How to Help Your Animals Heal Trauma

How to Help Your Animals Heal Trauma

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People are curious and have often asked me what happened to their pet before the pet came to live with them. As humans we are generally curious about the past and the future. The animals chose to live in the present moment instead of the past or future. Because so many of you have been asking similar questions, I asked my crew to help with this blog, as they’ve all been through some sort of trauma.

Trauma according to the dictionary is defined as, “a deeply distressing or disturbing experience; a physical injury.” Some animals refuse to talk about the past and some will only do so to help their mom or dad understand and to help heal an issue. It’s not that they don’t want the issue healed. Sometimes it’s too painful for their person to hear and they may not be ready to work through the issues yet. Sometimes they have already worked it out and it only serves as a reminder.

My fur kids are in the process of dealing with theirs — all at different levels. They want to help themselves and others by sharing parts of their stories. So here goes.

Trix and Charlie

Trix (short for Bella Trix) joined my family in Aug. 2007. All of her family had been taken to the Humane Society (HS) when she was only a few months old, so my daughter brought her home. She is very quiet and scared of things or people she doesn’t know. She only talks when it’s really important to her.

Charlie came in May 2011. He was given up to a friend when he was 1.5 years old because the couple was having another baby. They were going to put him down but the vet took him to find him a home instead. My friend Maggie lived on a farm that had a feral cat colony. Charlie was to be put in as part of a spay and neuter program the vet had and then Maggie was going to let him join the other cats.

My daughter was looking for an animal companion to stay with her while in college. She had her own apartment and plenty of room. I made the arrangements to adopt Charlie after the surgery. When he came back he was very upset because part of his left ear had been removed. A procedure known as tipping for feral cats, which is used to identify that they had been neutered and had updated vaccinations.

Charlie immediately bonded with Melissa and stayed with her until I moved to Arizona in Jan. 2013. For some reason he wanted to move with me, to this day he hasn’t shared why. I had been in AZ for only 8 months, when he was intentionally shot by a neighbor. We had just moved from Apache Junction to Scottsdale 2 days before and he was exploring the backyard sitting on the block wall.

DC

A neighbor cat — DC who had become Charlie’s best friend and eventually moved in with us — later died from trauma by the same neighbor.  His personality completely changed — he became withdrawn unless he felt like being a bully and is scared of most everything. He also developed bladder stones. We moved again, this time to Glendale.

Jackie and Daisey

Jasmine and Jewel are two sisters that came to me in September 2014. They have since changed their names to Daisey and Jackie (Jackie’s pictured above in the picture on the left and that’s Daisey on the right). I had been without a dog for several months, and my cats Trix and Charlie wanted to bring another one into the family. “It’s too quiet,” they said. I was OK with the quiet at least for a little while longer. But they kept at me.

At the Humane Society, Jackie was pacing, looking for a way out, and Daisey was lying on the dog cot. I knew they were the ones but checked out the rest just to make sure. I eventually went back to the girls I went.

I found out later that the two of them had experienced a lot of trauma. They had moved from Oregon to Phoenix and then given up to the H. S. probably because of the medical expenses. Daisey had both of her ear canals removed because of extreme, multiple ear infections. She had one surgery before going to the H.S. and the other was done at the H.S.

Jackie had literally gone crazy from all of the changes she had experienced. She had extreme separation anxiety. I couldn’t go anywhere in the house without her following me. Not even to take a shower. If she couldn’t see me she would howl or bark constantly or chew something.

Daisey was the complete opposite, a couch potato, very depressed and extremely sensitive of her ears. Jackie seemed to be having the same ear problems with chronic infections that nothing the vets gave touched. After a few months of testing foods, one of the causes was found to be an allergic reaction to any poultry, even the smallest amount found in treats would set off a reaction. Finally everything calmed down. Basically a vegetarian diet helped but not completely. Both have times when the ears become inflamed and irritated.

 

Mister

Mister came shortly after , about a month after the girls-he was just about a year old. He came up to me as I was leaving a mechanics shop in an industrial complex. The mechanics had been feeding him for a few days and didn’t know where he came from. I asked around at a few of the other businesses but no one claimed him.

Later, I asked him why he was out running around. He said that the people who he had been with had lots of dogs and used to hit him. He was very adamant about not going back. He was so scared of everything even his shadow. Each time I tried to find another home for him he would put on a sad face and chew stuff-so much anxiousness and then go hide. He is scared of most things, defensive and possessive.

Nikki

Nikki joined us in March 2015 after my sister passed unexpectedly. She had been there as my sister intentionally overdosed on oxytocin. My sister kept taking more and more pills over a weeks’ time especially the last 3 days until she didn’t wake up. Nikki tried to help my sister and stayed with her for over a day after her death. She then remained by herself at my sister’s house for 2 days until we realized that she was there.

