There are few things that are more frustrating than trying to get a message across to someone who isn’t listening. If the message is that something really hurts and no one listens it’s even worse. What would you, as a person, do? Talk louder, try to get the person to pay attention and maybe even yell? Animals are often faced with that kind of situation and for them, “yelling” may take the form of behavior that can be dangerous to humans.
Buster is an adorable quarter horse pony that was saved from the kill pens at a horse auction in a western state in 2015 by staff from an equine rescue. He was emaciated and needed 3 months of rehabilitation before he became healthy enough to be adopted. Buster was adopted by a family as a children’s riding horse, but after only 6 months, he was returned to the rescue because he had started bucking under saddle.
The rescue worked with Buster for 6 weeks and he received chiropractic treatments. The rescue staff felt he’d gotten past the bucking behavior and Buster was adopted by a second family. The family was fully informed about Buster’s bucking behavior and his need for chiropractic care. Buster was ridden by two of the children in the family. He did so well, that they began riding him in horse shows. The children then began riding Buster in gymkhanas. [A gymkhana is a riding competition with a variety of events that involve agility and speed on horseback.]
Sadly, Buster’s bucking behavior returned. He was adjusted by a chiropractor and the bucking behavior stopped, but only for a short while. Very soon he became “ring sour” [not wanting to enter the riding ring] and would start bucking as soon as he got in the ring. Buster was again returned to the rescue, having lived with his second family only 10 months.
That’s when Buster met Kelly. Kelly is one of four people who evaluate and train horses that come to the rescue in the hope that the horses can be rehabilitated and go to new homes. The rescue works with horses with all kinds of issues and have had good success with re-homing them.
Kelly found Buster to be very sweet and friendly. She knew that if they could resolve the bucking issue, he would again be a great children’s horse. Kelly and the other trainers worked with Buster for three weeks, but Buster continued to have problems. Kelly and the rest of the trainers had no idea what to try next to help Buster. They needed to find a way to get Buster to stop bucking or there was a real chance that Buster would be put down because he was too dangerous.
Then Kelly remembered that I’d talked her beloved horse Calliope in 2012, when Calliope was nearing the end of her life. Kelly thought that if we could talk to Buster and figure out why he was bucking, maybe we could figure out a way to help him. Kelly talked to the staff at the rescue about scheduling a communication session for Buster and they agreed to try it — they didn’t know what else to do to help him.
As soon as I connected to Buster, I felt that he was very, very sad. He said he felt that he was “no good — but I want to be good!” The feeling I got from him was that people kept discarding him, giving up on him, like he was trash. He said he loved people, especially children and wanted to be a good horse for children again. I assured Buster that he WAS a good horse and always had been. I told him it was not his fault that people didn’t understand what he was trying to tell them.
I told Buster that we wanted to try to figure out how to help him so he could find a new family and children who would love him and that he could love. I could feel Buster perk up — he was more than happy to talk, now that someone would listen!
My feeling was that the bucking was related to a physical issue, so I asked Buster how his body felt. He showed me that his back hurt — and it hurt even worse under saddle. He showed me that sometimes his back was fine, even under saddle, but other times it would start to hurt and then get really painful, especially when he was being ridden. He said, “I try to warn the rider that it hurts, but they don’t listen to me.” He showed me that if they didn’t get off and the pain got really bad, “I have to make them stop!” That’s when he would buck.
Kelly wanted to see if the type of saddle Buster was ridden in was a factor in causing him pain. When I asked Buster about different types of saddles (by showing him mental pictures), he was very clear about what he liked and what he didn’t. Buster showed me that large western saddles with long skirts that extended too far toward his hips/lower back were very uncomfortable. He showed me that the back part of the saddle and the long part of the skirt pressed against a spot in his lower back that could become very painful with the pressure. When I checked that part of his spine, it felt like he had a physical issue with that part of the bones of his spine. He showed me that he’d been ridden at some point in a western saddle that did not fit well and put pressure on both his withers area and lower back. Buster was concerned that whoever rode him should be sure that the saddle was back far enough so that his shoulder could move freely — previously, he’d had the experience of saddle that sat too far forward and impinged on both his withers and shoulders. He showed me that who ever saddled him shouldn’t throw the saddle on so it dropped hard on his back — that really hurt!
Next we asked about what type of saddles would feel good to Buster. He showed me that he was comfortable in English saddles and shorter western saddles with short skirts. Kelly confirmed that Buster had been ridden in both of these types of saddles at the rescue and that he did well with both. Buster showed me that he liked more padding under the saddle and that it was important that the saddle fit correctly to prevent pressure on his back.
We asked if there was anything else that the people at the rescue needed to know about his body so he could be more comfortable. Buster showed me that he wanted people to be careful when they brushed his back, because of the spinal issue. He showed me that he liked a soft brush on his back, not a hard or spikey brush.
When I looked through Buster’s body, I also felt that his muscles were tight in the withers area and back. I suggested that he could uses chiropractic and massage, possibly acupuncture. Kelly said he’d had chiropractic already, but she would pass on the suggestion that he get a few more session of chiropractic and add massage and possibly acupuncture too.
I asked Buster if there was anything about his under saddle work that made him more uncomfortable. He showed me that he didn’t like doing lots of circles or making tight turns, which made sense due to his back issue since he would need to do more bending for those exercises — and for the gymkhanas.
Since we couldn’t completely resolve his back issues, I asked Buster if he could show us how he would tell someone that his back is bothering him. I told him that we would be sure to tell the people who rode him what to watch for, so he could tell them quietly, rather than loudly, by bucking. Buster was thrilled that people would finally listen to him — he didn’t like to buck! Buster showed me that he would put his ears back, he would crinkle up his nose/upper lip and would look back at the person riding him. He said that if he did that under saddle, the rider should “GET OFF!” He said that he wanted to be a good riding horse, but some days he really hurt, so the people should watch for those signs when they were brushing/saddling him too.
Kelly confirmed that she would pass everything Buster had told us on to the folks at the rescue, as well as to Buster’s new family if they could re-home him. Kelly was very committed to making this work for Buster. I told Buster that everyone who worked with him would know all the things he’d told us and that they would all do their best to listen and help him. Buster was happy, relieved and hopeful that things could be better for him — and so grateful that someone finally listened!
About a month later, I heard from Kelly again. She said she had shared everything that Buster told us with the staff at the rescue. Kelly said that the staff was very receptive to the information and wanted to do whatever they could to help Buster. It was a relief for the staff to finally understand the cause of Buster’s bucking behavior! Buster got two more sessions of chiropractic and massage therapy and he was put on an anti-inflammatory medication by the vet. Buster was ridden in a round skirt western barrel saddle (which didn’t interfere with his lower back/hips) and an English saddle. He worked happily and without discomfort in both and never flattened his ears once!
Buster was adopted by a family a few weeks after we talked to him. The family was given all the notes from our chat with Buster, so they would know what to watch for, what worked best for Buster and how to care for his back. The family was very happy to adopt Buster and was willing to continue the therapies as needed — and, most importantly, to listen if Buster said he was hurting! Kelly and the rest of the staff at the rescue were thrilled to have such a happy new start for Buster as a trail and pleasure horse for the family’s children. They are hopeful that Buster will have finally found his forever home with people who understand his needs.
“Thanks to Sky, Buster can be a safe pony, free of discomfort. He is another wonderful pony saved from an uncertain future. All of us at the rescue wish him a long, happy life with children to love again!” — Kelly H.
Update March 2018:
“Buster continues to do well with his new family, no bucking issues at all. He loves his kids and they love him very much. Thanks so much for your help with him. I am so glad we were able to help him and get him a great family.”
— Kelly H.
Imagine starting your life basically alone and helpless. This is the fate of feral or abandoned animals everywhere. Now imagine, at the age of four months, experiencing physical trauma so severe that both your hind legs were severely damaged.
That was how Roadie, a beautiful long haired kitten, started his life.
Fortunately, a kind person brought Roadie to the Austin Pets Alive! [APA!] rescue in Texas –
and he was able to receive the medical care he so desperately needed. However, despite the efforts of the medical team, Roadie’s right hind leg needed to be amputated and his left hind leg was bandaged and splinted so it would have time to heal.
This is when Kathleen came into Roadie’s life. Kathleen had fostered several neonatal litters of cats (aged 8 weeks old or less) during the summer for APA!. In October, she found out that Roadie’s foster person needed someone to babysit him while she traveled at the end of October. Kathleen was happy to volunteer to take Roadie into her home temporarily. By then, Roadie’s amputation was completely healed and the bandages were off his left hind leg. As soon as Kathleen met Roadie, she was captivated!
Kathleen kept telling herself that she would only keep Roadie temporarily. She kept in contact with Roadie foster person while she was away, sending photos and emails about how Roadie was doing. Even though Roadie was only with Kathleen for six short days, it was clear to Roadie’s foster person that Kathleen had fallen in love with Roadie. When his foster person suggested that Kathleen take over as Roadie’s foster person, Kathleen jumped at the chance to be Roadie’s official foster.
