Monday, January 25, 2010

Vet your vet: Ellie likes Dr. Darwooalla, me too!

Consider, if you are looking for a veterinarian, setting up a friendly visit to 'vet the vet'. I was pretty sure I knew the veterinarian I wanted, Dr. Kayoomee Darwooalla (they don't have a website that I can find) of Bernarda Veterinary in Tucson. She was recommended by a friend, the same friend who recommended the housecall veterinarian (Dr. Lee Fike) that we use for critters who find the trip to vet more stressful than their dis-ease.

I'm partial to ayurvedic, traditional Chinese, holistic, complementary, and integrative medicines for animals (and humans). It can be difficult to find a veterinary practice that is integrative, so I'm glad that Bernarda fills that niche.

I requested about 15 minutes for Ellie to meet with Dr. D and the staff, so that Ellie's first trip to the vet would be 'fun'. I made a big production about going to see 'the vet lady' and we packed up our clicker, good treats, and made the short drive over. The waiting area was large and spacious, with some contented cats within a large kennel tucked out of the way. The vet techs were courteous and friendly with Ellie and with me, and we waited in a nice room furnished with futons instead of stainless steel. We practiced learning 'futon' while we waited.

Dr. D came in and I liked her instantly, with her confident, quiet, and smiling demeanor. She gave Ellie the time to come to her and respected Ellie's 'head-ducking' issue. We talked about Ellie's rather unknown past, she listened to her heart, and asked permission to look into her ears. Ellie's pool time has her on the cusp of an ear infection, and the recommendation? Dilute vinegar solution, and they gave me a little bottle marked for correct proportions.

Total cost? $15.80 - a bargain and a happy dog to boot.

Thanks, Dr.D and staff, for being a veterinary space that's comfortable for critters and for humans.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Curbing Cat Chasing: Update

You can see the difference in how Ellie expresses her interest in Socks. And, you can see Socks has transitioned from "Get the #$%@ away from me" to near nonchalance.

It's been a little over 3 months since Ellie a.k.a "Cat Chaser" came to our home. I started clicker training the cue to 'leave kitty' right away and progress was steady, if slow. Socks and Kafka (the kitty members of the family) both have some rudimentary clicker knowledge, so when the clicker came out, they would show up, hang around to get treated for hanging around so I could reward Ellie, then go off to mind their kitty business.

Kafka eventually started ignoring Ellie, so it became relatively easy for the two of them to be in the house together without constant supervision. Socks decided to reclaim the house, and did so relatively belligerently, so I was spending a lot of time clicking and rewarding the two of them, until they could be fairly close without a blow-up.

But, the true progress happened when Socks decided that being close to Ellie could be okay. Its my preference that the animals work out their relationships on their own as much as possible, so I try for as little direct interference as possible. I follow the clicker principle of rewarding what I like, and ignoring what I don't. It helps when the protagonists in our little get-along drama follow the same principles!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Ellie and the Animal Communicator: Part III

How did the session with Janet, an animal communicator, affect Ellie's and my relationship?

In our case, Janet's impressions and perceptions fit pretty closely with what we had surmised after living with Ellie for nearly 3 months. (You can read about that here.) Ellie is a free spirit, a Wild Child.

I took away from the session with Janet a stronger determination to explore how Ellie can express her spiritedness and yet be socially appropriate - how to find that common ground that honors her unique Wild Childness?

The session also helped me to more clearly understand Ellie's dharma, her work, her purpose, in connection to my own work. It isn't so much that I'm teaching her how to do her work, it's that I have to be open to what she has to teach me about partnerships with animals that go beyond obedience to arbitrary sets of rules.

I thought that's what I was already doing in my horse and dog work, but Ellie is helping me explore this on a different level. Would I have gotten to this place without our communication session? Maybe, but it would have been a longer journey.

It's still exasperating when she noses my hands off the computer keyboard, but she gives me that look like - haven't you been there long enough? Don't you really want to take a break and PLAY?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

What the Animal Communicator Said (Part II of III).

For context and assumptions and disclaimers, please read this first.

Reading on:

Our session began very quietly. I was in a comfortable chair, Ellie was hanging out on her rug by my feet, having had a walk and a nap. I called Janet, we exchanged a few pleasantries, she asked me if Ellie was present (she didn't actually need to be).

Janet asked if Ellie was slight and I commented she was of slight build, but was a German Shepherd Dog. Janet commented that Ellie was quiet, being reserved, and then Janet started laughing as she got a name 'wild child' (I laughed too). She commented that Ellie was a 'young soul' and quite happy to be a young soul, rather new at being a 'dog soul' and that Ellie thoroughly enjoyed being in her body.
She then went on to say that Ellie had little memory of siblings or puppyhood, wondering if maybe she had been taken from her mother quite early. She also said this wasn't an issue for Ellie, it just was what it was. Actually, for Ellie, said Janet, nothing is much of an issue, she's perfectly happy being who she is, she's happy being with us, happy chasing cats, happy doing whatever.

We started talking about the idea of bonding, which apparently is a somewhat novel idea to Ellie, and Janet and I both agreed that this would be unusual for a German Shepherd Dog. I asked Janet two questions: Is Ellie interested in bonding with humans, me specifically, and what emotional residuals might she have from having been given up by her previous people?

Ellie is intrigued by the whole bonding thing, and is willing to give it a try. She is willing to give anything a try, although she's pretty clear she intends to be who she is. Because she wasn't bonded to the people who gave her up, she doesn't seem to be much concerned with what went on before.

That was pretty much the end of the session.

As my husband, the scientist, says, "That isn't really anything that we didn't already surmise." True, but.

What happens next? In my world(one view), what we learn here is a type of information that likely involves perception and imagination that may or may not be useful. How does and can such information from an alternative perspective become a positive influence in our relationship with Ellie?

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Conversing with the Animal Communicator-Part 1.

If you are curious about animal communicators and how working with an animal communicator might fit in with working and playing with your dog (or other animal), then read on.

As a scientifically trained statistician/poet yogini, I look at working with a good animal communicator as sitting down with a good story. When I want to learn about something, I will usually read non-fiction scholarly works and non-fiction popular works, biographies and auto-biographies. However, I find I learn the most when I read the stories and poems of the people, listen to the music, and engage actively (when possible) with people of the culture.

It's not such a huge step to change the word 'people' into 'beings' and thus step into the story of the animal, in this case, the story of Ellie. Ellie's 'non-fiction' story has two elements, what we know before she came, and then my own observations since her arrival into our multi-species family. Her biography is slim-reading: She was surrendered to the humane society, (I don't know by whom), she's around 3 years old.

I know what I know from my observations - but - I also know that my observations can be 'clouded' from my own experiences (avidya) which is why I practice and study yoga. Working with one's own animals almost invariably involves emotional attachment, which can interfere with clear perception.

It can be helpful to obtain information from other sources, which you can then synthesize with what you already think you know. As with any kind of information, whether it be scientific observation, quantitative statistical analysis, or subjective observation of self, we usually begin with a set of assumptions. Here are the assumptions I make when working with an animal communicator:

1. The animal communicator communicates in human language impressions they receive from the dog - they act as a translator, so the words that are used are to make sense to the person, like interpreting for someone what the poem, "Kublai Khan" means.
2. Animals can communicate with people beyond body language.
3. People and animal communication is not constrained by spatial boundaries.

If I'm not willing to make the assumptions, then it's pointless to work in this modality. But I like exploring different modalities, Ellie and I were give a gift of a session with an animal communicator (Janet, mentioned in the above link) and so I'll report on the actual session in the next post.