A Love Not of This World

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

Conscious COmpanion_Amy MArtin


This blog post is available as an audio. You can listen here:


Hello Bright Light 💛

I hope this finds you and yours well and at peace in all ways.  Today will be a relatively short post because I have a beach date with my fur babe. We are going to get down and dirty in the sand, salt, and sun!  Thanks to Hocus calling me out on my “stuff” a few months ago, I made a promise to spend my energy more wisely and to be fully present with my beloveds.  (Btw, if you are driving, or prefer to listen instead of reading, you can listen to this blog post by clicking on the link below.)

Let’s get to it.

Do you know that song from Moby?  It’s one of my faves.  Click on the link in the above quote; take a listen and see what you feel.  That is how I am feeling today.  But I haven’t been feeling like that lately.  In fact, I have been going through a helluva a challenge for the past few weeks.  It’s kind of sucked honestly.  Thankfully, regardless of where I am walking, stumbling, or running on this life path, our furry family always has a way of pulling me out of my over-thinking, fear-based brain and back into my heart. 

true love

That is why I am sharing with you today.

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

I am talking about Love.

Real Love.  The kind that creeps up on you.  The kind of love you didn’t see coming.  The kind that hits ya upside the head and eventually rattles you to your core.  I am talking about the kind of love that is not of this world.  The kind of love that allows you to open your closed, hurt crumbled heart.  The kind of love that heals.  I am talking about the kind of love that literally heals parts of ourselves that we thought could never heal.  The love that I am talking about is a love that flows through nature, and through our feathered, furry, and scaly earth angels every moment; 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

A Constant Love.

It is a love that never leaves. This love is constant, even when the body is ready to be laid aside.  It is a love that is seamless, ceaseless, and everlasting.  It is a love that walks with us, even when we cannot see our companion.  It is a love that is never-ending.  A love that grows.  A love that only knows expansion.  A love that is eternal.  This love never ends.

An Unconditional love.

It is a love that breaks us into pieces when it appears to leave us.  It is a love that only a true angel can offer us.  It is a love that an ascended master has mastered.  It is a love that we humans wish for, long for, and pray for ever since we are born.  It’s a love that cracks our hearts open and allows us to really FEEL.  It’s a love that teaches us how to accept; a love that allows us to receive.  It is a love that shows us we are supported.  It is a love that that moves us into new chapters of life, even when we think we are not ready.

A True Love.

This is a love that dives deep.  A love that reflects back to us; reflections at times, we would rather not see.  It’s a love that challenges us, triggers us, and reveals to us.  It’s a love that swims through our soul and stirs up what we would rather keep hidden in the depths.

A Love without limits.

This is a love that not even a parent is capable of giving to their child at every moment.  This is a love that we, as animal guardians, are often incapable of showing to our loved ones at all times.  It is a love without judgement.  It’s a love that lacks expectations or rules.  This love is incapable of asking for anything.  This is a love without limits; a love without conditions.

A Love not of this world.


This fire that we call loving is too strong for human minds, but just right for souls. ― Aberjhani, Elemental: The Power of Illuminated Love

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

The love that I am talking about seems rare, but it really isn’t.  Every one of the Great Lovesin my life has shown me this kind of love.  They lived/live their lives with this kind of love.  They taught me this love.  They gave me this kind of love.  They ARE this kind of love.

Nature has also given me this love. Whether it was a Humpback whale who came close enough for me to truly feel him and learn his wisdom, or a tree who gave me shelter and insights, this love was real.  It was fully present.  It was without judgement.  It was freely given.

This love is here, around you now.

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

“Your task is not to seek for love but merely to seek and find all of the barriers within yourself which you have built against it.” – A Course In Miracles


Recently I was forgetting what’s Real and I momentarily slipped into ego-fear-based thinking.  I had moved out of my heart and into my head.  I was feeling guilty about not doing this, or having said this and that.  I was wishing I had been a better guardian years ago.  I was regretting.  I was wanting to have done things differently over the 18+ years that Mr. Beaux and I have been together.

I wanted to go back and be a better human to him.

I began to cry so hard as I held him.💙  When I found a moment to catch my breath, I looked into his gold eyes and Mr. Beaux very calmly shared, “There is nothing to forgive. I see past it all.  I know who you really are.”
💛
This is a love not of this world.
That is who he is.
That is what he freely gives.

Beaux (2)
Mr. Beaux, my Bodhisattva

“Those who love you are not fooled by mistakes you have made or dark images you hold about yourself. They remember your beauty when you feel ugly; your wholeness when you are broken; your innocence when you feel guilty; and your purpose when you are confused.”― Alan Cohen


My beloved, Mr. Beaux, is not unlike your animal companions. The ones who walk with you while they live their new life in spirit, and the ones who walk with you here on the earth plane.  Their love is truly unconditional.  It is without limits; without borders and expectations. They see beyond the illusion. They see who we really are without our fears, stories, guilt, judgement, and mistakes.  They view through the lenses of Love.

The ARE Love.

So they are able to see us who we really are.  We don’t see things as they are; we see them as we are.

As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he. As a man sees in his heart, so he sees. Through unclean windows, lenses, senses, we see things not as they are but as we are. — H. M. Tomlinson.


Every Day Can Be The 14th!

As heartwarming and humbling as that story about Mr. Beaux is, I have to switch gears a bit.  Most of you know that I am not a fan of Valentine’s Day.  Starting 20 years ago, this fateful date took on a whole new horrible meaning for me when I had to suddenly say goodbye to three of my beloveds on Valentine’s weekend (on three separate occasions!). You can’t make this stuff up, folks.  I was single each time, so each of their transitions broke my heart in unimaginable ways.

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

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

Beyond Feb 14th

At the risk of sounding negative,  I’ve noticed that Valentine’s Day has become a day for people to celebrate their “special love” and thereby exclude love from others, whether they mean to or not; it’s almost inevitable.  Valentine’s Day, to many,  is a contrived Hallmark holiday, whose Dark Origins are unknown to many folks.  

But does it have to be? 

Maybe we can create something new out of it.  Maybe we can live every day as if it’s the 14th.  I truly believe that every day should be centered around extending love; strangers, family, foes, friends.  Love should be the epicenter of our lives.  Not just one day out of the year, but every moment.  Love is the Light that leads our path, and that lights the path of others. 

Our animal companions walk this path.  They are such incredibly beautiful and powerful examples of love!  They are always reflecting a love not of this world.   They are the bridge to the kind of love we have always been looking for.  We just have to recognize it and accept it.  Let that love in.  And then spread it around.


Love is intended to be a circle. Love is intended to be endless. Infinite. Unconditional. Love is not a one way flow. Love gives, and love receives. Love allows us to be raw and open. Love allows us to be exactly who we are, flaws and all. Love heals the broken. Love heals the heart. Love allows us to grow and heal each other. Love Gives Unconditionally.