Kathleen’s only concern was her 13 year old cat Tex, who she’d adopted in January of that year. Tex and three other cats had been taken to APA! in December when their person had crossed to Spirit. Tex had been despondent when Kathleen first met him, but on the second visit, purred when Kathleen petted him. Kathleen felt/saw something in Tex and knew he was the cat for her. As soon as she got him home, Tex blossomed and became the wonderful, loving cat that he truly was. Kathleen has a very special bond with Tex — and she wanted to be sure it was OK with Tex to have Roadie stay with them.
Kathleen contacted me in mid-November to talk to Roadie and Tex.
Kathleen asked that we talk to Tex first, since his feelings about Roadie would help her decide if Roadie should stay — perhaps forever — as part of their family.
As soon as I connected to Tex, I felt a strong sense of what a calm, grounded, warm hearted and loving cat he was. There was a feeling of dignity — but also a fun side to him. It was also clear that Tex knew he was an extraordinarily handsome cat and he made a point of showing me how well he took care of his beautiful, long coat. Kathleen said that was Tex to a “T”!
I asked Tex how he felt about Roadie. He said that Roadie could be a pest [my sense was that this meant that Roadie pestered Tex to play with him at times] but that Roadie was not a bad cat. Tex felt that Roadie had a “sweetness in his soul” and lots of love to give.
Tex said that his main issue with Roadie was that Roadie had a LOT more energy and need to play than Tex did. Roadie also played rough sometimes, which Tex didn’t like. Tex showed me that he tried to be very clear with Roadie when he felt Roadie crossed the line and became too much. Tex showed me putting his foot firmly on to Roadie and holding him down as a way to say “enough!” Tex said he liked Roadie a lot — the feeling was that Tex felt like he was Roadie’s older brother. Tex said he tried very hard to show Roadie how to act “but he doesn’t seem to get it.” Tex said he especially liked Roadie when he was quiet and relaxed. He showed me snuggling with Roadie — it felt like this was a comfort to both of them. I assured Tex we’d talked to Roadie about being more gentle in his play. Kathleen confirmed what Tex had told me about his behavior with Roadie.
Tex said that even though Kathleen pays attention to Roadie, Tex knows he is #1 cat with Kathleen and Roadie is #2. Tex felt that he could help guide Roadie and that he and Kathleen could help Roadie become a good, brave cat.
Then it was time to talk to Roadie . . . as soon as I connected to Roadie, he said, “Am I staying here?” My feeling was that Roadie was hoping the answer would be “yes.” There was an awkward pause from Kathleen when I told her this. She said she wasn’t sure yet. She felt she might want to adopt Roadie, but she wanted didn’t want him to be unhappy. I told Roadie that he’d be staying with Kathleen and Tex for now and he seemed to be OK with that answer.
Kathleen was concerned because Roadie seemed so afraid of her. Roadie said he was “afraid of all people.” He showed me that he would run from Kathleen and spent much of his time in a hiding spot in the house. It was clear to me that this was related to his past, not his present, so we next asked about what happened to Roadie before he came to APA!
Roadie showed me how he got injured. He showed me being thrown against a hard surface [like a wall], impacting the hard surface with his hind quarters. He then showed me a person standing over him and, it appeared to me, that the person stepped on Roadie’s hind legs. [Animals who have been abused often show me horrible things — this made me want to throw up!] The person left Roadie there, but a kind person found him and took him to APA! I asked Roadie if he could tell me anything about his life before the accident. He didn’t show me anything specific, but my feeling was that he either hadn’t lived with people, or that he was left outside with his litter mates at a very young age. He didn’t know what happened to his litter mates or his mother. Roadie said he survived by avoiding people.
It was clear to me that Roadie’s fear of people was how he protected himself when he lived outside. That fear — which kept him alive at the time — was no longer useful or appropriate behavior. Yet it persisted. Roadie was exhibiting PTSD-type behavior, which is very common in rescued animals. I told Kathleen that she needed to remember that Roadie’s fear was not personal to her. If she could remember this, be patient and encourage Roadie to be brave while “loving him through it,” Roadie could get past his fearful behavior. Kathleen said she was completely committed to helping Roadie learn to be brave again. I encouraged Kathleen to be happy and positive in all her interactions with Roadie. If she was worried or took his fear personally, Roadie would interpret those feelings as Kathleen being upset with him — he would not understand what she was really feeling. Kathleen said she understood.
I asked Roadie how he felt about Kathleen. He said he liked her very much. He said he knew that she loved him and would never hurt him. But he showed me again that he often ran from her or hid. He said, “I can’t help it!” I told him that it was OK and not to worry. I asked if anything bad had happened to him since he came to Kathleen. He said, “No — she takes VERY good care of me!” Kathleen said that she had noticed that when she makes eye contact with Roadie — especially when she is standing up — he would run away. When I asked Roadie about this, he showed me that he sees eye contact as a threat. I encouraged Kathleen not to make eye contact with Roadie, except when she was sitting down, when she and Roadie were both relaxed — blinking [“cat kisses”], were a good idea! I told Roadie about the limited eye contact plan and encouraged him to be brave when he comes into rooms. He said it would help if Kathleen didn’t come toward him when he came toward her. Kathleen agreed to implement the above behavior suggestions.
Kathleen wanted to know how Roadie was feeling physically. Roadie showed me that he feels good and strong. He showed me that he does have some phantom limb syndrome issues and sometimes forgets that he is missing his right hind leg — he showed me that he gets wobbly when this happens — but he feels he can get around just fine. Kathleen said that this makes sense based on what she observes. We asked how Roadie likes living with Kathleen and Tex. Roadie said, “It’s very nice here.” He said he likes the food and LOVES the huge, really clean litter box! Roadie said he really likes it when Kathleen sits next to him, talks to him softly and strokes him. He said this helps him relax — “I was never able to relax and feel safe before!”
It was important to Kathleen to find out how Roadie felt about Tex. Roadie said he absolutely adores Tex, “He’s the best big brother ever!” He said that Tex was very smart and “knew everything!” I encouraged Roadie to follow Tex’s lead in everything — if Tex wasn’t afraid or worried, then Roadie didn’t need to be either. I encouraged Roadie to be brave and confident like Tex. Roadie said he would try. I told Roadie that Tex liked him a lot, but because Tex was older, Roadie needed to play more gently with Tex. Roadie showed me that when he gets really excited, he pounces on Tex. Roadie said he knew Tex didn’t like it, but he didn’t know what to do with his energy. I told Roadie that he could play next to Tex, play around Tex or offer to play with toys with Tex, but he need to stay OFF of Tex — all four feet on the floor. Roadie said he would try, but it felt like Roadie had a LOT of energy. I encouraged Kathleen to try playing with Roadie more, especially if she sees Roadie’s energy revving up — to try to head Roadie off before he goes after Tex. I encouraged Kathleen to try to find more active toys for Roadie, things that Roadie could use to entertain himself.
I told Kathleen that she needed to remind Roadie — by talking to him and making pictures in her head —of the behavior plans we’d talked about. I told her that it was important to always tell animals what we WANT them to do — not what we DON’T want them to do. Kathleen said she would make sure to follow through with all the suggestions.
Kathleen had one main question at the end of the session, “Should I get another kitten so Roadie has someone to play with?” I was still in connection with the cats when she said this and Tex immediately piped up and said, “No — we don’t need another kitten! One is enough!” After Kathleen and I stopped laughing, she agreed that one kitten was probably enough for everyone!
After we finished talking to the cats, Kathleen told me that she was seriously thinking of adopting Roadie. She was concerned that he might end up with someone who wouldn’t understand him and wouldn’t work to help him with his issues as well as she could. She was afraid that, if someone adopted him but didn’t understand him, that they would give up on him and returned to the APA! — which would traumatize Roadie further. “It sounds like Tex and I are the perfect partners to help him,” Kathleen said. Kathleen said that she hoped Roadie and Tex would show her that it was right to make Roadie part of their family.
Two days after our first chat, Kathleen emailed me. She reported that Roadie had already made amazing progress! He was bravely walking into rooms where she was sitting or even standing, climbing up on the couch to sit within hands reach of Kathleen and happily accepting pets — while purring like crazy! Roadie has continued to become more relaxed and is showing how happy he is to live with Kathleen and Tex. Roadie still has over exuberant moments with Tex — that is a work in progress. But when Tex is at the end of his tether, he lets Roadie know he has to stop — and Roadie listens.
We talked to Roadie and Tex again a couple weeks after our first chat. Kathleen wanted to talk to Tex first to find out how he felt about Roadie at that point. Tex said that he thought he was being a good teacher for Roadie. Kathleen said that it was obvious to her that Tex was teaching Roadie how to live in a house and be with people — “He even taught Roadie how to meow!”
Kathleen said that she was concerned because Roadie was still playing rough with Tex. Tex had started giving Roadie a paw smack to tell him that Tex had enough. Tex showed me that he was not angry when he did this, it was just the best way to get the point across to Roadie. Tex showed me he walks away after the paw smack — and Roadie leaves him alone. Kathleen confirmed that was exactly what happened.
Kathleen asked Tex if he wanted Roadie to live with them permanently. Tex said, “Of course! She needs to stop worrying about this. We both know he’s staying.” Kathleen laughed in surprise — but we still needed to talk to Roadie about staying.
