That’ll do, pig

2019 03.18 Josie in sun AKW copy

Josie enjoys the sun at Summit Equestrian Center. (Photo by Allison Wheaton)

It’s challenging to maintain that peaceful “Reiki space” when your client is jumping on you, pushing you, throwing a class-A tantrum, or in Josie’s case, all three.

To be fair, the pot-bellied piglet had been a good sport about coming to live at Summit Equestrian Center after a couple of stints as a house pig. But a new home is a big adjustment for any young being, and now Josie’s hormones had catapulted her into the porcine equivalent of ‘tween divadom.

This is the Year of the Pig in the Chinese astrological calendar. Pigs are associated with greed, rudeness, aggression, and other characteristics that seem rampant in our world. Pigs are also symbols of tenacity, abundance, and forward movement. While we can’t choose which characteristics a pig will show us at any given moment, we can choose how to respond. Josie is a walking, grunting, greeting, rooting, Reiki-sharing example.

On this day during my weekly rounds at the barn, she was mad at the world and I was there. As an animal Reiki practitioner and animal communicator, I want to listen and hold space for whatever the animal needs. But every time I thought Josie was done ramming her snout into my leg, she wasn’t.

In possibly the most awkward barn dance ever, I kept moving. Josie kept rooting. Until she wore herself out and settled down for a nap.

Of course I knew Reiki can be shared just as effectively from outside a pen or other enclosure. I could do that differently next time. The reminder I needed even more was not to let the desire to help override the need for safe, sane interaction.

When Josie strolled up to me the following week, I told her I was happy to share Reiki and a chat. I also let her know any wayward snout or hoof movement would bring the session to a halt until she was in her pen. “Fine,” I heard, along with a few grunts. We shared some energy for a few minutes while she nibbled clover, and then she trotted off to some other task.

That was my first lesson from Josie: Boundaries are only as good as our willingness to enforce them.

2019 05.24 Josie & Duke in barn copy

Duke, who’s been learning about boundaries, advises Josie that now is not a convenient time for stall browsing. (Photo by Nancy Crowe)

As time passed, spay surgery, acclimation, and maturity — and maybe Reiki? — helped ease her path. But progress is never linear, and Josie is Josie. I’d work with her while she was penned in timeout after breaking into the feed room or playing too roughly with the other animals. The next week, she’d come through like a team-playing rock star. You just never knew.

Recently, as I sat on the floor with Jake the senior barn cat at my side, Josie walked in with her customary “what’s up?” grunts.

Jake crouched, ears swiveling back. But Josie stopped two or three feet away from us and just stood there quietly. Jake sat up and stayed put, and we all shared Reiki.

Second lesson from Josie: We can recognize limitations without giving up on one another.

Marcus and Josie 04.06.18 copy

Josie has a word with Marcus the barn cat. (Photo by Nancy Crowe)

On another day, when director Allison Wheaton was away from the barn, Josie and goat roomies Gabby and Mildred did not have their usual roaming privileges. They were sick of their enclosure and sick of one another, and everyone in the neighborhood was hearing about it.

I sat just outside the pen and began my meditation. After several minutes of Reiki, I noticed the squealing and “naaa-aaa–aaing” had stopped. Josie and Gabby had settled at opposite ends of the pen. Mildred lounged just inside the shed, relieved not to hear the other two complaining.

A moment later, I found a treat — left by my dog after a groomer visit — in my car. After determining it hadn’t crossed the line between stale and disgusting, I divided it among the three. Pigs and goats are not known for being finicky, but they were as happy as if it came straight from the baker’s case.

And there was the third lesson from Josie and company: The smallest, most seemingly insignificant gifts can make your day.

Though we haven’t told Josie it’s the Year of the Pig (we’d never hear the end of it), it seems pretty well timed.