Thursday, December 27, 2007

The First Day of Christmas

Christmas morning I was coming back from walking my dog Puma when I heard the familiar tic-tic-tic sound of a hummingbird. For those not from the Seattle area we actually have hummingbirds that overwinter here wherever there is food supplied. In this case it is my neighbor across the street who has the hummingbird feeder and lately I have noticed one bird that keeps a watchful eye on what he considers to be his personal food supply.

His appearance on a dreary winter day was a gift in itself, and I rushed to get my camera. The hummer was obliging enough, providing me with nice closeups and profile shots before swooping off for another go at the feeder. So, I started the first day of Christmas gifted not with a partridge in a pear tree, but rather a hummingbird in a bare tree!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The True Joy of the Season

I have just spent the last half hour playing animated Jacquie Lawson Christmas cards for my cat, Kiya!

It started with Jacquie’s latest card, “A Christmas Story,” a lovely animated tale of a kitten’s gift to Santa Claus. I was playing it while Kiya was sitting in my lap. Suddenly she tensed, watching the end of the kitten’s tail twitch on screen. Kiya moved closer, tromping on the keyboard in the process, which is why the screen image seems a bit dim in the photo.

Since the card was at an end I replayed it to see how she would respond to the rest. She adored the movement of the image loading bar, and with her paw she chased the toys moving behind Santa. With every page turn she took in all the action, swatting at Santa’s clothes as he reached from behind a screen to prepare for his Christmas Eve journey, and when the card finished waited for more. So I replayed it for her, and again she enjoyed it immensely.

Since my eldest cat Shaman’s diagnosis of cancer a lot of my attention has been on him, taking time away from the rest of my animal family, so I felt moved to try another card on her and then another. She sat raptly through all of them, occasionally raising a paw to chase the images across the screen. I don’t think I realized until this moment how many birds and animals are in Jacquie’s cards—must be why I love them so much!

Besides “A Christmas Story” Kiya’s favorites were “The Olive Tree,” “A Winter Waltz,” and the unseasonable Halloween “Feline Fright” where two mice take revenge on a black cat. Kiya chased the black cat the whole time it played.

I’m really glad I took time from my day to share with Kiya; it was time well spent. The true joy of the season can be found in togetherness and playfulness with the ones you love.

To see more of Kiya, check her out on the front cover of our new book, Tails of a Healer. Kiya was born to be a diva, she really does think she is a tiger inside. I joke with her that she reminds me of Miss Piggy, it's all about moi!

If you would like to read more musings by Rose De Dan visit Articles.

Rose De Dan©2007

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Saving Keiko

Over a month ago I received a call from a local vet’s office. They were seeking information about the possibility of placing a cat that had been brought to them to be euthanized. Since she was perfectly healthy they wanted to see if other options could be found. She was surrendered to the vet by the family that adopted her as a stray that turned up in their yard at about 6-8 months of age. They had her spayed, declawed on all four feet (poor dear, declawing is a cruel procedure as it removes the toe on each foot to the first joint, otherwise the nail grows back). Keiko is now three years old, and up-to-date on her vaccinations.

The reason for Keiko’s surrender is that she began to hide and to not always use the litter box. Keiko was checked and there was no evidence of a physical issue. My experience with cat clients has definitely taught me that they will develop these behavioral responses when something happens that causes them to feel unsafe in their environment. When threatened they will begin to display territorial marking behavior.

The vet was concerned that they were still going to have to euthanize her because she was extremely aggressive in her cage and would hiss and swat at them and try to bite (declawed cats feel very vulnerable and when really scared will use the last weapon left them, their teeth). I felt I needed to go visit her to better be able to assess the situation and to see how I might best offer advice. As I was very busy I asked a student to take a look at her photo and see what she might learn through animal communication. The picture emerged of a very sweet cat that needed someone who understood her need to be able to trust in her own fashion, and who was very afraid of where she was. She did not want to die.

When I first laid eyes on Keiko she was hiding behind a comfort barrier that the kind vet people had put in her cage, and was growling and hissing. I immediately knew what the solution was going to be. Unfortunately it involved my taking her home as a foster cat. It was very clear that she was never going to be able to settle in a vet clinic environment, there was too much noise and distress from other animals that came in for appointments. No one was ever going to be able to see who Keiko really was in that environment, she needed a quiet place to recover and for me to observe how she really interacted.

Keiko was informed of the plan, and when I went to pick her up the vet tech placed heavy gloves on her hands to try to grab Keiko and put her in the carrier. I could see Keiko’s response to that, and suggested that perhaps we open the carrier and place it in the cage and see if she would go in voluntarily. And she did, with a little guidance and encouragement, and she sat quietly as I picked her up and took her back to my house and a cage in the cellar.

When I first foster a cat I almost always cage them so that we have a secure environment in which to interact and so that I can build trust quickly. Keiko emerged from her carrier with ease, and immediately took up residence in the cat bed teepee that I had gotten for her to feel safe. Not once did she hiss at me, although she was clearly scared. I made no attempt to touch her for the next few days, simply giving her time. When I finally did reach out to her she tipped her head with relief and gladly accepted some loving touches. From that point on she was eager for contact -- when I bring her food she would rather have me pet her than eat!

