Category Archives: animal behavior

Katie Does Grief Counseling

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Most people, and maybe animals too, feel better if they know their deceased loved ones are OK.  In this sweet story, given to me by someone who has lived with many fine dogs, a beloved pet takes it upon herself to deliver the news of her death:

Katie Scarlett

My partner and I found a German Shepherd/Blue Heeler puppy on Central Avenue. The puppy was trying to lick water from a puddle and tossing her head back with each lick. I ran to pick her up and saw that a very tight flea collar had grown into her neck. We rushed her to the vet and had it removed.

We named her Katie Scarlett because of her strong will to survive. Katie was severely dehydrated and malnourished. We thought she was about 3 months old, but the vet said she was closer to 6 months old and severely deprived of care.

Katie became the sweetest, most gentle dog we had ever known. She was so careful with our grandkids, cats and other dogs. She was fiercely protective of our home and our family.

When her fur finally grew back, Katie was a beautiful brindle girl. We affectionately called her our “Jamoca almond swirl girl.” She slept on the foot of our bed for 15 years. We took her to work with us, camping, hiking, and swimming in the lakes, ponds and rivers.

As Katie aged, her hips began to cause her discomfort. We found alternative treatments so she could live life to the fullest pain free.

At the end of her 15th year, mobility once again became an issue. My partner knew that Katie was beginning her transition to the other side. Katie had always loved to sleep late, but she began to rise early and stare out the windows at the sky. It appeared she was seeing things not available to us.

My partner needed to go away for a few weeks and she was fearful that Katie might pass while she was gone. She spent time with Katie letting her know how deeply she would always be loved and how cherished she would always be. She told Katie if she had to leave, it would be okay. She assured Katie that we would miss her terribly but we would be okay and we would all be together again someday.

A week after my partner left on her trip, Katie left her tired earthly body behind. I was devastated and did not want to ruin my partner’s trip by sharing the sad news. I saw no need to tell bad news in a hurry.

Katie handled that for me. Late that evening, my partner called in tears. She told me Katie had come to her room and laid on the foot of her bed. As she reached to touch her, Katie flew away.

We do not die. We will all be together again. This life is but one of many. Katie was one of the very best blessings I ever received. I will be so happy to be with her again.

— Judy Talley

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More Healing Mandalas from CJ, and Her New Book on the Wolves!

Mandala055I am beyond delighted to tell you that CJ Rogers’ first book, Raised By Wolves: A Pack Odyssey has been published and is now available.  It tells the story of her first four years of living with and learning from the wolves.  She has a great deal more still to say about the couple of decades between then and now, and further books are in the works.

http://www.amazon.com/Raised-Wolves-Odyssey-CJ-Rogers-ebook/dp/B01BUI0TTM/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1458078390&sr=1-1&keywords=cj+rogers+wolves

You may remember that CJ is known as the Jane Goodall of wolves.  She knows them more intimately than perhaps any other human on the planet.  If you have any interest in wolves themselves, the development of early human societies and our relationship with canines, or the natural world in general, you will find a lot to think about here.

When I introduced you to CJ’s fascinating artwork a while back, for some reason I was unable to access the website that houses many of her mandalas, and all I had to show you was a few poor-quality photos.  Here is a look at the huge bounty of designs she’s done, including some new ones:

http://www.cjmandalas.com/

CJ was describing to me how life-saving this process of drawing mandalas has been for her during times of the most extreme pain and illness.  She has highly recommended that I try it, but my little attempts have not resulted in anything much so far.  Maybe you’ll have more success yourself?

CJ doesn’t have web access in the area of rural New Mexico where she lives, but please feel free to contact her through the website, and the message will be passed on to her.

 

 

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Healing Mandalas by CJ Rogers

toward I-40 from CJ's

Dr CJ Rogers lives in far western New Mexico, with a pack of wolves whom she cares for and studies.  She is known as “The Jane Goodall of Wolves.”  To get to her research station, you go waytheheck out from I-40, along a road that looks like this picture.

You can find out a bit about CJ’s* work and see photos of the wolves at http://raisedbywolvesinc.com/index.html.