When I connected to Roadie, he was very excited to tell me, “I’m learning new things every day!” He said he “adored” Tex and loved Kathleen. I asked about Tex giving him paw smacks when Roadie played too rough. Roadie showed me that he still didn’t have that much self control with his energy when playing. He said, “Tex makes me stop — and I listen.” He assured Kathleen that Tex never hurt him with the smacks and that he understood why Tex did it. I encouraged Roadie to try to be more aware of when his energy was really starting to build while playing and to disengage with Tex and to run or play with toys until his energy came back down. He said he would try, but he was grateful that Tex told him to stop — “I would never hurt Tex, he’s my best friend.”
Finally, we asked Roadie if he wanted Tex and Kathleen’s house to be his forever home. Roadie seemed surprised and said, “Tex already told me I was staying.” Kathleen again laughed in surprise and said, “I guess that settles it. Roadie is staying!”
No doubt there will be things to talk to both Roadie and Tex about in the future, but the most important question has been settled. Roadie has his forever home with Tex and Kathleen!
“Sky has such a wondrous gift for communicating with animals and helping them and their people! The change in Roadie is nothing short of miraculous. To hear this formerly terrified little creature purring in pleasure brings tears of joy to my eyes. Sky, you’ve made such a difference in Roadie’s life and in mine. I am eternally grateful for your help and I look forward to talking to you and my kitties again! God Bless you!!” — Kathleen K., TX
Eventing is a very challenging equestrian sport. For those of you not familiar with the horse world, eventing is an equestrian event where a horse and rider are required to show their skills in three different areas:
— Stadium Jumping (where the horse jumps fences in a riding ring),
— Cross Country (an endurance test where a horse jumps unusual “fences” made of unusual materials and shapes, ditches and water. Jumps are widely separated and horses must gallop between them) and
— Dressage (what people often think of as “dancing”).
These three events are usually done over the course of three days. Eventing is an endurance test for both the rider and the horse, who not only have to remain strong and brave through the competition, but also accurate and skilled in all three events.
Handsome was an event horse and his person was Valerie. She competed with Handsome and works professionally as a trainer and riding instructor. Valerie knew that Handsome had everything it took to be a great event horse — courage, stamina, skill and desire to compete . . . but he had one issue that she hadn’t been able to work out. When Handsome was doing cross country jumping, anything that caught his eye would cause him to spook. This can be a disastrous thing for both the horse and rider. Valerie is a very experienced rider and was able to handle Handsome’s spooks, but the problem was that Handsome would become rattled after a spook and would be difficult for Valerie to get him to refocus again.
Valerie knew she and Handsome needed help with this and asked me to talk to him. I asked Handsome how he felt about his work as an event horse. He told me that he loved his work and took it very seriously. He showed me that he was very focused, especially when he was doing the cross country jumping. In fact, it was almost like he got tunnel vision — he was so focused on what was ahead of him, that things he saw out of the corner of his eye seemed to “come out of nowhere” at him. This inevitably startled him and caused him to spook.
I asked Handsome how Valerie could help him with this. Handsome gave me the image of coming up to a jump and being distracted by something in his peripheral vision. He next showed me his reaction to the distraction — raising his head and slowing his momentum — what horse people call “sucking back”. He told me that this was his way of asking Valerie, “Is it [the distraction] OK? Should we go on?”
When I told Valerie this, she laughed. She said Handsome had done exactly that coming up to a jump at their last show. At the time, she didn’t understand that he was asking her a question. She thought he was going to stop in front of the jump. I asked Handsome what Valerie should do when he “sucked back”. He showed me that, if the distraction was nothing to worry about, she should tell him, “It’s OK — keep going!” I suggested that she so this out loud, as well as thinking the words and feeling the “OK” part. Valerie said she could definitely do that and would do exactly that.
Valerie was also concerned because Handsome would get upset when the horse that came to the show/event with him in the trailer would leave for his/her turn to compete. When I asked Handsome about this, he said, “Sometimes they don’t come back.” I asked Valerie if Handsome had ever been at events when other horses had been injured and had not returned home. She said he had, although this had never happened to a horse Handsome trailer with. She said he had seen horses injured though, which explained why he was worried. I suggested to Handsome that the best thing he could do for his horse friend while his buddy was competing was to be calm and watch for him/her to return to the trailer.
The day after our conversation, Valerie took Handsome on a challenging ride to a hiking area with plenty of distractions and limited vision ahead on the trails. Handsome had lots of opportunities to practice asking, “Is it OK? Should we go on?” Valerie did what we discussed, saying, “It’s OK! Keep going!” Handsome did just that every time.
Valerie said the first time this happened was the best . . . They were trotting up a steep hill with bicycles, strollers and people on both sides at the top of the hill. That could have been a complete disaster and likely to rattle any horse. Valerie told me, “Handsome trotted boldly half way up the hill — then raised his head, sucked back and clearly asked, ‘Is it OK? Should we go on?’ I laughed out loud in surprise, told Handsome he was a good boy and “Yes, it’s OK — let’s go!” And they did!
Valerie reported that Handsome had no trouble using the same technique at the next show and the “pause” when he sucked back got shorter and shorter as the communication process about the distractions improved. Also, when his trailering buddy left to compete, Handsome watched her go and stood alertly, but quietly, until she returned.
“Thanks Sky — Handsome and I are getting better all the time!” — Valerie, CO.
I first met Jenna, who is a pet sitter by trade, at the metaphysical fairs in Colorado. She had a client who needed to move east for health reasons and had to find homes for his beloved cats. The client rescued feral cats — some remained outdoor cats, others by choice became indoor/outdoor cats. Jenna’s client picked out a young, adorable all black cat for her. Initially Jenna was more interested in a different cat, but agreed to take the black cat. He has been a joy in her life ever since!
The first issue Jenna wanted to deal with was the black cat’s name. He came with the name Blackie — but Jenna didn’t really think that was the right name for him. When I asked the cat if he liked that name, he was very clear that he did NOT. I asked him what name he would prefer . . . he showed me the feeling of “cool and dark” — like the middle of the night. I suggested Midnight, which both the cat and Jenna loved. That has been his name ever since.
Another initial challenge was inappropriate scratching. As Jenna put it, “He is scratching the heck out of my couch!” When I asked Midnight about this, he showed me that he felt the couch was a special project for him — and he was very pleased about making real progress destroying it! He couldn’t understand why Jenna cared if he destroyed the couch. Remembering Midnight’s feral origin, I explained that it was a “human thing” to want to keep things in the house clean and neat. I told him that would make Jenna happy if he only used appropriate things (I showed him mental pictures of the scratching posts Jenna had) to scratch on. I told Midnight that since Jenna gave him a good home, only scratching appropriate things would be a great way to thank her for all she’d given him. Midnight agreed that he could do this for Jenna. Jenna reported that with only a few reminders, Midnight never scratched on the couch again.
When Jenna started dating Brian, he didn’t have much experience with cats — he was more of a dog person. But since Jenna had cats, he was learning how to be with them. The first time I met Brian, they’d come to the fair with a problem. Brian wanted to know why Midnight had started pooping in his closet. When I asked Midnight about this, he was very clear that Brian had done something to upset him. Midnight showed me that Brian had gotten upset with him and yelled at him — although Midnight admitted that Brian only yelled at him once. I asked Brian if this was true and he confirmed it was. Brian realized immediately that this was no way to handle things and he promised never to do it again. I told Midnight that Brian was sorry and wouldn’t do that again. Midnight said, “OK” and never pooped in Brian’s closet again . . . nor did Brian ever yell at Midnight again!
And then . . . there was the ceiling fan issue. Jenna had never used the ceiling fan in her living room, but one day Brian turned it on when Midnight was in the room. Midnight was clearly terrified of the fan — running away like his life depended on it — and they never turned it on again.
A year or so later, they had a friend watching the cats while Jenna and Brian were traveling. They came to see me at the fair a few months later and reported that their pet sitter had told them that Midnight had not left the back of the apartment for the majority of the time they were away and had used a bath mat as a litter box. This behavior was totally abnormal for Midnight and they wanted to know what happened. Midnight showed me that there was something terrifying in the front of the apartment — something so terrifying that he didn’t even want to “look” at it so I could see it! When I told Jenna and Brian this, they knew exactly what it was — the ceiling fan in the living room, which the pet sitter had told them she’d kept on much of the time they were gone.
This had become a real issues because Jenna and Brian were getting ready to move to a new place that had ceiling fans in nearly every room. They really wanted to be able to use the ceiling fans, but didn’t want Midnight to be traumatized in the process. Jenna and Brian hoped I could convince Midnight that ceiling fans were not a threat.
When I asked Midnight about the ceiling fans, he showed me that he was afraid the ceiling fan was going to come off the ceiling and crush him if he stayed in the room with it. He could clearly see the slight wobble of the fixture where it connects to the ceiling (which is normal in ceiling fans). The moving blades that are normally still — then suddenly start spinning — looked to him like they would spin off or come at him. The downward force of air from the fan made him feel like it was coming down to crush him. Basically, the fan was terrifying in every way!
I asked Midnight is he’d ever seen the fan leave the ceiling or the blades come off. He admitted he had not — but he kept pointing me at the wobble of the fixture. I told him that was normal and didn’t mean it would fall off the ceiling. I asked him if he thought that Jenna and Brian would use the fan if the fan was dangerous. Midnight replied, “Humans can be stupid!” Good point, right? But when I asked him if he thought that Jenna or Brian would ever intentionally put him in harms way, he agreed that they would not.
