Showing up in 2020

horses-on-a-grass-field-under-a-cloudy-sky-Photo by Anastasia Shuraeva from Pexels
Photo by Anastasia Shuraeva from Pixels

A sad stillness enveloped the barn and pastures at Summit Equestrian Center on a damp, fall-is-coming morning a week after Whinnie died three years ago. The animals were grieving, and as I arrived for my weekly animal Reiki rounds, so was I. In fact, I feared my own sadness would taint the energy I wanted to share with them.

Whinnie, Summit’s thriving-with-disabilities spokeshorse, was a dwarf miniature horse with a giant presence. That presence was glaringly absent now.

All of the animals had taken turns visiting with her before she passed. They knew she had been struggling. When animals grieve, whether for a human or another animal, it’s not that they don’t understand what’s going on. They probably understand it better than the humans do, and feel the loss and disorientation all the more acutely.

On that morning a week later, no other humans were about, but three horses waited by the fence. They felt not only the loss of Whinnie, but the sadness of the other animals and humans who’d known her. 

I wasn’t sure anything I could offer at that moment would help. In the face of suffering, injustice, and anger, it’s easy to feel that whatever we bring to the table will not be enough.

However, surrendering the outcome is essential when sharing Reiki energy with animals or communicating with them. So with a brief prayer, I set an intention for the animals’ highest good and put it in God’s hands.

Rain began to fall, and without thinking I put my umbrella up. Startled, all three horses pulled back.

I folded the umbrella and stashed it away. I started to castigate myself for not remembering that I actually knew better than to unfurl an umbrella near a horse. 

But they were still there and so was I. “Sorry, guys.” 

They relaxed, and I shared Reiki energy with them and with the other horses, ponies, and donkey who stood, still and mindful, in the pasture.

I offered a variation on the earth and sky meditation my animal Reiki teacher, Kathleen Prasad, taught. This meditation gently taps into both the grounding power of the earth and the divine expanse of the sky. I reminded the crew that support is always available, no matter where we are or what is happening.

A chilly breeze cut through my jacket as we finished up. The perfectionist in me still wondered if I’d done enough.

Then Boo, a beautiful 14-year-old black cat with white whiskers and a delicate white star on her chest, strolled up. She usually hid out in the barn. Now here she was, meowing and rubbing against my legs.

Boo at Summit Equestrian Center. (Photo by Nancy Crowe)

Boo had been dropped off a couple of years earlier. Though initially terrified of people, she became “selectively social,” as executive director Allison Wheaton put it.

Being well-trained by cats, I know when one is demanding food, a lap, an opened door, a quick head rub, or the ever-popular skritch above the tail. Today, Boo wanted healing energy: Come on, let’s see what you’ve got.

I sat on a bench in the garden while Boo continued to wind around me, occasionally putting her front paws on my knee but never quite taking the leap into my lap. As she took in the energy, she kept up a running commentary of meows and purrs. This, I felt her tell me, was just what she needed. Of course, it was just what I needed, too.

One of Whinnie’s most important lessons was that it doesn’t matter what you can’t do or don’t have. If you show up with an open heart and put what you do have out there, chances are it will be exactly what is needed.

Even today, when COVID-19, violence, and division send us scrambling for an adequate response, we can bring our imperfect offerings.

We are here. We can offer more than we think. We can do this.

A humble reward

Two goats and a pig would have walked happily into a bar. Instead, they were confined to a pen and in various stages of discontent over their primary caregiver’s absence. I’m sure anyone within earshot would have thought Freddy Krueger, and not their animal Reiki practitioner, was visiting.

Because I practice the Let Animals Lead® method of animal Reiki, I wasn’t there to get them to do (or stop doing) anything. Instead, after greeting the animals I sat in meditation on a bench just outside the pen. I set an intention to share the peace that is available whether things are going our way or not. Sometimes that comes down to one breath at a time.

After a while I noticed the pacing, squealing, and “naa-aaa-ing” had stopped. The pig and younger goat had settled at opposite ends of the pen. The older goat, just inside the shed, was relieved not to hear the other two complaining. Each had shared the energy on her own terms and decided what to do next.

When the session ended, I thanked them, reminded them when their person was returning, and said I’d see them next week. I headed for my car with the niggling thought that there should be more.