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

Self Love

Our animal family members teach us what it really means to love others (and ourselves) unconditionally.  They teach us how to love and appreciate ourselves (and others) every day.   Love is right there, waiting for us to see it.  But are we loving ourselves the way they love us?  Many of us are so willing to give love, but we have not allowed ourselves to receive. 

Here’s the secret: Self love is loving!

I used to be the last person on the planet who practiced self love.  I felt selfish if I wasn’t giving all of my time and energy to the species I was caring for at both work and at home.  For over a decade during my zoologist days, I was just plowing through the pain and stress, never creating time for myself, and for self care.  But when I moved out of New Orleans and left Audubon, I began to study Energy Medicine and learned a new way of living in the world.

“Choosing self-love challenges the collective paradigm of guilt and shame that has controlled us for thousands of years. If we go the route of the ego, we’ll never feel worthy of self-love. If we choose to live our Spirit, we’ll be instantly liberated.” — Sonia Choquette, The Answer is Simple…Love Yourself, Live Your Spirit!

Clearing and managing my energy was an integral part of this program.  Not only did meditation become a replacement for medicating myself with Advil, alcohol, food, and sugar, but I learned that self care must be a priority if I wanted to help anyone.

I learned that self care IS self love, and that self love is quite easy to do every day.  I then started to notice that the animals I cared for at home were practicing self love 24 hours a day!  They were teaching me!  One easy way to start a practice of self love is to give yourself the gift of a clearing bath.  You can view this simple recipe here.

Clearing baths_empath tools_spiritual cleanse_how to detox_energy

Our lovability and worth doesn’t come from others. It comes from within!”

I will admit that I have spent most of my life caring for others, yet I never gave this same level of care to myself.   But now I do.  Rather than forgetting to do something loving for myself or justifying why I don’t have time, I now create the time and space to receive. I allow this kind of love.

When we cultivate a daily practice self-care, we are being loving.  We are becoming the embodiment of our animal companions and how they live their lives!  When we love and care for ourselves deeply, we can see the divine within ourselves and all other forms of life. We see that we are all connected; that we are one.

When our body and mind are at peace and relaxed we create a ripple effect to every living being in our lives.  We are better prepared for what life has around the corner.  We can better care for others.  We can come from a more loving space; a place where our animal companions are always.


We seek the comfort of another.
Someone to share the life we choose.
Someone to help us through the never-ending attempt to understand ourselves. And in the end, someone to comfort us along the way.  ~ Marlin Finch Lupus 


What About You?

I am really curious about you, so I want to know:  Have you felt this kind of love?  Do you recognize this kind of love when you see, hear, or feel it?  Are you in your head all the time, or are you up in your heart?  Where are you living?  What are you allowing?  Do your animal companions help you to totally accept this kind of love? Have you experienced this kind of love in nature? What was it like for you?

As we continue to move through the month of February, and we experiences these really uncomfortable energies, know that you are always surrounded by love.  We just have to be willing to see, feel, and notice it in all of the many forms … that are not of this world.

But as you start to notice this love, don’t be fooled into the ego-trap that you are not willing or deserving of a love not of this world.  You are. I am. We all are.  Nature and our animal companions are always here to offer this love to us, to see us beyond our faults, and to love us always in all ways.

Allow this love.


In my last post I shared how and why The Wheels of Light Keep Turning.  If this topic peaked your interest and you desire to dive deeper into the relationship with your canine companion, check out my dear friend and colleague’s online class that starts February 22nd!  It will be an eye and mind opener to how we can grow, heal, and thrive together as One!  But most importantly, you will learn why True Love Dives Deep.

Be well friend, and go in love.  Remember that Love walks with you always.

P.S This blog post is available as an audio. You can listen here:

Conscious Companion_True Love Dives Deep

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


Recommended Reads:

Wheels of Light Keep Turning!

Wheel in the sky keeps on turning 
-Journey

color-and-sound-holisitc-spiritual-energy-healing

Hello Bright Light!

I hope this finds you well at at peace in all ways.  Wow, we are nearly midway through the first month of the New Year!  Incredible.  So far, 2018 has not disappointed!  The energy has been incredibly expansive and focused, and our animal companions continue to teach me, and challenge me with love and humor 😉  More on that later.

Today I would like to share something really fun and enlightening with you!  Please get comfy.  Grab your coffee or tea.  Open your mind and heart.  And try a little willingness to learn something new for the New Year.

If you were not yet aware, I would like to share a bit about the energy of this New Year, and how you can bring this energy into your home, your shelter, and to those with whom you live, work, and care for.  Then this topic will quickly flow into a bit about animals’ energy centers, how you can learn from them, and grow together!


2018 is a Year of Mastery! 

In numerology (which I am a total novice at), 2018 translates into 11, which is what they refer to as a Master Number.  Master numbers possess great potential for learning and growth and can bring major transformations in our lives.  This is a powerful year for everyone and all beings on Earth.

The Universal Energy for 2018: 2 + 0 + 1 + 8 = 11  

Master Number 11 symbolizes high energy, inspiration, intuition, self-expression and personal power.  Master Number 11 is called ‘the Illuminator’, ‘the Messenger’ or ‘the Teacher’.  Master Number 11 also tells us that by connecting with our higher selves is to know and live our soul’s mission and life purpose.  2018 is also about partnership, connections, balance, equality, and flexibility!

You might be wondering, What the heck does that mean for me on a practical level?

Great question.  It basically means that we’re here to “master” the elements presented to us within the frequency, vibration, and “theme” of 2018.  Our strengths will be supported, but we will also be faced with more significant challenges.  However, if we are coming from an empowered place, these changes and challenges can be greeted not with fear, but with grace and ease.  This includes challenges with our animal companions.  Peace, joy, and expansion can be the epicenter of our lives.

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Energy Artist Julia – Big Cartel

More Insights Into the Energy of 2018:

The Master number brings with it an intensity that’s undeniable.  It’s generally observed that the Master numbers bring a higher spiritual purpose, no matter how you might define that.  The Master numbers carry a higher frequency and vibratory influence.  Energetically speaking, they’re always pushing you.  So in practical terms, the year 2018 is a year where the energy supporting and guiding all of us is rather intense.  Everyone will be getting the internal call to step it up this year.


What better time than now to embrace these energies?!?  That is part of why I am finally shedding my current (and past) fears of sharing the more spiritual side of things with the world.  This is part of why I am stepping it up NOW.   So, needless to say, not only is the Master Number Energy in the mix, but today is a very auspicious day indeed: 1/11/2018, which is probably why I am so inspired to share with you today! So let’s get to it!