The reason CJ and the animals are waytheheck out there is that when they lived closer to so-called civilization, people shot at the animals, and some were killed.  Even though they were quite safely kept behind a high chain-link fence and could not possibly have harmed anyone.  Some people seem to have the idea that any and all wolves should die, no matter where they are or what they’re doing.

That was a long time ago, but the trauma still reverberates.  In more recent years, some of the wolves have naturally reached the end of their lives and passed on.  Each one was a beloved, important, and individually known and understood member of the community, and each was greatly mourned.  The wolves have their own ways of dealing with grief.  CJ, who worked as a Jungian psychotherapist before the wolves came to her, painted mandalas to work through her thoughts and feelings.

These mandalas were done through an intuitive process with the symbols arising spontaneously, not planned ahead.  They have been put up on the Web in the past, but somehow became lost there, so I am taking this opportunity to put them in front of more eyes.  I wish I had had the equipment available, while visiting out there, to take clearer photos.  I also wish you could see the real thing close up, because they include dimensional gel ink and have texture as well as color.

Often mandala-making is recommended as a means of spiritual and psychological development or working out problems, finding out what’s in one’s head.  I’ve taken a class or two that involved it, but I couldn’t do anything remotely like this.  Recently, CJ recommended that I try making a mandala again.  I demurred, but then a patient brought me some adult coloring pages, with of course a mandala on top.  OK.  I pulled out the colored pencil collection and got started.

I hope you will enjoy these images whether you are inspired to try your own or not.  Feel free to zoom to see the rich detail.

CJ mandala 1

CJ mandala 2 cropped

CJ mandala 3

CJ mandala 4 cropped

CJ mandala 5 cropped

CJ mandala 6 cropped

Please note: Raised By Wolves is always in need of donations, but the address given for donations on the website is no longer correct.  If you would like to donate, and I hope you will, please contact me at EleneDOM@aol.com for the address.


* I don’t mean any disrespect in referring to Dr. Rogers this way– it just doesn’t feel right to call her by her formal title in this context.

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Bonding with Complex Creatures

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parrot

“Two colorful parrots from Jurong Bird Park of Singapore.”
(Image of macaws from Riza Nugraha on Flickr, Creative Commons license)

Our local PBS channel reran a 2013 Nature program, “Parrot Confidential.”  http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/parrot-confidential-parrot-confidential/8496/  It’s about the fascinating complexity of parrot brains and behavior, and makes the point that birds in the parrot family are wild animals that in many ways are unsuitable as pets. They have been extremely popular, though, and huge numbers of them are homeless refugees in the US, because people buy them and then find themselves unwilling or unable to keep them. A great many have been poached from the wild, and in an attempt to prevent that from happening, bird lovers have bred them domestically. Eventually this turned out to be compounding the problem, so breeders shut down their operations, and now everyone who wants a parrot is strongly encouraged to adopt one from a shelter. Habitat loss as well as poaching has threatened parrots in the wild, with the ironic result that their numbers in their native countries are decreasing even as shelters here are bursting at the seams.

But pet parrot overpopulation, while I want to spread the word about it, is not my main subject for today. I guess my subject is “bonding with complex creatures.” It seemed to me, when I watched the program, that the parrot experiences could teach us a great deal of what we humans need to understand about relationships.

One of the difficulties, and at the same time one of the joys, of living with a parrot is its deep attachment to its human companion. [Disclaimer: I do not live with a parrot and never have— I only know about this from observation.] The program explained why this is so. Parrots spend virtually all their time with their mate, and the human becomes a mate substitute and is also expected to give 100% attention. This is likely not what the human expected.

Among the parrots featured by the Nature team was a yellow-naped Amazon named Basil. He had done well with his human family for his first four years, bonding especially strongly with the husband, until he hit puberty. Then suddenly it was no longer okay that the husband was away a lot on business. The wife and kids became Basil’s targets, with the wife getting the brunt of his wrath. He would actually fly at her and attack her, and had to be locked in his cage to protect her and the children.