My schedule does not allow me to spend much time with her, but I make a point every evening to sit down in front of the cage and do some Reiki with her. Keiko knows the routine and rushes to her mat, eager for her session. I place both arms in the cage and Keiko piles in between them, curling around inside, rubbing her face in my hand, flipping her body, and purring like mad the entire time (and she has a lovely, loud, rumbling purr). If she really gets going she drools, just a little bit. By the end of 15 minutes of Reiki she is curled into a ball within my arms, head usually tucked into one hand, purr trailing off as she falls asleep. I still cannot believe that this is the same terrified cat that I saw at the vet, but, when I bring someone else to visit her, Keiko gets scared and tries to hide. She is getting better, accepting my reassurance that it is okay, trusting me, but it will evidently take her time to bond with someone else. In my opinion Keiko is a semi-feral. She will make someone a lovely companion so long as they allow her to build the relationship at her comfort level, and she will probably not be seen when company visits (unless they are doing Reiki, in which case I think she will be front and center!).

Keiko has now been with me for a month. Events with my eldest cat, Shaman, kind of put the focus of getting her adopted on hold, but she is getting tired of being in the cage, and I don’t blame her. It is time for her to find her forever home, I have given her great food and supplements, her coat is really glossy, she uses the litter box without fail, and she has had more than enough energy work!

So, do you know someone who would love this very sweet lady? I believe she needs a quiet home, one without children or dogs, although I think another laid-back cat would be fine. And the person definitely needs to be someone who is comfortable with letting Keiko be who she is rather than having specific requirements.

I will screen any potential adopters, and there is an adoption fee (fee will be donated to rescue work, it is good to have a fee to discourage impulse adoptions). It would be nice if Keiko’s person was already a Reiki practitioner but I am willing to consider a discount on Reiki training if the person is willing!

Keiko is waiting. Do you know where her forever home is?

If you are interested in adopting Keiko, please call Rose De Dan, Wild Reiki & Shamanic Healing at 206-933-7877 or send an email.

If you would like to read another article regarding building trust with ferals see Building An Interspecies Bridge.

Friday, November 23, 2007

The Shamanic Muse

This blog marks my return to writing after a lengthy absence due to my being deeply immersed in the production of my book, Tails of a Healer: Animals, Reiki & Shamanism.

The book is a collection of previously published articles spanning the eleven years of my healing practice, and chronicles my adventures, mishaps, and growth as an alternative healer for animals (and people). It also contains dozens of my photos. I would have thought that it would be a relatively easy process to assemble the articles and lay them out in a pleasing format for publication (my career as a graphic designer comes in quite handy at times!). After all, they had appeared in publications such as The Kaleidoscope Journal, The New Times, WomenNetWork, and VerveWomen, how difficult could this be?

What I learned was the true nature of a core aspect of shamanism, which is that all things have spirit. In this case, the book literally took on a life of its own, and while doing so, took over mine. Additionally the book seems to have an energy of its own for others; several people who were reading the manuscript reported that their animals would try to lie on it no matter where they moved it to, and further the people reported that they were having a difficult time actually editing it as they would get caught up in the stories and forget what they were supposed to be doing!

While the 45 articles had been previously published, they had never before been assembled together under one roof (or cover). I have done a lot of personal healing work around the various events chronicled in the book, but had never thought to tackle them from the standpoint of integrating them as a whole, something the book demanded. While I had tackled the major issues, there seemed to be pieces that had gotten overlooked, or, perhaps, that I was simply not ready to clear at that time. So, in addition to running a healing practice and teaching classes, I also had to add time for my own personal healing. No slacking was allowed, I had emotions and hucha (stuck heavy energy) coming to the surface on a daily basis!

In amongst all of this was the actual book production, which required some orchestrating and balancing between people who had agreed to review the book, edit it, overview it, and so on, as well as coordinating with the publisher. Was it all exciting, yes, absolutely. Was it scary, YES, absolutely. The next emotional hurdle I encountered was my own fear of being seen for who I am. There is no way to hide from scrutiny with a book containing your innermost thoughts and feelings while embarked on your own personal journey! Yikes! What had I done? Back to the energy healing drawing board for more of my own clearing work.

Finally, I encountered some technical problems with software, fonts, and hardware. All of which culminated just when I thought I was going to production. One week of very intensive trouble-shooting detective work, and a final crucial session with my Macintosh technical support (Ruben Jeffries, MacDaddy), and I was ready for a very long vacation. But the book was finally at the publisher!

So, I am happy to report that it is due out sometime in mid-January. Tails of a Healer is available as a pre-order which does entitle one to an autographed copy at no additional charge! Now, maybe I can catch up on my writing!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

The Penthouse Suite

My attic now smells like moth balls. No, we don’t have a moth infestation, we have squirrels. Squirrels, I might add, that may enjoy talk radio. Wonder what they’ll think of Rush Limbaugh?

