When we choose to see life through the eyes of a child, filled with wonder and awe, transformations occur.  When we set out to see new sights, our perceptions change. If we are willing to see things differently, we change, as does the world around us.

I hope that you will create space to view the beauty of space with your beloved animal companions.  May the nightsky and the bright lights within it remind you of the Light within you and your animal companions.

Blessings to you and your beloveds! And Happy Summertime!

“The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of starstuff.” ― Carl Sagan, Cosmos


 

 

 

Day of The Dead Celebrating Life!

Dia de los Muertos_Day of the Dead

“Life is eternal, and love is immortal, and death is only a horizon;and a horizon is nothing save the limit of our sight.”

~Rossiter Worthington Raymond


Hello beloveds, and hello November!

Wow, we are 2 months away from 2018!  How can this be??  So much has happened in our individual worlds and around the world in such a short period of time.  Speaking of time, let’s get to it!

The Day of the Dead is here.

Before you get all freaked out, please hear me out.  This period of time we find ourselves in is a very sacred one to many cultures around the world.  But the topic of “death” is not a favorite topic to many.  I used to be one of these people.  Discussing the details of death was something I dreaded, feared, and hated.  The idea of “death” was truly the most dreaded thing to me.

Now I know better.


If you have been following this blog you know that as an Intuitive Empath and a science-geek, I do my best to lived a balanced life.  I navigate both the metaphysical and physical worlds.  I have to; they are both integral to a healthy, happy, harmonious life and home – for me at least – because this is what I know.

And if you have been reading my posts, you know that we recently said goodbye to one of our beloveds of 17 years.  In the past this kind of death would have broken me.  I would have sunk into a deep depression and stayed there.

But now I celebrate him and his new Life.

King Albert the Grey_Conscious Companion_copyright_Amy Martin


Our Beloveds Are … Always.

If I could give a gift to anyone who had their world torn apart, or their heartbroken from loosing a beloved, I would shown them what I have seen, felt, and learned over the years.  I would give them the gift of knowing that there is no death; there is only an extension of consciousness.  I would give them the gift that would let them know that the ones who left “too soon”, the ones whom we had to say goodbye are not gone.

They are not dead.

They are very much alive, but in a new form.  A better form. An expanded, healed and complete form.  At peace. And assisting us.

My family’s Cherokee teachings touch on this sensitive topic.  Below is a traditional Cherokee story that explains:

He held the little seeds in his hand and let them scatter to the wind and he said, “We are Cherokee, but we are also man … and within us is the Spirit.  Our bodies may fall to the ground, but nothing real is ever lost.  Who can pick up a seed and see the tree or the stalk that is sleeping inside, waiting for the right time to burst forth … and who can look at a man and see the Great Spirit and the Sacred Self that grows within?  It is there, waiting for the right time to manifest and grow.  You are a seed.  What lies within you?  What will your Spirit do for The People?”

In the book  I will share more on this subject.  But for now, let’s look at something happening all around the world that serves to honor this very Truth.


 

Day of the dead_pets (2)

 

Today is Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead)! This is a holiday that began on Tuesday, October 31 and ends on Thursday, November 2.  It is a time of celebration for many!  It is a time to connect with, and honor loved ones in Spirit.  Although most strongly identified with Mexico, Dia de los Muertos is celebrated throughout Latin America and everywhere with a Latino population, including here in  California!

Here’s an easy rundown:

  • Day of the Dead: a holiday celebrated throughout Mexico, in particular the Central and South regions, and by people of Mexican ancestry living in other places, especially the United States.
  • Ends: November 2
  • Starts: October 31
  • Observed by: Mexico, and regions around the globe with large Hispanic populations
  • Significance: Prayer and remembrance of friends and family members who have died
  • Related to: All Saints’ Day
  • Celebrations: Creation of altars to remember the dead, and offer traditional Day of the Dead’s food and drink
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Part of Dia de los Muertos often involves cleaning and decorating the graves of loved ones. Adult graves are marked with orange marigolds, while white orchids are left at children’s graves.

Day of the Dead follows a similar two-day structure (and occupies the same two days of the calendar year, Nov. 1 and 2nd), but the focus is different. On the first day, families remember children who have died, and on the second, the adults.  Assured that the dead would be insulted by mourning or sadness, Dia de los Muertos celebrates the lives of the deceased with food, drink, parties, and activities the dead enjoyed in life. Dia de los Muertos recognizes death as a natural part of the human experience, a continuum with birth, childhood, and growing up to become a contributing member of the community. On Dia de los Muertos, the dead are also a part of the community, awakened from their eternal sleep to share celebrations with their loved ones.

