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Animal Think

Communication and interaction are crucial to building a strong interpersonal bond with your pet 

Art_animalthinkMany clients and students are often surprised and intrigued by the personable and interactive nature of the animals that live with me. The cats and dog that I live with go out of their way to greet new arrivals and make them feel at home. Several of the cats act as healing assistants during sessions (as well as teachers during classes), choosing to blend their Reiki skills with mine for the benefit and comfort of the client. 

My dog actually sneaks into the session area to make sure that he is close in case the human clients need him. I used to deter him from doing so, thinking that he would be a distraction, but he has insisted and I have found him to be correct—people respond better with him there. Recently he offered support to a tearful client by pressing up against the client’s leg, his gaze offering concern, love and comfort. At that moment I thought him the most exceptional dog in the world and I wondered, “How did it come about that I attract so many exceptional animals into my life?” 

The answer I received was a surprising one, it was not so much that I attracted exceptional animals, but rather that they had been allowed to grow fully into who they were as beings and choose their roles in my household and practice. In short, they were nurtured, fostered, interacted with, and listened to. Not always perfectly, but frequently enough that they have learned that I will try to understand and support what they need, and if I don’t get it the first time they are patient with me! 

Puma, my dog, was adopted as an adult from an animal shelter and came originally from an environment that basically treated him like dog furniture. At first he wanted to know what the rules were, and what would get him kicked out. Over time he has blossomed into someone who knows that he can communicate what he wants and I will listen. If his water bowl is empty he has learned that he can send me an image and I will respond by getting up and filling it (of course if I am deeply into computer work it sometimes takes more than one attempt on his part). Puma never had a dog bed before living with me, and now, every evening, he will come and ask me to bring out his bed. It always amuses me that he loves it so much and that I am so well trained! 

How does an animal go from expecting to be treated like a lesser citizen to one who can make requests? It’s really very simple: listen to them, pay attention to all the ways they communicate, and give them feedback, both verbal and physical.

1. Establish the bridge of communication with your pet

The first step is to establish that you want to build a bridge of communication (for a more complete explanation see “Building An Interspecies Bridge”). With a cat, looking them in the eye and slowly blinking is a good start. This is an ultimate piece of ambassadorship because you are being thoughtful enough to attempt speaking their language. In cat, a slow eye blink says, “I mean no harm, I am relaxed.” If the cat has never had a human do this before they may be quite surprised, and you may get the equivalent of a cat double-take, but they will be reassured that you are trying to communicate—guaranteed your stock will go up a bit in their estimation. You can see the wheels spinning and the possibilities being played out (watch out for manipulation, most cats are masters). 

2. Discover who your pet really is

The next step is to find opportunities to discover who they really are. I live with a cat named Sand who came to me as a feral kitten. She was past the age of imprinting on people thereby it was expected that she would always be feral, shy and not very interactive. Further her introduction to people was three weeks in intensive care at the vets because she and her littermates and mother were gravely ill with feline distemper. She was the only survivor, sadly her cat family did not make it. She arrived in my household as a foster and was quite emotionally traumatized and still physically weak. She was terrified of me and preferred the other cats. Today she actively seeks me out and interacts with some of my friends, clients, and students.

3. Build Trust

The transformation was gradual as trust was established between us. I moved slowly, always spoke to her softly, never stared into her eyes without slowly blinking, communicated what I had in mind, and generally attempted to include her in the normal day-to-day activities. I also listened to what she was comfortable with, I let her tell me when enough was enough and how much space she needed. As she slowly realized that I was responsive to what she needed emotionally and physically, she began to trust more and more. The other cats in the household also educated her, carefully demonstrating that I could be trusted. As her fear receded, her natural personality began to emerge, and, surprise!, this shy little girl was a natural born clown! 

I was feeling somewhat grey emotionally one day, and as I entered the room she suddenly, and deliberately, fell over on her side. The move was so startling and cute I actually laughed, and, of course, I petted her and verbally praised her for being clever and lightening my mood. From that moment on she came up with variations on the theme to brighten my day. First she would fall over suddenly and then stretch all the way out, making herself irresistible, I just had to stop and pet her. Next was the creative coup de grace, fall over, shoot one hind leg forward, grasping said leg with both front paws and then using the hind foot to vigorously rub her chin. I have never seen a cat do this ever, and it qualifies for the “Smile and Have Fun Award.” Since that time it is her favorite gambit and one that never fails. Lately she has begun inserting a flip after the fall, and the other day she invented an entirely new game designed to teach me to play. She’s only two years old, I can’t wait to see what else she comes up with in her lifetime. I know we shall both reap the benefits of her imagination. 

Originally published in The Kaleidoscope Journal, December 2005

Rose De Dan, Wild Reiki & Shamanic Healing LLC, is a longtime animal healer and communicator, Reiki Master, and shamanic practitioner trained in the ancient Peruvian Q'ero tradition. Rose works in partnership with her animal companions at her private practice in Seattle, where she also teaches Reiki & shamanic classes. For individual sessions and phone consultations reach her at (206) 933-7877 or visit www.reikishamanic.com.

Photo: "I know you are talking to me, but I don't understand 'people' speak!" by Pete Bellis

Find out more about related services in the Washington area:

Veterinary Services; Animal Services; Pet Stores; Pet Food; Animal Welfare

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Show: Pet Psychology;

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