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Art by Iris Scott

The Year of the Earth Dog

The Chinese new year begins in February.  This will be the The Year of the Earth Dog.  Its keyword is ACTION.  Of the five Taoist elements Fire, Earth, Metal, Water, and Wood, this is the year of the Earth.  Stable, honest, practical, industrious, prudent, reliable, kind, and loyal are Earth qualities.  The element Earth enriches Dog’s character and adds needed stability.  The Earth Dog is endowed with some of the finest qualities of all the 12 astrology animals.  Since 2018’s element is Earth, this year is also about security and feeling grounded and safe.

Which leads me to the main point of this post:  Energy 


Beyond The Borders of Animal Training

As someone who has been an animal professional for nearly 20 years, I understand the need for, and the importance of humane, science-based animal training, species-specific enrichment, and species-appropriate husbandry.  I understand and the importance of animal care givers and companion animal guardians being fluent in specie-specific behaviors.  Knowing how to accurately read and correctly interpret an animal’s body language, and vocalizations is essential.  Knowing how animals learn and retain information is essential.  Understanding how and why force-free methods work is vital; applying these humane methods should be priority.  These science-based tools assist us in bridging the gap between species.

Conscious Companion_force free training_reptile training
Teaching my volunteers and interns at Audubon about science-based, force-free training

After decades of professional and personal experience, I am an expert in these areas.  I have seen the far-reaching effects of these compassionate, science-based methods, which is why I am very passionate about these tools!  I not only teach others how to use these tools, but I use them on a daily basis.  These are all necessary for any species of animal who is living in a captive environment, whether the animal is in our home or a facility.

But there is much more that we can work with and carefully manage that extends far beyond the borders ofanimal training,enrichment, and husbandry.  There are other elements at play that affect our animal family members, and the animals under our care at a shelter or facility.  This can be summed up in one word: Energy.

Energy Healing for Pets_conscious Companion

Energy is everything.

As I have shared with you before, my life is a balance of science and spirituality.  This is how and why we now have a beautiful harmonic home life.  This is why my clients find success for life.  This blending of modalities and holistic approach to medical and behavioral challenges has changed everything for the better … and for the Greater Good.

How we manage energy is an integral part of being a Conscious Companion.  Practicing personal energy management is important to the management and success of managing our animal companions. It is also connected to the health and well being of them as well.  Assisting our animal companions with their energetic challenges is also an important part of being an empowering animal guardian!  Recognizing our energetic challenges is also incredible important and empowering!

Science-based, force-free training is only one part of the “pet puzzle.”  Knowing this and acting on it in an empowered way is vital.  Although it is2018, we are light years away of where we could all be with regards to how we live with and care for animal companions. The world of animal behavior consulting and animal guardianship will eventually shift to a world that combines both science and spirituality; we will finally learn how to work with the metaphysical and the physical. These worlds are not separate. They are One. And if we want to have true success, true lasting bonds and true health and harmony in our homes, we will learn to utilize (and live in) both of these worlds.

The blending of science and spirituality is the work of the future.  That future is now.   Conscious Companion

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Checking and Balancing Chakras

One of the many ways that every animal guardian can come from a more empowered place and recognize potential pitfalls is by checking chakras!  No, that word is not the sound of a cat hacking up a hairball.  It’s totally legit. 😉 Hear me out …

All living beings have these.  Dogs, cats, people, dolphins, parrots, horses, rats, frogs, you name it!  If you’re alive, you have chakras!

animal chakras_pets

Chakras are energy centers/vortexes.  Chakras are conceived as an energy focal point, bodily functions, or psychic node in the subtle body.  Although this concept is found particularly in the tantric traditions of Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism, countless holistic veterinarians work with pets’ chakras every day.  In yoga, meditation, and Ayurveda, chakras are often referred to for balance throughout.

The ancient Sanskrit word Chakra literally translates to wheel or disk.  It is literally a wheel of LIGHT.  And each chakra has its own color of light!     In humans, there are seven main chakras (currently recognized –but there are many more!). These 7 chakras align the spine, starting from the base of the spine through to the crown of the head.

Most animals have 8 Major chakras, up to 21 Minor chakras, and 6 smaller energy points known as Bud chakras (paw pads & the bud of skin at the opening of the ears).  Companion animals have an 8th chakra that we humans don’t have: a brachial chakra.  The main Chakras govern responses to surrounding energy.  The 3 chakras found in the lower part of the body (root, sacral & solar plexus) govern basic survival needs. The four chakras in the upper body (heart, throat, third eye & crown) govern mental processes and connection to higher realms.

Chakras expand or contract depending on a variety of circumstances (emotional AND physical health, environment, etc.).  Animals receive and distribute energy through each chakra individually, which makes them sensitive to subtle vibrations & changes within the atmosphere & their environment.  This invisible energy, called Prana, is vital life force, which keeps us vibrant, healthy, and alive.


What-Is-Chakra-1


It’s not Woo-Woo; it’s just new to you! – Conscious Companion


Windows to Wellness

Chakras are a window to wellness.  In both people and pets, the energy body (which involves the chakras) are connected to emotions.  So the energy body is like a blueprint or software which gives instructions to the physical organs.  These swirling wheels of energy correspond to massive nerve centers in the body.  Each of the main chakras contain bundles of nerves and major organs as well as our psychological, emotional, and spiritual states of being.

Being aware of both your and your animal companion’s mental and physical health is vital, which is why we perform routine Chakra Checks!  In another post I will teach you how we use a tool called a pendulum to check the status of each one, every day.  For today, what I want to get across is this: When chakras are open and balanced all is well within body and mind.  BUT… when even one chakra is out of balance, it affects the entire system.

Here’s one example/insight into the Heart Chakra of a feline:

An open, balanced, and aligned Heart Chakra allows for loving, harmonious relationships, tolerance, and being deeply connected to their guardian on a heart level.
-A closed or imbalanced heart chakra can adversely affect behavior.
-It could also indicate there is a physical issue in the body.
-Heart chakra governs the heart, lungs, immune system & thymus gland.

Chakra-System-of-Cats


“Going from Ugh to Om”

So what does this mean for devoted animal guardians??  It brings us all to a very empowered place.  It’s an invitation to be more open, more curious, and willing to grow and heal … together.

Now.

Today a very dear friend and colleague who is a dog adorer-er 😉  gifted intuitive, Empath, and certified dog trainer is kicking off an incredible online class.   And it perfectly ties into today’s post.  Her class is all about the Wheels of Light, and how we can keep them turning!  In her 7 week class you will:

  • Learn an integrative approach to pet guardianship through the lens of mind, body, and energetic connection
  • Hear how true partnerships, heart-centered connections, and translating beyond your pets’ behaviors can help you and your animal companion heal, expand, and grow spiritually together
  • Discover how working with chakras, numerology, sacred geometry, animal symbolism and crystals can actually help shift your animal companion’s behavior like on-leash reactivity, separation anxiety, guest reactivity, barking, and accidents
  • Explore how your pet’s behaviors can provide clues to bigger energetic patterns in your life
  • Hear about a road map to how pet behaviors can give you specific insight into the healing that is ready to take place, including which limiting beliefs to process and which chakras they affect
  • Learn 3 questions that can help you call in more harmony, balance, and growth for you and your animal companion
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AUM or Om (Sanskrit: ॐ) is a sacred sound and a spiritual icon in Indian Dharmic religions. It is also a mantra in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism

In Denise’s groundbreaking class her focus will be mainly on canine companions and how our energy can affect them, but our feathered and feline friends will also be addressed as these topics arise.  It is going to be such a joy and honor to be a part of this important, ground-breaking, and incredibly empowering program!