Then there it was, wedged between the driver’s seat and center console: a biscuit left by my distracted dog after a visit to the groomer. It had been there for a few days.

I started to drop it in the trash, then gave it a closer look and a sniff. Not the freshest to my human nose, but otherwise fine. And it was a gourmet dog biscuit. With pink frosting.

I returned to the pen and broke the treat in three. Pigs and goats are not known for being finicky, but they were as delighted as if I had served it straight from the baker’s case.

Gifts tend to surface when they’re most needed and appreciated … even stale doggie treats.

To learn more about Reiki or communication sessions for your animal friends, visit me at www.njcrowe.com.

Finding reliable pet health information

Image by Martine Auvray from Pixabay 

When we’re worried about our animal friend’s health, it’s easy to go down a rabbit hole in search of answers. It doesn’t matter if the search term is a symptom, diagnosis, or treatment. Most of us have done it and wound up even more confused or misinformed, which helps no one.

Knowing where to look and where to be wary can yield better outcomes and fewer headaches. Based on many years as a journalist, animal wellness practitioner, and pet mom, here are my suggestions for accurate, credible animal health information sources:

Your veterinarian

Your veterinarian and vet clinic should be your primary source for your pet’s health. They know you and your animals. If you don’t have a vet you trust, find one by asking fellow pet parents you trust. Online testimonials and reviews are helpful, but nothing beats a personal referral.

If you’re afraid of asking a stupid question or bothering the vet clinic staff, consider that some of the most pertinent questions are the seemingly stupid ones (i.e., “Where are my pants?”). Your vet and staff are your chief allies in your pet’s well-being. It’s OK to ask them, “Where can I learn more about this?” They’d rather steer you toward a trusted source than have you paralyzed with fear or try an unproven “miracle cure” that may do more harm than good.

Veterinary schools

Places like the Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine (our Indiana example) educate and train tomorrow’s veterinary professionals. Vet school faculty and staff members are trained scientists whose job it is to figure stuff out — accurately and without bias. (More on bias in a moment.)

University-conducted studies can be wonderful sources of information and insight. Keep in mind that a single study is seldom, if ever, the final answer. What we know about our animals, our world, and ourselves is constantly evolving.

Also, these studies are generally written with a style and terminology that leave you wondering what on earth is wrong with plain English. They’re intended for a professional or academic audience. That’s cool, but you may want something more accessible.

Fortunately, the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine website’s Health Topics section is geared toward both veterinarians and pet owners. I especially like the information I’ve found on the Cornell Feline Health Center page.

Now to the question of bias. When you are reading a media report on a study that links X to Y, or which indicates A is beneficial in the treatment of B, click the link to the actual study. It may be a university study in a professional journal, or it could be a press release.

Either way, look at who paid for and conducted the study. Would they have a vested interest in the outcome? For example, if a study about the benefits of CBD oil was paid for or conducted by a company that makes CBD supplements, I wouldn’t give that study much weight. Its conclusions may prove correct in time, but show me some independent research. Also look at any conflicts of interest disclosed by the authors themselves.

Again, resist the impulse to draw conclusions from research that may not be conclusive.

Professional associations

The American Veterinary Medical Association’s website includes resources for pet owners — including, of course, how best to partner with your veterinarian for your animal friend’s best life. (There’s also a great article on getting pet health information online, which hits some points I do not here.)

The American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association’s Holistic Veterinary Therapies page is where I would start for information on complementary and alternative therapies such as chiropractic, acupuncture, and more.

Don’t overlook the library

I’ve been talking about online information here, but I’m old enough that, once upon a time, the stacks were my first stop. But my advice is similar. Look at the credentials of the author(s) and don’t get swept up in “breakthrough,” “miracle,” “revolutionary,” or similar claims.

Those are the sources to seek. Briefly, here are the sources to evaluate more carefully:

• Sites owned by businesses selling a product or service. This goes for mine, too. Do they link to reliable sources of health information? Do the claims seem too good to be true?

• Blogs (again, including mine), message boards, social media and anyplace else where people can post anything. What sources, if any, does the person reference? Is he or she angry? Grieving?

• Wikipedia. Being a free-for-all may be part of its charm. Fine. Just look in the text and footnotes for links to reliable sources.

Bottom line: When you’re evaluating a source of information on animal health, always consider the who and the why. Then — again — work with a veterinarian you trust.