I told Midnight that even though the blades of the fan moved quickly, they would never come off. Because he’d accepted the idea that the fan wouldn’t fall off the ceiling, this was an easier concept for him to accept.
Finally, I showed Midnight the picture of a light switch and how a person could turn the lights on and off with the switch. He seemed to understand this concept once I explained it. He showed me that he’d seen Jenna with her hand on the light switch before the lights went out. I told him/showed him that the fan worked the same way and that it is totally under control of the humans. Once he understood, Midnight was better able to accept that ceiling fans might not be dangerous.
I asked Midnight if he thought he could watch the fan from a protected place so he could see that it was safe. He showed me that there was a coffee table that he could shelter under and still see the fan. I asked Jenna and Brian if this was an accurate picture. They confirmed that there was a coffee table that Midnight could crouch under and still be able to see the fan.
I suggested to Midnight that when Jenna or Brian turned the fan on next time, that he should sit under the coffee table and watch the ceiling fan. I encouraged him to be very brave and just watch the fan. I told him that he would be safe and could watch as long as he wanted until he knew it was safe. Midnight said he would try very hard to be brave.
I told Jenna and Brian the plan and suggested that they be sure to tell Midnight in advance that they were going to turn on the fan (tell him verbally and “think” a picture of turning on the ceiling fan), so Midnight had time to get under the coffee table. Jenna and Brian said they would do exactly that.
The next time I saw Jenna and Brian at a fair they couldn’t wait to tell me what happened with Midnight and the fan! Jenna said that when they got home, after we talked to Midnight about the fan, that she found Midnight waiting under the coffee table. It was clear that Midnight was ready to watch the fan. Jenna said she told Midnight that she was going to turn on the ceiling fan — then turned it on. Midnight stared at the fan from the safety of the coffee table for about 15 minutes, then wandered off calmly. Jenna reported that since then, Midnight has shown no concern what so ever about any ceiling fan!
Jenna told me that they moved into their new place and both the cats were settled and happy. Midnight continues to be unconcerned about the ceiling fans in the new place and Jenna and Brian are happy to be able to finally use the fans!
“We always say how lucky we are to have the best cat. He is just so ‘cool’, like The Fonz! He has a fantastic personality and disposition. Yet without Sky’s help, he could have had SO many irritating cat habits. Thanks to Sky’s conversations with Midnight, we have such a happy cat home!” — Jenna J., CO.
Everyone who has cats that spend time outside knows that there are risks involved with letting them be outside. Cars, other cats, dogs, small predators — even humans — can pose a danger to cats. But for people who live in the mountains in the USA, the dangers are greater and the predators bigger. Most cats become savvy and expert at avoiding danger . . . but their people always worry, even though they know it’s their cat’s choice to run the risk.
I spoke with Nancy about her cat Oscar at a fair in Colorado. Nancy said she’d always had indoor cats, due to the dangers outside in Colorado. But things changed when her cat Oscar entered her life. Oscar made it clear to Nancy that he wanted to spend time outside. Nancy didn’t want to stifle Oscar or make him unhappy, so she started letting him go outside — but only under her strict supervision. Oscar was allowed to go out on the patio and run around in the fenced back yard but only when Nancy was watching him. Oscar loved his new freedom and enjoyed every minute of outdoor play and looked forward to each chance to get outdoors.
Then Nancy moved to a new house closer to the mountains in Colorado. In the new house, Oscar discovered the dog door and began to let himself out into the yard. Oscar was totally loving the new freedom he had — but Nancy was worried. The new yard was fenced, but backed up to a hiking trail and Nancy had seen fox, bear, coyotes and even mountain lions in the trail area. Any of these could make a meal of Oscar.
Nancy told me she had seen Oscar go over the fence in the backyard, into the trail area. I asked Oscar about this. He admitted to going over the fence, but only once. In fact, he showed me that he spent most of his time sitting on the roof of the shed near the fence, watching the trail activity.
Nancy confirmed that Oscar had spent a lot of time on the shed roof, watching the woods and trail. She also said that she’d only found Oscar missing on one occasion. But she was very worried that if Oscar didn’t stay in the yard, he would be killed by predators.
I explained to Oscar that it was very important to stay in the yard. I told him that there were big animals (I showed him images of foxes, coyotes, bear and mountain lions) that would end his life and cause him to go to Spirit. I told him that Nancy was very worried about him and didn’t want this to happen — so it was very, very important that he stayed in the yard.
Oscar told me he understood the dangers. He said, “I’ve seen some really bad things happen out there to other animals.” The images Oscar showed me were of predators killing and eating other animals. He’d seen this the day he was missing from the yard and he’d seen it again from the roof of the shed on another occasion. He was shocked and clearly scared by what he’d seen. Oscar told me that because of what he’d seen, he was never going to leave the yard again. Oscar knew it wasn’t safe outside the fence. He told me he knew he was safe inside the yard because Nancy’s three dogs would protect him.
Nancy said that Oscar was welcome to use the dog door to go out whenever he wanted to, but he needed to stay in the fenced yard. She said it was OK for Oscar to go on the shed roof if he wanted to. I told Oscar this and while he was more than happy to agree to stay in the yard, he said he didn’t think he’d spend much time on the shed roof any more — not after what he’d seen.
I heard from Nancy a year or so later. She reported that Oscar continues to keep his promise to stay in the yard and hasn’t been sitting on the roof of the shed. Nancy said Oscar is happy to watch the birds, scout for mice and look through the fence into the neighbor’s yard.
“I am so relieved that Oscar has kept his promise and stays in the yard. Hearing Oscar’s promise directly – through Sky, along with his behavior verifying this, is such a relief to me. I want Oscar to be happy and free but not at the expense of his safety. Thanks, Sky for helping protect my loved ones!” — Nancy J., CO.
A beautiful Siamese kitten found her person, Julie, in October of 2014. Julie named the kitten KitKat and says, “I didn’t rescue KitKat, KitKat rescued me.”
Julie and KitKat became best of friends. KitKat definitely loved being outside and this caught up with her in April of 2016 when she had a litter of 5 adorable kittens. (KitKat did get spayed as soon as possible after the kittens were born, so there will be no more kittens in the future.)
No cat could have been prouder of her kittens that KitKat and she was a wonderful mother. The kittens were so adorable that Julie had no problems finding homes for them as soon as they were old enough to be adopted. Julie thought that it would be nice for KitKat to have one of her kittens stay with her so KitKat had a companion to play with, so she kept one of the kittens — a black and white kitten that Julie named Shadow.
Good intentions do sometimes back fire!
Julie contacted me in early September 2016 and asked me to see if I could figure out what was going on between KitKat and Shadow. KitKat would hiss and growl at Shadow whenever he came near her. To Julie, Shadow seemed quiet and gentle. Julie just wanted them both to get along and couldn’t understand how KitKat could behave this way toward her own kitten.
When I talked to KitKat, she seemed quite grumpy and annoyed. Julie said that this was how KitKat seemed to her as well — which was not normal for KitKat. When I asked KitKat about Shadow, she said, “Why is he still here? Am I not enough for her?” I explained to KitKat that Julie’s intention was to have Shadow be a friend to her and give her someone to play with. KitKat said, “I want nothing to do with him.”
I felt that there was more going on than just KitKat not wanting Shadow around. I asked KitKat how she felt about her other kittens going to new homes. KitKat was very clear that, to her, it was the natural order of things — a cat has kittens, they are weaned and then the kittens are on their own. KitKat felt she should be able to go back to her own life, without kittens. But that didn’t happen because Shadow was still there.
From KitKat’s perspective, Shadow was always there, wanting to play and getting in her face. She felt like she was supposed to be responsible for him and didn’t want to be. I asked KitKat about growling and hissing at Shadow. She showed me she felt she had to be loud and clear with Shadow about wanting him to leave her alone — but “he still doesn’t listen or remember!”
KitKat’s solution to this was to spend as much time as possible outside away from Shadow. She showed me that she would make a loop through the neighborhood when she was out. If Shadow was being particularly annoying, she would make an even longer loop. But she always came home at night and Julie was grateful for that. When KitKat was in the house, she was very tense — always waiting for Shadow to pounce on her, which he did all the time. KitKat couldn’t wait to get outside every day. Julie asked me to tell KitKat that she was concerned that KitKat wouldn’t come back one day. KitKat said, “This is my home, where else would I go?” That helped Julie feel better about KitKat being gone all day.
All of this discord made Julie very sad. She just couldn’t understand KitKat’s attitude toward Shadow. I knew we had more to figure out.
Julie wanted me to ask KitKat if there was another reason that she didn’t want to be around Shadow. KitKat immediately said she thought that Shadow was “stupid.” When I told Julie that, we both started to laugh — it seemed like such an unlikely thing for a cat to say. Julie admitted that she’d gotten the feeling that this was the case. I asked why KitKat she felt Shadow was “stupid”. KitKat showed me that, unlike herself, Shadow was “not brave” when he was outside and stayed close to the house. Julie confirmed that this was true. I asked Julie if there were any “smart” things that Shadow did outside. Julie told me that Shadow sometimes climbed the tree in the yard and had figured out how to get up on the porch roof — which KitKat never did. KitKat smugly pointed out that Shadow only climbed the tree because he copied her and very grudgingly admitted that climbing on the roof was clever. KitKat said that Shadow “wasn’t smart about being outside” and she didn’t want to have to be responsible for him. We assured KitKat that she did not need to feel responsible for Shadow inside or outside — that was Julie’s job now. That took the pressure off of KitKat and made her feel better.
