Routines and rituals add spice to life

After being fed at 4 p.m. sharp (or preferably before), Lucy the black tortie settles into a chair to supervise my yoga practice. If I have the nerve to still be sitting in said chair, she sits and looks at me. Time to get moving.

Around 8:30, I can count on our younger cat to pace around pointedly until I follow her to the room where her bowls and litter box are kept. I give her a bedtime snack of three or four kibbles. We say our prayers and goodnight.

Our shepherd mix, whose anxiety casts the world as predictably unpredictable, knows she gets a dental treat at 7 p.m. If it’s not forthcoming by, say, 6:55, she will follow me around, panting, until she gets it.

Most of our animal friends expect certain things to happen at certain times with certain humans — comings, goings, feeding, walks, turnout, rides, bedtime. (Some animals I work with know when it’s time for my Reiki rounds, too!) Departures may be tolerated, but not especially welcomed.

According to this Brain Pickings article, routine contains everyday chaos while ritual imbues the mundane with the magical. With animals, I think those distinctions blur. Rescues in particular find magic in the most basic daily happenings. Over the last 15 months, they’ve dealt with disrupted routines along with us. Perhaps they’ve found magic in helping us develop new ways to contain our chaos.

Variety may be the spice of life, but routines and rituals add different spices — cinnamon, perhaps, or turmeric — to sustain us in an unsteady world. Like a good stretch, or bedtime prayers and purrs, they affirm that God is good and life, even in some small way, still makes sense.

When fireworks and storms disturb the peace

Fireworks during an animal Reiki session created an opportunity last summer.

Five horses and I had just settled in for a Reiki session when a loud boom shook the pasture. They scattered, then huddled. Then they looked at me.

A nearby pop-up fireworks store kept demonstrating its wares, neighbors were intermittently setting off their own, and nightfall would bring formal fireworks displays.

But this boom happened when I was there, and damned if we weren’t going to get a teachable moment out of it.

“Yeah, that was scary,” I told the horses, “but we’ve got this.”

Silently, I explained that it’s OK to be unnerved (they’d seen me jump too!) but it was just noise and they could handle it. I also let them know they’d hear more of it in the coming days and nights. I pictured them standing together at night, alert but not panicked, amid the pops and bangs and streaks of light.

Then we continued with Reiki.

Many horses, dogs, and other animals (not to mention humans) are frightened to the point of severe distress by fireworks. The ASPCA offers strategies to help them cope with both fireworks and thunderstorms; ask your veterinarian if you think sedation might be needed.

Otherwise: Keeping calm yourself, letting the animals know what’s happening, and affirming your confidence in their ability to cope can speak louder than the booms.