If this all sounds a little squirrelly, let me explain that squirrel experts swear that plugging the entrance holes with steel wool, filling the air with the pungent reek of moth balls, and playing a radio that makes it sound like the space is occupied with people is guaranteed to keep the little tykes outside where they belong. We’ll see, previous attempts to plug the holes did not work.

The little nippers have been keeping me entertained at 4:30 in the morning (apparently their hyperactive natures don’t let them sleep in), using the entire attic space for early morning races and calisthenics.

When I originally complained to my landlord, he actually seriously asked me, “Have you tried asking them to leave?” I had two responses to that question, one was the thought, “How nice that he supports what I do as an animal communicator,” and the second went something like, “Squirrels may like nuts, but they are not crazy. Why would they exchange their penthouse suite with partying room for 100 of their best buddies for a drafty nest made of twigs and leaves?”

I am very glad that my landlord is animal-friendly and environmentally conscious. He actually bought a squirrel box and had it installed in hopes that they would move out of the attic. However, next to the penthouse suite it looks like squirrel shantytown, and they were not tempted. Instead the mama squirrel gave birth in the attic to triplets this past spring, so we had to wait until they were raised.

Summer came, and they moved out; too hot. It appeared that they were using the more air-conditioned squirrel box, so I had hopes, but nope, come cooler fall weather they moved back in. At least two did, I think. Two that sound like they have lead feet early in the morning.

And just as I was trying to think positive thoughts, that maybe all of this might work, someone sent me a link to a video that displays the James Bond capabilities of a squirrel to perfection. Check out Squirrel Obstacle Course. I sincerely hope ours are not as smart as the ones in this video!

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Dog Shaman

Once a week Cassie Sawyer and I work with an elderly black lab named Max, who used to be quite athletic, but advancing years have slowed him down and made him stiff. Cassie does massage and acupressure with him, and I do Reiki, shamanism and animal communication. The purpose of the sessions is to give him better quality of life through increased mobility, good energy balance and flow, and reduced pain. He has gotten quite used to our sessions, now as soon as we approach he lies down and obligingly presents one side for us to begin his session. His walking and vitality have improved as well.

That particular week the lab’s person had to leave early and it was her mother that spoke with us at the end of the session. She shared that she and her daughter had taken a walk the other day in my neighborhood and that she was very inspired by my garden with its Certified Wildlife Habitat sign. She was curious about how she might be able to do that for herself even though she lived in a condo, so I told her about the campaign that the National Wildlife Federation is running nationwide to make every backyard a certified wildlife habitat. So many habitats have been certified in the Pacific Northwest that we may become the first certified region, which I think is wonderful.

Then she dropped the line that made me smile, she said that as they walked past her daughter pointed out my home office and told her that that was where her dog’s shaman lived. The phrase just struck me as humorous, it is not every dog who can say they have their own personal shaman!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Pachamama's Ambassador

This past weekend I taught the last class of the shamanic 4-part series Spirited Living: A Shamanic Journey into Self-Healing.

On Saturday night we had a potluck dinner before the fire ceremony. As part of the Peruvian shamanic tradition we have a single bowl set aside into which each person places something from their plate. This offering of the first and best to Pachamama (Mother Earth) is done in thanksgiving for all that we have received and enjoy with this meal. The Pachamama Bowl is then taken outside and placed on the ground and left overnight. Usually the contents are gone by next day.

That night we gathered under an almost full moon for our last fire ceremony together. As was usual my dog, Puma, joined us, however this time he snuck away at some point and went off exploring. I had to push my concern away and focus on the ceremony, something I managed to do until he came back quite damp, and I had a moment of angst wondering what mischief he had been up to, but decided that I would not ask. Sometimes with dog moms it is better not to know!

Next day we had leftovers from the previous night’s dinner for lunch, and again we put out the Pachamama Bowl in offering. With a sense of satisfaction I noticed that the previous night’s offering was gone.

Later in the day we again went outside for another fire. This time we were burning individual despachos to give thanks for all that we had received in healing during the training as well as to bring ayni (balance and harmony) to who we were becoming.

I noticed that Puma was quite eager to join us; he bounded down the stairs ahead of everyone. Once outside the reason for his haste became clearer; he made a beeline straight for the Pachamama Bowl, and quickly gulped down the contents!

The students have now tagged Puma with the nickname “Pachapuma” in honor of his chosen role as representative for Pachamama.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

It Takes A Cat to Create A Village

It is with deep sorrow that I announce the passing of a truly great personality and personal friend, Gracie the cat.

Last night, at about midnight, there came a knock on my door. It was my neighbor Casey, and she was obviously in distress. Apparently Gracie had been found in a neighbor’s yard after having been missing for several days, and she was not looking good. Casey said she did not think Gracie would last the night and asked if I would come and see her. In my official capacity as an animal energy healer I would have done this anyway, but as Gracie and I had shared special moments as friends I immediately replied that I would be there.