I felt that we had a good understanding of what was going on from KitKat’s perspective, so it was time to talk to Shadow. I told KitKat we would do that next and she told me to tell Shadow to “back off!” I assured her we would do our best to help Shadow understand. I told KitKat that she needed to give Shadow a chance and to try not to be so reactive to Shadow — to ignore him as much as possible and avoid him when she was in the house. KitKat said, “I’m not the problem — he is!” But she said she would try, even though it would be hard to ignore him.
When I talked to Shadow, his energy was totally different from KitKat’s. Shadow had very happy energy — and lots of it! I asked Shadow about his interactions with KitKat. From his perspective, he was just trying to get Shadow to play with him. He couldn’t understand why KitKat didn’t want to play and have fun. He showed me that he was very persistent and didn’t take “no” for an answer — even though it never got him anywhere. I explained to Shadow that KitKat really, REALLY did not want to play with him — she was just not that kind of cat. I told Shadow that if he wanted to play or get rid of energy, he could run around the house, play with his toys or come to one of the people and ask them to play with him. Shadow said, “Is it really so important to her [KitKat]? Then I guess I will try not to bother her.”
Julie wanted to make sure that Shadow understood how important it was for him to leave KitKat alone. Julie asked me to tell him (and she meant it) that if he and KitKat couldn’t get along, she would have to find a new home for Shadow because KitKat was there first. Shadow responded by saying, “Oh no! I like it here. I don’t want to go anywhere else!” He said he felt special because he was the only kitten that got to stay. He said he just wanted to play with KitKat, but he would try to remember to come to a person if he wanted play or get extra attention. He said it wouldn’t be as much fun as playing with KitKat, but he would really try.
We asked Shadow how he felt about going outside. Julie wanted to know why he stayed by the house, rather than roaming more. Shadow showed me being chased up a tree by a dog when he first started going outside. He said it really scared him and he thought he was going to “be up in the tree forever,” but he finally felt safe enough to come down. He said he never wanted that to happen again. He thought the outside was “a very big place” and it was safer to stay close to the house and only be out for short periods. Julie confirmed that Shadow only went out for an hour or so at a time. I asked Shadow what he thought of KitKat being out all day. He said she was “very brave” and he felt she moved through the yard “like a wild cat” — he was a bit in awe of that!
I reinforced with Shadow that if he wanted to stay in his home with Julie and KitKat, he need to leave KitKat alone. I reminded him that playing with his toys, running the house or going to the humans for play instead was the right thing to do. Shadow very sincerely said, “I will try.”
I heard from Julie again late in September. She reported that Shadow was doing a great job and was backing down when KitKat warned him to stay away. As a result, KitKat no longer had to be so “loud” about telling Shadow to move away. Peace was restored and KitKat was able to relax.
But an occasional issue had gotten worse — Shadow was peeing outside the litter box — not all the time, but way too often. When I asked Shadow about this, he said he, “didn’t mean to pee everywhere, but I just HAVE to go!” Shadow didn’t show me that he had pain typical of a UTI or bladder issue, but he did say that he thought his urine had a strong smell. UTI’s can have subtle symptoms in cats and I was concerned that Shadow might have a UTI. I told Julie that I would encourage Shadow to use the litter box, but if he continued to pee outside the litter box, she should have Shadow checked by the vet. Julie agreed to follow up with the vet if needed. I showed Shadow that it was very important that as soon as he felt he needed to pee, he needed to run for the litter box and pee in the box. We went over this several times and Shadow was able to show me what he needed to do and said he would do his best to try, since it was upsetting Julie so much.
A week or two later, Julie reported that a couple days after the chat with Shadow, she and Shadow were in the garage and Shadow suddenly dashed for the house at a full run. Julie was afraid he’d gotten startled by something and went to look for Shadow. To her delight, Julie found Shadow in the litter box peeing! Clearly, he followed the directions to the letter and there were no more incidents of peeing outside the litter box.
I heard from Julie again in November. Shadow was now a big boy and starting to really throw his weight around — much to KitKat’s distress. KitKat was still spending most of the day outside, but Shadow knew just when KitKat normally came in and would wait for her in the hallway, ready to pounce on her.
When I asked KitKat about this, she was beyond frustrated. To her, Shadow was just being a bully. Coming into the house, which should have been a relaxing time for KitKat, had become a tense and unhappy time. I assured her we’d talk to Shadow about this. I asked her if it would work for her if we told Shadow not to wait in the hallway, so KitKat could come in safely. She agreed that would work for her. KitKat felt they were getting along OK otherwise.
I asked Shadow about lying in wait for KitKat to come in. Shadow was delighted about this new game! As before, he had no intention at all of hurting KitKat and just wanted to play “pounce”. I explained to Shadow that he very much outweighed KitKat and that she was not enjoying the game at all. As before, Shadow didn’t understand KitKat’s reluctance to play. I told Shadow that it would be best if he stayed out of the hallway during the time when KitKat normally came in. I showed him that he could go to any other room in the house at that time, but not the hallway. I reminded him again that playing with his toys, going outside, running in the house and playing with his people were all great ways to play.
Shadow agreed to the plan and was able to show me what we requested he do . . . but he still wanted to interact with KitKat. I suggested that it would be OK for Shadow to sit or lie down near KitKat and just be quiet with her. I reminded him that when he wanted to be active, he should play with his toys, run in the house, go outside or play with his people. Shadow said, “I’m not that good at being quiet, but I’ll try.” I also encouraged Julie to play with Shadow more often so he could get rid of some energy. Julie agreed to do that and said she would keep reminding Shadow of the plan.
I heard from Julie again in January 2017. This time it was good news! Peace had been restored between Shadow and KitKat! Because Shadow had learned to be “quiet,” he and KitKat had become close friends and could lie quietly — and happily — next to each other, as in the photo above. Julie was thrilled that beautiful momma KitKat and her adorable son, Shadow, could be happy together in their forever home. Finally, everyone was happy!
“I am so grateful for our sessions with Sky because we couldn’t have worked out the difficulties without communication through her. You are our saving grace, Sky!” — Julie E., CO.
The first time I spoke to Nancy was at a metaphysical fair in Colorado. She told me that she had two dogs who’d recently crossed to Spirit — Sophie, a chow mix and Buster, a pit bull. Nancy had adopted the dogs within days of each other. She missed both dogs very much. Nancy said she was at ease about why Buster needed to cross to Spirit — he was very arthritic and weak. But she had questions for Sophie. Nancy didn’t tell me anything more at that point, so I connected to Sophie.
As soon as I connected to Sophie, I could feel what a strong, determined and very “in control” spirit she had. The first thing Sophie said was that everything was all right now — she was fine. Sophie showed herself to me as healthy and strong. It was clear to me that it was very important to Sophie that Nancy know this. Sophie also showed me that she was with another dog who was shorter than Sophie — I had no doubt that this was Buster. Buster looked happy, contented and perfect. Nancy explained that she had helped Buster and Sophie cross to Spirit on the same day. Nancy was greatly relieved — but not surprised — to find that they were together in Spirit.
Nancy told me she really needed to understand what happened with Sophie.
When I asked Sophie to show me what happened to her at the end of her life, she showed me being perfectly healthy — until just a few days before she crossed over. She showed me her nose and throat feeling congested and full of fluid. She also showed me pressure in her chest, but I couldn’t tell what was causing it. When I told Nancy this, she said it made sense.
Nancy reported that she had woken up one morning to find Sophie bleeding from her nose. Nancy rushed Sophie to the vet and the bleeding stopped. Tests showed that Sophie had an inoperable, fatal tumor behind her heart. Nancy was devastated — Sophie had always been so healthy! Nancy had been planning to help Buster cross to Spirit soon, but had assumed she’d have Sophie with her for many years. Obviously, with the inoperable tumor and threat of bleeding (which never recurred), Sophie would need to cross to Spirit very soon.
Nancy brought Sophie home and a few days later, helped Sophie and Buster cross to Spirit together.
What Nancy didn’t understand was where the tumor came from, since Sophie had always been healthy and had no symptoms prior to the nose bleed. Her confusion about what happened made her grief over loosing both dogs even worse. She desperately hoped that Sophie could explain what happened.
Like our Guides and Angels, animals and people in Spirit see things from a different perspective. I think of it as “seeing the big picture” — being able to understand the reasons for things that happen and choices our soul consciousness makes that we might not be able to see clearly when we are alive. Because Sophie was now in Spirit, she was able to explain what happened.
