This morning I was going through some old Google Drive documents when I came across a file containing a few notes about a short course I had taken in animal healing a few years ago, together with images of some of the animals I met that day.
I have briefly discussed my interest in energy healing and Reiki on this blog before. Reiki is a form of healing that involves channelling energy through the hands, which can then be used to alleviate our own health conditions – for me, I find that it works wonders in soothing my stomach and relieving anxiety. It is something I use for minor pains and aches – if something were seriously wrong with my health, I would go straight to a doctor, of course. Reiki can also be sent to others, either in person or from a distance.
I understand that for many people, the concept of energy healing is quite … wacky, for want of a better word. I can only say that for me, the wacky side of life holds an importance that I find difficult to explain. I have had too many inexplicable experiences in my life to dismiss Reiki. I first learned about it in 2009, when my curiosity for all things weird and wonderful was beginning to make itself known. Under the guidance of an aunt who is a Reiki practitioner, I studied Level 1 in 2010, did my Level 2 two years later, and completed Level 3 in January 2016.
Jonathan, Tara, the Pigs and Mr. Boss Goat!
I met the animals below during the aforementioned animal healing course. This course took place at the headquarters of the Dublin Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (DSPCA). A small group of prospective animal healers worked together on this occasion, under the guidance of a teacher. We were all gathered in a small trailer just behind the main sanctuary building.
When practising with cats and dogs, the procedure we followed was that a DSPCA animal-care worker would bring in either one cat or one dog at a time. As soon as one person had finished practising their healing skills on the animal, the worker would come back to collect him or her, and bring in a different animal for the next person. When it came to the chickens, goats, and pigs, however, we obviously went into their enclosure to meet them, rather than attempting to bring them into the trailer!
The animal-care worker only allowed us to work with animals he believed would be comfortable with the interaction. For me, energy healing is a deeply personal practice. I have only used it on other humans a handful of times in my life, but on those rare occasions, the one thing that has always been important to me, above all else, is for the person to be fully comfortable with what is going on. Unlike humans, you cannot get an animal’s verbal consent – you just have to get a sense of the animal’s mood, approach them very gently, and do your best to discern whether or not they are comfortable to be interacting with you in this way. I would not work with anyone – human or animal – who did not seem to be happy with the situation.
The first thing I noticed about two-year-old Jonathan was his sheer size.
He first caught my eye during a break in our group’s work, when we were free to explore the shelter and pay a visit to the many cats and dogs awaiting a home.
There were many beautiful felines in the cattery – at least twenty, from what I could gather – but Jonathan, in his small pod near the entrance, immediately drew me in. He captivated me from the moment I first saw him.
His fur was lustrous, glossy, and black. His eyes were a piercing light green. He was regal, venerable, and extremely sure of himself. He was the most enormous cat I had ever seen! The photograph above doesn’t really do him justice.
It was love at first sight.
Later that day, we were all back in our trailer. It was my turn to practise working with a new animal, and I was awaiting the return of the animal-care worker who would bring him or her to me. With over twenty cats (and an even larger amount of dogs) for him to choose from, it was impossible for me to guess who I would end up working with. So I couldn’t believe my eyes when he walked through the door a few minutes later … with Jonathan in his arms!
We had clearly been destined to work together.
Whenever a new cat or dog was brought in to meet us, we would respond by being as still and quiet as possible and allowing the animal to have as much time as they needed to investigate the new environment and become comfortable with it, before we attempted to approach them.
Jonathan sniffed the floor somewhat dubiously for a while, then looked at me in such a way that I knew he was underwhelmed by his surroundings. That tiny trailer of ours was no place for a prince!
Nevertheless, he allowed me to pick him up after a while, and he relaxed into the healing almost immediately. I held him for twenty minutes, and missed him terribly when the time came for us to bid goodbye. I hope he went to a home worthy of his magnificence.
In spite of the scarred bald patches on her legs (a lingering remnant of a recent, horrendous bout of mange she had suffered) and her sore, sagging nipples, that spoke of the puppies who had recently been lost to her, this girl moved through the room with elegance and poise.
Tara, a beautiful lurcher / greyhound mix, may have been barely out of her adolescence, but she was a true lady.
After the care worker who had brought her in to us left the room, she stood in the centre of the space for a few moments: her head slightly tilted, her tail softly wagging. Something about her left us in awe. She radiated a sense of pure calmness and strength from every pore … and I knew that this incredible girl had the ability to survive anything that life might throw her way.
There was a hint of gentle laughter in her eyes too: a sense that she knew exactly what we were all up to, and looked upon us as complete novices in the art of healing, who were very much in need of some maternal guidance.
Most of the younger dogs were impatient about receiving their treatment at first. They would race through the room, investigate every corner of it, and seek out every distraction they could find before they would consent to lie down and relax. But Tara sat down before me at once, and seemed to immediately know what was going on. I had the feeling that she instantly understood what I was trying to do.
I will always remember the aura of unshakeable stillness and reassurance that surrounded her as we worked together. I may have been the ostensible ‘healer’ in the room, but it was equally true that she was healing me. Tara was an old soul, and she knew exactly how to guide and direct me.
Peppa and Maisie
Peppa and Maisie, the two pot-bellied pigs of the shelter, put me in mind of two elderly women who had, perhaps, known each other all their lives and been through more than a few serious fights, yet had established an unbreakable bond of friendship at the end of it all.
Peppa was the more strong-willed of the two, snorting impatiently at Maisie to leave most of their shared straw bedding to her, and arranging it with great care and precision for at least ten minutes, until it finally met with her approval!
The Goat Gang
The goat herd at the shelter consisted of two timid dark grey goats who remained close together (they were very slow to approach those of us who had stepped into their enclosure), two excitable white younger goats, and an adorable brown goat who stayed by my side and allowed me to work with him for almost twenty minutes.
However, the undisputed leader of the gang was an older brown-and-white male who sported a thick brown beard around his chin and a pair of large, curved, and highly impressive horns. He was the tallest of them all. I never found out what this formidable man’s name was, but he was undoubtedly the star of the show.
He did whatever he could to ensure that the attention of our group was on him at all times, and was especially keen to impress the women, nibbling on our clothes and urging us to admire his horns at every available opportunity!
I only felt that the time was right for me to try and connect with one of the others when Mr. Boss Goat was safely occupied at the other end of the enclosure, being adored and fussed over by another woman from the group.
At first, I turned my attention to the small group of chickens who were also roaming about the enclosure. I knew that these birds had recently been rescued from an intensive farming environment, and many of them still bore the scars of that horrendous experience. A few of them were busily washing themselves in a large communal basin … accompanied, strangely enough, by a single white dove. This dove was poking his head above the top of the basin and gazing quite happily at the other animals around him, not one bit perturbed about being the odd one out!
I sent healing to these birds from a distance (using a technique that had been taught to us by our teacher), as it would not have been appropriate to try and pick them up or touch them in any way.
After a few minutes of this, I became aware that the small brown goat had come right up to me. His head was tilted to one side as he looked at me, and there was such a pure gentleness and innocence about him that it deeply touched my heart.
So I turned my attentions to this beautiful guy, and he responded very happily indeed to the healing I offered him – even rubbing his head insistently against my hands on a number of occasions, as though willing the process to speed up.
We remained in that spot for a long time … until Mr. Boss Goat, deeply unimpressed by the fact that his underling was receiving the V.I.P. treatment, came up to me and tried to chew on a mouthful of my hair! Our teacher quickly distracted him with a handful of food.
Featured Image: Free World Images