From My Notes 2014
By Barbara Janelle M.A.
Published in Species Link, Spring 2015, Issue 94
I try to identify underlying principles in my work. I make note of experiences that I want to use in my teaching and present these ideas both through exercises in workshops and as handout material. The primary purpose is to understand more deeply what is happening in the communication process. The following are some ideas that I have been working with over the past many months.
- Assumptions can lead us astray. I ask that clients not give me any information except for the name and a basic physical description (breed, age, sex, color, weight, etc.) until after I have connected with the animal. Sometimes the person will tell me the major topic while setting up the appointment and I have to be careful to set that aside as I connect with the animal.
a) Recently a man called about his Mastiff, Hercules, a recent rescue who was aggressive. I watched what my mind did with that information and found I was coming up with all kinds of scenarios about this dangerous dog! I consciously cleared my mind when I connected with Hercules and let him show me who he was and what he was experiencing.
Hercules was a very sweet and confused animal. He wanted so much to do the right thing but didn’t know what that was or how he was supposed to behave. He had spent much of his life in a kennel. His experiences with humans and with life were very limited. He had never had any training and he was six years old! Hercules is a big-hearted guy who is now in training (along with his people) with an experienced teacher. He is learning a wide range of skills which is giving him a whole new self-image, sense of confidence and happiness.
b) A woman called about her Sheltie, a very skilled agility dog, who had melted down during a class in a show. The woman was convinced that the dog was reacting to the judge. I did my very best to put that information aside when I connected to the dog. The animal described a big thing that didn’t feel right. Then she went on to show me how noise bounced and how she lost her orientation in the ring. I didn’t know that the class was inside a climate controlled large tent. When I described what the dog experienced, the woman suddenly remembered that other dogs had had issues in the tent and that some people would not show in the facility.
- Animals and other forms of existence will surprise us with what communicate. An element of communication that signals accurate information is that the information takes the communicator by surprise. A corollary to this is that it often surprises the animal’s person too.
People usually schedule a communication session because they have something significant they want to discuss with their animals, and they assume the animal is as concerned about the topic as they are. In many instances, the animal has some other topic in mind.
a) A woman called about her dog, convinced it was the same animal she had had years before. The animal’s response was, ”Yeah, yeah, but look at who I am Now! We are doing things now.”
b) In another case, a chinchilla named Percy got into the wall behind the sink in the bathroom. His person was frantic that he was lost and she was sure he was very afraid. Percy’s comment was “I am exploring and having Fun!” He didn’t feel lost. After a good adventure, he did eventually return to the bathroom.
c) A woman called about her dog with a major physical problem. The dog talked about his need for clear information and direction from his person, otherwise he reverted to fear-based entrenched behavior. When I asked him why he didn’t talk about the physical issue, he replied that the issue got his person’s full attention and he was taking advantage of that to get a very important piece of information across to her. Even when he gave me information about how he was feeling, it was less important to him than the fact that he got his person to listen to him.
d) On several occasions, clients who show dogs call me to ask why their animal is refusing to perform in the ring. When I check with the animal, the response is, “Ring? What ring? My person is really having a hard time and I don’t know what to do or how to help her!” I talk to the client about breathing, visualization, and staying calm while showing, and that often solves the roblem.
e) In many cases, the animal’s person may be calling about a behavioral issue, and the animal is asking to be seen as the wonderful being that it is.
- Mixed Messages. Often people think they are giving clear information to their animals when they are really giving mixed messages. In addition to clearing up confusion for the animal, another important part of my job is to educate the person on how to give information to the animal so that it is understood.
a) A woman called about her small dog who was peeing and pooping in the house. The dog was sure that it was all right to do this. I talked to the woman about training procedures and suggested getting peepads and putting them outdoors where she wanted the dog to go. She told me she had them in the house for her other elderly dog to use. No wonder the little dog thought it was all right to go in the house! I recommended that she set up a peepad in the house specifically for the little dog and she agreed to do so.
b) In giving information to animals, I make the point that animals only understand positive statements. If I tell a dog to sit down, my mind creates that picture and the animal gets the picture. If I tell the dog not to sit down, that picture is imbedded in there and creates confusion.
c) Most animals want information. Many want directions on what they should do and how they should behave. Saying, “No, don’t do that” fails to give direction to the animal and only increases the problem.
I encourage people to develop the habit of speaking in positive sentences to their animals. This requires that people focus on what they want their animals to do. Positive thinking is very powerful and clear. Animals appreciate it and people do too!
- Being clear and open to new information are keys to good communication. This is also true in making agreements with animals. Rather than feeling that I have to come up with all the solutions, I find it is much easier to involve both the animal and the person in developing agreement details.
a) I asked the cat what it would want in order to use its litter box. It showed me that having a toy put near the box would be important both as an invitation into the area and as a sign of good faith by its human.
b) I explained to a human that her indoor cat, who had gotten out, loved the chance to smell different things and to feel the movement of air on its face and fur. The animal was not eager to go back inside. The woman said she was willing to build an outdoor area that the animal could use and still stay safe. The cat found that a very enticing proposition.
c) My friend complained about skunks that came to her yard every night. As I started to think about possible agreements, she told me about her next door neighbors who welcomed animals into their very large unfenced yard, even to the point of putting out water for them to drink. I amplified that information to the skunks and asked that they go there each evening and they have done so, no longer visiting my friend’s yard.
