The music we carry

pitbull Image by Mirko Kaminski from Pixabay dog-3857972_1920

Music can engage and soothe animals, including those in shelters. (Image by Mirko Kaminski from Pixabay)

When my father-in-law was at St. Anne’s Home here in Fort Wayne, I noticed how the birds in the lobby aviary responded to music coming from the dining room. Sometimes they seemed unaffected and kept flitting around and chattering.

During a selection of piano oldies, though, they perched quietly, cocking their heads now and then. The human audience, whether transported to another time and place or enjoying the present moment, seemed equally content.

Since then, I’ve seen videos and heard accounts of grieving whales soothed by violins, a sanctuary elephant next to a piano while a man played “Ave Maria,” and shelter dogs chilling to live cello music. Like the care center birds, the animals were responding not only to the music, but to those making it and the others hearing it.

Science has demonstrated the effects of music on the brain, and music therapy is part of many human health and wellness settings. But I don’t think the benefits end with the last note of the song. There is something about music that keeps healing even in the silence, even amid the noise in the world. It might even replace the noise in our heads.

And how many of us have had songs stuck in our heads? More on that in a moment.

A few months ago, I dug Chant, the popular 1994 album by the Benedictine Monks of Santo Domingo, out of the CD cabinet and loaded it into my iTunes. Gregorian chant is prayer sung in Latin, generally without accompaniment. Its development is attributed to Pope Gregory the Great during medieval times, but there is some scholarly uncertainty about that. Regardless, to listen to it is to step into the eternal. You don’t have to understand a word of Latin to know that each chant is about God’s presence in any circumstance.

I began to include the chants in my personal meditation and in my work as an animal communicator and animal Reiki practitioner. Sometimes I have the music playing softly from my stereo or the phone in my pocket when I need to focus, or refocus.

My teacher, Kathleen Prasad, says chanting unites breath with sound in a way that calms and heals. Where fear and sadness constrict, chanting expands. “The more expansive you become, the more easily you can feel emotions without being knocked over by them,” she says in her Animal Reiki Source blog. Animals will feel this expansiveness, she continues, and want to share your strong, balanced space. I am finding this to be true.

2019 07.26 Mildred in sun

Mildred and I shared Reiki and a bit of Gregorian chant. (Photo by Nancy Crowe)

On my rounds at Summit Equestrian Center recently, I sat down in the shade, pulled up iTunes on my phone, and clicked on one of the chants — I believe it was Kyrie Fons Bonitatis (Lord, fountain of mercy). Mildred, a goat who has seen a lot of living, had been lounging on the grass nearby — but now her head swiveled around, ears alert. It wasn’t her “What is that infernal noise?” look (I know that one). Mildred recognized what she was hearing. She listened with me as we shared Reiki, and soon she closed her eyes and lifted her face to the sun.

I wondered if, in her storied life, she ever spent time in the pasture of a Benedictine monastery. Or, on this day, did she simply tune into a sound and energy connecting her to her creator? The particulars didn’t seem to matter much to Mildred. All I got from her was that she liked hearing it again and it made an already beautiful day — moment, really — even better.

Even though I wasn’t doing the chanting myself, allowing that expansiveness to move from God through the monks through me and Mildred was truly a gift.

I can’t carry a tune in a bucket or any other receptacle. So when I don’t have the actual music playing, I try to carry the energy of the music with me. You could say I keep it “stuck” in my head and heart to share with the animals, however it may benefit them the most.

Think about this … and feel free to share:

  • If you leave a radio on for your animal friends when you leave the house, what music do you choose?
  • If you sing or play an instrument, how do they respond?
  • How does having a song (or chant, or other music) stuck in your head make you feel and respond to others?

 

 

 

 

 

A warrior and her dog

RightSide_FINAL-397x600It would be easy not to like LeAnne Hogan, the principal character in The Right Side (Atria Books, 2017), a marked departure from Spencer Quinn’s popular Chet and Bernie mysteries. The Army sergeant is recovering at Walter Reed Hospital after a disastrous mission in Afghanistan left her without her right eye and with her face and psyche badly scarred.

