Therapeutic Touch for Animals
Barbara Janelle M.A.
First Published In Touch, Vol. V, no. 1, March 1993
For nine years I have used Therapeutic Touch to help animals in a wide variety of situations. In turn, animals have taught me a great deal about my work and myself.
Centering is the essential first step in Therapeutic Touch. Time is a luxury in emergency situations, as is so often the case in my work. Over the years, I have trained myself to come to a level of quiet and connection with universal compassion in seconds. To do this, I touch the animal’s sense of peace.
In the moments before beginning work, I connect with the animal on two levels. The first is observational. What is the animal’s posture? Is the animal experiencing pain? What is the respiration rate? Are there other physical characteristics that help me to understand what the animal is experiencing? What is the animal’s emotional state? I focus on the animal, truly taking in information.
Then I approach the animal and if possible, touch it with a soft, comforting, full and still hand (not patting, not stroking). In my experience, the animals that come into our lives are beings of love. Their individual awareness of this and the roles they play in helping us to learn may vary, but always there is within the animal a very strong aspect of love and of peace. Physical contact helps me connect both with the animal and with its essence of love and peace.
Alice Bailey speaks of a triangular connection, heart to heart between two beings and both connected to the source of universal love. This is what happens when I work with animals. Sometimes with humans I have to direct it consciously, but it just happens with animals.
In this space of spiritual connection with the animal, the earth and the universe, I am still aware of the animal’s physical and emotional needs. Often an animal will hold its breath initially. Think of your own reaction to a stranger, no matter how compassionate, approaching and touching you. Even as someone well trained in TT, what are your physical responses during the first 30 seconds of receiving a TT treatment? Tension? Questioning? Breath Holding?
To help the animal breathe, I use a quiet and soft voice that comes from my center. Sound vibrations reach deep into the animal’s center. Using my voice also keeps me breathing and provides a mirror for the animal. This opens a level of trust, which is then supported by the opening Therapeutic Touch movement. The level of trust and connection is often so strong after the first minute of work that my own inner quiet becomes even deeper.
Gretal is a tiny black and white pony at SARI, the Special Abilities Riding Institute in London, Ontario. She has served the young disabled children who ride her for many years and is now 42 years old. Gretal was lame for several days and I was asked to look at her. As I approached to do TT, she moved from me showing concern and even fear. I stopped and spoke quietly to her and touched her neck. She looked at me, questioning, still not trusting.
Gretal is so small that I sat on a stool to work on her. As I began to scan her physical field, she suddenly sighed and I found myself enveloped in a sense-feel of a magnificent flower opening. Gretal stood at peace while I worked with her in the large indoor arena. No one else was there and no one held her. The depth of trust, peace and connection that we found that day was so profound that it is with me even now two years later. And, yes, with the clearing of the energy block around her right shoulder, she was able to move more easily that morning and was back in the riding program two days later.
In mid-September, I trained eleven members of the volunteer staff at the Oswego, New York Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Therapeutic Touch. During one of our breaks, Director Thea Wallace decided to bring Eli out to sit in the sun for a while. Eli is a six-foot long, 4-inch diameter snake. Thea set Eli down 30 feet from me and danced over to ask what I could do to help Eli’s spine, which had been broken a couple of years earlier. A portion of Eli, the width of a tire track, was badly damaged so that he had no movement there and very limited movement in the eighteen inches behind the injury area. I explained carefully that I was terrified of snakes!
With Thea holding my hand, I approached Eli and minutes later found myself on my hands and knees in the grass scanning his field. I couldn’t bring myself to touch him, but even without that contact, I found myself in a field of such peace that I was able to forget my fear. This field seemed to be oval around him and had a gentle pulse that radiated several feet out from him.
Thea, in front of Eli, focused a beam of light through his body to my hands at his tail. It took ten seconds for the light to get through the damaged area and into my hands. We held the beam for another 30 seconds and as I sensed the completion, Eli who had stayed still stretched in a straight line (most unusual behavior, Thea told me later), suddenly lifted his head and front 15 inches and made a right angle turn to leave. Thea started after him but I stopped her, explaining that Eli knew he had enough and was telling us so. It is important to let the animal guide our work. We watched Eli glide away from us, and the movement in his body reached a full inch into the injured area.
During this work, Eli extended his field to connect both Thea and me in a tangible state of peace that was both strong and immensely gentle. Eli helped me through my fear and taught me that he was my brother.
These are just two examples of the part that animals have played in the centering process. Their honesty, directness and essence of love help me achieve and maintain a very deep level of stillness and connection with wholeness. In this, they offer gifts of peace and understanding that affect me profoundly.
Many animals extend their fields to greet and investigate humans. I feel the impact that my cat, Houdini, has on guests as he expands his field to include them too! Human babies and some elderly have this ability too: a non-threatening presence extended in greeting. Do you feel peace seep into you when you enter a room where there is a cat? It seems to me that one of the effects of centering is to gently touch another and invite trust. –BJ 2/99