DETERMINE HOW YOUR
ANIMAL IS HELPING YOU
I’m sure you’re ready to get going, and it’s finally time! I love that animals assist us the way they do, and the more people do this work with the animals in their life, the more we’ll be able to change the way people around the globe understand their relationship with the animal world and, in response to that, hold compassion for one another. It took me a long time to completely believe that this was true, though, and my goal is to help people align with this fact a whole lot faster than I did. As a child, I wasn’t exposed to other people’s stories of how having an animal could shift a person’s life for the better because there was no Internet, and news stories in the paper or on TV only focused on such events when they were in search of a “feel-good” story. Today, however, through social media, we’re practically bombarded with goodwill tales about people and animals joining together and the resulting transformations. Until now, though, harnessing that power was elusive: it was more something that people realized only after the animal had already changed their lives. With this book, you’re being given the information and the power to consciously enter into the relationship with your animal with your eyes wide open, ready to foster that transformation.
Choose the Best Animal to Work With
The first thing to know about choosing the best animal to work with is that you can’t make a wrong choice here. That’s right—you can’t make a mistake! Chances are that you picked up this book because you had a particular animal in mind that you wanted to deepen your relationship with, that you wanted to understand, or that you are being troubled by. If that’s the case for you, that’s wonderful, and you should definitely stick with that animal.
If you’re someone who has a connection to many animals, remember that each animal is your teacher in its own way. If you have four dogs, two horses, three cats, and you’ve “adopted” an elephant in India, know they are undoubtedly all working to assist you in your evolution in some way. Each animal does not necessarily have the same agenda with you, but each animal is helping you one way or another. This is also the case for the wild animals or other animals you’re concerned with. Each beautiful being is aiding you according to his or her abilities and how the two of you come together on emotional, physical, energetic, and mental levels, and this may or may not be linked to how other animals are assisting you. Your goal in this moment is to decide which animal is the teacher you’ll be concentrating most on for now. You can go back and do the process again and again and again with your other animals as well, but let’s keep things simple for now and pick just one.
To decide which of the animals in your life will be best to start with, I encourage you to look to the animal that is creating the greatest waves on a daily basis. This could mean it’s the dog that is upsetting you with his aggressiveness, the ferret that is biting all the children in the classroom, the cat that is showing you the kind of love you’ve never felt before, or the sheep that, whenever you see her out in the field, gives you the biggest “feelies.” The greatest waves idea includes both the positive and negative emotions. You’ll want to choose the animal that is creating the greatest waves for you because, unlike how the rest of the world works, the bigger the wave, the more content for you to work with, the easier it is to evolve and grow through this work! Choosing the greatest-wave animal may seem counterintuitive, as you would think that a smaller wave would indicate the work will be easiest, but in the animal world, things are reversed. Which animal do you have the most “stuff” with? Think of that animal and get ready to go for it!
Once you’ve chosen your greatest wave animal, you’re ready to get going. And remember, you can go through this process again for another animal in the future—and by then you’ll be an expert, so it will be even easier!
Identify How This Animal Is Working with You
I’m sure that, as you’ve been reading, you’ve been defining and redefining what you think the relationship between you and your animal must be. It’s kind of fun, isn’t it? How is my pet helping me? How is the chipmunk in the backyard teaching me? I love helping people figure this part of their animal relationship out because, no matter how much of an animal lover someone is, they are almost always blown away when they realize the profound depths animals are willing to go to for them.
A lot of understanding the how with your animal comes by looking at yourself first. Start remembering the thoughts, feelings, ideas, and emotions you’ve had about this animal in the past. It doesn’t matter if your past thoughts and feelings were positive, negative, or a mix of both. Consider, as well, what others who’ve known that animal (dog walker, veterinarian, farrier, rehabilitation professional, handler, neighbor, etc.) have had to say about her and how that made you feel. If you’ve chosen an animal you’ve never met (such as the bottlenose dolphin you heard about on the Internet and felt so moved by), think back to the descriptions you’ve read or heard about this animal and what emotions you felt through those descriptions. Don’t worry about what these things mean, don’t judge yourself for feeling them, and try not to censor anything that comes up. Just simply remember how you’ve thought and felt about this animal while this animal has been a part of your life. Simply, think about the different facets of your relationship from this new, purely emotional perspective.
