I often get asked about dog training & trainers. Here is what I know, based on all the conversations and communications I've had with dogs so far (and other species too, even a few cats have weighed in on training, believe it or not.) I will focus on dogs here but it applies across species. I know without a doubt that positive reinforcement training is the only way to go. By positive reinforcement I am referring to rewarding desired behavior rather than punishing unwanted behavior.
Negative reinforcement often makes dogs fearful of their human companions and sometimes a well intentioned interspecies parent hires a trainer (very likely also well intentioned) who traumatizes the dog so much they get ptsd type reactions to certain things. I have connected with quite few dogs whose behavior got much worse after training and then dealing with the fear on top of the initial situation becomes very complex and trust can take a very long time to be rebuilt.
Some dogs are simply more sensitive than others, just as certain children and people in general are more sensitive. There are dogs who barely bat an eye if you raise your voice and others will be very upset by it. So the first and most important thing is to first get to know your dog (especially if newly adopted) and get a sense of their personality. Background can also affect their disposition, whether they came from an abusive or neglectful situation before finding you. Open your heart wide to them and get to know how they react to you, to their environment, to other animals & people. Show them you are trustworthy and only planning to love & take care of them. Be gentle. If in doubt, the more gentle you can be the better.
Next, if you are looking for a trainer, make sure they only employ positive reinforcement methods. Read the fine print on the website (if there is one) and schedule a time to talk before any training happens. There are wonderful kind trainers out there who can help animals and their people so much and greatly improve situations & relationships. I would never say to avoid training, training helps everyone with expectations and that is healthy. Simply be very cautious and vigilant to connect with a trainer who understands you will only allow positive reinforcement. Even some very nice effective trainers will use e-collars which are technically negative reinforcement because they administer a small electric shock. They can "work" quickly -yes- but can also be very traumatic for many dogs.
Finally - if anything at all makes you uncomfortable, please listen to your intuition & instinct. A "gut feeling" could be your dog trying to communicate with you that they are scared or uncomfortable. Watch & listen with your eyes, ears and heart. You are the parent /caretaker. You know them best. Always listen to that "little voice" or "feeling." Trust between us and our animal companions is precious. Building that trust is essential and once it is there you can feel it & see it in your animal companion's eyes and it is sacred. Honor that trust and always protect and put them and their emotions first because you are the only one who can. We are their voice and protection from the rest of the world. And that is a privilege and an honor.
Yesterday I posted (on FB & insta) about my painful experience during intense dental work. I hesitated to post about something unpleasant but then I thought it’s part of life and everyone experiences pain at some points, whether it’s physical or emotional. And that is a place where our animal companions are always here for us. ❤️Sometimes there are things we don’t want to mention because they are sad, or we don’t want to cry in front of others (or on social media) but we can cry in front of our animals. We allow them to lick our tears. They see us at our best and on our worst days and love us unconditionally either way and in between. The second photo on here is the most important to me-the first one is a symbol of spring renewal, beauty and nature’s healing powers, but the second is personal 💕it shows the first sight I saw (& felt) this morning. Merlin slept attached to me all night making sure I was ok and if I moved, he moved with me to make sure he was pressed against me the whole time. (Gracie does this too but last night she was holding space/energy instead and came to snuggle at a different time.) I am just filled with gratitude to have these incredible beings of pure love in my life calling me their mom. They really do make everything better. ✨❤️
❤️I went to the post office 📬last week and there was a large crow eating something (like spilled fries) in a parking spot. This was a pretty prime parking spot, but I noticed the bird eating so I went around & parked in a different row. A minute later, as I was about to get out of my car, some guy had pulled into the initial spot and the crow was sort of glaring at him from the top of the car next to it. I looked at the crow in total understanding, mentally sending a feeling of “I get it-sorry someone rudely interrupted your lunch!”) I’m not sure if the guy even noticed the crow or if he was absentmindedly going about his errands, possibly texting & driving. These are things that give me pause in my daily life, because I see how easily humans assume our needs come first, whether by conscious choice or by not thinking about it/not noticing other species and their needs. I would love to hear thoughts on this? How do we transcend the perceived species hierarchy? I believe we do it with love, and often our companion animals are the catalyst because they teach us with their unconditional love that opens our hearts to them & in turn can lead to opening our hearts to all species.
Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day here in the US, and this day is a celebration of all love, not only romantic love. It’s a great day to remind our animal companions how much we love them.It can also be a difficult day for those who are grieving the loss of a loved one. Animals in spirit often tell me that they feel it when their human’s heart is sad and the image I received to explain how they help was that of a kitty purring love into our hearts, 💜healing them. Sometimes a dog will show me almost like they are massaging our hearts with their paws sending love into it and one bird showed her wings surrounding her person like angel wings. Our animal companions will be with us on Valentine’s, (and other special occasions,) whether they are here physically or in spirit.