Sophie told us that Buster told her that he would need to cross to Spirit soon. His body was failing and he knew that Nancy would help him cross to Spirit — but he was afraid to cross over alone. Sophie showed me that she and Buster had been inseparable since they’d been with Nancy — they loved each other and were bonded, like brother and sister. Sophie showed me that she was always the leader and Buster always followed her happily. Sophie knew that she couldn’t let Buster be alone and afraid when he crossed to Spirit, so she decided she would go with him. Sophie knew that she needed to make sure there would be no doubt in Nancy’s mind that Sophie needed to cross over with Buster — no question of whether she needed to cross over or not — so she created the tumor in her chest. Sophie said that she knew that Nancy would be OK after they crossed. She knew that Nancy would be sad, but she would be all right. Sophie didn’t think Buster could manage without her, so she chose to stay with Buster.
When I told Nancy this, she was shocked — but she agreed that it made perfect sense. Sophie always looked out for Buster and it only made sense to Nancy that she would continue to do so, even in Spirit. Sophie was a dog who knew her own mind and always followed her own plan in life — no surprise that she would do the same in death.
Nancy said that Sophie had read her right as well. Sad as Nancy was to loose both dogs at the same time, she knew in her heart that Buster needed Sophie more than Nancy did and she was very happy that they were together in Spirit.
Sophie told us that she would always look after Buster. She also said that she would look after Nancy — she showed me that she spends many nights sleeping on the floor beside Nancy’s bed. Sophie told Nancy that, “We are always there and watching over you.”
Nancy told me later that she knows this is true because recently both dogs played a joke on her . . . a friend of Nancy’s got a new dog and named her Sophie and her nephew got a cat and named him Buster! Nancy knew that her Sophie and Buster were responsible for the name choices and it made her laugh with joy!
“Having Sky get this explanation from Sophie was a great relief to me. I had counted on Sophie being there to help me get over letting of Buster. The shock of an inoperable tumor behind Sophie’s heart was more than I could fathom. Talking to Sophie and Buster was such a relief to me. I am so happy that they are together and their loss is more manageable now that I know it was Sophie’s decision to stay with her best friend.
I am so proud of Sophie!” — Nancy J., CO.
There seems to be an optimum number of animals for some people to have in their lives. Sometimes it’s one animal — sometimes more. For one of my long time clients, Liria, the number seems to be six and in her case, the animals are cats. When she has less than six cats, one seems to appear to get her back to her optimum number.
That’s what happened March of 2014. Having lost her beloved cat Shayla in December of 2013 the Universe made sure that another cat came to Liria. One of the nurses at the animal hospital where Lira’s cats are patients is also a volunteered for a cat rescue organization. She let Liria know that there was a rescued cat available for adoption. As soon as Liria saw Dylan’s picture, she knew she had to bring him home.
Dylan had a rough life before Liria adopted him. He was a stray, being fed by a kind person who got concerned because Dylan’s right eye “looked terrible”. The same nurse at the hospital trapped him and brought him to the rescue’s hospital. Dylan’s eye was so bad, they had to remove it and stitch his eye lids shut. By the time Liria saw him, the skin was completely healed over Dylan’s missing eye. She brought him home on March 22, 2014 and introduced Dylan to the cat family.
I spoke to Dylan for the first time on March 25th. He said he was grateful to be in such a nice place to live. He said he didn’t know if anyone would want him because he’d lost an eye. Liria asked me to reassure Dylan that he was perfect just as he was and that he would always be safe now. I could feel Dylan relax a bit when he heard that. Liria asked me to “scan” Dylan’s body. He wasn’t having any pain, but I felt that something wasn’t right with the left side of his face — something besides the missing eye. His mouth/jaw didn’t feel the same on the left as on the right, although I didn’t feel it was painful. When I told Liria this, she said it made sense — on his first vet exam, the vet found Dylan’s jaw had been broken and healed. Because of the broken jaw he had teeth that were missing and others that were not lining up properly which would cause him major problems in the future, so he had to have dental surgery.
Liria wanted to know if Dylan could tell us what happened to his face. He was very reluctant to talk about his past — Dylan said he really didn’t want to think about it because it was too upsetting to him. He did show me that he had lived with people, but he also showed me being kicked in the head — this is what caused his eye injury and broken jaw. Liria said that since Dylan didn’t want to talk about his past, she didn’t need to know any more about it. We assured Dylan that he was safe and that nothing like that would ever happen again. We told him that he was now in his forever home. Dylan said that he only wanted to think about how things were now and he thought he would be happy with Liria because, “She really understands cats.”
It always takes time to integrate a new furry family member, but Lira has lots of experience at it and things progressed smoothly. We talked to Dylan again at the beginning of June. Dylan had integrated well into the feline family, but two issues had surfaced.
The first issue was that Dylan clearly had lots of energy and wanted to “play” with the other younger male cat, Cooper. Cooper was thrilled to have someone to play with, since the other cats in the house didn’t really like to play as actively as Cooper did. The problem was that although Dylan would initiate and participate in play with Cooper, it would very quickly escalate into Dylan being seriously aggressive and biting Cooper. Cooper definitely did not want that — he just wanted to play!
We talked to Dylan about this behavior. It was clear to me that Dylan really didn’t understand about playing. I asked Dylan about the aggressive behavior — he showed me having to fight other cats when he was on the street. He showed me very clearly that there was a very fine line between play and aggression for him. Dylan crossed that line very quickly when he was playing and once he crossed the line, he couldn’t stop himself — biting and beating up Cooper was the result. Dylan said he did not want to hurt Cooper. He knew Cooper was his friend. But when Dylan crossed the line into aggression, he completely lost self control and went into “feral” mode — it felt to me like the energy of fire in his brain. Dylan was very upset that this kept happening. He did not want Liria to be mad at him or make him leave. He was very sorry about attacking Cooper. He said he “hated it” when he lost control but didn’t know how to stop it.
I told Dylan that Liria loved him no matter what and understood what was happening. I told him we’d help him get past this and make things better. I assured Dylan that this was his forever home and he would never be made to leave. I could feel Dylan give a sigh of relief and relax. He was ready to listen.
Dylan was able to show me very clearly what it felt like when the aggression feeling started to build up inside him when he was playing. I asked him to pay attention to that feeling and that as soon as he felt it starting, he should disengage with Cooper and get up and run. I told him that running would help release the aggressive energy. He showed me that he and Cooper loved to play chase, so Cooper would probably chase if Dylan ran. Dylan felt that if they ran for a while, he’d be able to calm down and play again. Liria and I both felt this was a great plan and we encouraged Dylan to do that. He said he would try, but it would be hard because he didn’t know if he could control himself. I told Dylan that we’d make sure that Liria helped him too, which made him feel better about the plan.
I explained to Liria that she would need to help Dylan learn self control. I encouraged her to keep an eye on him and try to stop or redirect Dylan’s play with Cooper before things had the chance to escalate. Catching Dylan before things got out of hand was critical to Dylan learning that he could control himself. Liria said she would do that.
The second issue we needed to work with Dylan on was related to an older cat named Trevor. Trevor was a large Maine coon cat who was very dignified and liked to keep to himself — but considered himself to be “king” at Liria’s house. Liria reported that Dylan had started attacking Trevor for no apparent reason — to the point that “the fur was flying”. When I asked Dylan why he attacked Trevor, Dylan said, “I don’t like the way Trevor looks at me.” From what Dylan showed me, it was clear that Trevor’s superior attitude was like sand paper to Dylan’s easily irritated nerves.
I told Dylan that if he left Trevor alone, Trevor wouldn’t bother him. Dylan’s response was, “but he LOOKS at me!” I told Dylan that the best solution was just to avoid Trevor. If Trevor was sitting somewhere, Dylan should go somewhere else . . . If Trevor was walking toward him, Dylan should turn around and go the other way. Dylan said he would try really hard. “I don’t want to be angry and I don’t want her [Liria] to be mad at me,” he said. We assured Dylan that Liria wasn’t mad at him and that she would help him with Trevor, just like she would help him with Cooper. Dylan said he would try really hard to avoid Trevor. We also asked Trevor to avoid Dylan.
I offered to do distance energy work for Dylan to help release the energy that gets built up causing the aggression. Liria said, “I’ll do anything to help Dylan get past this!”
I did Dylan’s first distance energy work session that day. Among other things, I felt Dylan was not grounding his energy well and it was building up inside him, creating his aggression and lack of self control. This built up energy was actually painful of me to feel, so I can only imagine how painful it was to Dylan! I worked on releasing those energies, balancing his energy, grounding his energy and replacing the feeling of aggression with the feelings of relaxation/calm/tolerance of others. I asked Liria to let me know how things went after the first session of energy work and if Dylan was better, we could schedule more sessions.
Liria emailed me a few days later. She said that after the energy work, Dylan went on to the screened patio, laid down and slept for several hours. [This is a pretty common reaction from animals — it’s their way of allowing their bodies to adjust to the energy shifts and healing from the energy work.] Liria reported that Dylan seemed happier and more relaxed when he woke up. She said she could also see Dylan trying to control himself with Cooper and Trevor. Liria understood that it was going to be a process and was prepared to keep working with Dylan. She was not going to give up on him!