Unlike what many in our society would have us believe, emotions are not annoying things that get in the way of our day, hindering us from achieving great success. They are indicators that something is going on within us and that that something, whatever it is and where it is coming from, warrants our attention. No one wakes up in the morning feeling happy, calm, and peaceful and decides to change their whole life. Instead, waking up feeling upset, dissatisfied, fearful, excited, or annoyed is much more likely to push us to do things differently. And our animals are greatly aware of this fact: they know that by eliciting enough strong emotions within us, we will eventually take action.
Now, from this newly activated place of feeling about your animal, take a moment to answer these questions. Please be as honest as you can, even if you are embarrassed or upset by what arises for you. The more raw and uncensored you are here, the easier it will be for you to figure out what’s really going on with you and this special animal. Record your answers, even if just in the margins of this book, so that it’s harder to censor yourself. Your reply can be either positive or negative, since one type of answer is not better than another; each answer is merely a clue.
• When you think of this animal, what is the first emotion you feel?
• When you think of this animal, what is the second emotion you feel?
• When you think of this animal, what is the third emotion you feel?
• (If applicable) When you hang around with this animal for a while, how do you end up feeling during this time? Afterward?
• (If applicable) When you read/hear about this animal, how do you end up feeling during this time? Afterward?
• When you’re not around this animal or don’t have contact with this animal for an extended period of time, what emotions do you feel?
• Do your feelings about this animal ever change? If so, from what to what?
Answering these questions as truthfully as you can is important because that truth is what will help you ferret out the sometimes-hidden sentiments buried within the relationship that you may be overlooking. To receive the most from this relationship, you must be aware of all its aspects, including (and most importantly) the parts that you may not want to deal with. This means that, even though you love your cat dearly, your initial emotional responses to these questions may be negative, perhaps because of some challenge you’re experiencing with her, and that’s okay. If this is the case for you, don’t beat yourself up—congratulate yourself for being so honest! Those preliminary emotions are raw and real, and they are the signs you’re looking for to the inner workings of your human-animal relationship. These sentiments regarding your chosen animal point to the fact that something is going on, and that something is going to be the crux of this relationship.
Take a look at the emotions you’ve just noted. Some of what you’ve recorded is going to be applicable to understanding this relationship, and some will not be. Are any of these emotions completely normal, par for the course, or something you feel often in your life? If yes, then simply cross those emotions off. For some people, an example of this would be love: I always love my dogs, and I’m used to feeling love for my dogs. I would then simply remove that from my emotion list if it came up as one of the answers to the questions above. Here, you want to discover and focus on the less common emotions because those are the emotions that will direct you toward what you’re working on with your animal.
Next, are any of the emotions on your list caused by a particular challenge you’re experiencing with your animal? If yes, then just place a circle around those emotions.
Are any of the emotions you wrote down something that you’re not used to experiencing (whether positive or negative)? Is yes, then draw a big ol’ circle around each one. Each time that unique emotion comes up, be sure to circle it again, even if it already has a circle. You’re probably going to end up with at least one emotion circled a few times.
Are you upset or disturbed by any of the emotions on your list? For example, maybe you’ve been embarrassed to admit it, but one of the things your horse is making you feel is rage. This would be an emotion that, because of the embarrassment, deserves to be circled and also points out why it’s so important to be honest as you’re answering those questions above. If yes, circle the emotions that upset you as well.
By now, you should have a handful or so of emotions in front of you that you’ve circled several times. If there are any emotions on this list that you have not yet circled, you can put those to the side as well. At this point, the circled emotions are giving us the best clues about this human-animal relationship.
To help you along, here’s an example of how someone could walk through the exercise: Jenny has chosen her dog Flower as her teacher for this work. When answering the questions above, the main emotions she felt when she thought of Flower were love, frustration, embarrassment, and anger. She immediately crossed the emotion “love” off her list because she was very used to experiencing love with the animals in her life. However, she ended up circling “anger” twice, “embarrassment” twice, and “frustration” three times. Jenny certainly has a lot of circles coming up at this point!
