Understanding Our
Animal Companions

Why Is Barnaby Blue?

Barnaby, a collie mix, hasn’t been his usual cheerful self lately. Once he begged to go into the back yard, where he terrorized any squirrel foolish enough to enter his domain. Now when his human, Janet, urges him to go out, he lies in a patch of sun and takes no interest in the birds flying overhead or the squirrels that jeer at him from fence posts.

Janet becomes concerned and takes him to the vet. A complete physical reveals no problems. She asks Barnaby what’s wrong, but he isn’t talking.

One day she notices him staring out the window at the house next door. The new neighbors are carrying groceries into their kitchen. He stares for a while and then lays his head on his paws and closes his eyes. Insight strikes. Janet remembers the little boy from the family who recently moved. When he played in his back yard, Barnaby used to watch him for hours. Sometimes they raced each other along the fence. The little boy, who loved Barnaby, came with his mother for supervised play with the dog.

Now Janet understands Barnaby’s problem. He misses his little companion. He’s lonely and depressed.

Lola and Her Litter Box

Bill and Natalie got Lola and her brother, Braveheart, from a shelter when they were about ten weeks old. Already litter box trained, they adapted easily to using the litter box in the basement.

A few months after the kittens came to the house, the humans decided to turn the basement into a family room. They moved the litter box into the laundry room.

The kittens adjusted to the new location and used the litter box without incident until winter. At that time Lola began to urinate and defecate on the new rug in the family room, and no amount of persuasion or coercion could make her abandon this new habit.

Natalie took her to the vet, who diagnosed no medical problems. She asked Natalie if they’d recently changed the brand of cat litter and suggested that, as the cats grew older, two litter boxes would be a good idea.

Taking the vet’s advice, Natalie bought an additional litter box and put it in the bathroom that had been installed in the renovated basement area. The problem ceased at once.

Natalie thought that the new litter box had brought about the solution until one day when she was folding clothes in the laundry room. Lola poked her head into the room and was about to enter when the furnace went on. The cat raced away.

At first Natalie didn’t put the pieces together. Then she realized that the litter box problems had begun during the winter, when the furnace first gone on. For whatever reasons, the sound hadn’t bothered Braveheart, but Lola, who was generally more sensitive to noise, had become frightened and refused to use the litter box.

Animals Have Feelings, Too

Because you’re reading this, I’m going to assume that you recognize animals are capable of a full range of emotions. This is a viewpoint that deserves to be more widespread.

The idea that animals don’t feel pain and don’t have emotions has negative consequences for both animals and humans. The concept provides a false justification for much cruelty to animals. For example, scientists say it’s necessary to use animals for medical testing because they’re similar to humans. In almost the same breath, they say animals don’t feel pain because they’re not like humans.

Failure to recognize that animals do experience physical pain and emotional suffering affects human in that it both creates an artificial barrier between themselves and other animals and denies us the ability to recognize the richness of our own animal capacities.

Given the difficulty many people have in recognizing their connections to others of their species, it may not be surprising that they wish to consider themselves very different from “animals.” You, as an animal lover, know how strongly you’re connected to other species, and you may have the opportunity to persuade skeptics of this. For this purpose, I include the following quotation by Charles Darwin:

“It is overwhelmingly true that animals have emotional states and feelings. If one is close to animals it can be seen clearly, yet it is not something that people ought to be convinced of intellectually. There is no question in my mind that animals experience the range of emotions as people do: love, fear, anger, grief, joy and so forth.”

Animals Aren’t Humans

Having made much of the communality of humans and animals, I now want to point out how they differ, as these differences have an impact on how we understand the symptoms and behavior through which they are trying to tell us what’s bothering them.

Animals, although they are always trying to communicate to us, often don’t get their messages across. As humans, we are very focused on our mental and intellectual powers of communication. We love words.

Our animal companions, though they understand the words we speak to them far better than we imagine, communicate in other ways. When we pay attention to our animals, we learn to interpret their vocalizations. We know which sounds indicate pain, pleasure, or urgency. We discover how our animals communicate with body movement, facial expressions, and behavior. This ability is vital in deciding which Remedies and additional attention our animals may need.

Observing Animals

People who work professionally with animals, whether or not they’re animal psychics, develop familiarity with characteristic modes of animal communication and often are well informed about particular qualities of different breeds. Within this general background knowledge, they also have, through practice, gained the ability to evaluate an animal’s behavior without preconceptions.

While I believe that many human guardians have a deep, intuitive sense of their animal’s nature and behavior, people, when asked to observe their animals, may think this isn’t necessary because they believe they know them so well. When we put aside our assumptions, however, we can make new discoveries.

One obstacle I’ve noticed that stops many people from the kind of deeper understanding that can be so beneficial both for themselves and for their pets is the misunderstanding that they have to be “psychic” in order to do that.

Psychic, Intuitive, or Observant?

To return to the stories of Barnaby, the lonely dog, and Lola, the cat who wouldn’t use the litter box, in both cases their humans combined intuition and logic to understand the changed behavior.

