GENERAL GUIDELINES FOR TREATING ANIMALS
By Barbara Janelle M.A., B.Sc.
On the British Columbia Therapeutic Touch Network Website, November 2001
Animals are as sensitive to energy work as human infants and the frail elderly. That sensitivity combined with great honesty makes an animal recipient a great teacher for the Therapeutic Touch practitioner. Animals show us clearly that the TT treatment is a partnership: the practitioner’s awareness and responsiveness to the directions that the animal, as well as its field, gives are critical to the treatment interaction.
APPROACHING THE ANIMAL
A practitioner may be well centered but if his/her approach and entry into the field is inappropriate, it may increase the animal’s anxiety. If a person walks directly toward a horse, the animal will move a way. However, if the approach is made with a shoulder leading or on a slight diagonal, the horse will stand quietly. Essentially, the practitioner’s body is turned slightly so that the major chakras are not aimed directly at the animal. This is also important for smaller animals, particularly those in cages, e.g., in a veterinary clinic.
An additional aspect for approaching an animal is to imagine oneself very small. This draws the practitioner’s field in and tones it down, which reassures the animal. Using low toning sounds in the approach helps the practitioner to breathe and provides a mirror for the animal to do so as well. Turid Rugaas’ “Calming Signals” (1) are very helpful too, particularly blinking, averting one’s eyes, turning the body slightly away, and even yawning to calm oneself and the animal.
INITIATING THE TREATMENT
A hand reaching for an animal may be very intimidating, not only because it is seen as grasping, but because it can be felt energetically. I teach students in my TT for Animals courses to approach the animal’s shoulder (not the head) with the back of the hand, and only turn the palm facing when it is an inch or so from the body. Either stroking the animal, or initiating the treatment at the shoulder, and then moments later including the head are much more soothing than attempting to start the treatment at the head. Sometimes a treatment may involve partial or full hands-on TT.
Finding the appropriate distance from the skin to work is important. The most effective place to work is at the strongest “edge” in the field (2) and I generally find that I do most of my work between 4 and 12 inches from the skin.
Here is an exercise to illustrate this: hold your hand 2 feet above your knee and then move it down slowly feeling for edges in the field. There will be several of them, but one that is most apparent, usually 4 to 12 inches from the skin.
LENGTH OF TREATMENT
In my experience treatments less than five minutes in length (ten minutes in horses and cattle) are appropriate. A longer continuous treatment will stress the animal in most cases. With animals as with humans, we see anxiety, fretfulness, irritation, attempts to move away, etc. as clear indications of too much work, or of work that is too intense.
Experienced TT Practitioners will occasionally work with an ill animal over a longer period of time but the treatment is done in segments of a minute or two interspersed with rest periods to allow the field to process the work. I have worked with cats, dogs, etc. for 40-minute periods, during which actual TT was done for 10 to 15 minutes. I have worked on horses with impaction-colic for 24 to 30 hours, doing TT for 5 minutes every hour. In rare instances, such as with birds that have flown into windows, I will work continuously until the animal comes out of shock.
THE TREATMENT AS A DANCE
The Therapeutic Touch Treatment is always specific to the individual because the field leads the dance. The fields of two animals, or indeed two humans, with the same diagnosis may be very different. So it is not possible to dictate direction or speed of movement, depth of centering or length of treatment.
The practitioner must remain aware of clues not only from the field but also from the animal itself. In my experience, the animal will position and reposition its body to guide the treatment. The animal may point to or touch the places that need particular attention, and place them closest to the practitioner’s hand.
As in all TT treatments, very gentle, fluid work is essential. Visualizations that invite light into the field rather than directing it to specific places are most effective. Trusting the wisdom of the field and knowing that it will direct energy to where it is needed is very important. (3)
The practitioner’s depth of centering will have the greatest impact on the field. This, along with awareness, gentleness and working in partnership with the animal, make Therapeutic Touch treatments wonderful and effective.
(1) Turid Rugaas, On Talking Terms With Dogs: Calming Signals, Legacy By Mail, Inc., Kula, HI: 1997. Turid Rugaas is a Norwegian dog trainer, who had identified over 30 different physical signals that dogs use to calm themselves and situations. Other animals, including humans, use many of these signals.
- “Working With the Edge: Scanning and Unruffling,” In Touch, The Therapeutic Touch Network (Ontario), Vol. VIII, No. 2, June, 1996
- “The Field Leads the Dance,” In Touch, Vol. X, No. 4, November 1998