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What Our Relationships with Animals Can Teach Us: A Video Conversation


Many of us have a love and appreciation for animals. Some of us admire them from afar in Nature, while others of us take them into our homes and our hearts as beloved pets. In this video, Lisa Marcus and Deirdre Chitwood talk about Deirdre's longstanding relationship and ongoing love affair with animals - and what we can learn from them.


 



Lisa

I know you have a very special devotion in your life. And that's why I've asked you here today, to talk about your love of animals.


Deirdre

That's right, yes. I mean, I've been actually working with animals for about 20 years now. And I just realised I have this incredible passion. And that, you know, whenever I saw a dog, or a cat, or you know, squirrel in a tree, or birds migrating, it, it just lights me up. And in fact, only yesterday I was, I was at the fruit stand, and there was this little cat there, black and white, called Boston. And, you know, I just kind of sat down and had this little interaction with him. And this young girl came up, and the three of us just got into this magic place. And it was really, you know, the high point of my day. That's kind of how it is for me.


Lisa

So it's only been 20 years, it seems like, I know you for more than that and it's been forever with you.


Deirdre

It seems like it, yeah. Maybe it's a bit more actually, it might be more. But that's when I really started to focus and I became a practitioner of companion animals. I'm a Grade 2 now.


Lisa

Can you tell us a little bit of what that is?


Deirdre

Yeah, it's a, it's a very, it's a wonderful modality that is a kind of, it's partly hands on. So we really focus on helping the, the little person, as I like to call them, or animals, from getting too stressed. So we work, we work at a cellular level to actually release the stress in the body. And so many animals have stress. And they get a lot of it from us humans, you know, because it, it transfers and often, especially animals that work in, you know, that go to hospice, not hospice, hospitals. And, you know, there's a lot of, lot of animals that are used to help people recover from all kinds of illnesses, or therapy-dogs in one form or another. And they themselves get very stressed. So this is something that can help them de-stress from the work that they do.


Lisa

Ah that's great. So it's a hands on modality, and people can use it on their own, you know, pets that they that they have in their home?


Deirdre

Yeah, they can use it on their own pet. So you can use it on the touch for you, you can use it on you. But it's not only the hands on, you know, when you get involved with dogs or horses, there's the equipment, and all kinds of something we call the confidence schools, where we take the animals around and, and really help them to become more confident.


Lisa

Yeah, that's amazing. And you know, what I always say is, people just love their animals. They, you can see, particularly in these last couple of years since Covid - and I happen to live in Austin, Texas, which is a big animal city -you can take your dog into a restaurant, there's nowhere that you will go where you won't find a bucket of water for them to drink, the coffee shops. So it's really amazing how we've learned to value the companionship of our pets.


Deirdre

Yeah, and that really happened, you know, around Covid, when people you know, realised they were going to be able to work at home. And so, you know, the shelters, were getting inundated with people who were, who were taking pets. You know, that's kind of disappeared a bit now. Unfortunately, a lot of people are actually getting rid of their pets, but I think people realise what an incredibly intimate connection you can have with a pet. And they're always there for you. They're always there when you get home, pleased to see you. It doesn't matter how you're looking, if you've got your makeup on, or your hair down, or whatever. So, it also I think, connects people to some... a more real place in themselves. You know, because there's so much out there that's like computers, and so much to take us away from from what is real. And I think animals are kind of like a little bridge people have found to be able to connect themselves back to something a bit more permanent in their lives.


Lisa

Yeah, lovely. I know, you know, we have a dog at home and when I come through that front door and I get the greeting, you know, and it's unconditional. It's always, every time I come through that door, so happy to be seen. There's something about that, that, you know, it just like settles, it's just so settling like, Ah, so glad to be loved and seen by my dog.


Deirdre

That's right. It's something you can count on. And there's not a lot you can count on these days.


Lisa

So true. You know, children are great, but they are moody too. And they answer you back.


Deirdre

Right. So, I think they do a great service in all kinds of ways. And, for me, this was the kind of way that I could pay back. Because I, I recognised how much service they do. I mean, if you look at, you know, the squirrels and all the natural wild animals, they, they do so much service, they're maintaining the planet all the time. And we don't, we kind of take that for granted, we don't really see it. But some, you know, the bees are working, you know, 24/7. And so is everything else really, to keep, to keep this great planet going that we live on.


Lisa

That's just so lovely that you have a recognition for that and appreciation, yeah. And I think we do take that for granted. And everything works in harmony, and it's a beautiful, it's a beautiful thought. Thank you for sharing.


Deirdre

Yeah, yeah. And, you know, I think you know, that we really need to hold on to that, to realise how much, how much we need to value them. Because you know, a lot of species are going extinct. Like anything else, you don't value it until it's gone. So let's hope we don't get to that place.


Lisa

Yeah. I know, when we were speaking last week, you mentioned that you've learned so much about yourself and about life through animals? Do you think you could share a little bit of that with us today?