Day Of The Dead Parade Mexico City 2016

The central belief these celebrations are based is that the spirits of loved ones join the living on these days and openly commune with them.  Families leave toys and calaveras (the iconic skull — made from sugar that inspires the makeup) for children.  They leave food, favorite possessions, and other gifts for the adults at elaborate homemade altars called “ofrendas.” You can read more about all of this here.

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Dia de los Muertos is a happy holiday filled with bright colors, candles, food, and cheer! It’s a time for families to gather together and remember and honor those who have left this physical earth.  Dia de los Muertos honors the innocent children and companion animals, too!  The people and pets who have passed on are remembered, cherished, honored, and celebrated with love and joy.

day of the dead_Conscious Companion_cats
A Dia de los Muertos decor that we displayed in honor of our beloved Samantha after she transitioned. We bring it out every year now!

Our Day Of The Dead “Door Knock”

Something happened to me on this very day, back in November of 2014.  This something was quite startling; it was a knock at my “door” when I was finally ready to hear it and open the door.

After returning home from our Make A Wish class, I put away all of the Halloween decor outside.  I was going to start on the inside decor next but decided to wait.  Afterward we were chilling on the couch about to watch a movie/snooze, when out of the blue, I watched our two glass pumpkins on this table turn ON by themselves.  First the white one, then the green one.  Someone was trying to get my attention.

After a bit of “ethereal investigating” we discovered it was my grandmother.  She had reached out to me, to give our family a very powerful, healing message.  More on that later 😉  But it was her “knock” on The Day of The Dead that got my attention. When grandmother knocked, and I chose to set fear of the unknown aside, she showed me a new world.  I have always been “open”, but grandmother’s knock invited me to stay open.

Our loved ones desperately want to stay connect to us, in this physical world. They are our guardians now.  They want us to know this.  Our beloveds behind the veil want to connect with us, support us, and offer nothing but unconditional love.  These messages continue to come through to this day; both from furry family members, and the human ones! They are always messages of hope, love, peace, joy, and frankly, FUN.

Conscious Companion_Amy Martin _copyright
My beloved grandmother knew how to get my attention that day!

The Veil is Thinning.

The veil between this world and others is thinning, unlike never before.  But this is nothing to fear.  The “veil” is the ethereal curtain that, unfortunately, sets the scene for the mass belief in illusions such as separateness, limitations, and death.  Fortunately, quantum theory, ancient mysticism, and new research into the mysteries of consciousness shows that everything is connected, that We Are One, and that consciousness exists beyond the physical body, and that the potential of the universe and many worlds within it is limitless and just waiting for us to tune into it.

The Veil Is Lifting.

The time to “tap in” is now because our guides behind the veil are tapping on our shoulders. Now.  This thinning of the veil allows helpful influences “on the other side” become more available than ever before.  With the intense energies “upgrades” we’ve been powering through, our extrasensory abilities are allowing more people to tune into the world beyond our physical one.


Out of Sight, but Not Mind

Our beloveds who have passed on, our spiritual guides who assist in our growth, our spirit animals, and the magical bounty of angels and ascended masters are there. These divine beings are always with us, but now in ways never possible before. Just because they may be out of your sight, does not mean that you are out of their mind.

Their love has not left us.
Their love is true.
This love lasts forever.

“True love is like ghosts, which everybody talks about and few have seen.”

― François de La Rochefoucauld

True love_ghost quotes_

Create Time to Connect

This is such a beautiful and powerful time to honor loved ones that have passed on, and to connect with your ancestral guides.  The Day of the Dead is not limited to people.  It is also a time to celebrate the lives of our fury, scaly, and feathered animal companions who are just beyond this world at some call “the rainbow bridge.” – more on that topic later. 😉

As we enter into this sacred, special time I encourage you to create quiet time to Just Be, and to allow your mind to become still.  Allow your loved ones just beyond the veil to come to you, surround you with love and support.  Allow yourself to see through the illusion of death, and know that they are life everlasting, at peace, and always by your side when you call on them.

Think of them.

Honor them.

Remember them.

Call on them.

💫✨💫
Blessed Dia de los Muertos.
💫✨💫


Think of me
Think of me fondly
When we’ve said goodbye.

Remember me
Once in a while
Please promise me you’ll try.

When you find
That once again you long
To take your heart back and be free
If you ever find a moment
Spare a thought for me

We never said our love was evergreen
Or as unchanging as the sea
But if you can still remember
Stop and think of me.