While I gathered my mesa and other healing tools together I reflected on our friendship. Gracie had the most open and trusting heart of anyone I had ever met. Everyone, friend or stranger, was greeted with joy by Gracie. Apparently she had never met someone she did not want to know, and in conversation with the neighbors I discovered that she literally knew more people on the block than any of us did (see Gracie the Cat Star). She would run down the sidewalk or cross the street to greet you, meowing in welcome, and when she reached you there would be purring and great affectionate gestures. If you were really open to her, and willing to crouch down a bit to her level, she would make her way into your lap, eventually placing herself across your shoulder, rumbling purr vibrating in your ear. A little kneading to soften you up further, and when you were putty in her capable feline paws, she would drape herself, like a boa, around your neck.

When she was in need of healing she would instigate a variation on this theme (see Gracie the Cat and Fireworks); she would lie in wait outside my house, and when she had my attention she would curl herself up in my arms, tuck her head under my chin, and get as close to my heart chakra as possible. At those times I could feel how open she was; Gracie was 8 lbs. of unconditional love, and my feelings of affection for her would just well up.

As I recalled her energy, her sunny disposition, and the many memories I had of her including my recent pajama-clad photo shoot of Gracie (see Gracie by Morning Light) I felt fear that she might be lost to us. What would we all do without her?

As I entered Casey’s house to see if there was anything I could do to help Gracie I made a deliberate effort to put those fears and memories aside so that I could best be a hollow bone for the healing energy that she would need. At my first sight of her my heart sank into my feet, she could barely raise her head, and she seemed very out of touch with her surroundings. As I knelt by the chair I acknowledged that we might lose her and put that feeling aside.

And then it happened—Gracie broke through my hard-won professional balance. She heard my voice; the voice of the person who had always helped her when she had been sick in the past, and although she was very weak, she began to crawl toward my heart chakra which was level with her on the chair. As I leaned forward to meet her Gracie shoved her face into my chest and wrapped her right paw around my bare arm, claws digging into my skin and leaving marks, and she hung on for dear life like someone drowning, I could feel the tension and the fear in her and there was no purring this time. At her demonstration of complete trust in me I felt my heart break into little pieces, and I had to put that aside, too. Gracie needed me.

As I began to assess her energetically I could feel some strange kind of disturbance in her upper energy field, something like disconnected signals. I dimly registered that information and continued looking for what might be causing the problem. She did not appear to have any external injuries, there was some evidence of what was probably arthritis (Gracie was 13), but nothing jumped out at me for what could cause these symptoms, and it became clear to me that Gracie was not going to be able to tell me, Whatever was going on was causing her ability to communicate to break down.

At this point I needed to open my mesa and turn the session over to the universe. When in doubt my philosophy has always been to get out of the way and let the energy and the client dialogue. It is then that miracles can occur.

It became very clear to me that I could not disengage Gracie to open my mesa in order to open sacred space, thereby create a place for healing between the worlds (consensual reality and the spirit world; this is the realm of the shaman). Gracie made it very clear that physical contact was emotionally important to her, and she wanted to be able to draw on the Reiki energy freely. I had to ask Casey to open my mesa and to distribute the stones in a circle around Gracie and I. It is a tribute to my mesa that it allowed this, as the general rule is that no one handles the mesa except the shaman.

As Casey distributed the stones, and the rest of her family watched quietly, the energy began to build. Search as I might I could not see a thread of possibility that led to Gracie surviving this, but neither could I find certainty that she would not. I set my intention for her highest healing good, allowing the shamanic energy to enfold both of us, opening my feelings, feeding the energy with my love for her, and at the same time attempting to put aside my fear of loss.

I performed a Reiki attunement for her, re-connecting her fully to Source for her highest mental, emotional, physical and spiritual well-being, and I could gradually feel the tension in her body ease, her fear subside. She entered a trance-like stage of healing where I sensed her soul journeying through the universe. Her breathing slowed, and I wondered if possibly she might choose to use the energy to leave her body permanently. As I had no idea of the outcome I clearly set intent for her to receive whatever she needed. I built a Bridge of Light for her so that whenever it was her time to leave she might do so in as joyful and a painless a fashion as possible, and then be met and guided to wherever she was to go next.

When we finished Gracie was calm, but still clearly not right. Realizing that we had done all that was possible, it was now time to get her to a vet.

As Gracie drove off with her family my heart was heavy with the sense that I might never see her in body again. When I re-entered my house my animals clearly picked up on how I was feeling and decided that it was time to lighten me up. So, at 1:00 a.m. we had a silly play session, re-affirming our connection to one another and joy in life. When I finally crashed for the night all the cats snuggled up with me, blanketing me in care and concern.

I woke up once during the night with the sense that something had happened, but it was not until after noontime that I learned that Gracie had passed. All tests at the Burien emergency clinic showed no elevated levels of anything, however her behaviors indicated neurological compromise, and the conclusion was that Gracie had a brain tumor. With great difficulty her family made the decision to humanely euthanize her.