Parrot-Confidential-Basil1At one point during this period, the family wanted to take a vacation. They had friends who also had a male yellow-naped Amazon, and they asked to leave Basil at their house. Neither bird had ever had the opportunity to interact with another of his kind, and as soon as they met, they were best friends.

Two weeks went by, and Basil’s family returned. They put him in his cage and started out the door, and as they were leaving, the other bird, Coco, began to scream, with total clarity, “NO! NO! NO! NO! NO!” (And some people say that birds can’t use human language appropriately.) Well, no one could hear that heartrending sound and not be moved. They immediately brought Basil back, and it was decided that he would stay and be adopted by Coco’s family.

I was much moved by Coco’s pleas myself, and it seemed to me that what he was saying was something fundamental to all of us. More and more I think that relationships boil down to something very simple. Most creatures with some degree of awareness want to bond with others of their kind, or failing that, others of some kind.

If you put someone in a cage, they will not be at their best. One of the experts said that sometimes he is asked what the right size of cage for a macaw is, and he replies that it’s 35 square miles, their range in the wild. There is no right-sized cage, he said. For anyone, probably.

If you expect someone to act in a way that is contrary to their nature, your expectations will not be met. We were told that people ask for a bird that sings, that is quiet, and that doesn’t bite, and that there is no such species.

The main character in this presentation was Lou, a cockatoo who had been left alone to starve in his cage when his family’s house was foreclosed upon. The humans had just up and left him in the empty house. Fortunately, the neighbors noticed that something was amiss, and they had animal control come and look into the situation. The very traumatized and timid Lou was taken to a shelter filled with dozens of other cockatoos. He had to be quarantined for a month, and then he was placed into the aviary, still in his cage in order to protect him from possible aggression. When the staff finally decided it was safe to open his cage, he climbed to its roof, and a beautiful scene ensued. One of the females, Princess, sidled over to Lou in the most non-threatening and gentle way, with her back to him, as if to say, “Don’t mind me, not trying to bother you, just cleaning my wings over here.” Lou seemed to light up, and a moment later the two were preening each other’s neck feathers and clicking beaks as if they’d been together forever.

Humans make everything about relationships incredibly more complicated, with all sorts of arbitrary rules. I wonder if we could try just settling down with each other sometimes and sharing a nice piece of fruit or something.

 

We think of the natural world as a place of ruthless competition, but as Lynne McTaggart made clear in her book The Bond, cooperation is more prevalent and more beneficial. It can be shown rigorously, through game theory, that cooperation generally leads to the best outcomes for all. Many times, though, altruism seems to gain an animal nothing in particular except perhaps a pleasant feeling. McTaggart began the book* with an example of not a dog-eat-dog but a dog-help-dog story. It seems that her own dog was crazy about the dog next door, and although there was no advantage to be had for mating (both dogs being fixed), or anything at all other than friendship, he shared food and toys with her whenever he got the chance.

I know not every kind of animal enjoys company like this, but through the magical power of Facebook videos, I’ve marveled at the variety of animals who do. Even creatures as “unintelligent” as tortoises interact with other animals in fascinating and complex ways. Every species from bats to wombats seems to appreciate care and snuggling under the right circumstances. Humans are no different.

*http://thebond.net/ I went to find a link to the book for you, and found that there are other related materials available. Haven’t checked these out as yet.

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After working on this post during the afternoon, I attended a web meeting of a new organization that’s trying to form, based on Alex Loyd’s book Beyond Willpower. The central idea of the book is extremely simple: You can have love, or you can have fear. If you act out of love, things will generally go well, and if you act out of fear, they will tend to go badly. At the time that the book was published, earlier this year, I was encountering this idea over and over in various places. I don’t think there is a more important concept anywhere. It transforms everything. The group intends to help spread the transformation.

Aggression and other negative behaviors have fear at their core. There is fear of abandonment, for example, at the bottom of the violence Basil the parrot visited on his family when his preferred human was not at home. Humans have the choice to think more clearly about the reasons for their behavior and to change it for the better.

http://beyondwillpowertogether.com/

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