I traveled to Tucson at the end of January to visit with friends and to attend the annual gem & mineral show for the first time. Tucson holds a lot of emotional layers for me because it is where we were living (for 3 years) when we adopted our first cat sons Juneau & Jarvis in 1998 from the Tucson Humane Society. They were both black cats and as it happened our friends that we stayed with had recently adopted their own second lovely black cat last year (center photo) so while there I was able to spend time with them as well as their sweet tabby brother & dog sister. It tugged at my heart to see them first thing in the morning while making coffee & seeing the desert landscape out the window. The first night, the youngest black cat came into our room and as soon as I opened my suitcase, he went straight for a pouch I had packed with a few crystals in it! He dug under some clothes, retrieved the pouch and took it out. I was amazed & a bit surprised, even though maybe I shouldn't have been, because most animals love crystal energy.
The Tucson Gem & Mineral show was incredible, and I may need to do a few separate posts just on it. For those of you who love crystals, if you've never been, it is well worth it. It was a magical experience beyond compare and I was so fortunate to get to do so with beautiful dear friends.
One of the days, hiking at Sabino Canyon, Juneau & Jarvis, (in spirit) were telling me to breathe in the fresh air, to inhale deeply. My last morning there I woke up with the sun (very rare for a night owl like me) because I kept hearing these winds and wanted to experience them outside. It was awe inspiring to feel the powerful wind. The winds of change - (one of my very favorite songs ever-the live version where Morten Harket from A-ha joins the Scorpions.) I sat outside for about two hours allowing the winds to fully cleanse my energy and it felt incredible. Afterwards a hawk flew by right in front of me.
The crystal photo on the left is a Moldavite, which is one of my favorites. It has lovely star energy and can be felt strongly if one is sensitive to energy. To me it feels comforting. I am still getting to know the crystals that I brought home. One of my favorite things was watching Merlin & Gracie Belle check them out. I had the crystals on the floor while getting organized and they just wanted to lay on them like little dragons guarding their treasures. One of the treasures that the desert "Winds of Change" brought for me was to allow room for surprises. Sometimes we have an idea of how plans we make are going to unfold, but when we allow for the universe to surprise us and trust that flow, things can turn out even more amazing than imagined.
A lot of animals I have communicated with tell me they would like for their parents/human companions to “ energetically check in” with them when they travel. (in addition to securing pet-sitting/boarding etc) To do this- find a quiet spot (or before going to sleep works well too) and imagine a golden thread made of starlight connecting your hearts, it can expand as far as needed, even if you are halfway around the world.) Now send a little message through that starlight 🌟thread - how you are doing, love, when you will return, anything you want to share. Even if you are not able to feel/hear their response they will “receive” your messages & love.❤️
Tuesday’s Tail: ❤️Strongheart call to action❤️Today, on this new moon, I’m asking you to take action for animals. 2018 feels to me like a year in which every small (and big) step is going to make a difference and even though sometimes we feel powerless to affect some difficult setbacks on a national & global scale, like losing legal environmental protections, there are so many ways we can personally claim (or reclaim) our power to help animals. We have tremendous power as individuals whose hearts are strong enough to love animals as equals. We become even more powerful when combining all of our actions into a movement to transcend the hierarchy of species through love.💜
Here are 5 simply easy actions we can take this week/month/anytime for animals:
1.) Tell someone about the immense love you feel for an animal companion (here or in spirit.) Talk about it authentically & fearlessly without editing and without hiding the full depth of emotion. When others hear this, it empowers them to do the same, and to acknowledge their own feelings. And if it is someone who doesn’t quite understand the truth and emotion that backs up your words, it will still give them pause and promote thinking about it in a new way.
2.) “Save” an insect. Gently and kindly scoop up and take outside an insect rather than killing them. This is also highly beneficial as an example if done in public or with others around because they will see your example and again, pause to consider, because the kindness you show will speak for itself.
3.) Have one super gourmet “foodie” vegetarian or vegan meal at a restaurant or at home. If you are not already veg-otherwise of course enjoy all your meals this way.) Just one, to try, but make it a really good one.
4.) Take 3 seconds to look at your beauty and cleaning products for the house before buying and make sure they are cruelty free.
5.) Consider one step you can take to help local wildlife around you. It could be a birdbath if you have a garden. Or educating someone about the incredible benefits of possums (or another less- popular animal neighbor.) Or deciding to not use toxic herbicides/pesticides. It can feel overwhelming to do all of these & more at once. Pick one, the easiest one & start there.