Think of all the things we’ve shared and seen
Don’t think about the way things might have been.

Think of me
Think of me waking
Silent and resigned
Imagine me
Trying too hard
To put you from my mind.

Recall those days
Look back on all those times
Think of the things we’ll never do
There will never be a day
When I won’t think of you.

-“Think of Me”,  Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera


 

  • You can learn more about our Beloveds Behind the Veil here & here

Just Out of Our Awareness

Afterlife_pets_there is no death_horse_dogs_pet death
Saatchi Art, Subversion II

 

Have you ever been somewhere – maybe a room in your house, a store, a public place, or at an event – and you became aware of something in your presence, but long after you arrived there?   You thought you could sense (see, feel, know, touch, or taste) all that was in front of you.  You were certain you were sensing everything that there was to sense, but then, either someone, something, or you brought your attention to something.

In an instant you saw, felt, or sensed something that you were unaware of.

You had no idea that person or object was there until it came into your awareness.  You were so sure that it was not there before!  It could not have been!  You were so confident that you were aware of everything around you!  But there it is.  There it was.  Right there beside you all along.  It was there, but somehow out of your awareness.

This is where our beloveds are.

The ones that passed away.  The ones who left without a trace.  The ones who left suddenly, tragically, or peacefully.  The ones who “left us behind.”  The ones who we loved more than anything.  The ones who we will always love.  The ones who we miss.  The ones to whom we said our last goodbye.  The ones who love us unconditionally.

They are here with us, just out of our awareness.

Our beloveds have never really left us.  And they certainly didn’t leave us behind.  For who they are, and who we are can never really be separated from one another.  Who they are is spirit eternal.  They are Life in the truest sense of the word.  Eternally connected to us in life, and after their body’s death.  Eternal Light.  Always and forever with us.

But just out of our awareness.

A Fear-Free 4th?

“Fear is a stranger to the ways of love.

 – A Course In Miracles

Sunset_california_Fourth of July_pets_fear-free
A Peaceful Sunset Near Our Home

Happy July!

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

Hello Summer! And hello to you!

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

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

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

Let’s get to it!

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

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

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

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

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

It can be a living nightmare for many.

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


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

Let’s Get to Sharing!

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

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

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

It was a huge success.

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

All of these topics were new to many.

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

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

 

Pets_cats_Senior cats-4th of july_pets fireworks_fear free_Conscious Companion
Identifying AND providing “safe places” and “bolt holes” is essential!

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

✳  via Dropbox
✳ via Free Conference call

 

 

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

Conscious_Companion_Giving quotes_parrot Training_parrot behavior_Giving tuesday


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

You can do this!

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

Good Vibes Only_Conscious Companion


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

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

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

With infinite Love and Gratitude,

Amy and the animal menagerie🐾


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

ocean waves
Carlsbad Beach

Dial Up the Dopamine!

feeling-good

Birds flyin’ high, you know how I feel
Sun in the sky, you know how I feel
Breeze driftin’ on by, you know how I feel
It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life for me.
Yeah, it’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life for me, ooooooooh…
And I’m feelin’ good.

~Nina Simone


 

Backstory: In a recent post I discussed the implications and far reaching effects of fear . This post will be about the first tool that I recommend when helping pets and their people to effectively cope with stress and fear.

 


The Chemical of Feeling Good

Feeling Good is what everyone strives for. Whether it’s that much needed hug, a glass of wine, mediation, a pay raise, play, or the touch of a lover or loved one, we want and need to feel good.  Animals need to feel good too.  And they will behave and respond to their environment in ways that enable them to feel good, or at the very least, feel better.

Thankfully there are chemicals at work that help both people and animals to feel better.

One of these is Dopamine.

“It’s like one of those scenes from a feel-good Hollywood movie. Where everybody is happy and nobody’s hair fizzes in the wind. Where it doesn’t rain, your shoes stay comfortable all day, and everybody’s jokes are funny.” ― Randa Abdel-Fattah


Dopamine is a chemical in the body.  It’s one of the chemical signals that pass information from one neuron to the next.  Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centers in humans and animals. Dopamine helps regulate movement and emotional responses, It also enables one not only to seek out rewards, but to take action to move toward rewards.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that plays a major role in reward-driven learning and helps regulate movement and emotional responses.

The chemical Dopamine helps to regulate:
-movement
-memory
-pleasurable reward
-behavior and cognition
-attention
-inhibition of prolactin production
-sleep
-mood
-learning

A single molecule in the brain can do all of this! Dopamine Is Powerful.

But so is food. 