As Denise clearly and beautifully states:

Energy connects us all.  The most primal way to communicate with our pets is energetically, but somewhere along the way this got discounted as a basic building block of dog obedience training and living a more connected life with your pet.  We are here to change all that, and redefine how we train, connect with, and relate to our animal companions.


I truly believe that you can make an unimaginable difference in the life of your animal companion by becoming an EMPOWERED animal guardian; you can BEcome a Conscious Companion, just as they already are.  You can move out of your comfort zone and be willing to learn new concepts, new ideas, and new insights.  You can empower them by healing and empowering yourself!  You can create an True New Year together!

Healing_empath_tips_pets_grounding_Conscious Companion_Amy Martin
Grounding together at the beach with my beloved Hocus

“We are more alike than different. We Are One.” 
― Efrat Cybulkiewicz

Disco, Dart Frogs, Cats, and Canines!

Disco_cats_dogs_pet tips_conscious companion

Hello gorgeous!

Considering the current state of affairs around the world, I thought we could all use some levity.  We all need a break from the fear, hate, insanity, and the seemingly never-ending drama.

This post serves to give you just that.

As promised, I will be swaying between science and spiritual stuff U.F.N. 😉  Since my last post swung to the spiritual side, I thought we could dance to a different beat today!

And once again, I am grateful you are here.

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!

disco shoes dancing retro

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.

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blue poison dart frogs (Dendrobates) enjoying novel multi-sensory enrichment (hunting for fruit flies out of a seasonal pumpkin)  Seriously. How adorable are they?

 


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.

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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??

Enrichment.

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
  • reduces stress
  • 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

animal enrichment_zoos

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.


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Casey, the critically endangered lowland gorilla enjoying his birthday carrot cake

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 can View one example of how we created an I.E.P for one of our geriatric cats here. 

You can view another IEP for our younger cat here.

You can download an overview of our Guidelines for planning an Individualized Enrichment Program here.

Dog and cat foraging enrichment

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:

Creating enrichment program for CATS_What's the Goal_Questions to ask_Conscious Companion

 

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)?
  • Is it safe? (see unsafe/failed enrichment here)
  • How will we implemented it?
  • How will we evaluate the response and the effect?
  • Are there any diet restrictions?
  • Health issues?
  • Is there any oversight that should involve a feline nutritionist or a feline health practitioner?
  • Are we utilizing the 5 categories of enrichment? – If not, why?


“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:

  • Obesity
  • Type 2 diabetes mellitus
  • Joint problems
  • 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!

Albert foraging yard

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

The S.O.S Band (video)


 

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 well.

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!

Abstract background blue,yellow and orange


 

Recommended Videos and Links:

 

“We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams.” ― Arthur O’Shaughnessy

 

Just Out of Our Awareness

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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.


You Can Listen to “Just Out of Our Awareness ” on our podcast here: https://www.buzzsprout.com/316208/1116674-just-out-of-our-awareness


Learn more at:

The Nourishment of Nature

“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

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strolling along the top ridge of Torrey Pines Nature Preserve here in SoCal


Hello friends!

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

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a cactus in bloom after the much-needed rain here in southern California

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.

When was the last time you headed out of the house for a walk in the woods?  Do you make time to smell the intoxicating scent of a freshly blooming rose?  Can you remember what it felt like the last time you sank your feet into the sand?  Have you ever hugged a tree? When was the last time you allowed yourself to really experience the gifts and healing powers of Mother Nature?

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Tree Hugging in Ireland!

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.

-Vijali Hamilton


Nature Heals.

Nature Connects.

Nature Nourishes.

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.

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Sunset at our house

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.
The beauty.
The destruction.
The rebirth.

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.

Interconnectedness.

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.
Untruth.
Harmful in every way.

We have forgotten the Truth.
But we can remember.

GO into nature.
Listen. Feel. Know.
Sit in silence.
Remember.

Let Nature heal you.

Let Nature inspire you.

Let Nature show you.

Be open to the miracles and magic.

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Sunset at Torrey Pines with brother Raven

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.

– A Course In Miracles 

 

The Never Ending (Moving) Story

“When efforts that are wisely executed, the situation and condition don’t affect the performance.” ― A.Patel

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The long road less traveled on our Big Move with the Animal Menagerie

We have arrived in California!  Finally.  1.1 humans, 3.0 felines, 0.1 canine, 0.0.8 plants, and 0.0.2 vehicles  made it safely from the east coast to the west coast!  It only took us a MONTH to move out of our home in VA, drive across the country, and move into our home here in Cali, but we are here. And everyone is doing very well.

We must have had Falkor with us in spirit on our move out here because we had a lot of luck, magic, and miracles along the road less traveled.  We also had a lot of patience, gratitude, and very successful animal menagerie management tools and techniques at play.

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This is going to be a quick post, because we have been going nonstop since we got here, and we still have much more to do.  But I wanted to at least update my readers because you are dear to me.  Plus with all that is going down in the world, I wanted to share some Love Light.


I Proved Myself Wrong – In the Best Way Possible

I don’t like to prove others (or myself) wrong, but here goes.  Do you remember how scared I was about the move?  Did you read the post about how I was allowing ALL my fears to take over all of my perceptions of what would happen?  Well, that was a huge waste of energy. None of that happened.

But some other major mishaps did happen.

Here’s the abbreviated Bad News from our laborious move out West:

  • The moving company packed up our household goods (everything) out of our home, then moved it all into storage (unbeknownst to us for several weeks).
  • I lost my voice on Day One of The Drive. Then that evening I had full blown flu-like symptoms.
  • Knox Zydeco decided that riding in a car was no longer an option for him anymore. In fact, it was one of the most terrifying experiences of his life (We discovered this within minutes of leaving our temporary hotel in VA and setting out on the road.)
  • Albert managed to escape from a 4 inch gap in my car window and walk around my family’s cemetery while I was paying respects.
  • One of our cars broke down at 10:30 at night while driving through the Texas desert.
  • We lived out of 8 different hotels across the country for 24 days.
  • Once we arrived in Cali the movers took another 8 days to get here so we stayed in another hotel for a week.

Good times.

But that’s not where the seemingly never-ending moving story ends. There’s more. If you have been following this blog, then you know that I always focus on the positive in life and especially with our animal companions.  