Deirdre

Oh, absolutely. I mean, it's kind of ... when I, you know, started working with animals, I realised that how much the way that we are, really impacts and has an effect on them. And you can see it in so many ways, I mean, even somebody holding the leash of a dog really tightly, the dog will pick up the tension in the person, and they will think, "Oh, he's frightened of this dog coming towards me". And so he'll start, the dog will start attacking the dog thinking he's protecting his, his owner, when in fact, the owners just wishing the dog wouldn't react to the other dogs. So, you know, it's, it's how we are really, really does affect not only other people, but I realised it affects, it affects animals a lot. And with that knowledge, we can actually change things. Because we, because we're conscious, if we can become conscious of how we affect other beings, then we can work that to the good. You know, instead of, if we catch ourselves being a bit morose or sad, or something, you know, we need to realise that we're affecting other people, affecting animals. And if we decide, well, you know, we don't actually need to be like that, you know, let's see the glass half full, rather than half empty, and start looking at, looking at our blessings. And you know, what we do have, you know, and that can just really change things around. But it's, it's quite, it's quite amazing how much we do. And I've seen that, you know, with cats and dogs and people. And I think that's one of the reasons why they say people grow like their pets, or pets grow like their people. Because, you know, I think I'm realising that with every action and posture, with every word, there is actually a sort of an electrical radiation with it. And that transfers to everything around us. And it can, it can change things.


Lisa

That's amazing, yeah. Because, you know, I don't really think about it that much, but I do know that, you know, for example, if I start to raise my voice, the dog will walk out of the room, you know, when he feels that tension. So they're very sensitive. Yeah, definitely.


Deirdre

And they can feel if you're at pressure, you know, it's like, especially cats, well dogs as well. You know, if if people say to me, you know, "Why does my dog come to me when I'm on the toilet?" How many people have said that to me? I say, "Well, there is a reason actually, because you're not at pressure, you're relaxed." And so they feel, you know, there's nothing stopping them. So they actually can come to you. And so when I work with cats, you know, I'll sit on the floor, and I'll be very, very relaxed. And, in fact, one of the, one of the shelters where I, I volunteer, one of the volunteers said to me, you know, "Why is it that the cats that you spend time with are so calm?" You know, "You have this effect on them. And they seem so much, they seem so different. They kind of calm down and at ease suddenly, rather than being stressed." And I said, well, you know, "That's because when I go to the shelter, I realise they've been abandoned. And I want them to feel that somebody loves them. And so, you know, I just sit there and I radiate, that I love them." And often, you know, they will be, well, mostly, they will come to me, even the shy ones, or the timid ones, and just sit with me, because they can feel that. And, and that's a great, a great thing, a great service that we can do. Anyone could do is send loving thoughts, you know, to their pet.


Lisa

That's amazing. And so tell me how it feels to to receive the love back? Because obviously, if they're relaxed, and they're coming up to you, and they're nuzzling up to you, how does that feel for you?


Deirdre

It's a great confirmation. I think, you know, it's like, they really do mirror us. And, and it's, I mean, it's just, it's really is a confirmation that, that how we are does affect other, other beings. And animals are incredibly sensitive, because you know, it was, if you think about it, a heavily muscled horse can feel a fly on its back. And they said, you know, that the elephants in Thailand, when they had the tsunami in 2004, that they actually could feel the tremors in the ground, and so they broke their chains and ran. And so they're very sensitive, and they're not only sensitive to, to things like that, but that, you know, they're sensitive to us. And other adults and other animals.


Lisa

Yeah, amazing.


Deirdre

I mean, they, they will, they will know ... Somebody told me who lived in Africa, that and, you know, if there's, if there's a lion, and there's like, wildebeast - that they hunt - that they the wildebeast will know if that lion is actually hungry or not. And if it's, you know, in hunting mode, and if he's not, they don't worry.


Lis

So they have such a great sense of detection, they can feel what's going on in the other animal. That's amazing. And maybe, you know, maybe that's the way the human is meant to be, and maybe we've lost some of that sensitivity for one another.


Deirdre

Well, I think we are that way, I think it's just that we're not terribly conscious about it. Because if you think about it, you know, you, you kind of get a sense if somebody likes you or not.


Lisa

Yes, definitely.


Deirdre

You get that vibe. Or, you know, or you walk into a place and, you know, you sense the atmosphere, and you think, "I don't really want to be here", or, you know, "This feels nice". Um, and if you don't want to be there, it's like, everything in you starts retreating, if you feel somebody doesn't like you, and they're being cold to you. But if, if you feel you feel good about around somebody, you start to open up. And I was having a conversation with a lady in the park today, and she, you know, she really started opening up to me. And yeah, I think we do actually, we are actually conscious of these things, it's just kind of making them more conscious.


Lisa

Absolutely, yes. So, what I'm hearing is we learn from our relationships with the animal kingdom, and it's a great gift. Well, this is fascinating. I feel we could go on and on, perhaps we can get together again in the future, because I feel that you have a lot to offer into this subject of pets and their owners, so lovely. Is there anything that you'd like to leave us with, any thoughts?


Deirdre

Um, just how, how much I value the animals and how much they can help us learn about ourselves.


Lisa

Hmm, great.


Deirdre

As I say, you know, a lot of things can, but for me, it's, it's, you really can learn a lot. And it's been a pleasure, Lisa. Yeah, I love thinking about it.


Lisa

Thanks so much. See you again soon.


Deirdre

Thank you. Bye bye


Lisa

Bye



 

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