Barnaby’s human noticed his intense observation of the new neighbors and had a sudden insight that this was a clue. When she used logic to wonder why, she remembered the little boy who had moved.

In Lola’s case, her human saw that the sound of the furnace coming on frightened the cat. She used logic to retrace the preceding events and realized that winter had marked the onset of the cat’s avoidance of the litter box in the laundry room.

For both humans success in identifying the changed behavior involved several stages.

They strongly desired answers.

This is essential. I believe that all of us are constantly gathering information on a subconscious level. Think of your mind as a huge library-or in more technologically current terms-an Internet packed with information. To access the information you want on the Web, you need appropriate search terms.

Because we are far more than machines, something more profound activates our search and our ability to find answers: love for our companion animals and the desire to help them return to balance. This means that we have to address those emotions within ourselves that may prevent us from finding the answers.

If Barnaby’s human had been annoyed because the dog wouldn’t go outside, if Lola’s human had been angry about the litter box “misbehavior,” they wouldn’t have found the answers so clearly. One reason for this is that they would have caused even more upset for the animals. The other is that negative emotion creates blockages that prevent the energy of creative solutions from flowing.

Remedies for Humans

Whatever Remedy you choose, keep the following in mind: Animals feel our emotions. A dog may try to please you, if it can make the connection between its behavior and your reaction to it. A cat is more likely to withdraw.

Consider also that, destructive as a form of behavior may seem to you, it’s often the only means an animal can find to de-stress itself. Alternatively, it may be a means of communicating with you about the root problem. That’s why identifying this problem is so important.

Remedies for Dissolving Negative Emotions About an Animal’s Behavior

Anger: Holly is the recommended remedy for anger. Dr. Bach described it as the Remedy that eliminates every emotion that isn’t love.

Judgment: Beech addresses intolerance and prejudice. Perhaps you had a dog that had what you remember as perfect behavior. The new puppy doesn’t meet these high standards, and you judge it accordingly.

Distaste for inappropriate elimination: Crab Apple is the recommended Remedy. It addresses a distaste that goes beyond irritation that another mess has to be cleaned up. This Remedy is for a level of distaste that may have nothing to do with the animal.

Frustration: Impatiens is recommended. (This is the easiest Bach Flower Remedy to remember.) In dealing with an animal, patience is probably the most important attitude to have. It makes both you and the animal feel more calm and balanced about your interactions.

Fear: Mimulus is the Remedy for known fears. You might, for example, have had a cat that was diabetic. When your new cat suddenly starts drinking a lot of water, you may immediately go into panic mode, being fearful that this cat, too, is diabetic. Taking Mimulus for your fear doesn’t mean you ignore the advisability of taking the cat to the vet for some tests. It means, however, that you can do so without communicating fear to the animal.

Note: If your fears graduate to terror, I recommend Rock Rose.

They believe that they can find the answers.

Begin by telling yourself that you are fully capable of understanding what your animal wants to communicate. Add to this statement the idea that you recognize this may not be an overnight accomplishment. Promise yourself that you will appreciate every insight you achieve.

You might also want to say to your dog or cat, either aloud or silently: “I want to understand you more. I know you understand me, and I’m the one who needs to pay closer attention. I’m asking you to help me.”

Your animal will understand, and you may be surprised at the many ways in which it will participate in this process.

Remedies to Build Trust in Yourself

Self-confidence: Larch is the Remedy for self-esteem, confidence, and self-love. It can be especially helpful if you tend to say things like, “Oh, I’ve never been able to do that” or “I wouldn’t even try that.”

Discouragement: Gentian is recommended for the early stages of discouragement. Often I recommend that it be taken with Larch. When one has the basic belief that (s)he can’t do something, (s)he is likely to be discouraged in the attempt.

Frustration: Impatiens. See above.

For those who don’t trust their own wisdom: Cerato is the recommended Remedy for people who must ask others what they should do in a situation. The designated authority may be a friend, a professional (like the vet), an animal psychic, or anyone but you. It does no harm to consult with others, but it should never be a substitute for your innate wisdom.

They are open to any answer, no matter how strange it may seem.

Barnaby’s human might have found it unlikely that he would have become so attached to that little boy. Lola’s companion might not have believed a cat could be frightened of a furnace.

Too often, the standard of believability is “I wouldn’t feel that way.” Your animal isn’t you. A dog isn’t a cat. Cat A isn’t Cat B. A good detective never overlooks any clue.

Helpful Remedies to Encourage Creative Thinking

As regards both of the Remedies listed below, I believe that those reading this material are looking for new approaches and new ways to view their animals. Thus, you are likely to be flexible and open-minded. However, you may know someone who isn’t, or you may have moments of frustration when good intentions go out the window. These Remedies may help.

Mental rigidity: I recommend Rock Water. Dogs and cats appreciate consistency and structure in their schedules, but, like humans, they sometimes like to break free. If a cat is tired of the same old thing to eat, or a dog wants to change the hour for its walk, taking Rock Water can assist you in lining up with their flexibility.

The need to be right and in charge: Vine. The need for Vine suggests some rigidity but more the need to be in charge and perhaps in control.

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