So… Here’s the abbreviated GOOD News from our Big Move:

  • Our feline veterinarian was absolutely incredible at immediately responding to and diagnosing Knox’s Full-On-Freak-Out while we were in transit.
  • We now know how incredibly helpful (and safe) the right medications can be for fearful cats. And we learned that these are the same meds that people are prescribed for panic attacks and anxiety! (more to come on this important topic ).
  • I learned why one should never have a deep healing acupuncture session prior to moving across country (hence the flu-like symptoms).
  • Hocus Pocus had zero aggression, frustration or fear reactivity issues. I am so proud of her!
  • Our senior kitty boys were total rock stars; Beaux and Albert both did exceptionally well on the long 11 hour drives each day. And King Albert’s health challenges did not cause him any noticeable duress.
  • I was able to  visit my Cherokee ancestors’ royalty resting grounds (while Albert was busy escaping and roaming around the cemetery).
  • The animals were incredibly tolerant, patient, and calm in the many hotels, long road days, and with me being unwell the entire time.
  • There were no spats or fights (between the people or pets)! Not even a single swat or hiss.
  • There was only one (appropriate) growl from Hocus the ENTIRE time. (I will talk about close-quarter management techniques in another post.)
  • None of the animals became injured, lost, sick, or any other horrible scenario I had imagined. (Although, Albert was a close call).
  • My animal communication skills were put to the test and I passed with flying colors.
  • We all grew closer together during this trial.
  • Everyone did exceptionally well, considering how hard it was on all of us for such a long time.
  • They have all settled into our new home and are far exceeding what I thought they were capable of.
  • Everyone is thriving!

anything is possible_nothing is impossible

 

It’s All Been Worth the Time and Effort!

All of the techniques, tools, and behavior modification methods I have learned over the years of being an animal trainer, pet parent, and animal behavior consultant came into play during this long transition.  The methods I share with you and use with my clients were all put to the test.  Including some I had never tried before!  They were such a huge success.

All of my efforts have paid off.  What I thought was impossible was possible.  I didn’t believe the cats or canine were capable of coping.  I had anticipated the worst, but each of them found their way to SHINE during a very difficult and long process.  Each of them adjusted, adapted, and   They proved all of us wrong.  They were total champs.  At times they even seemed to understand that we were all in this together.

I am still in awe of them.  Conscious Companion 2016 Road trip

But that’s all I am going to write about for now.  In the near future I will be sharing with you how I was able to create and maintain safety, peace, and harmony during the Long Haul with each of the animals. I will also share how we have been able to help each of them to settle into our new dojo with flying colors (and with no flying fur!).  I can’t wait to tell you all about everything that’s working, and the new tools I have discovered. These tips and techniques will make such a huge difference for you and your companion animals.


Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.-Robert Collier


In Other News

I hope those of you in the U.S. and Canada enjoyed (and survived) the recent independence holidays. We are still experiencing bomb-like-fireworks nightly here, so we are continuing to help the animals cope with that.  If you need some suggestions to help your pets with post-Independence day celebrations, check out this post and this one as well.

If you were affected by the tragic events in Orlando (my hometown), my heart goes out to you.  Our friends and family still live there, so this really hit home for us. My mother was able to send her team of therapy dogs to help the first responders from that event. You can read about that here.   Now they are visiting with the Orlando community as their team is able, helping so many to heal.

Also, if you or anyone you know are either a HSP or an Empath, this Instagram page might be helpful.  As we move forward in the world, and as I continue to share here, I will spread as much love and light as I can.  With all of the drama, anger, and sadness we are witnessing unfolding in the world right now, we need more love.  We must uplift and love one another. When the world appears dark, we need to be The Light.  Remember that our animal companions are such perfect teachers for this.  They are pure unconditional love.

“There are darknesses in life and there are lights, and you are one of the lights, the light of all lights.” ― Bram Stoker, Dracula


OH! Before I go, I wanted to share one more inspiring thing with you.  Here’s the view from our new backyard.  Gah! Can you smell the salt air and feel the sand between your toes??

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Well, I am off the watch tonight’s sunset. So Much love to you and yours!


“May it be a light to you in dark places, when all other lights go out.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

Rebirth and Compassion Starts with Ourselves.

With everything that has happened to you, you can either feel sorry for yourself or treat what has happened as a gift. Everything is either an opportunity to grow or an obstacle to keep you from growing. You get to choose. ― Dr. Wayne W. Dyer
 

full moon
Reflecting about what happened under the Full Moon this weekend

Katrina. 10 years later.

As I reflect back on what happened a decade ago my feeble words cannot come close to describing what thousands of souls experienced that fateful day and the following long months.   And honestly, no one wants to hear all of that.  It’s too much.  But I can share a tiny glimpse into what my animal companions and I endured, in hopes of bringing awareness and opening hearts.  I hope that by sharing part of my story others can heal, too.


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“You cannot un-hear what you have heard. You cannot un-see what you have seen. What you can do, however, is stop wishing that whatever happened in the past hadn’t happened.”

A decade ago the world watched the city, people, and animals of New Orleans suffer unimaginable terror, pain, and destruction.  It was one of the biggest national disasters, and total lack of national and local response on record.   What did we learn from it all?

Countless lessons.

One poignant lesson that pet guardians learned the hard way during and after this tragedy was simple but vital:  If it isn’t safe for you to stay, it isn’t safe for your animals.  They are family members.  Do not leave them behind!

I left someone behind.


Fate Took Over

That fateful day, I was at work with my Audubon Zoo colleagues, preparing to welcome hundreds of conference attendees and speakers.  We were hosting the annual American Association of Zoo Keepers (AAZK) conference that weekend; an event we had been planning for years.  Our guests were arriving that day.

Hurricane Katrina was arriving, too.

Hurricane Katrina

As the dismal weather reports continued to flood in, we knew that instead of welcoming our guests with New Orleans sunshine and celebration, they would be welcomed with a category 4 or 5 storm.  As we prepared for our guests while listening to the news reports, we soon learned that Katrina was quickly changing course and headed right toward us. We were going to have to relocate ourselves and our pets to the hotel downtown where our conference guests were scheduled to stay.

But as Katrina changed course and complications came up, I was forced to leave home, like so many souls.

I use the word forced, but that’s only how it felt.  No one kidnapped me and drove me away from my beloved city.   I did what I had to do, and I acted on the best interest of many people and pets.  The conference delegates were now stranded in a city that was about to be ravaged by the storm of the century, so we had to get them, and ourselves to safety.  On top of that pressure, a dearly beloved canine and her people – my very good friends – needed my help.


The General Curator of the zoo was the leader of our Hurricane Team, and his wife was the director and CEO of the Louisiana SPCA, so they were both staying behind to lead their teams.  One of their dogs had recently been severely injured in a dog fight with another dog in their household.  Since Dan and Laura were staying behind with their teams, and the combative dogs couldn’t be evacuated together, the canines needed to be split up for their safety.  One of the dogs was in really bad shape and needed constant medical care, but it was not an option to leave her with our zoo’s veterinary staff; the Hurricane Team would have their hands full after the storm hit, and they had finite resources.