- The human mind can do weird things with information. It is important for communicators to observe what their minds do with information. Developing the habit of watching how your mind works can make it easier to present precise information.
a) The elderly dog had wandered off and her person could not find her. She showed me an elevation change. My mind assumed that she had moved along the edge of a hill. Instead of telling the person that, I simply used the words “elevation change.” He went to a place where the land dropped away to a river below and found that his dog had fallen down the hill. Particularly with lost animals, it is critical to present precisely what the animal has said or shown.
b) A corollary to this is that there is often a variety of ways to interpret things. When I give an interpretation, I try to identify it as such and add that I may be wrong. The vey elderly dog had dementia. It showed itself to me in a sea of fog, unable to connect with anything around it. The animal told me, “I want out of this!” My interpretation was that it wanted out of life. Its person said, ”Those meds he is on are too strong.” In other words that he wanted out of the fog. In this case, I believe believe both interpretations were true.
Again, presenting clear, undoctored, information, not leaping to conclusions, and giving the animal’s person the chance to interpret things first is the smart way to go. It requires great discipline on the part of the communicator to do this.
- The openness and willingness to hear by the animal’s person affects the depth of the communication.
a) Recently a client that I have worked with occasionally over the past ten years called. She said, “I have told Belle (her Golden Retriever) that we are working with you today and that she is to tell you Everything!” This woman’s humor, intelligence and willingness to give me access to her animal make the communication session a joy for all of us.
b) A problem can occur when a person really doesn’t want to have a session. A client will sometimes push a friend to call me, against that friend’s wishes. A person who enters a communication unwillingly does not give full access to their animal and this compromises the communication. To a communicator it feels like trying to squeeze juice out of a very dry orange. It is stressful to put it mildly! Sometimes it is possible to break through the person’s block and build a partnership for the animal’s sake. Other times, it is necessary to stop the session.
c) There are other kinds of blocks that can impede communication. I recently worked with a woman who was trying to take notes to give to her vet. She was not processing information and so our interaction was difficult.
d) In another case, a person with a hearing impediment was only picking up part of what I was saying. I simplified things as much as I could but the result was that the communication was incomplete and not very satisfying for the animal and me.
e) In a recent appointment, a woman’s daughter sat in on the session and I began to recognize that the woman was not able to express freely what she thought or felt. As a communicator, I act as intermediary amplifying information between animal and human. If the human is not giving full information to the animal, it limits the communication between them.
f) Very occasionally, someone will call who simply wants to talk and does not want to hear anything from the animal or me. I will try to interrupt this without blaming the person and will sometimes be successful. When that is not effective, I realize that for whatever reason, the timing for the communication is off.
g) Sometimes, my pausing and recentering deeply can help deepen the communication. If I blame anyone, that definitely interferes even more with the session.
- For me, the information the animal gives me in the first few minutes is very important. The way the animal presents itself tells me a lot. When an animal shows itself as a huge spirit, full of light, I know I am working with a very wise and powerful being. An image or feeling of confusion and fear indicates an animal needing a lot of support and usually a lot of information too. Feeling an animal’s happiness makes me laugh and often means the communication will be a lot of fun.
One of the first things I ask is that the animal shows me the relationship between its spirit and its body. When the spirit is fully engaged in the body and the grounding is very good, I know the animal is healthy and balanced mentally, physically, and emotionally. This is the dog who says, “The world is my oyster! I like everybody and I like other dogs. I can handle anything you throw at me and stay steady. (This is a description of true dominance.)
If the spirit is somewhat disassociated from the body, the grounding is weaker (either in back or front or laterally) and in almost all cases this indicates either a health problem or a behavior issue or both.
A common situation with dogs is that the animal is strongly engaged only in the front of the body. Physically, this can be seen in the animal’s balance: it stands and moves as if it was constantly leaning forward, so it has to take another step to catch itself from falling. The grounding with the front feet is good, but very poor in the back feet. The front of the body usually feels warmer and the hind end and legs are noticeably colder. The animal tends to barge into things and it usually doesn’t know its physical body and boundaries well. It tends to move by pulling its weight along with the front legs, rather than carrying its weight in a balanced way on all four legs and gaining momentum from the hind legs. It will be reactive, easily showing a fear response: aggression, flight, freezing, fooling around, or running to support. This reactfullness puts pressure on the immune system and can have an impact on health.
Summary and Suggestions. As communicators, we are walking a frontier in human understanding. When we share ideas and experiences with others, we help build a body of knowledge and we increase our skills.
Keeping a journal in which you review experiences can help you see major principles. Observing how your mind works and what it does with information can help you be more precise and accurate in the information that you relay to clients and animals. Recognizing that each person and each animal comes with a gift helps you understand that each session is an honor. When we bring honesty, kindness and trust to a session, we help to build those qualities in the world.
Each person we meet, each animal we engage with shows us something about ourselves. It is useful to ask, “Why has this animal and this person come into my life right now? What am I being asked to look at in my life now?” We are all in this together. We are all ONE.