It was then decided that both my nephew and Nikki would come stay with me for a while. Nikki stayed with me while my nephew returned to Maryland. Every night when I go to bed, she checks to see if I am ok. She jumps on me several times just to make sure I wake up until I tell her that I’m going to wake up after I rest. Then she wakes me in the morning asking me if I’m awake. I reassure her that I am still here and that she’s going to be ok. She is very quiet and scared.

Joshua

Joshua adopted all of us in Feb 2016. He had been hanging around the neighborhood and decided to move into the house despite not liking the dogs or Charlie. He invited himself into the house talking loudly at the door anytime he wanted in. If I didn’t let him in, he started scratching and banging on the door.

Joshua was tired of looking for food and being picked up in sweeps to be neutered, which had happened multiple times. He wanted a place to feel safe. Joshua is constantly cleaning himself, especially his stomach and legs, which he has done to the point where the hair is missing.

JJ & Dee

JJ and Dee arrived in July 2016 within a day of each other. JJ turned 2 in Jan and Dee is 8. JJ has extreme anxiety with a similar look and temperament as Jackie — they could be twins except JJ is much smaller. Her name was Gypsey but changed to JJ for Jackie jr- I suspect lol. She totally loves Jackie.

She had been kept in a crate most of the time and wasn’t house trained. She didn’t know what it was like to play or run around the yard. She lived in an apartment with a young couple who didn’t know about or have time for the responsibility of an active puppy. She is bossy, aggressive and possessive.

Dee was found wandering the streets and then brought to the H.S. He was given the name Larry but chose Dee shortly after coming to me. A lady wanted to replace the hurt in her heart after the loss of her dog that looked like Dee. She couldn’t handle him being with her and decided after 18 hous that she didn’t want him but wouldn’t take him back to the H.S.

I saw him on craigslist while helping animals find homes. He talks nonstop when he’s anxious and by that I mean barking. He also runs away when he can’t handle stuff. He’s learned that he has a safe and accepting home, but continues to bark excessively especially when stressed.

Resources

We shared these stories not to have anyone get mad, feel sad or sorry for anybody but so it help others heal from trauma they may have experienced.

As part of the healing process, I use the books The Secret Language of the Body by Inna Segal and How to Heal Your Life by Louise Hay. These work with the emotions and the physical results of the emotions when stored in the body.

I found that each of them reacted to the words from both books when I read parts to them. I had come home several times to find some of the books taken off of the shelves and either chewed or opened to the same page multiple times. The other books were not disturbed. I even left one or two on my desk just to see.

I also use Traditional Chinese medicine, which consists of diet, acupuncture and acupressure, as well as chiropractic when necessary. For the last few months, we have been working on forgiving all of those that have hurt us emotionally and physically. Several times a day, we say I forgive those that have hurt me, I forgive myself for hurting me and I forgive myself for hurting others. We sit together and I ask each of my kids to say it with me.

Sometimes some of them are not able to; sometimes they walk away or become angry. This is shown by growling, hissing, tears in the eyes (not just mine) or rolling the eyes (Jackie’s favorite). We are all healing our hearts and bodies with this process. Sometimes I cry during or later, sometimes I get angry, so I yell in my car or stand in the grass and ask the earth to release it for me.

Where We’re at Now

  • Jackie cries and sobs like a little kid that has been crying for a while.
  • Daisey is learning to play again as is JJ.
  • JJ and Mister are learning to share and not be so scared.
  • Dee is learning that he doesn’t have to yell all the time.
  • Nikki is opening up and has made friends with Charlie and Joshua.
  • Joshua has made friends with Charlie and JJ.
  • Trix just listens, unsure if any of this will work.

Jackie, I feel, has made the most headway. Her personality has totally changed. She is funny, loves to play and watch old shows like gun smoke. She loves cows and going to the hardware store. Sometimes the anxiety creeps in but I reassure all of them that they are safe.

When I leave the house I tell them that I will be back in a little while. I also leave either the TV or music on for them. Occasionally stuff still gets chewed up, fighting occurs or a physical symptom gets worse. But for the most part we have agreed to work through the issues that are causing us pain. They are working on insecurities that took over their beautiful personalities before trauma entered their lives. None felt that they were really loved.

When their true personality shines through, it’s like watching a beautiful sunset. Even though there is more work to be done-it’s amazing how far each of us has come. They are each discovering what unconditional love feels like again. I have been told by the animals that they are here to help us on our healing journey.

I hope this inspires each of you to work with the underlying emotions that are causing issues in your lives as well as your pets.

If you would like me to work with you and/or your animals to help you heal trauma, please email me, and I’ll get back to you to discuss the process and pricing.

Much love to each of you!

Terri

One Response

  1. Paula franchomme

    Terri- you are truly an inspiration. You and your kids have been blessed to have each other. Thanks for sharing all the stories with all of us and continue on your loving path with all creatures large and small. Those that live with you and those you touch just by passing through their lives…domestic and wild.

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