When Casey called me the next day I heard in her voice that my worst fear was confirmed—Gracie was gone. A part of me was glad that she would not continue to suffer as she clearly had been; another part keened in grief at the thought that she would never wrap her paws around me again. It was as though for me a light had gone out in the world.

Casey shared with me some of Gracie’s early life. Apparently Casey and her then-husband had been looking to adopt from the shelter. Casey said she did not see Gracie because she is short, and Gracie was in a top cage, but her tall husband saw this paw reaching out at them, and suggested they check out the eager cat.

In the petting room Gracie leapt from one lap to the next in a frenzy of affection. She had been found behind a building with her kittens and was about one year-old. The kittens were weaned and Gracie needed some more beings to love. Casey and her husband complied and adopted her.

So, how did an unwanted stray with no place to raise a family maintain an unlimited amount of trust in the goodness of the universe and the kindness of mankind? I have no idea, I only know that Gracie is my hero. As the neighbors and I carried the news of her passing from one house to the next, and stories were shared, I realized that Gracie, a small gray and white tabby of unknown origins, had woven a thread of friendly connection through a block of disconnected people simply through the power of her unconditional love. One little cat created a village.

Good-night, Gracie, may your legacy of love live on.

In memory of Gracie I invite you to post your comments and share your memories of Gracie here, or perhaps you have stories of other animals who have inspired or blessed your life like Gracie blessed ours.

There will be a Peruvian despacho ceremony held at Wild Reiki and Shamanic Healing LLC for all friends of Gracie once her ashes are returned. A death despacho is a beautiful celebration of the life of the individual and all participants get to share in the ceremony and add their prayers and memories. A notice will be sent out at that time.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Who's Alpha Now?

I recently went on a road trip to Eastern Washington to visit Kimberly who is interested in turning her property into a workshop retreat center. Newly-minted Reiki Master Teacher Rhonda Hanley and my dog Puma were also part of the adventure.

Kimberly and all of her animals (cats, dogs, horses, donkey) welcomed us heartily. Puma had never really seen horses up close, and it was interesting to note that he attempted to communicate with them as though they were really big dogs, turning his body sideways so that they could sniff and wagging his tail to let them know he had friendly intentions. One of Kimberly's horses, Tulle, kept an eye on Puma throughout the visit. I think she was trying to figure out if he was part wolf (-:

Tulle has a dominating nature, she was trying to show him who was alpha as Puma is an alpha dog. Puma, bless his heart, ceded the field to what he considered a vastly larger being. His respect did not extend to staying out of the grazing area—while I was doing some Reiki and shamanic work with one of the horses Puma felt he needed to be part of the action (as he is in my healing practice) and perhaps protect me from the other large horses who were crowding around me wanting to be part of the action, too. This led to a somewhat tense moment as he ducked under the fence, and being on his leash could not easily get back to the safe side. I had to move quickly to get to him first; Tulle was clearly intent on teaching him whose pasture it was!

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Tikki, Photographer's Model

I have many cat friends throughout the neighborhood, Gracie, who I have blogged about before, is one of them. Another is Tikki, the calico cat who lives next door.

I first met Tikki before I met the new human neighbors that she shares a household with. She strolled into my cellar while I was doing laundry, introduced herself, and, for the first of many occasions to follow, appointed herself my companion and project overseer. As long as my cat, Kiya is not outside with me Tikki will be by my side, being companionable and offering comments from time to time. If Kiya is out, Tikki sees how far she can push her luck, testing Kiya’s jealousy meter to see how close she is allowed to hang with me that day.

This week I needed to get some shots of some new pendulums I had gotten in for sale and that I wanted to offer on the internet. I did not have the proper lighting for an indoor shoot so I thought I would experiment with setting up in the natural light at sunset outside in my front yard.

I used a black wool cloak from Peru as a background, and made certain to clean it carefully of animal fur (living in a multiple cat/dog household always offers these challenges). I draped the cloak carefully over my Adirondack chair and then created an ingenious way of suspending the pendulums against the background. With all in place I got my camera and began taking a few shots. I did not get very far before Tikki showed up and, sizing up the situation, she determined that there was definitely something missing from the composition…her!

Despite my verbal protests, which of course included pleas to not get cat hair on the cloak, she climbed up on the chair, turned to face the camera, struck a pose and stretched both front paws out with an expression of great satisfaction. And note, she was very careful to not even brush her very fluffy tail on the cloak and pendulum display. I could not resist such thoughtfulness, forcefulness and charm, I took many photos of her, one of which appears here. I regret to say that the product shoot was not a success, but thanks to Tikki’s wisdom I did at least get a great picture of her and a wonderful memory (and she now has her own greeting card, note cards, and journal too).