Needed Nutrients from Food

Animal Behavior  (including people) is regulated by neurotransmitters and hormones. These substances have precursors – chemical compounds that precede them in metabolic pathways.  For example, Tryptophan, is the precursor of serotonin (a neurotransmitter).

If we can make these precursors more or less available we can alter behavior.

One example is the presence (or absence) of Tryptophan in canines. Scientists believe that this may affect both aggression and stress resistance in dogs. Tyrosine is a precursor of catecholamines; hormones produced by the adrenal gland. These may also affect aggression and stress resistance.  You can read more about that here.

The nutrition (or lack thereof) that we provide our animal companions affects not only their body, but also their mind, which in turn affects behavior.

The right kind of food can literally change an animal’s brain chemistry. This is an important first step in everything from training basic behaviors to addressing aggression.


Food has the power to not only enhance a dog’s ability to learn but also to help a dog overcome fear or anxiety by raising the levels of dopamine in the brain and stimulating the desire to seek or move towards the food reward. 


Using Food to Feel Better

We all know to feed our pets when they are hungry.  And most people feed their pets in the morning and night. But what if there was another, better, more effective way to feed them?

What if we fed our pets throughout the day (or night) when they need to feel better?

What if we used food to help them feel better in challenging situations?

What if we used food when they were afraid?

What if food could be a tool you could use to reduce their stress?

What if food appeared when that frightening fox dashes past the window?

What if food was present when you took him to the veterinary’s office?

What if it rained food when she is frustrated, confused, scared, or reactive?

What if food you knew that food was this powerful?

What if you knew you could wield this power to help them to FEEL GOOD?!

Food is that powerful. This is how we should use their food.

BOOMER


The Power of Food

Food can increase the level of dopamine in the brain!  This is why we recommended using FOOD when training, modifying behavior, and when we need to minimize an animal’s stress, fear, aggression, and anxiety.  If an animal is offered food before reaching a high stress level, while in the presence of a stimulus that frightens or triggers her, a positive emotional response occurs.

FOOD IS A TOOL.

Food is not a bribe. We are not teasing, luring, or bribing an animal to get them to do what we want. When we are using the right kind food, there are actual chemical reactions taking place in the brain and the body! Here is some of what is happening when food is used as a tool.

  • When you present a highly desirable food option to an animal you turn on the animal’s ‘seeker system.’  This dials down the emotion of fear.
  • Instead of feeling fear the brain begins to be overcome with the pleasurable feelings that food provides to an animal.
  • It also allows the animal to have a greater ability to focus on the good-feeling sensation and less on the negative emotion (fear, frustration, stress, anxiety, etc.)
  • This enhances an animals positive, focused attentiveness
  • In turn, it allows the animals to shift into a calmer state in their mind and body.
  • In this calmer, more relaxed state, learning and behavior modification can occur.

 

conscious companion_food in training_dopamine


When To Use Food

Visits to the vet. Walks in the park. Unexpected Visitors. Using the vacuum. Bringing a new baby into the home. New people in your apartment. Getting into the cat carrier. Moving. Staying in a hotel.  You name it; there needs to be high value food involved.

I honestly cannot think of when food would not be appropriate to use when working with an animal of any species. Whether you are working with a crocodile to station politely and practice self-restraint, or you are asking a cat to station on her cat tower instead of the counter, food is at the heart of it all.  One of my favorite opportunities to use food is at the vet’s office.  Whether we are at the cat specialist for King Albert’s acupuncture, or we are at the veterinarian waiting room for Hocus’ annual exam, you can bet that I have food on me.

Food should be used during any kind of family transition, or any situation that your animal companion finds challenging.  Food should be used in any situation where your pet might experience anxiety, stress, fear, and even aggression. Yes, you read that correctly. Food can (and should) be used to help a pig, parrot, cat, rat, horse, dog if they are struggling with a variety of behavioral issues.

Anxiety, aggression, frustration, and fear can be managed safely and positively by using food as a tool. Food can increase one’s focus, their attention, their mood, and more!  Food can change a crazed canine into a cool canine. Food can change a fearful feline into a confident kitty. Food can help a bird to not be so bashful.  Food is powerful. And we are not using it enough.

 

Food and Fear_cats


Food to Use

When use are choosing what food to use, think High-Value and practical.  If you are feeding your pet a high-grade pet food, sometimes this can be used as a behavior modification tool. We feed Hocus Pocus the Cadillac of canine food, so she goes bonkers for her kibble! The cats never get dry food these days, so when I break out the grain-free cat kibble they lose their minds!  These are the kind of food responses you want from your pet when you are using food.  If you aren’t sure if your dog or cat’s dry food will make the cut, you will need to experiment with foods that your pet will go nuts for. Some good foods to begin with are turkey, bacon, cheese, hot dogs, fish. etc. -anything they don’t normally receive, or anything they are super psyched to get!