I adored and greatly respected both Dan and Laura.  And when I was needed, I cared for their dogs.  File’ (pronounced Feelay), the dog in need, had my whole heart.   As if that wasn’t motivation enough to do the right thing, I was also written into their will to take care of their house and dogs, in the event anything happened to them. So of course I would evacuate with File’.  Dan and Laura and the dogs were family.  I loved them all.  I would just add sweet File’ to the overgrowing caravan of people and pets. We would be fine!

Dog fight scars
File’ was badly injured and needed to be evacuated.

Now that a severely injured File’ was in the picture, relocating myself and my animal companions to the hotel downtown with my zoo colleagues and the conference attendees was not an option for me.  I had to leave. And we had to leave quickly.  From what we were told, we had hours to get out.


I remember very little about how things went down.  (Fear creates a muddy memory.)  But I vaguely remember being more afraid than I had ever felt before.  I remember feeling a panic steadily creeping into my chest.   Hell, everyone was scare and on edge.  Even my tough, always-oh-so-professional boyfriend and colleagues who were staying behind to “ride it out” as the Zoo Hurricane Team were nervous.   And frankly, none of us wanted to leave.  That was the last damn thing I wanted to do.  This was my home.  We were New Orleanians.  We don’t run.  We deal.  We can handle anything.

Katrina, and the epic failure of the city’s levee system, were not something that could be handled.

Eventually I accepted my fate of having to evacuate with strangers, a severely injured dog (who hated cats), three cats; one of whom recently adopted us (and who I wasn’t fond of), and a turtle.  I said goodbye to the Hurricane Team and my colleagues, invited strangers into my car, picked up File’ and her medical gear, and left the zoo.  We drove to my house a few miles away and started the oh-so-dramatic, pressured-filled process of evacuating; something I had never done (or considered doing) before.

I felt like we were running for our lives.


Moving quotes_relocation

The curator of mammals was a good friend of mine, so she offered to evacuate her animal menagerie in a caravan behind me so we could be there to support one another.  She met us at my house after she gathered her critter crew (and as many conference delegates as she could cram into her car).   She arrived at my house to find me wandering around aimlessly with nothing accomplished.   None of the cats or turtle were packed up. I was spinning my wheels with nothing to show for it.   In hindsight I can see that I didn’t know what I was doing.  I was acting out of pure fear and panic.  I couldn’t process what was happening, and I was scared.

As if a category 4 hurricane barreling towards us wasn’t enough, one week earlier I had returned from a nightmare of a trip.  My family and I had been at the nationally televised trial of a serial killer.  This monster, who had tortured and murdered one of our family members, was finally brought to justice.  I hadn’t even had time to process all that my family witnessed and learned during the trial.

Now this.

Being true to my procrastinating nature, I still hadn’t unpacked my suitcase from that difficult trip.  As I continued to wander in circles, my friend zipped up my unpacked suitcase, grabbed the cat carriers, and started filling up the bathtub with water (apparently we weren’t taking Little David, the turtle with us).   I had no idea what was happening.   I was still trying to process what was unfolding at what felt like warp speed.

But I did notice that Samantha, my beloved semi-feral black cat was no where to be found.

Samantha felt and heard the stress of the scene and left the house. This couldn’t have been worse timing.

I didn’t have hours to look for her.  I had minutes.

I honestly don’t remember a lot about that day, but I do remember searching for her everywhere inside and outside of the house.  I remember yelling for her over and over.  I remember hearing panic in my voice.  Standing outside shaking her “kitty crack” treats, (the one thing she could never resist) I prayed desperately that she would come running to me.

I finally realized that she had no intention of coming to me with all of the commotion that was happening in the house, in the driveway, and everywhere else around her home.   I decided I would wait for her to come to me.  I would just sit and wait and she would come eventually, and I would get her into her cat carrier.   Then we could leave.

She never came.


Leaving My Beloved Behind

I remember driving away sobbing uncontrollably.  I could barely breathe, let alone drive.  But I cannot remember why I left without her.  I honestly cannot remember the thoughts I had. I have no idea how I was able to justify it in my mind.  I don’t know exactly why I felt I had no other choice.  (Fear and panic tends to muddy the waters in your mind and you forget these kinds of things.)   Maybe I had to make that heartbreaking decision because we had such a small window to evacuate before the storm was on top of us; we would be stuck on the highway and bridges as Katrina came ashore.  Maybe it was because of a severely injured dog that needed help.  Maybe it was because of the two other cats, the strangers, colleagues, the pressure, and the feeling of having no other choice.

Regardless of why, leaving Samantha was the choice I made that day.

rescue misc 220


Looking Back

Leaving my dearly beloved Samantha behind is a decision that has haunted me, and pained my heart to this day.

Although she and I were eventually reunited during the third time I came back into the city to look for her, she paid the price of my decision to evacuate without her.  The terror and emotional and physical trauma she endured during that month alone eventually took her life a decade later. (One day I will write a fascinating post on how we know this.)   Despite our long separation and what she endured, the bright side of it all was that we were reunited. We were both done running, and doing our best to survive.  We had to relocated to a new home, but we were finally safe.

Finally back together again.

To this day, all of these events are something that I still cannot recall.  I don’t remember any details. In fact, I don’t remember much; my mind won’t let me remember.  For years I still had to remind myself that I did find her.  I found her.  I went to unimaginable lengths to search for her, and I found her.  She was found.   Alive.

Samantha


Lessons Learned

Katrina Rescue Pets

As an educator and behavior consultant, I now passionately teach others that proper planning before disaster strikes can help you remain calm and panic free in an otherwise overwhelming and stressful situation.  It will ensure your animal companions’ safety.  It will give you peace of mind.  I teach this to others now because I had none of that a decade ago.  I didn’t know what to expect, and I had no clue what it meant to “be prepared with pets”.

There were very few in our city (and nation) who were prepared.

But the few that were prepared, saved the lives of many, and brought peace and hope to countless souls.  These people learned from those who came before them; they learned from the mistakes and success of other who weathered previous storms. They learned how to be ready for the worst.  They were ready and they did what no one had ever done before.   Those who were prepared, and who responded to the chaos shined like diamonds.  These people were some of the greatest heroes our city had ever seen.  The Audubon Zoo’s Hurricane Team and the Louisiana SPCA were two of these bright diamonds.

Laura Maloney_SPCA_louisiana_new Orleans _Katrina

As I reflect back on that life-changing event, I realize that my decisions at the time, and that of our team’s, would indeed be those of the life and death kind and our leadership skills were tested in ways that I wouldn’t have imagined. – Laura Maloney, former director of the Louisiana SPCA

(You can read more about Laura’s lessons in leadership during a crisis here. )

Katrina Audubon Zoo Hurricane Team A and B
Great people doing great things during great challenges: Our Zoo’s Hurricane Teams (A and B) -Team A stayed through the storm. The rest of us came back later into our city as their relief team.


