APPROACHING AN ANIMAL IN THE THERAPEUTIC TOUCH TREATMENT
By Barbara Janelle M.A.
British Columbia Therapeutic Touch Network Newsletter, November 2002
Animals are as sensitive to energy work as human infants and the frail elderly. It is important to approach the animal carefully and quietly and to enter the treatment gently, so the animal is not stressed before the treatment begins.
APPROACHING THE ANIMAL
A practitioner may be well centered but if his/her approach to an animal and entry into the field is inappropriate, it may increase the creature’s anxiety. (This is true for approaching humans too, particularly those who are ill or the frail elderly). The position of the body in approach is important. For example, if a person walks directly toward a horse, it will move a way. However, if the person approaches with a shoulder leading, the horse will stand quietly. Essentially, the human’s body is turned slightly so that the major chakras are not aimed directly at the animal. The following exercises illustrate this.
Exercise 1. In the first exercise, two people stand and face each other, then one turns 90° . After a moment the person turns again to face his/her partner and the exercise is repeated with roles reversed. There is a great difference in feeling, awareness and sense of security between the two positions that is mirrored in the breathing of both participants. The directly facing position is too intense, and is even threatening.
Exercise 2. In this exercise, the partners face one another and then one takes a step sideways; both observe and compare their comfort levels in each position. Again facing one another off-centre is more comfortable.
In both of these exercises, the test has involved positioning the major chakras, particularly the Solar Plexus off centre-line. A lot of information and energy passes through this centre and its positioning can affect comfort for both. Note that in the act of shaking hands, bodies are turned slightly to avoid too direct an interface.
Exercise 3. In the third exercise one partner approaches the other, first directly and then again with the body slightly turned so the shoulder leads a little bit. The exercise can also be done with an approach from the front versus an approach from the diagonal. Again the direction of the approaching person’s Solar Plexus will largely determine the comfort level of the partner. This is applicable for both humans and animals. (I teach nursing home staff to approach their elderly patients on a slightly off centre-line too.) It is interesting to note that a fairly rapid approach in emergency situations can be comfortable for both if the line of movement is off-centre.
This can also be used approaching an animal in a cage, e.g., in a veterinary clinic. Rather than walking directly toward the cage, opening the door and putting a hand straight into the cage, an approach can be made on a diagonal line. The person’s body can be turned slightly to aim the Solar Plexus to the side or away from the animal while the door is opened and the hand offered for sniffing.
Turid Rugaas, a Norwegian dog trainer has identified over thirty different signals that dogs (many are used by other animals including humans) use to calm themselves and others. Eye blinking, turning the head and/or body away from another animal, off centre-line approaches, slowing movement, licking, chewing and yawning are just a few.
We can make use of some of these in approaching an animal:
- Moving fluidly and slowly help to quiet an animal.
- Blinking and not attempting to make eye contact are very important. It is quite easy to look at the animal’s nose, ears or body rather than at its eyes.
- Using a low voice and making soft toning sounds (“Theeeeress a gooood fellowww.”) keeps the person breathing and invites the animal to breathe too.
- Yawning can help an animal relax as well.
- Pausing to give an animal a chance to assess the situation is important.
- Inviting movement by offering the back of the hand (not the palm because it can be seen as grasping and it can be felt energetically too) to the animal to stretch forward and sniff gets the animal breathing. When an animal is breathing it is not as likely to react instinctively.
- Another useful tool for approaching an animal (or a timid human being) is to imagine oneself very small. This draws the practitioner’s field in and tones it down, which reassures the animal.
- Awareness of one’s breathing and level of body tension are important too because of the mirroring effect on the animal. Body tension can be an indicator of one’s depth of centering.
After a quiet off-centre-line approach using some of the calming signal listed above, the practitioner can offer the back of the hand for sniffing and then move it to the shoulder and turn it palm facing when it is an inch or so from the body. Making one or two hands-on strokes and then lifting it off to do non-contact TT is very reassuring to the animal. Sometimes a treatment may involve partial or full hands-on TT.
The approach and initial entry into the Therapeutic Touch treatment should focus on keeping the animal breathing. Approaching an animal in a centered state and using body positioning and calming signals enables a TT practitioner to relax and reassure an animal. It also builds mutual trust.
(1) Turid Rugaas, On Talking Terms With Dogs: Calming Signals, Legacy By Mail, Inc., Kula, HI: 1997