In time we figured out that the best way to keep Dylan on track and control his aggressive energies was to do energy work on a regular basis — at least once a month. When other issues came up — one of the other cats crossing to Spirit, adding a new cat to the household, changes in Liria’s work schedule, a cat being ill, etc. — we would increase the frequency of the energy work and communication sessions. Without fail, after energy work Dylan would sleep for several hours and would wake up relaxed, happy and with better self control. Liria did her part and reminded Dylan, when needed, to play gently and avoid Trevor. If Liria thought Dylan was having trouble coping, she scheduled extra energy work and communication sessions.
Things improved rapidly with Cooper and a new kitten named Paisley who joined the furry family in 2016. Dylan was able to play with both of them safely and happily. Coping with Trevor was an ongoing issue but Liria reported that she could see Dylan thinking about how he should interact with Trevor. Most of the time, if possible, Dylan would choose to avoid Trevor.
Trevor became ill in the fall of 2014 with cancer. We talked to Trevor and he said he wanted to fight the cancer and keep living as long as he could, so he and Liria fought the cancer. But by June of 2016 it was time for Trevor to cross to Spirit. Although Dylan no longer had the stress of coping with Trevor, Liria felt Dylan should continue to get monthly energy work sessions because he loved them so much.
I did energy work for Dylan on August 12th, 2016. He was happy to talk to me and eager for his energy work. He was relaxed and happy. I could “hear/feel” him purring as I did his energy work. All seemed well and he had no complaints.
Liria emailed me on Sept.3rd to tell me that Dylan had crossed to Spirit. I was in shock! She said that she woken up the morning before and had heard Dylan wheezing from the other side of the house — something he’d never done before. His breathing was extremely labored and Liria rushed him to the animal hospital. Dylan was given anesthesia so an x-ray, then a CT scan, could be done. The scan showed that Dylan had multiple lesions on both lungs and one of the lesions had invaded and compromised his trachea. The lesions were inoperable because of how extensive and invasive they were. He had never showed any kind of a problem breathing in the past. The doctors felt that if Dylan were brought out of the anesthesia, he would struggle to breathe. Liria did not want Dylan to struggle to breathe, have pain or be scared at all — so she made the decision to allow Dylan to cross to Spirit without bringing him out of the anesthesia. Liria held Dylan in her arms and he quietly and peacefully crossed to Spirit. When I finished reading Liria’s email, I closed my eyes and “felt” for Dylan in Spirit . . . I knew he was there, safe and at peace.
We talked to Dylan, in Spirit, a few days later. Dylan showed himself to me as strong, healthy and whole — except that he only had one eye. Animals in Spirit generally show themselves to me as being “perfect” — physical issues are gone and their bodies appear perfect to me. I asked Dylan why he didn’t have both eyes, now that he was in Spirit. He said he was told he could have both his eyes or just keep the one. He showed me himself with only his left eye and then with both eyes — he couldn’t decide! He said that Liria told him he was “perfect” the way he was when he was alive, so he didn’t think he needed the missing eye. Liria and I both laughed when I told her this and we assured him that he WAS perfect just the way he was, with only his left eye. I could tell he was happy to hear that and he went back to showing me himself with only his left eye.
Liria asked Dylan if he knew something was going on with his lungs prior to the day he crossed to Spirit and he said he did not. He thanked Liria for letting him cross over peacefully. Dylan said that he hadn’t wanted to be sick and ill for a long time and he didn’t want to have to take medicine or have surgery. Dylan didn’t say it, but both Liria and I knew he was referring to what happened to Trevor after he was diagnosed with cancer. Liria asked me to tell Dylan that she would have done everything she could to save him. Dylan told her that he knew that, “But I didn’t want that. Trevor did, but I didn’t.” Dylan said that he was happy with what happened. “I lived happy and healthy until my last day, then it was over quickly” — Dylan felt that was perfect and he hoped that Liria could understand. Liria said she did and that her heart could be at peace because it was what Dylan wanted and she knew that he felt safe and loved while he was with her.
“If not for Sky talking to Dylan and doing regular energy work with him, I know he would have remained a very troubled kitty. He would have been fighting with himself all the time. He never would have allowed himself to relax, play and enjoy life. He would never have been truly able to feel the love that I had for him then and have now for him.” — Liria B., FL.
Julie contacted me in 2011 when one of her search and rescue dogs, Dakota — a very handsome Belgian Malinois — had fractured his leg during a training search. Dakota had a cast below the elbow on his left front leg and he kept gnawing at the cast, trying to remove it. Julie was afraid this would disrupt the healing of the broken bone and wanted to see if I could get Dakota to leave the cast alone.
When I talked to Dakota, I was first struck with the strength of his personality. He was very focused and intent. When I asked him about his work as a search and rescue dog, it was clear that his work was everything to him. His work ethic was immensely strong. He hated being incapacitated and just couldn’t wait to get back to work. Dakota was most happy when he and Julie were doing search and rescue work or training. He knew exactly what his job was — to search for people by scent, to “alert” by barking/pointing his nose at the spot where the people were and wait for Julie to come to the spot. He really lived to work! Dakota knew that his job was very important too. Julie confirmed that this was exactly what Dakota was all about.
I explained to Dakota that it was very important — critical — that he not touch his cast. At that point in his healing, there were only a few more weeks that the cast would need to be on, but they’d already had to replace the cast a couple time because Dakota was chewing it off. I “showed” Dakota the time frame that the cast would need to stay on, compared to how long it had been on so far. Dakota said, “But I want it off NOW!” He said the cast was itchy and uncomfortable and he knew he couldn’t work again until it was off. He said his leg felt fine and he didn’t understand why the cast had to stay on. I told Dakota that we understood how he felt, but even though his leg didn’t hurt, it was still not healed and he needed to be patient — this was a really difficult concept for Dakota to understand! We even resorted to telling him if he chewed his cast off again he might lose his leg and then he would not be able to search on the rubble, I think that message had the most impact.
Dakota finally said he would try to leave the cast alone. I told Julie that although Dakota said he would try, she really needed to keep an eye on him. It was clear to me that patience was not one of Dakota’s virtues! Julie switched Dakota from one of the big white plastic cones to a very cool leather muzzle to keep him from chewing at the cast. This really made a difference in his attitude — Julie was pretty sure he thought he looked silly & unprofessional in the cone! Thanks to the leather muzzle, Dakota was able to keep from chewing the cast and keep the cast on so his leg could heal. Dakota returned to work after his cast and the rod in his ulna was removed. He was so happy to again be able to do the search and rescue work and practice that he loved! Dakota lived to work, if he couldn’t search then he felt he had no life. Retirement was not an option for him.
Once the cast was removed, Dakota continued to be a FEMA disaster search dog. He was re-certified in Nov of 2014 on monstrous rubble in Indiana. He floated over the rubble like the skilled veteran he was. The evaluators all complimented him. This was his last recertification and he did it in “Dakota Style”. Julie was so proud to be his partner.
As time went on, Dakota started having issues with the wrist on the leg that had been fractured — he lost almost all of the flexion and the leg would ache. It just wasn’t as strong as previously. Julie got a wrist brace/support for Dakota and for a long time, Dakota wore it when working and had no problems. However, as time went on, Dakota started having difficulty with maneuvering on “the pile” — the giant pile of broken concrete stabs and pipes that they used for search and rescue training. Knowing that not working would be torture for Dakota, Julie started looking for other things that Dakota could do.
Julie found a wonderful new job for Dakota — training to be a drug sniffing dog on cruise ships docked at Port Everglades, near where they lived. When Julie first started training Dakota for drug work he had a hard time with the passive sit response, which was the opposite of needing to bark, as he did when he did searches for living people in disaster situations. Dakota was nicknamed “The Squeaker” because he knew he wasn’t supposed to bark but he couldn’t totally be quiet when he found something on a drug search, so he did a little squeak at the scent source with his sit.
Another challenge for Dakota came up when he was first learning to search for drugs in buildings and rooms. Drug sniffing dogs must put their feet up on the walls, to sniff behind pictures, outlets; go up on furniture, counter tops and all kinds of places Dakota wasn’t normally allowed to go. Dakota was very reluctant to do this. When we asked Dakota about his reluctance to do these things, he said he thought this behavior was very rude. We explained to Dakota that when he got his “Find It” command that he was allowed to be rude and go up on furniture, counter tops, wall, etc. – when he was searching.
Once Dakota understood what he was supposed to do, he was very quick to implement the directions. He was so happy to go to work and knew that the new job of drug sniffing was as important as his search and rescue work. Julie still let Dakota practice with the search and rescue team, but she monitored him closely.
Over the next few years, whenever we talked to Julie’s other search and rescue dogs, we always checked to see how Dakota was doing too. Although he didn’t like to admit it, as time when on Dakota did say that his leg was aching more and that the brace really helped. Eventually, he wore the brace nearly all the time.
Julie contacted me in June of 2016. She said that Dakota had been hopping on three legs for two months. I was not surprised to hear that Dakota never complained about the pain in his wrist or was reluctant to go to work. He just figured out a way to manage around the pain — by going on three legs instead of four. Of course, as soon as this started happening, Julie took Dakota to the vet. Julie said that Dakota had been diagnosed with a MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) infection in the bad wrist. The wrist had become necrotic and had encapsulated the infection so the antibiotics could not get in to heal the infection. After four months and multiple antibiotics, the vets felt the only option for stopping the infection from spreading to other parts of Dakota’s body was to amputate Dakota’s left front leg at the shoulder.