Monday, August 6, 2007

Gourmet Recycling

Like many people I lead a busy life. As an entrepreneur I wear many hats in my business and practice, and in my personal life I am sole caregiver for several cats and one dog. Sometimes this means easy-to-fix meals for myself consumed while working at the computer. And at the end of the week it can also mean overlooked leftovers and food items that are not spoiled, but that are not fresh as I would like them to be.

Rather than toss the food in the garbage, or the yard waste recycling bin, if it's not spoiled I'll offer it to the local wildlife first and see what happens.

This has resulted in some very interesting and unusual discoveries. It is very clear that crows have taste buds and preferences for certain foods. For example, if you place out a variety of disparate items such as fruit, garlic mashed potatoes, cream cheese, and gourmet cheese, most crows will go for the garlic mashed potatoes first, followed by the cheeses, leaving the fruit. Who knew that crows liked dairy products? And it is a very funny sight to see a crow with cream cheese squeezing out either side of his face trying to grab just a little more before flying off!

Another day's offering included cheez-it type crackers, BBQ potato chips, and cheese puffs. That day afforded me a bird ballet, as the crows would fly off with a tidbit (BBQ chips first, then cheez-its, and finally the puffs) and then a wave of starlings would sweep in followed by a phalanx of sparrows. As the crows returned the smaller birds would retreat. It looked like a beautiful and carefully choreographed display, and the ground was clear of food in no time.

Today's offering was cherries and cream cheese. I was alerted by crow alarm calls to the presence of a different form of wildlife in the courtyard, one of the local cats was sampling the cream cheese! I laughed as I took her picture because you can see the footprints of a former cat resident in the cement next to her.

A while later one of the three triplet squirrels born in my attic this past spring found himself a treasure trove of cherries. Daintily consuming the first cherry, after finishing he neatly buried the pit in one of the cracks in the cement. Hopefully we will not have a tree growing there next spring!

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Gracie by Morning Light

As outgoing as Gracie is, being the official greeter of our block, still she is shy of paparazzi. Rhonda, one of my Reiki Master students, has been armed with camera for the last several weeks. Every time she has come by for class she has kept an eye out for a Gracie sighting, with hopes of being granted a photo op. So far Rhonda has landed only one opportunity, and of course on that momentous occasion she had been late for an appointment and could not dally for more than a couple of shots.

And, of course, Gracie is not an easy subject because she is so friendly (see Gracie the Cat Star). As seen in the photo that accompanies that blog, the best shot that Rhonda was able to capture was at very close range with Gracie sitting on her knee. (Check out Rhonda's other photos.)

Many students and clients have quizzed me on whether they have had a Gracie sighting, offering descriptions of every other cat on the street (and there are quite a few). It was really driven home to me this past weekend while teaching Reiki Level I class just how much of a celebrity Gracie has become. While the students were practicing offering Reiki through chair sessions someone spotted Gracie across the street. There was a sudden rush of excitement that went through the class and I noticed that the students that were receiving Reiki had to quell an impulse to stand up and try to see her!

Yesterday morning as I greeted the day and looked out my windows across the street, I saw Gracie enjoying a morning sunbath before beginning her busy day of greetings and rounds. In the spirit of a true paparazzi I grabbed my camera, ignoring the exclamations of disappointment from my animals who were expecting their breakfasts, and headed out the door in my pajamas.

Despite the fact that she had not yet completed her morning toilette, sans briskly groomed fur or breakfast, Gracie graciously consented to a star turn in front of the camera. Several shots were taken in the doorway, with Gracie even turning her head to present a perfect profile. Next she posed surveying her domain, and then obliged me with her signature walk, always used when hurrying to greet her next new friend. I thanked her profusely for taking the time to work with me, she curled up against my side for a moment of affection, and then strolled off to begin her day.

And so, you see it here first, folks, a star is born! And since every star has her fan memorabilia, Gracie now has her own greeting card, journal, note cards, and pin-up poster!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Call of the Wild

I’ve been busy this week revamping the greeting cards section of my Animal Art & Gifts site. Greeting cards are now available as single cards at only $3.49, making it easier to mix and match rather than having to purchase a group of the same design! This means you can stock up on the great series which focus on shamanism, cats as urban tigers, joyful and expressive dogs, and many other images promoting our connection to the natural world.

Even better, there’s a new greeting card available featuring the art of Robert Blehert in the form of an incredible impressionist-style painting of a wolf.

Robert is a friend of mine, and he had been working on some paintings for the recent fund-raising auction for the local Seattle Woodland Park Zoo. When he sent me an advance image of the wolf I fell in love with it and asked his permission to add it to my greeting cards (the wolf is also available as a journal). In addition to the wolf image I also carry Robert's gorgeous "Cat Think" painting as a greeting card, ornament and magnet.

If you would like to see more of Robert’s Blehert's paintings you can visit his website.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Gracie the Cat Star

Yesterday I paid a visit to Alki Art and Gifts. Located several doors down from me, just off Alki Avenue, they feature gifts by local artists and I wanted to see if they would be interested in featuring some of my animal art from my online store.

