Animals Show the Way

By Barbara Janelle M.A.

Vision and Reality Conference,

London, Ontario November 9, 1996

The little dog met me at the door of the pottery shop. His steps were halting and stiff-legged–the hind leg joints did not bend, and there was very little movement in the shoulders. His eyes and the gray in his coat and muzzle proclaimed his advanced years.

I bent down to let him sniff the back of my hand, then moved it to the acupuncture points at the base of his ear. After a moment’s touch there, he moved closer to me, inviting my hand to touch his spine. Lightly and very gently because he was old, I stroked his back and side; then removed my hand from contact and continued the stroke energetically down the hind leg on that side.

The joints in both the hind and fore legs appeared stiff and tense, and very likely were arthritic. These areas can be very sensitive and even the lightest touch can be too harsh and painful. Many old animals–dogs, cats and horses, and people too have taught me this. With mistrusting eyes, they shy from normal touch because they know the pain that a stroke done without thought or awareness will bring. A quiet, soft and motionless hand on the skin is much more acceptable than a stroking one.

I unruffled both hind legs, checked the grounding and found it shallow. My work deepened the roots and supported the flow of energy through all four legs. An area in the digestive system was thick and heavy. I spent some moments combing that out and making it lighter. The dog backed up and presented his ears to my hand for a few seconds, then shifted slightly to allow me access to his spine again. With light contact at the shoulder and the sacrum, I supported the flow of energy along the spine for a few seconds. There was a greater sense of energetic connection through the field and better grounding. Then he turned and walked away.

The entire session lasted less than three minutes. The dog, a Miniature Poodle, guided the work with his movements and position. His movements were made in inches–subtle to the eye but very clearly effecting a repositioning of my hands. He shifted his orientation very slightly but enough so that most of my work was done on his left side, including the dissipation of the energy block in the digestive tract there. By moving my hand to his ears, he gave his field a chance to process the work before more was added. He allowed precisely the amount of work his field could accept and ended the treatment without hesitation, with great clarity.

The little dog’s quality of stillness during the session was important to the effectiveness of the treatment, as well. He stood quietly, breathing easily, with a kind of internal listening attitude. He did not do any of the usual doggy things like sniffing, licking, and walking around me or between his owner and myself. He simply stood quietly without any restraint, moving in minimal ways to affect and guide my work.

Animals Give Directions

This dog’s behaviour during the treatment is an example of how many animals respond to and participate in Therapeutic Touch. The guidance they give takes many forms.

Animals will often reposition their bodies to guide energetic work and they will frequently point to or touch a part of the body that needs attention.

Hannibal is one of the therapeutic riding horses at the Special Abilities Riding Institute (SARI), London’s riding centre for disabled children. I work on the horses there one day a week and have done so for the past eight years.

A few months ago, Hannibal had a problem in his right foreleg. There was an energy build-up under the scapula that I could not dissipate with unruffling. Hanna reached down and licked his right knee. I moved my hands there and cleared the field around the knee. When I rechecked the shoulder, the energy block was gone and the field there was fluid and light.

An animal recipient of TT sometimes will take a few steps during a treatment and then return for more. This movement seems to support the energetic flow though joints and the integration of the field. Motion is so important in a TT treatment that I will often ask even human recipients to move shoulders, wriggle the body or walk a few steps midway through a treatment to increase the flow of energy through joints and the entire field. The 30 seconds to a couple of minutes that this takes also allows the field to process the work that has been done, and often assists another “layer” in the field to surface for treatment.

I prefer to work on animals that are free, but if one must be held, I do it lightly. I treat horses on a long line so they can take several steps if necessary and I will loop a finger through a restless dog’s collar and allow the animal to move around me. When an animal is allowed to move, it will usually settle quickly and participate in the treatment. On the other hand, one that is firmly controlled will struggle and negate, through tension, any energetic attempt to help it. I have trained myself to go with an animal’s movement rather than pull against it, and to keep my breathing steady and deep which both supports my centering and provides a mirror for the animal.

An older animal or one that is very ill and/or in pain does not cope well with long periods of work. The condition heightens sensitivity. The animal will indicate that only the most delicate of hand movements and offering of energy are acceptable. Where there is pain, fast, strong or arrhythmic unruffling movements may feel like knives in the body. Sometimes the hands are too close to the skin as, for example, in a skin condition like dermatitis or a burn, and the heat of the hand will increase the animal’s discomfort. Hands moving too slowly may build energy under them, making the animal uncomfortable. Hands that move too fast disrupt rather than soothe the field.

Subtle indicators of discomfort may range from breath holding, anxious expression, unblinking eyes and tense posture to tail flicking, flattened ears, and wriggling attempts to leave.

If the human fails to accept this information, the animal will leave if it can, or progress to warning growls, snarls and hisses. A horse may bite or kick if it cannot get away, and a cat may lash out and scratch. In most instances, extreme behavior comes only after the human has ignored the gentler signs. If all of this fails to get through to the human, an animal can barricade its field.

Whenever an animal indicates some discomfort, it is useful to pause in the treatment. This honours the animal by accepting its information. This acceptance encourages it to give more information and it quickly becomes a valuable director in the Therapeutic Touch treatment.

Animals are skilled partners in a Therapeutic Touch treatment if we listen to them and allow them this role. They give very precise and clear guidance to the work because they are far more aware of themselves and their world energetically than are humans. Those of us using TT with animals would do well to hone our observational skills and develop our trust in the animals we treat. They can teach us a great deal about our work and support our efforts to bolster their health.