July 16th 2008 - This is one of the most frequent inquiries I receive from dog owners. It’s a very emotionally-loaded question, for the number of dogs put down because they have bitten someone is staggering. The answer to the question is “Sometimes – if the aggression has not been going on too long, or been allowed to escalate too far, and if behavioral changes and training are instituted along with the Essences. Let me clarify what I mean with a true case from my files (names here are changed).
Susan was referred to me by her vet because her beloved dog, Toby, had begun to growl, and snap and “nip” at her 3 year old son, Billy. Susan was torn and frightened. Of course, the safety of her son was of paramount importance to her. But Toby was also very special. She had rescued Toby several years ago. The dog had been found mutilated and near death, with several puppies that had been brutally killed. Susan worked hard with Toby over the years to rehabilitate her and help this dog experience the joy and security of a normal dog. In addition to excellent care from her veterinarian, Stan Goldfarb, Susan trained Toby, spent a lot of time with her, worked with animal communicator Regina Heynneman, and even had someone give Toby the wonderful Alaskan flower essences for recovery from early trauma. Toby gradually came out of her withdrawn, shaky, depressed state, and began to thrive with her new and devoted owner. Now, seeing Toby begin to decompensate under the stress of a new “sibling”, after all they had been through together, was unbearable to Susan. I was asked if essences again could possibly help.
I was initially concerned about our chances for success. A rambunctious three-year-old boy, coupled with loss of customary attention from the owner, can be a challenge for even the most stable dog. But Toby had the added burden of being weakened by previous severe abuse, and now, she was no longer the “only favored child”. Did she have the ability to rebound again in the face of this new stress?
Several factors convinced me that essences might work with Toby, and that we had a chance to save her:
1) Toby had growled, snapped, and nipped – but had not actually bitten and broken the skin. “Breaking skin” is a very serious breach of boundaries – once this behavior occurs, it is exceedingly difficult to change.
2) Toby had received an ample amount of basic training from Susan. She viewed Susan as the master, or parent, and wanted to please her.
3) I was contacted to intervene when the aggression first began. It was not allowed to go on for a long time, and not allowed to escalate.
4) Susan was willing to work behaviorally with Toby and the rest of her family, and make needed changes in order to make the situation work.
What I Did: Essences and Training
I went to work by first obtaining a detailed written history of Toby from Susan. She returned the six-page questionnaire promptly, and that enabled me to begin to assess what essences might be needed, and what kind of behavioral/training modifications might be called for.
I work with over 500 essences from around the world. My job is to somehow decipher which of these will resonate with a client at a particular stage of their process. First, I read Susan’s assessment of Toby, and then listed all the possible essences Toby might respond to. I knew that there were multiple issues involved, and that one issue at a time would need to be addressed. Susan was already prepared for the process to take a few months, though I was hoping to see progress after the first or second session.
Many of my clients live out of town or across the country, so I do a lot of my work over the phone. Fortunately, Susan lived close by, so our first session was an in-home visit. This enabled me to observe the family interaction first-hand. In order to find the precise essences Toby wanted, I did a combination of consulting Spiritual Guidance, and energetic testing. The testing procedure narrowed the field of choices that I had been considering, and also informed me about additional essences I hadn’t thought of. Once the essences were chosen, we could see clearly what issues and feelings Toby was struggling with. Susan and I discussed this in detail, along with relevant behavioral or training changes that would support the work of the essences.
Session #1: In this first session, the essences Toby tested for indicated that she was in a very fragile state. “Echinacea” is an essence that addresses ego disintegration; “Purple Flag Flower” is indicated for someone who is so tense as to be on the edge of a breakdown; and “Rose Cone Flower” addresses hypersensitivity to sound. On top of that, Toby tested for “Grape”, which indicates a deep sense of abandonment. This dog was indeed in real trouble, and the interventions were coming none too soon. Accordingly, I made the following behavioral recommendations:
2) Give Toby a quiet space to be.
3) When paying attention to Billy, have Toby somewhere else.
4) Limit contact as much as possible, for the time being, between Toby and Billy.
5) Eliminate all competitive situations, and let Toby know her place in the hierarchy. For example, when Susan was feeding her son, Toby was right there, expecting her portion. This was one of the times that Toby would sometimes snap at the boy. I instructed Susan to put Toby out of the kitchen when she was feeding her son.
6) In general, prevention of unwanted behaviors was emphasized as a crucial key to eliminating them. The more often a behavior is repeated, the deeper it becomes ingrained, and the more likely it will escalate. Therefore, I told Susan, prevent the situations that make Toby want to snap.
Session #2:We had our second session about a week later. Susan reported that Toby seemed stronger and less sensitive, but she was constantly asking for petting and couldn’t get enough love. My testing revealed that Toby was ready to address her hostility toward the little boy, whom she clearly viewed as an interloper. She tested for “Snapdragon” – literally, for the tendency to snap at people; for “Mountain Wormwood” (resentment); “Fringe Lily Twiner”, for those who are overly-focused on themselves and what they do and don’t have; and finally, for “White Spruce”, which is for someone who knows what they’re supposed to do, but can’t bring themselves to do it.
Session #3: Susan reported that since the last session, Toby made significant progress – there had been no further attempts to nip. However, Susan felt that Toby was still “fragile”.The essences Toby resonated with this time indicated she still had some work to do in accepting the family as it is. She tested for “Black Kangaroo Paw” for forgiveness, as well as “Ursinia”, for willingness to work constructively within the family. Susan was also instructed to educate her son about appropriate ways to interact with Toby, and to help him understand the dog’s feelings. Billy had, of course, been angered by Toby’s aggression, and had taunted her and tried to hit her back from time to time.
Session #4: Susan felt improvement was continuing. For example, Toby had been accidentally bumped on two occasions, but she didn’t jump up or nip the way she had before. Further, she didn’t overreact on another occasion when Billy came up behind her (she had been sensitive about her hindquarters). And, Toby had begun to leave the room on her own when she was uncomfortable with a situation. However, Susan felt that she seemed a bit “droopy” and was also barking a lot. She tested for “Red Pumpkin Ringstork”, an essence which has to do with enthusiasm, with the desire to say Yes to life as it is. Also, “Apple” was indicated, for increasing her desire to be of service to others.
That turned out to be our final session. Susan reported that Toby was “so much more mellow, happy and less stressed”. Billy, for his part, had generally learned to walk around Toby to give her space, and was no longer trying to hit Toby. The eating situation was fine, and there was peace in the household.
To summarize: Success was achieved with Toby because:
1) Essences were used early - before Toby’s aggression got way out of hand.
2) Susan was had the patience and willingness to address the various emotional layers of Toby’s problem with several rounds of essences.
3) Susan instituted all the recommended training and behavioral changes along with the essences.
Each case is different and unique – some may be easier, some harder. But I hope that these examples give you something to think about – perhaps a glimpse at what can be done for our canine companions. I plan to give a few more guidelines about some good basic training pricinples in a future issue of this newsletter. Meanwhile, I highly recommend the books by master dog-trainer C.W. Meisterfeld – especially “Jellybean vs. Dr. Jekyll and Mister Hyde” and “Crazy Dogs, Crazy People”, which is co-written with child psychiatrist, Ernest Pecci.
Essential Healing for Pets
Fairfax, CA 94930
Judy Aizuss, M.S., is a gifted Flower Essence Practitioner, therapist, psychic and spiritual teacher. She has been successfully helping animals and their owners for 25 years with this drug-free therapy. Sessions are in person or over the phone. For inquiries or appointment, contact Judy at email@example.com.