Now, without even knowing the details around what is going on between Jenny and Flower yet, it’s easy to tell that something is happening based purely on the fact that Jenny has several circled emotions—otherwise, why would she be experiencing anger, embarrassment, and frustration with this animal? The circled emotions on your own list are the clues into understanding what area in your life your animal is working with. Think about the emotion you circled most. What is happening that is causing that emotion? Is there a particular event or events that conjure that feeling? Animals tend to work with people through repeated patterns because it seems that most people need to be hit over the head again and again before they will get what is going on. It’s very possible, and even likely, that the emotion you’ve circled the most is something you feel again and again with your animal through a particular repeated experience.
Jenny circled “frustration” the most when answering the questions above. After looking at it for a moment, Jenny had a pretty good idea where that frustration was stemming from in her relationship with Flower: it was a particular thing that Flower often did. Flower was a terrible greeter of people in any situation. It didn’t matter if someone was just walking by the front door of Jenny’s house, approaching them on the sidewalk to say hi, or just running by—Flower’s reaction was always the same: she would loudly and incessantly bark, and it felt to Jenny that nothing that she could do would deter Flower from that. Jenny felt that many people on her street were afraid of Flower and struggled several times a day to try to control this situation. Jenny concluded that experiences like this had resulted in her repeated experience of frustration with her dog. This lack of good greeting manners is how Flower is working with Jenny.
Like Jenny, your circled emotions will be related to a repeating pattern or experience with your animal. Remember, though, that that pattern doesn’t have to be negative, as it was with Jenny and Flower. For example, one of the emotions you wrote down could have been “supported” because perhaps you’ve never before experienced the kind of love and devotion and consistent dependability that you’re now experiencing with this animal through her following you around in your home. This experience counts as a repeated pattern as well, even though it’s positive rather than negative. I’ve found that most human-animal relationships focus on a negative pattern rather than a positive one because that seems to be what more easily gets a person’s attention. Just take note of what repeated experiences are creating these emotions with your animal, and voilà! You have found how your animal is helping you learn!
Beginning Your Animal Lesson Statement
Now that you’ve deciphered how your animal is getting your attention and you know what emotions are being brought up as a result, you’re ready to make your own Animal Lesson Statement that summarizes this very special relationship. Putting the relationship into the statement form will help you see and understand what is going on. Let’s use Jenny and Flower as an example.
Animal Lesson Statement Template
_________________ (Animal name)
is doing _________________ (how)
to help me learn ________________ (what lesson)
by making me feel ________________ (emotions)
and therefore do ________________ (work-arounds).
Here’s what we have for Jenny’s statement so far:
Flower is barking at everyone
to help Jenny learn ________________________
(what lesson) by making her feel embarrassed and frustrated
and therefore do ____________________ (work-arounds).
We’ve identified how Flower is doing this (by barking at everyone and greeting them badly) and the emotions that this brings up in Jenny (frustration and embarrassment). Now, give it a try for yourself using the template.
Hooray! You’re officially on your way to really figuring out this incredible relationship with your animal! Isn’t it exciting to know that these behaviors you’ve identified in this animal are specifically there to help you learn a deeply held lesson about yourself ? When you understand that what you’re experiencing with your animal is the result of this extraordinary kind of relationship, intended to help you grow and expand (rather than be frustrated and angry, for example), it can automatically become a lot easier to exist within that relationship. It’s not that your rabbit likes chaos or that the neighbor’s parrot wants to make you pull your hair out—well, not exactly! There is a purpose and a point. This can feel like a great weight off your back. Finally, things are starting to make sense.
As you look at the partial Animal Lesson Statement you’ve just written out, you may have already been addressing this behavior or challenge with your animal, but most likely, you weren’t achieving the intended results. This is because you were most likely working on the animal’s behavior rather than the underlying lesson for you. After knowing how much more is taking place beneath the surface in your human-animal relationship, you’re probably feeling like you can breathe a sigh of relief because change is in sight. The next chapter holds the fun part—figuring out the lesson behind all of this.