❤️Thank you for being strong for the animals❤️
I would like to share a bit about the messages animal guides bring. I hesitate to use the word guide because some are simply around for a period of time (as needed) rather than a lifetime. Others are guides in the more classic sense of the word, always with us. Sometimes our animal companions who have crossed the rainbow bridge decide to become guides for us. Pay attention to animals that are showing up in your life recently-the key is consistency, when it seems they are repeatedly showing up in different ways. It may not always be in person, it could be an image or on tv. Herons have been showing up for me lately. In December one followed me to a reiki session, during our hike this past Saturday it was the main bird we saw and today I went into a garden store (only for a second to use the bathroom) and this statue was the first thing I saw! It’s a store I frequent and I had never seen this statue before. So that’s 3 in probably 3 weeks or so. For me that makes me notice & consider what messages the heron may have for me at this time in my life. I enjoy looking at the definitions in Ted Andrews’ classic book Animal-Speak & also feel it is important to connect directly with Heron energy, asking & meditating on it. Have any animal messages shown up in your life lately?
It's a fresh new year and as I sit here after my cat son Merlin climbed on my lap to snuggle, delaying my writing by 20 minutes or so, all that is coming to me are the words gratitude & honoring. I'm so grateful for my animal family, both here and in spirit, and I want to focus on honoring them and all they bring to our lives. There are so many ways to honor our animal companions.
If they are living, being present with them is so special. Truly being in the moment with them, not only when we are on our cellphones & watching tv, but taking time to look at them, connect heart to heart, checking in. Asking what they need. Sometimes they may drive us a little crazy running full speed through the house, meowing or barking. There is always a reason. Yesterday my cat kids were feeling a little bit of "cabin fever" because it has been too cold to go outside in their catio & playpen. My first instinct was to ask them to calm down, but when I stepped back & checked in I was able to feel this excess energy they needed to run off. So I adjusted my thinking and instead played more inter-actively with them, giving them space to chase a ribbon and these long leaves one of our plants drops-they love chasing them. I also set up their play pen in the living room and filled it with tissue paper left over from the holidays, to enrich their environment with new elements. They love jumping unto a pile of paper and chasing toys through it. When they ask for affection, or offer it, like Merlin just did earlier-if it is at all possible- drop what you are doing for a few minutes and give it to them/accept it. This always ends up lifting up our hearts as much as theirs, (if not more) and sometimes they are doing it for us more than for themselves!
We can also honor our companions who have crossed the rainbow bridge in so many ways. Thinking about them, talking to them (they can hear us,) keeping them also still present in our lives, realizing they are only a thought away. I love having their photos on the wall, and of course connect with them all the time. A kitty in spirit I communicated with wanted an oil painting made when her parents asked for ways to honor her memory. Whether in spirit or living, photos and paintings are a lovely tribute. I mentioned writing a love letter to them a few weeks ago. I am fortunate that as a photographer I have hundreds of wonderful photos of mine, but I also enjoy commissioning paintings. Hilary K www.hilarykart.com/who designed my logo included Merlin & Gracie Belle in it-so I see them on there all the time. I love the way she paints animals. Recently they were painted by Nicole Piar www.nicolepiar.com/who created the magical & whimsical Spirit Cats deck which I love. A few years ago we were surprised by wonderful neighbors who asked an artist friend to paint them.
Finally, since this is my first post for 2018, I want to include my wish for this year. Last year I asked for us to change our language and stop referring to animals as "it" and instead use "he, she, them." And to replace words like "owner" with "guardian" or "parent," since we can not own another being. For 2018 I wish for us to expand our circle of kindness to all animals, including wildlife too. To be grateful for and honor what they bring to our lives even if it isn't always what we want. To honor the squirrels that eat the bird seed and find a way to feed/love them too and not chase them away. To honor the tiny insects in our homes and gently escort them out if necessary. And going even a tiny bit further and extending the honor & gratitude to the trees and plants around us. We are all so very connected and I feel strongly that 2018 is going to be a big year for us stronghearts to lead the way in transcending the species hierarchy and to showing all beings kindness, honor, gratitude and love.
❤️During the holidays many of us are running around trying the find the perfect gift for our human friends & family as well as for our animal companions. I think one of the sweetest gifts for our animals is to write them a love letter.💌
Write down everything you love about them, their adorable qualities, (-in this photo -how they look like they are roaring lions when they yawn,) tiny sounds they make while dreaming, how they make you feel when they look at you, how they are always there for you. Write at least a full page & then read it out loud to them. I promise they will understand. Some will understand the exact words and others will understand the loving energy behind the words. But they will understand.💞Keep the letter and maybe it will become a tradition to write a new one each year.✨
If your companion has crossed the rainbow bridge and is in spirit, the letter will be equally powerful. They will see your energy as you write it and feel the emotions and when you read it out loud (reading it to a photo of them works if you prefer-or just sitting in a favorite spot or in nature) they will be there listening with so much love.✨🌈