You want to thank LeAnne, for whom the Army has been her life, for her service. She would lash out at you for that. Various people offer kindness and assistance, and all she can think about is punching them out. Her only connection to a possibly humane world is her hospital roommate, Marci.

That’s when you realize — if, like me, you have no experience with military service, war, or the kind of injury and betrayal LeAnne has experienced — that you have no clue and just need to keep reading. Especially since you already know from the cover and description that there’s a dog in this story.

The dog doesn’t enter the picture until later, after Marci has suddenly died and LeAnne has made a cross-country drive, winding up in Marci’s home town in Washington state. As animals do, the big black canine turns up at a critical moment. Later named Goody, she annoys the hell out of LeAnne, but the two begin to find a way forward.

LeAnne tried running again. The dog helped, partly by pulling her along, but after what must have been a few hundred yards — meaning much farther than her first attempt — LeAnne began to suspect there was more than that to this little resurgence. Something the dog had deep inside was making its way down the leash and sharing itself with her. How was that possible? Did life run on some sort of magic rules that she’d missed the whole time? All LeAnne knew was that strength from the dog had passed into her own legs, and although she didn’t come close to running the way she used to run — and this performance wasn’t even respectable — she was doing better.

Turns out Goody was just getting started, and so was LeAnne.

It’s worth noting that Quinn, in the acknowledgments, thanks two Army veterans for reading and critiquing the manuscript for the novel. Truth may be stranger than fiction, but authenticity never hurt a good story.

 

 

Four things to know before hiring an animal communicator

1996 Idgie - yes, I knocked it over copy

A mischievous kitten might have some valuable insights for you. (Photo by Nancy Crowe)

Most people who contact me for an animal communication session are trying to solve a problem — a seemingly intractable behavior issue, adjustment to change, or painful end-of-life concerns. I’m sure many of them never thought they’d consult an animal communicator — what is animal communication, anyway? — but here we are.

It’s hard to make decisions when you’re upset, dealing with a million other things, or both … so here are a few points to consider.

1. You’re already on the right track.

Considering a discipline based on listening to the animal and his or her needs means you are willing to listen and learn. Maybe animal communication is a new concept, but you love your animal. You’re willing to at least think “outside the box” in order to help.

Even if you decide working with an animal communicator is not the right move at this time, you’ll be closer to finding what will help. So stop, take a breath, and give yourself credit for this alone. 

2. Do your homework AND trust your gut.

Referrals from people and businesses you trust are time-honored for a reason. You can also contact local metaphysical shops. Some, like Catalpa Tree Shops in northeast Indiana, maintain directories of healing arts practitioners. A worldwide directory of animal communicators, with paid listings and ads, is on Penelope Smith’s Animal Talk website.  (I am not currently listed here, as I did not find it especially helpful before, but you never know.)

Whether you get an animal communicator’s name from a friend, directory, or random Google search, spend some time on his or her website and/or social media pages. Pay attention to how you feel as you read. Are you calmer, or more anxious? Clearer or more confused? Does the person follow the Code of Ethics for Interspecies Telepathic Communicators, or any other code of ethics or guiding principles?

3. No one is 100 percent accurate.

I am human and can’t do everything perfectly. With God’s guidance and my own self-care, I can be present, clear, and helpful to the animal and his or her family. Any animal communicator claiming 100 percent accuracy is probably best avoided.

4. What you can learn will almost certainly be worth the investment.

There are no guarantees in this line of work. However, if you’ve chosen a communicator with whom you feel comfortable, chances are very good that you’ll find a valuable takeaway. It could be information you can act on immediately, such as moving the litter box to a quieter place or telling your horse where you’re going as you’re loading. It could be insight into how your animal views her place in your household, or his feelings and needs as his life on earth is drawing to a close.

Animals see our gifts and struggles in a way that even the humans closest to us cannot, so you may even learn something about yourself. Nothing is ever lost by listening.