One of my favorite on-the-go-food-treats is Stella and Chewies. These don’t crumble, and are not greasy. And the end goal is met: they are irresistible to the animals.


Pay me in food, human!

Studies have shown that dogs don’t want petting or soothing words as much as they prefer a primary reinforcer (food).  They prefer petting over soothing words, and they prefer food over petting!  I have found this to be true for cats as well. And for parrots and reptiles as well.

So where’s the beef ?  It needs to be used.

Food is a primary reinforcer for our pets! Primary reinforcers are biological.  Food, drink, and pleasure are the principal examples of primary reinforcers. We can use food as a tool with regards to its importance to an animal.

Using food as a tool is not hard, people.  It can be very easy.  Rather than dumping all the food in a boring bowl (ahem, we have talked about this before), it’s better to keep high-value treats (and food that they LOVE) handy.  This food should be hand around the home, convenient in your car, and easily pluck-able from your purse or pocket.

Here’s  Why:  You never know when fear might strike.

Here’s How:  Make it Rain Treats!  Rain those goodies down when and wherever something frightening, startling, or scary happens. (Even if you don’t think the person, place, or event was scary, your pet does), so make it rain, baby.  Rain down the treats!

If you are unfamiliar with food as a tool, you can see how we use food in these videos:

 

Hocus food_conscious Companion_food as a tool_dopamine
Preparing to go for a walk!  We always have food as a tool.

The Dope Rewards

Let’s get back to Dopeamine for a minute.  Dopamine is considered a “reward” chemical. When we are using food, we are able to increase the level of dopamine in the animal’s brain.   What we as humans, call rewards, are often things that are unexpectedly good. Let’s say for example, you run into an old, favorite pal, or your boss surprises you with a pay raise. Or maybe your spouse takes you on a romantic vacation.  These unexpected events lead to positive prediction errors, and increases in dopamine.

As cool as that is, there is more to the dope, hip chemical called Dopamine. More and more studies are showing that this neurotransmitter is not responsible for pleasure per say, but it has more to do with motivation.


Low levels of dopamine make people and other animals less likely to work for things, so it has more to do with motivation and cost/benefit analyses than pleasure itself. – Salamone, a UConn Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor,

Dopamine-and-addiction-relapse22

Researchers have found that in animals, dopamine levels can actually spike after stress! This could be something such as losing a fight with another animal, or seeing a predator outside the window.  Humans also experience a spike in dopamine after stressful encounters.  Soldiers dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder also show activity in dopamine-rich parts of the brain when hearing recorded gunshots and other combat sounds.

So what’s with dopeamine coming out during negative experiences?

One researcher believes he has found the reason.  A scientist was able to artificially raise (or lower) dopamine levels in animals. Then he gave them a choice between two rewards with a different value, which could be obtained through different amounts of work.  For example, he wanted to see what a rat would do when given an easy or difficult choice. On one end of a corridor he place a pile of food. On the other end there was a pile of food twice as big, but this end has a small fence that the rat had to jump over to get the food.

The results are fascinating!

Animals with lowered levels of dopamine almost always choose the easier, low-value reward. But the animals with normal levels of dopamine didn’t mind exerting more energy and effort to jump the fence to receive the high-value reward.  (I know many species of animals and people who behave the same way!)  Other studies in depressed human patients have corroborated these results.

The scientist who did the study believes, “This lack of perceived energy is maladaptive, because it reduces the tendency to interact with the environment. But, it could also reflect the body’s attempt to save energy in a crisis.”

I found that study fascinating and helpful.  If motivation is directly related to dopeamine, and food can increase the level of dopeamine, then why are we not using food more often?  Why is food not front and center and at the heart of any training or behavior modification program? Why are we as animal guardians not using food as a tool with our pets?

Maybe today you will.  Maybe one day we all will.

I have hope for us all!

 


 More To Come!

This is part three of a four part series about how to help you and your pets cope with grace and ease during times of stress or Big Family Changes.  Stay tuned for the next post.

But in the meantime, Get Some High High-Value Food … And Don’t Leave Home Without It! 


 

Fish in the sea, you know how I feel
River runnin’ free, you know how I feel
Blossom on the tree, you know how I feel
It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life for me,
And I’m feelin’ good

Nina Simone