When I mentioned to the woman in charge that I lived on the same street she immediately asked, "Oh, do you know Gracie the cat?" I smiled and shared that I lived across the street from her, and that Gracie's story had actually inaugurated my blog. After some discussion of Gracie's wonderful nature she requested my blog address so that she could read about her. I was happy to supply same and left after obtaining the information that I could talk to the owner the following day regarding my gift art.

When I returned to the store the owner, Alina, startled me by telling me that Gracie often came in and entertained the customers! My goodness, that cat gets around! I have seen her at every BBQ and yard sale on the street, checking things out and chatting with everyone who passes. If Gracie were the gossiping type I imagine she could tell stories about all the neighbors, but fortunately she is an affectionate soul who wants nothing more than some loving attention.

So, I guess I'm famous because I live across the street from Gracie, the neighborhood icon. Perhaps I can get a testimonial from her for my healing services (see previous post Gracie the Cat and Fireworks). I can be healer to the cat stars (-:

Friday, July 13, 2007

After the Pet Food Recall:
Why natural is the way to go

For years I thought I fed my companion animals a good compromise diet. Neither expensive and “boutique” or bargain basement “supermarket.” A good quality, middle of the road compromise. I resisted any efforts or education to examine higher quality foods or raw food diets, which I thought excessive, costly, and time consuming. And one of my cats paid the price for that decision. He threw up daily, and had never really did well from the time I brought him home as a little black and white kitten. He was always very slender and almost frail looking. I thought it was his breeding, part Siamese, or just a weak stomach. Boy, was I wrong.

When I moved from the East coast to Seattle I was no longer able to obtain the same brand I had been feeding, and was forced to consider other options. So, I changed the diet of all my animals, and was stunned by the results for EVERYONE. Shaman stopped throwing up as soon as I changed the food. Within a month all of my animals’ (dog and cats) coats became silky and glossy, and Shaman finally filled out to average rather than skeletal. All because I changed their food. That simple. (Shaman, now 15 years young, appears in the photo.)

Is your dog or cat’s fur dry or dull looking?
Do they have dandruff?
Need to be bathed frequently?
Does your cat or dog scratch constantly? Groom excessively?
Have they created “hot spots,” (open wounds from licking)?
Does an area of their body feel hot to the touch?
Are they hyperactive/have difficulty relaxing?
Do they have seizures?
Do they exhibit strange behaviors, such as dirt eating or ingestion of foreign objects?
Are they obsessed with food?
Will they only eat one brand of food?

If the answer to any one of these is "yes," you need to consider changing their diet because chances are food may be causing the behavior. Even if they are not exhibiting any of the above you should still read up on pet foods because what you learn could not only lengthen the lifespan of your companion, but lower your vet bills and give your pet a brand new healthy look.

If you buy your food at the supermarket, discount outlet, or even your vet (most vets receive no training on nutrition in school, and base their food recommendations on the reps of the pet food companies) there is a good chance that you are not giving your loved companion a diet that will help them stay physically healthy and emotionally balanced. The reality and bottom line are that not all pet foods are created even remotely equal. It is true that you get what you pay for. Think about it, how can a food contain plump, juicy chicken and prime cuts of beef and still cost only $4 for a 5 lb. bag? Our companions are carnivores and there is no way that you can buy a prime cut of meat for less than $1 a pound.

So, what else is in a bag of dog or cat food that makes up the rest of that weight? Fillers. Wheat, soy, corn, peanut hulls, and possibly even the sweepings off of the factory floor. Little of which would ever be in your pet’s diet in the wild. Think wholesome and natural and choose accordingly. Think, “What do wolves eat? Cougars?” Do either of these animals eat grains? No. Many companion animals who exhibit itchy, scratchy behaviors have allergies to ingredients they would not normally encounter in nature. Our dogs and cats do best on diets that use high quality animal sources for protein, not plants.

Then there are the additives and chemical preservatives, some of which can be addictive, resulting in the animal desiring only that one food brand—other agents, such as BHA, BHT, and ethoxyquin, are potential carcinogens.

Now for the stunner, unlike human food there are no regulations governing where the protein sources in your pet’s food come from. This means that the meat in your food can come from downer animals (which can have any number of health problems) and that have been euthanized by lethal injection. Those drugs are NOT destroyed during the processing and hence go directly into your pet’s body. It also means that all the leftover parts that we don’t eat, such as hooves, feathers, beaks, horn, etc. can legally be added to your pet’s food, and are included in the label under “Chicken By-Products, Poultry By-Product Meal, or Meat and Bone Meal.” There’s nothing wrong with these animal parts, they just do not constitute a good, high quality protein source. The manufacturers are required to gauge the percentage of protein in the food, but are not required to disclose or consider the protein sources.

A little known fact is that three of the five major pet food companies in the U.S. are subsidiaries of major multinational companies, for example Nestle (Alpo, Fancy Feast, Friskies, Mighty Dog, and Ralston Purina products such as Dog Chow, ProPlan, and Purina One). What this means is that multinational companies that create human food products have a secondary market for all of their waste products; those by-products that are deemed not fit for human consumption.