We talked to Dakota the day surgery was scheduled, several hours before the time of the surgery. Dakota showed me that the pain in his infected wrist was very significant. We talked to him about the infection, the amputation, the surgery itself, the loss of his leg and the months of recover ahead. We explained that this was his only hope to survive. Dakota understood that Julie would do anything to help him get better, so if that was all that could be done, he knew it was the right thing. I asked Dakota if he felt he could manage on 3 legs. He said, “I’ve been managing for two months — I’ll be fine!” In fact, Dakota said, “I’m faster on three legs than the other search dogs are on four legs!”
At Julie’s request, I let Dakota know that he wouldn’t be able to practice on the pile after the surgery. Although he was disappointed, he said he understood — “but I can search on the ground and do my [drug searching] can’t I?” Julie said he absolutely could do that again, as soon as he recovered. Dakota said that as long as he could work, he would. He said he didn’t know what he would do if he couldn’t work, so he was glad he could continue to do what he loved to do with Julie.
Julie wanted to be sure Dakota wanted to go through with the amputation, rather than be allowed to cross to Spirit. I asked Dakota about that — he said, “There is nothing wrong with the rest of me!” Dakota’s will to live was very strong and he was not ready to cross to Spirit. Julie knew that the recovery period would be challenging for Dakota, but she also knew that with his strength of will, Dakota could do anything he set his mind to do.
Julie sent me a message shortly after the surgery to say that all went well and Dakota was doing fine. I knew she was relieved and happy that all had gone well.
My schedule was very busy the next day and I was in the middle of a communication session when I realized I’d received a voicemail from Julie. When I was able to listen to the voicemail, I was stunned. The message said, “Dakota is in cardiac arrest. Please tell him I’m with him!” I called Julie back immediately. She told me that Dakota had died moments after she called me from a clot that went to his heart or brain. She said that she and the vet were stunned. Julie had been standing in front of Dakota when he threw his head back and quit breathing. The vet immediately started working him, but Julie knew in her heart that Dakota had had crossed to Spirit. She said she felt a warm rush pass by her as Dakota’s pupils totally dilated. Julie asked if we could talk to Dakota in Spirit, right away.
I connected to Dakota in Spirit. Julie wanted to be sure he had crossed over and wasn’t “stuck”. It was clear to me that this was not the case — Dakota had crossed over fully. There is a serenity to those in Spirit that I do not feel from those who are “stuck” and tied to the earth. Dakota’s spirit had that serene energy.
Julie wanted to know why he changed his mind about staying — why he’d said the day before that he wanted to live, but then suddenly crossed over. Dakota showed me that there was something wrong somewhere else in his body, besides the MRSA infection at the site of the fracture. I couldn’t get a clear picture of where it was in his body, but to me it felt like many places in his body were affected. It felt to me like the MRSA infection has spread and was infecting him all over. Dakota showed me that he hadn’t known about this when we talked several hours before the surgery — he didn’t know until just before the surgery. Dakota told me that if he hadn’t crossed over, he would have been “sick/weak/broken”. He said that he would not have been able to accept or tolerate that. Julie asked why he didn’t cross over during the surgery. He said he wanted to “go out strong”. He was proud that he got through the surgery and was doing well — he said, “that was the right time for me to go.”
Julie told me later that this made complete sense to her. Just after the surgery, the vet had gotten blood work results back that showed that the MRSA infection had traveled to Dakota’s kidneys — so it would not be surprising if it had spread to other parts of his body as well. If Dakota had lived, he would have been very sick indeed in a very short time.
As painful as it was for Julie to lose Dakota, she knew that with Dakota’s strong will, he was going to make sure that everything went exactly the way Dakota would want.
Dakota showed me that he was in the “place” in Spirit that I think of as the Recovery Place. It is where the animals show me they go when they first cross over. Although he was no longer physical, Dakota showed me a picture of himself in the Recovery Place — he appeared strong, handsome, confident and happy. He was proud of himself for doing what he knew was right for him and he knew that Julie would understand. He told Julie that he would always be with her — he showed me walking by her side, wherever she went. Julie wanted to be sure she wasn’t keeping Dakota from moving forward on his spiritual journey. Dakota made it clear to me that since he was not physical, he could be there (in Spirit) and here, with Julie. That was what he wanted.
Dakota also told me that he was going to start working right away. Most animals rest and relax in the Recovery Place — but of course, that wasn’t Dakota’s way! Dakota said that he knew his job was going to be “finding people and connecting them with their animals in Spirit” — basically search and rescue in Spirit! Both Julie and I laughed with tears in our eyes when he told us that. It was just so Dakota!
Sad as she was, Julie knew that the right thing had happened for Dakota. As Julie told me, “I miss Dakota everyday, but I know he needed to go … He is no longer by my side but forever in my heart.” I know she will always be in Dakota’s heart too.
“I’m pretty intuitive with my dogs and cats, but it is so awesome to be able to communicate directly with them through Sky. When I need to get something important across or try to understand something my dogs are doing on a search I immediately contact Sky so I can get a direct line of communication with them. It really puts my mind at ease to be able to talk to my living dogs and cats — and to my spirit dogs and cats.” — Julie P-J, FL.
I met Brittany and her boyfriend in 2010 at a metaphysical fair in Colorado Springs. Brittany had a chinchilla named Morgan, one of several chinchillas that she loved and cared for. Brittany said that Morgan seemed quite happy when she first brought him home, but in time he started to become very aggressive.
When I connected to Morgan, the first impression I had was that he was very grumpy. There was really no other way to describe the feeling I got from him! When I told Brittany this, she laughed and completely agreed that “grumpy” was a perfect description of Morgan.
Morgan couldn’t wait to tell me about his problems and complaints. He was angry with Brittany for not understanding what he liked and didn’t like. To Morgan, it was obvious what the problems were and he felt he was being very clear with Brittany. He couldn’t understand why she hadn’t changed things to his liking. I explained that although Morgan felt he was being clear, Brittany truly didn’t understand what was wrong — although she did know something was wrong — which was why she asked me to talk to him. Brittany wanted Morgan to be happy, not angry. Hearing this helped Morgan calm down a bit, but he still had a lot to say!
Morgan showed me that he didn’t like the location of his cage. To him, the cage was in a dark place and lacked air circulation. He didn’t want a cold area or direct sun, but he wanted his cage in a brighter place. From what Morgan showed me, it seemed like the room his cage was in was below ground level. Brittany confirmed that Morgan’s cage was in a room below ground level — her bedroom — but what Morgan said about the room being dark didn’t make sense to Brittany. I checked with Morgan again, to be sure he meant the room seemed dark to him and he confirmed this again — very clearly — the room was dark and he wanted more sunlight.
Suddenly understanding dawned on Brittany! She realized that she had purchased blackout curtains for her room, which she kept closed all the time. No wonder Morgan said the room was dark! I asked Morgan what kind of room he’d prefer. He showed me a different room that had windows that would let in sunlight. My impression was that this was a room in the house that he’d been in before. When I told Brittany about the room Morgan described, she knew exactly which room he meant — the room next to hers, which is where Morgan’s cage was when he first came to live with Brittany. Brittany said that room had windows that provided indirect sunlight and ventilation. Brittany said she would move Morgan’s cage into that room as soon as she got home, if that would make him happy.
Brittany wanted to know why Morgan wouldn’t let her pick him up. Morgan showed me that when Brittany picked him up, she would put her hands behind his front legs/shoulders and lift him up — this squeezed his ribs, which he didn’t like at all. I asked him if he could show me a better way to pick him up. Morgan showed me that he preferred to be “scooped up” — one hand under his belly and the other under his hind quarters. When I told Brittany this, her boyfriend started laughing. He said that he always picked Morgan up using the “scoop” method and Morgan never fussed with him. Brittany agreed to try to use the “scoop” method in the future when she picked up Morgan.
Morgan did say that he was happy with some things. He showed me that he liked the running wheel in his cage and the “orange things” Brittany gave him now and then. Brittany knew exactly what the “orange things” were — the special treat of papaya pieces that she gave Morgan.
We checked in with Morgan about nine months later to see how he was doing. Morgan said he was much happier because Brittany had made the changes he requested. Brittany said she had been using the “scoop” method to pick Morgan up and he was being much more cooperative about letting her pick him up.
Brittany said that she was “grateful for the help in figuring out what was going on with Morgan so I could make him happy, just as he was when I first adopted him.”
Morgan told me that Brittany takes good care of all the chinchillas. But he showed me he still watches Brittany to be sure that she doesn’t do anything he doesn’t like. Brittany confirmed that Morgan is always “right there”, keeping an eye on everything.
I’ve talked to Brittany’s chinchillas and two cats regularly since our first meeting at the fair. Some the chinchillas have crossed to Spirit, but Morgan is still going strong. A bit less grumpy, but still keeping an eye on things. Brittany is devoted to her beloved furry ones and makes sure to keep on top of any issues that arise through animal communication whenever needed.
“Sky has helped me understand all of my rescued chinchillas so that I’m able to make them feel more comfortable and happy. In return they appreciate me more and it makes caring for them a lot easier. Sky is amazing, I’m so happy to have met her. Thank you, Sky, for everything you do – you feel like family.” — Brittany M, CO.