 If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change. – Dr. Wayne Dyer

As life unfolds, we are bound to have heartache.  We find ourselves in situations we would never consciously choose.  But if we are wise enough, we learn from our mistakes, and misjudgments.  We live and we learn.  We make better choices for ourselves and others.   We see things in a new light.  We have another perspective.  We grow.  We forgive.

That fateful life chapter changed my life, Samantha’s life, and countless others in innumerable ways – some for the better; some we would gladly give back.   Looking back a decade later, I know I would have done so many things differently.  I would have never left her.  I would have waited for her.  But those choices aren’t an option now.   All I can do today is ask her for forgiveness.  I know she hears me from beyond this world. I know she holds no grievances. I know she has forgiven me.

More importantly, I have forgiven myself.

Two nights ago I laid in bed unable to sleep, thinking about everything my friends, colleagues, and myself witnessed and endured pre and post Katrina.  Until the decade “anniversary”, I never allowed myself to dwell on the past.  Not until now.   As my dear friend Laura so eloquently explains, Like many New Orleanians, I haven’t dug up Katrina memories; we tend to move on rather than look back.

I don’t believe in looking back, but this weekend my past caught up with me.  It was time for me to face it.

Laying in bed, sitting there with all of it, I couldn’t look away.  I felt panic setting in again.  I felt the overwhelming grief, sadness, pain, and judgement of my decision.   I needed to understand the “whys?” of leaving Samantha behind.  How could I make that choice?!?  Why?!  How could I?! How did I??

And why was this coming up for me to remember now?

I tried to push it away.  It was too difficult.  Overwhelming.  I asked and asked why, but I never heard the answers I wanted so desperately to hear.   So instead, I prayed for the strength to endure the heartache and pain.  Suddenly a deep and comforting presence of calm came over me and I clearly heard:  Have compassion for yourself.  

Compassion for myself was the last thing I thought I deserved.

Then I remembered that compassion is what I freely give to animals, children, nature, my family,friends, clients, and strangers.  Compassion heals.  Compassion opens hearts.  Compassion is how we forgive.   After everything I had gone through I needed to give compassion to myself.


REBIRTH

As I continued to contemplate the idea of compassion, I  remembered that compassion was what helped New Orleans to heal after the storm.  Compassion was what we New Orleanians gave to strangers, and what strangers gave to us when we were rebuilding.   Compassion was our glue.  Compassion was part of our Rebirth.

New orleans Second line Katrina

As I thought about how much love and compassion we felt during the darkest days, I was reminded that no matter what we experienced as individuals in that challenging chapter of life, we overcame it.   We made the best of it.  We grew stronger within ourselves and with each other.

We came TOGETHER.
We cried.
We laughed.
We loved hard.
We danced.
We rebuilt.
We. Were. Rebirth.

New orleans Katrina Halloween
One month after Katrina ravaged our city, we celebrated Halloween and made the best out of challenges we endured.

Compassion

Most importantly, this weekend I finally realized that the only thing we “need to do” is have total and complete compassion for ourselves, in all of life’s challenges.  We need to have compassion for what we endured and overcame – and what we are still enduring.   No matter what choices we made, we made the best ones we could at the time.  We did the best we could do at that time.   And that is O.K.  There’s no one to blame.  No judgement.  Only compassion.

Full Moon_compassion_self Love Quotes_conscious Companion


As you walk your path in life, my prayer for you is this:

May your soul heal from the challenges in life.

May the heartbreaks and setbacks be brief.

May your heart and mind only know peace.

May you never be afraid to live your life with a full and open heart.

May your heart always be able to love more, give more, and accept more.

May the trials and tribulations in your life be transmuted by the healing fires of forgiveness and love.

May you have an endless supply of compassion for yourself, and remember that you are doing the best you can.

firepit

Don’t dwell on the past; Live and love for today.   


And in case you were wondering what’s happened to our beloved city Ten years after Katrina, New Orleans is back – as loud and flamboyant as ever !!!

Finding Hope Through Writing About Loss

henriandbill

Have you ever lost an animal companion so suddenly and unexpectedly that you struggled to come to terms with it for weeks, months, or even years? If you follow this blog, chances are you view your pets as part of the family, just like I do. I’d like to tell you about my experience of healing by writing about the loss of Henri.

Early in 2013, mhenriandliamy beloved Bichon, Henri, started showing signs of illness. He was gaining weight rapidly and he had strange skin issues, like a rash that wouldn’t go away and cyst-like sores. I was no stranger to a Bichon’s allergies and the vet didn’t think it was too big a deal. He was more concerned that Henri was getting fat and we both figured he was just eating too much and not getting enough exercise.

More problems kept popping up—the skin rash was a staph infection and he had fungus growing between his little toes. The vet ran tests and amped up the meds. Then, Henri went blind. It was horrible, but I was prepared to do anything for that little dog. I researched how to care for a blind dog, started a blind dog blog, and of course gave him plenty of bully sticks and games to play with. Henri is wicked smart and could solve puzzles in a snap, blind or not.

bullystick

Then, his hearing started to go. Trips to specialists were almost daily, because his sores wouldn’t heal and he kept getting more. He hated the constant poking and probing as much as anyone would! He was on so much medication I didn’t know how his little body could handle it. I had to wear gloves to give him one of the pills. I had to put eye drops in his poor blind eyes twice a day and it was obvious this scared him. One consolation was that, since he was blind, I had to carry him everywhere, so at least he was getting lots of snuggling and so was I.

Gradually, we were starting to realize that Henri was not going to puzzlesget better; he was only going to get worse. Before long, he didn’t want to be petted and comforted any longer. He didn’t want to sleep. He barked all the time, confused.

We made the hardest decision a pet owner could make, and on his last night with us we gave him a steak dinner. He couldn’t even smell the steak in front of his face. But once he had a lick, he devoured every bite.

I was so grief stricken after he died that I was inconsolable for days. Understand, I didn’t want to admit that Henri’s condition was fatal until about a week before he died. Maybe that’s what the vet was telling me, but since they couldn’t even name the disease—it seemed like some kind of multi-system, cascading thing of mysterious origin—I denied that he couldn’t be fixed until the very end. His breed should have a life expectancy of at least fifteen years. Henri was only seven-years-old when he passed.

My friend Amy Martin encouraged me to celebrate his life (and that’s something I tried so hard to embrace), but I wasn’t ready to stop mourning. I wanted to hold onto him somehow.