What can you do? Research on the internet is a very good place to begin. One excellent site is maintained by the Animal Protection Institute. In addition to clear information about what is in your pet foods they also have a list of suggestions and further reading lists.

Seek out non-chain, natural pet food stores and ask questions. Most of the time the staff are quite well educated as to what is in the food they sell and which one might best fit your dog or cat’s individual needs. Evaluate raw, natural food diets, or consider adding some natural foods to a high quality kibble (dry food) diet. There are many excellent options to fit your lifestyle and comfort zone.

If you are changing over to a new food what you are looking for is one that contains human grade quality ingredients, with whole chicken or chicken meal (for example) listed first on the label. Also note that while higher quality food will cost more per pound than a lesser quality food you will actually have to feed less of the quality food because it contains more nutrition per pound.

If you do decide to change your animal’s food do so gradually, say over the course of a week. Add more and more of the new food and less of the old. Because of the addictive nature of some foods your companion may resist the change at first and will undergo a gradual detoxification process which is what happened with my own dog when I first adopted him. He had been used to a very cheap, poor quality “supermarket” brand and would not eat the higher quality food at first. Be persistent, your companion will not allow themselves to starve to death no matter how much they may dramatize! Please note that not every food, no matter how high the quality, is right for every animal. Some do better on one food than another. If diarrhea results from the changeover, it may be due to the detoxification process or your companion may do better on another food with a different protein source—chicken, lamb, turkey, buffalo, salmon, etc.

Here are a few quality foods to research: Canidae, Merrick, Solid Gold, Wellness, Wysong, Precise, Newman's Own, Pet Guard, Innova, Origen, Timberwolf Organics (see Nutrition Resources on my Wild Reiki & Shamanic Healing website for listings and sources). (Addition: please note that due to the massive and tragic pet food recall it would be wise to check out sites such as Little Big Cat for the latest information before buying.)

So, let what you feed your animal be the first line of defense in helping your companion lead a long and happy life. You’ll be amazed at the difference and they’ll love you for it.

©Rose De Dan 2004, updated 2007. All rights reserved.

Monday, July 9, 2007

got reiki?

A three year-old brightened my day recently.

His father is my Japanese-style acupuncturist, and is also the person who created the beautiful old style calligraphy of the Reiki kanji for my Reiki store and practice. As a thank you I gave him a t-shirt for his son, Ryan. On the front it says got reiki? and on the back is the kanji.

Ryan’s mother shared with me that he is going through a stage where he like to wear t-shirts with words on them, such as “Superman” and “Spiderman” so that he can say what is printed there. One morning he chose my “got reiki?” t-shirt and when his mother asked him what it said, he enthusiastically exclaimed, “Rose!”

Now that’s what I call brand identification! So, need reiki? Think of me (-:

Friday, July 6, 2007

Gracie the Cat and Fireworks

Gracie is a little grey tabby & white female cat who lives across the street from me, and is considered the neighborhood greeter. She is friendly with everyone who walks down the street, and despite the fact that she is wearing a collar I have had to come to her rescue several times to prevent her being carried off by well-meaning people who thought she was lost.

She has figured out what I do, and when Gracie is not feeling well she will march across the street and demand some energy healing from me. Every time that has happened I have had to let her person know that she needs a vet visit, and each time she has required medical attention in addition to Reiki and shamanic healing. Her person was kind enough to gift me at Christmas with a gift certificate as thanks for Gracie's impromptu sessions.

Very affectionate and appreciative when she receives Reiki, Gracie purrs, kneads, and often positions herself in my arms like a baby, belly uppermost, and then she gets this incredibly blissed-out look on her face, and sticks her tongue out. If she is really transported, she drools. Of course every time she does this my arms are too full to take a picture!

Yesterday, first thing in the morning, Gracie met me at my front door. She was crying and asking to be picked up. When I obliged she immediately snuggled into my neck, tucked her head in tight under my chin, placed her front paws delicately on top of both of my collarbones and then began to knead, gently shredding my skin. Although she purred with pleasure, her mental voice tone was complaining and frightened. She told me all about how awful the fireworks were the night before and how scared she was. It was not physical healing she needed this time, but emotional. So as I used Reiki for emotional/spiritual healing I also rocked her from side to side as you would a child who was scared of the monsters. It was truly heart-breaking, and gave me deeper insight than ever before into how traumatic our celebrations can be for animals.

I think this time when I tell Gracie's person about her visit I may recommend a crystal essence mist by Vi Miere called Panic Ease that I use with my clients' animals who have fear issues around thunderstorms, fireworks, and other scary things. I will suggest that her person use the mist for three weeks, misting 3-4 times daily above Gracie so that the spritz falls like a mist down on her and her energy field, and then use the mist as needed particularly around challenging times such as the 4th of July and New Year's Eve.

I am happy to report that when I finally put Gracie down she marched off with her tail in her usual self-confident and upright position. I love a satisfied customer!