Animals in Action: John Holland and Koda
I first met psychic medium John Holland when he brought his dog, Koda, to me for an animal communication reading. John was having some challenges with Koda, and as a kind of last resort, he’d decided to try out an animal communicator. Despite being a psychic medium (a person who communicates psychically with our deceased human loved ones), he was unsure whether animals had any intuitive abilities. I was able to show him the light on that fact. That reading was the beginning of a beautiful friendship that has lasted years, but John’s story with Koda really began several years earlier.
John is one of the most sensitive people I’ve ever met (and I’m surrounded by sensitive people every day). Over the years, he’s honed his intuition beautifully to help him become the well-known psychic medium he is today. And as with all psychics, his sensitivity also extends to his personal life. After all, it’s very challenging to be sensitive at work and then turn it off at home!
To help him heal from a challenging breakup, John dove headfirst into his work. He lived in a condominium in New England while traveling around the world demonstrating his extraordinary ability to connect with loved ones on the other side. The more he worked, the more it helped him heal his broken heart—but the more his heart healed, the lonelier he realized he was becoming. He rarely spent time at his condo, preferring instead to put his love and energy into building his career, not noticing that he didn’t feel a connection to his house or to a community. For three years he concentrated on his work, and in that time grew to be even more successful than he already was.
But he knew something was missing.
Finally, John felt healed and prepared enough to bring a West Highland Terrier, which he named Koda, into his life. Little did John know that every single aspect of his life was about to change.
John does not lack commitment, and bringing a dog into his life was no different. He was going to do Koda right—no two bones about it. To that end, Koda required doggy day care, walks, and socialization. A lot of socialization. These were all things that John was unfamiliar with, as his recent life until that time had consisted of work and then some more work. With his travel schedule, John had to find a reputable doggy day care center, and after several tries, he finally came upon one he trusted. Next, he had to feel good about where Koda would be doing any boarding. It took a few months, but John was able to secure places that he felt good about and where he knew Koda would be in good hands.
One day early in their relationship, little Koda got loose and ran across the street into the neighbor’s yard. Although John had lived in his condo for over three years, he really wasn’t familiar with his neighbors. A nod hello or a quick wave was the extent of those relationships for him so far and that suited John fine, as he wasn’t really thinking about putting down roots. But Koda had other plans. While frantically trying to secure Koda, John started talking with the neighbor about her Boston Terrier. The conversation was so interesting that he continued talking even after he’d gotten Koda under control. He didn’t think about returning to work that whole afternoon.
As it turned out, the neighbors held a meetup every day in the yard so that their dogs could play. John loved how interested his neighbors were in this little being that had lit up his life, and he relished the chance to talk with people who understood his feelings for Koda. As the days wore on, John started joining the meetup groups. He said, “It’s almost like I didn’t have a choice, Danielle. He was going over there whether I took him or not!”
Today, John’s neighbors have become his lifelong friends, and he’s grown into being an important member of his community. From babysitting one another’s dogs to having backyard barbeques to putting on holiday parties to being there to help a beloved pet pass over, John has found support (and gives support) in a way he didn’t even know existed until Koda ran across the street. John didn’t know that part of his healing process from his breakup was going to be that he had to learn to open his heart again. How smart is Koda to tap into this and teach him how to receive unconditional love, not just from Koda but from those surrounding him as well!
Through what he learned about the unconditional love of animals, John was so moved that he began donating his time to shelters. He’s volunteered as a veterinary technician, and he continues to offer his moving mediumship demonstrations, from which he donates the proceeds to his animal charity organization.
Bringing Koda into his life helped John reopen his heart to others and find support in the world. He certainly hadn’t planned on this, but Koda had a mind of his own and an animal lesson to teach John! What a little smartie he was! John had thought this little guy would meld right into his life. The reality was that John’s life changed for the better in every area when he brought Koda into his life and listened to Koda’s message.