That’s when I decided to make Henri a character in the book I was writing at the time. We come into the story as a new character is introduced, driving into the small town of Shirley…

Driving into Shirley from the east always shocked Aaron Walsh after he had been away for a while. He’d be driving through the gentle rise and fall of the highway, traversing mostly highlands between the taller peaks, for miles. Then, he’d round the last summit, Widow-maker Point, and then bang!—the valley plunged, a deep crevice in the countryside below the granite cliffs. The transition was breath-taking. He usually felt contented by the vision, flooded with memories of a happy childhood spent rampaging through the forests with friends, siblings and cousins. But not that day.

That day, the scene made him feel homesick and sorry for himself. He wanted nothing more than to curl up in a cozy lounger and watch a Mystery Science Theater marathon under blankets. He turned up the volume on a melancholy country song and let his mood settle in. Aaron reached up to squeeze Henri’s collar. He hung it from his rearview mirror after the vet had returned the collar, empty, along with other personal items. The grain of the fabric was worn and soft, slightly oily from years of use.

Henri had started out as his wife Chloë’s, dog years before, but the dog had taken to Aaron. Aaron loved to give Henri bacon treats and dinner handouts under the table. Chloë bought him for a show dog. He was a Bichon Frisee with Champion lineage—his sire was actually named Champion, no kidding—but Aaron had spoiled her chances in a matter of months. He smiled, thinking about how mad his wife was when Henri got too fat. He remembered that glorious, flowing-white tail that Henri would wrap around his wrist while he petted him. Aaron had grown up with hounds and mutts, and he never would’ve imagined a fluffy white dog would or could steal his heart, but he had.

Then, Henri started showing signs of mysterious health problems. A pure bred dog after all, Aaron had tried to reason that inbreeding often caused strange issues. He took him to dozens of specialists and spent thousands of dollars on testing and treatments. Finally, he had to accept it. Henri was dying. Once Aaron decided to have him put to sleep, he made the commitment to be there with him when he passed away. He cried like a baby for days leading up to it and for days after it was done, but he was able to stroke his fur and whisper thanks in his ear, for being such a good dog. As difficult as it was, he was grateful to have been able to tell him good-bye.

Chloë was sympathetic and patient at first. But after several days of Aaron’s prolonged mourning, his moping around the house uselessly, she started to lose patience. He lashed out at her for not seeing Henri’s worth as a show dog (which was ridiculous; Henri would have hated that prissy crap), and Chloë suggested a week in the mountains might help.

She was right, of course. Camping always helped heal the soul. Aaron couldn’t wait to get out there, among the elements. He’d spent too much time indoors the last few years. City life did that to you. He figured he’d stop in and say hello to Dad before he headed south, into the most secluded wilderness along Red Ridge.

–Excerpted from The Tramp.

henriWhen I read that now, two years later, I know that what I was doing was witnessing Henri’s life and death. I felt so guilty about his illness, because I didn’t realize for so long how ill he was. I wondered if I had treated him kindly enough when he was probably feeling worse than I understood. Henri never complained.

Any pet owner who has had to make the decision to euthanize a beloved friend knows how hard it is; even when all professional opinion tells you you’re doing the right thing, the “right thing” is excruciating.

But also, I was sharing Henri with the world, making him eternal in literature. That helped the healing process begin. As Aaron Walsh finds peace in the book, so was I in writing about it. The sunrise that he watches, and the peace he feels afterward, was my way to describe what I hoped was in store for myself.

I’m not the camper he is, but I can imagine it…

Right on time, an American Robin broke into her, “Cheer up, cheer up, cheerily,” whistle not a hundred yards away, and Aaron decided to quit his tent for an early start.

He unzipped the door flaps and ducked out into the fresh morning air, then reached back inside for his coat, shocked at the drop in temperature. Feeling the yawn in his abdomen, he considered breakfast, but since the sun wasn’t completely up, it would be a hassle in the dark. Instead, he sat down on the blanket of fallen pine leaves outside his front door, tugged on his boots, and decided to sit out the sunrise with a better vantage point closer to the river. He inspected his jeep as he passed for any signs of ransacking, but seeing nothing amiss, he ambled toward the rim of the bluff.

The stroll was easy through towering pine trees, their high plumes of needles overhead floating over the forest floor like thunderheads. He could barely see the stars, much less the blossoming horizon to the east, but he knew the giant trees would stand aside for maples, dogwoods and holly bushes along the edge of the pinewoods. The heavens would open up for a gorgeous sunrise over the southern canyon. He heard the rapid, stuttering trill and then low, buzzing tones of a warbler in the distance, announcing the dawn.  Aaron picked up his pace. Near the edge of the forest, he slowed down to navigate a thicket of mountain laurel and rhododendron. He heard more birdsongs announcing survival of the night and warning enemies of nests still protected, and Aaron worried he might miss the sunrise.

But the canopy above cleared abruptly, and he was kissed by the fresh air of the open ravine, with an earthy smell of fast moving water churning up the riverbed below. He could just discern a delicate lavender wash seeping across the sky into the western blackness, the stars beginning to wink out with the advance of light. Aaron collapsed to the ground, leaned back in relief and dangled his boots over the side of the bluff, his palms damp on the cool, crusty granite. He thought about the healing power of a new day—of every new day—and admitted that he was starting to accept his friend Henry’s death.

“Bye, little buddy.”

The burst of sunfire was spectacular, perfect for Henry’s requiem. Bright pinks and oranges flared and rippled amongst feathers of clouds. Aaron’s face warmed as the sun rose and the pageant faded and the sky gradually fused back together in a cool, peaceful blue. It was morning, fair and full of promise.

–Excerpted from The Tramp

I am happy to report that I’m now able to truly celebrate Henri’s life. When I shed tears for him, they are tears of joy and gratitude. Recently, Amy Martin introduced me to Denise Mange, a certified animal communicator who helped me contact Henri. It was an amazing experience and one that I will share in my next post. Stay tuned! If you’d like to learn more about animal communicators, ask Amy or visit Denise’s site: www.denisenyctraining.com.

–Sarah Wathen, guest author


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

Sarah Wathen is an artist, an author, and the founder of the independent publishing house, LayerCake Productions, specializing in the fun part of creative writing—original artwork, video trailers, and musical soundtracks. She was trained in Classical Painting at the University of Central Florida, and received her Master’s in Fine Art from Parsons School of Design in New York City. If Florida was where she discovered her passion, New York was the place she found her voice. “Writing a book was my obvious next step, once I realized I’d been trying to tell stories with pictures for years,” Sarah says about transitioning from visual artist to novelist. “Painting with words is even more fun than painting with oil.”

Sarah lives in Florida with her husband, son, and at least a dozen imaginary friends from her two novels, a paranormal mystery called The Tramp, and a young adult coming of age story, Catchpenny. A painter at heart, her novels incorporate art judicially, both in narrative content and supporting materials. Her characters are derived from the people and places that have influenced her own life—at least one beloved pet makes it into every book—but the stories they live will take you places you have never imagined and won’t want to leave.

Contact

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